The Doctor, Yaz, and Dan rang in the new year by successfully defeating a group of Daleks. Now they're off to start a new adventure, but of course things don't go as planned. They run into an old school enemy of the Time Lord, and the Doctor and Yaz have to work out their relationship, while Dan does his best to stay out of the way. We also know time is running out for #13, and there's still the lingering issue of the Flux having destroyed a good part of the universe. Can the Doctor take care of all of this in her penultimate adventure? Let's discuss:
(Warning: Spoilers ahead.)
Team TARDIS keeps trying to schedule a beach vacation, but once again things go wrong. They land in 19th century China while they try to figure out whatever happened to the lost treasure of the Flor de la Mar ship. There they meet Madam Ching, a real-life pirate who accidentally freed a Sea Devil while she also tried to find the treasure. While Dan swims to Madam Ching's ship, the Doctor and Yaz travel back in time to right before the Flor de la Mar disappeared. They see the ship's captain Ji-Hun (who does not appear to be an actual historical figure), seemingly working with the Sea Devil. Of course, all is not as it appears. Team TARDIS finds the treasure, saves the world...and then the Doctor and Yaz have "the talk."
- We understand that showrunner Chris Chibnall was looking for a palate cleanser after the dark "Eve of the Daleks" episode, and before we get to 13's regeneration in the fall. That's fine, but Dan's Captain Hook outfit walks a tightrope between being entertainingly silly and dumb enough to wonder how he possibly could have been talked into wearing it.
- Also, the characters say they're in the wrong time, but the Doctor and Yaz seemed to be dressed appropriately for the 19th century?
- Madam Ching accidentally frees a frozen Sea Devil while seeking the lost treasure. The audience then sees the liberated Sea Devil slaughter the village. That's a higher level of violence than we're used to in the modern era of Who. Did we overestimate the tone reset?
- Having the BBC air a Chinese-themed episode of Doctor Who felt like it was asking for trouble, given the show's poor history on that front. However, Crystal Yu and Arthur Lee are fine as Madam Ching and Ji-Hun, respectively, although their characters are both a little thin.
- As usual, the Doctor spends too much time explaining the plot and what she'll do in the next five minutes, rather than just doing it. Our frustration with this era will apparently continue right until the end. Jodie Whittaker is a good actress, and there's a lot of interesting material in the 13th Doctor's universe, but it needed a much better storyteller.
- It turns out that the evil pirate Madam Ching is trying to find the lost treasure to buy back her ransomed crew, which includes her two young sons. Meanwhile, the Sea Devils, who are related to the Silurians, want to flood the planet and take control of it again, which seems reasonable from their perspective. They were here first, after all.
- You can't have a pirate aventure without a sword fight sequence, and this episode delivers a fun little battle, until Ji-Hun ends up killing the lead Sea Devil. The Doctor, as always, is angered about the murder. However, from Ji-Hun's perspective, it's a well-deserved payback after they hijacked his ship and took his life years ago. Apparently #13 sympathizes, because there's no subsequent speech about how irritating humans can be some times.
- The Doctor and Yaz finally have "the talk" about their relationship over a couple of scenes. The Time Lord tells her friend, "If I was going to date, it would be with you, but I can't...time always runs out." It's basically a shorter version of what #10 said to Rose in "School Days." The pain on the Doctor's face is heartbreaking. She loves humans with both her hearts, but they'd never be on equal footing if they got involved. For all of #13's cheeriness, the Doctor is still a lonely character.
- The Doctor mentions River Song during her conversation with Yaz. That's the first time we've heard her mentioned in the Jodie Whittaker era. It's too bad River never made an appearance during #13's run. The character always brings chaos with her, and being the Doctor's wife in this situation brings all sorts of possibilities to the table. Once again, the universe is calling for Big Finish to jump in here.
- This chat, in the last five minutes of the episode, is more gripping than anything else leading up to it here. We knew this answer was coming, but we still can't help hoping that the fine folks at Big Finish will get a chance to take a stab at it in the future. You could write an entire series that takes place between this episode and the finale. One that lets the Doctor and Yaz be a couple for just long enough that you might start to think there's hope for them after all, until it eventually leads back to #13's regeneration. Take our money now.
- Apparently we're still not going to talk about the fact that most of the universe has still vanished since the end of the Flux saga. That kind of seems like a major problem to just leave dangling in the wind. We'll just have to trust that it will get straightened out in the final episode. Otherwise, we'll leave it to Russell T. Davies to reset everything once again when he and the 14th Doctor show up in 2023.
- Speaking of the final episode, there's little in this story to further advance the reality that time is running out for the Doctor, besides her talk with Yaz. That was a little surprising. Guess Chris Chibnall just wanted to establish the calm before the final storm.
- That leads us to the trailer for the finale. We warned you at the beginning of this post that there would be spoilers, and man does the trailer have some big ones. If you don't want to know what they are, bail out right now, and we'll see you later this year....Last chance...still here? Okay, so here's the thing...the trailer gives us the sense that Jodie Whittaker's final episode will be a bit of fan service, which is fine with us. There are a number of familiar faces in the clip, including, the Master, Kate Stewart, and the Lone Cyberman, among others. We can't wait to see Sacha Dhwan and Jemma Redgrave in action again.
- However, we were not expecting to also see Tegan and Ace! It's been decades since we've seen Janet Fielding as the former stewardess. Meanwhile, Sophie Aldred wrote a terrific book in 2020 called At Childhood's End where Ace meets the 13th Doctor. It was a fantastic read which left us wishing there would be an on-screen reunion, and now our wish is granted!
"Legend of the Sea Devils" was a bit of a let-down for the most part. It wasn't offensively bad, and it wasn't entertaining enough to be memorable, apart from the aforementioned final 5-10 minutes. (Fans will be discussing the Doctor and Yaz skipping stones together for a long time to come.) It's mostly just...there. Maybe that's its destiny since people are already looking past it to the Doctor's upcoming regeneration.
Now we wait for the Doctor's final battle later this year. See you then!
The Doctor and her crew save everyone once again. (pic via collider.com)
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