The Doctor Who Easter special is entitled Legend of the Sea Devils and features the return of an old enemy from the classic 1963-1989 run of the show.
We’ll see The Doc, Yaz and Dan travel back to 19th century China, where they’ll meet legendary pirate queen Madam Ching, a real-life historical character who commanded over 1500 ships in the South China Sea.
But she’s not the only fearsome adversary they’ll encounter. The crew will also face the Sea Devils, amphibious lizard people from the Earth’s ancient history.
The Doc first met the Sea Devils back in 1972, in the story called (imaginatively enough) The Sea Devils. But the creatures have a rich history which harks back to before even then — and has continued right through to modern day Doctor Who.
So, who are these Sea Devils and what threat do they pose? Here’s our guide to the Doc’s new/old enemies…
What are the Seas Devils?
The Sea Devils were one of the advanced intelligent reptile races who were the original rulers of Earth. The reptiles roamed the planet millions of years before humans evolved. There were many Sea Devil colonies around the world and several varied species of the creatures.
The reptiles' technology was far advanced to any that man has developed, even now. So, when they feared the Earth was under threat from an approaching asteroid, they placed themselves in suspended animation deep below the seas. But they never woke up as they had planned… well, until now that is!
The creatures are blessed with incredible strength from living under the mighty oceans, and have developed weapons — their trademark disk-shaped guns — which are far beyond human technology.
When did we first meet them?
While we originally encountered the creatures in 1972, the concept of the intelligent reptiles was introduced two years earlier, in the story The Silurians, Jon Pertwee’s second outing as the Doctor.
Here, we met the Sea Devils' cave dwelling cousins, the Silurians. These creatures woke up from their slumber and tried to cleanse the earth of humans — who they saw as vermin on their planet — using a killer virus. The Doc attempted to broker peace between the reptiles and the humans, but his efforts ended in disaster and the creatures were buried back beneath the rocks.
It was the Doc’s knowledge of the Silurians from this encounter that allowed him to identify The Sea Devils when he went on to meet them two years later — quickly filling in the details of their history for his companion Jo (and for any viewers at home who may have forgotten!).
Are they one of the big baddies, like the Daleks and the Cybermen?
Well, the pepper pots from Skaro and the mechanical men from Mondas sit in their own top drawer of Doctor Who terrors. The Sea Devils and the Silurians are more a second-tier entry, returning to our screens several times over the years.
Both races joined forces to battle Peter Davison’s Doctor in 1984’s Warriors of the Deep, a story rather badly thought of by fans due to its rather plasticky monsters and one particularly below-parr special effect (more on that below…).
Modern Doctor Who saw the Silurians return in two episodes, The Hungry Earth and Cold Blood — both written by future showrunner Chris Chibnall — with Matt Smith as the Doctor in a bit of a replay of the original Silurian story
We later saw several appearances by Madame Vastra, a crime-fighting Silurian who lived in Victorian London.
Meanwhile, the Sea Devils made a blink-and-you'll-miss-it return in a "hall of fame" which featured in the final episode of the 2020 series, The Timeless Children. As the Doctor saw her life flash in front of her, one of the visions she had was of a Sea Devil from their original 1972 appearance — so she clearly thinks they are worth remembering!
We see a big sea creature in trailer — is that to do with the Sea Devils?
Funny you should ask. Fandom is buzzing that this is the return of The Myrka, the creature whose last appearance helped give Warriors of the Deep its below parr reputation. Back then, the supposedly fearsome creature was realised by what was clearly two men in a sort of pantomime horse arrangement.
Fans are hopeful we’re going to see a big, new CGI version of the monster, which will wash that shame of the past away.
How are the Sea Devils in Legend of the Sea Devils different from previous versions?
Well, these seem to be pirate Sea Devils, judging by their outfits. The creatures always seem to like to dress for the occasion. The original story, set around a small harbour island off the coast of England saw them draped in what appeared to be fishing nets. The soldier version who went on the rampage in Warriors of the Deep had a touch of the Samurai Warrior about them, and now these new ones are all silky shirts, swinging swords, and leather waistcoats with barnacled buckles.
Also, the creatures now seen to be a bit more agile than your traditional old lumbering classic Doctor Who monster. The Sea Devil seen in the trailer even gets stuck into a high-octane sword fight with Madam Ching!
What else can we expect from this episode?
Well, from the trailer it looks like a whole load of swashbuckling fun. The next special, due this autumn, will see the death of Jodie Whittaker’s incarnation and her regeneration into the 14th. So, it seems this penultimate episode is the era’s last hoorah of lighter stuff before the darkness.
“This is very much an adventure episode,” the episode’s director Haolu Wang confirmed to Doctor Who Magazine. “Because Jodie is regenerating in the next episode, this is her last chance to have a bit of fun with the gang. It’s quite epic, but also very emotional.”
Doctor Who: Legend of the Sea Devils airs on Easter Sunday on BBC One and BBC iPlayer and on BBC America at 2:00 pm EDT in the US.
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Steven is a writer, editor, and commentator with a passion for popular TV and soap operas. He spent 20 years as the editor of Inside Soap magazine, documenting every punch-up and pucker-up in the Street, the Square and the village. As a feature writer, he’s covered TV crime dramas, period dramas and even some real-life star dramas. He’s been seen as a talking head on more TV clip shows than he cares to remember, has a life-long passion for TV sci-fi – the older and creakier the better – and is a slight obsessive about any reality show featuring hotels.