The Sea Devils first appeared onscreen in Doctor Who 50 years ago. Yes FIFTY! Tonight they return to our screens to oppose the Doctor in ‘Legend of the Sea Devils.’
Following the success of ‘The Silurians’ writer Malcolm Hulke was tasked with developing a sequel. Initially titled ‘The Sea Silurians’, the premise was similar. A species of intelligent reptiles who had occupied planet Earth before the development of man. These creatures however were amphibious rather than their land dwelling Silurian cousins. Named ‘Sea Devils’, they helped inspire a pair of nautical themed stories during the original run of Doctor Who.
Doctor Who and the Sea Devils
For ‘The Sea Devils‘ the Doctor Who production team undertook extensive location filming on the south coast. Locations included HMS Reclaim, Fraser Gunnery Range at HMS St George in Portsmouth and multiple areas on the Isle of Wight. It proved to be a hugely successful production, fondly remembered by cast, crew and viewers.
The look of the original Sea Devils was a bit different. When the costume team realised the new monsters were basically naked, they added blue string vests. And thus an iconic look was created. Cementing the effectiveness of the new monster was of course the cliffhanger of Episode Three which saw a Sea Devil rise out of the water. They also had a substantial effect on the Doctor’s companion Jo Grant. When The Master used a fear device on Jo in ‘Frontier in Space’ she hallucinated a Sea Devil.
Warriors of the Deep
Following his success in successfully bringing back The Master and the Cybermen, amongst others, John Nathan-Turner was keen to bring back other creatures from the shows past. ‘Warriors of the Deep‘ united both the Silurians and the Sea Devils for the first time. Johnny Byrne’s plot centred around Sea Base 4, a military location, providing an allegory for the Cold War. The Sea Devils provided the warrior element required of the story with an appropriate new look to match.
Consistent with a desire to update monsters for the Eighties, the Doctor Who production team also gave the Sea Devils a new look. For ‘Warriors of the Deep’ the Sea Devils had a new samurai-inspired appearance. This appears to have been taken to a new level for their return in 2022. Having elected to complete the warrior ensemble with a helmet this necessitated the removal of the side fins from their heads. The novelisation of this story was written by Terrance Dicks and the original cover by Andrew Skilleter featured a lone Sea Devil. A later 1992 re-release featured a different cover by Alister Pearson. A Warriors style Sea Devil would also become a popular exhibit at various Doctor Who exhibitions over the decades that followed.
Sea Devils have also appeared in flashback montages during ‘The Eleventh Hour‘ and ‘The Timeless Children‘. Away from television the monsters have featured in novels Blood Heat for the Virgin New Adventures and the Virgin Missing Adventure The Scales of Injustice. For Big Finish, Sea Devils featured in the Bernice Summerfield story ‘The Poison Seas’ and the UNIT ‘Assembled’ release.
In comic strips they have appeared in Doctor Who Magazine’s stories Devil of the Deep, City of Devils, Time & Time Again, Happy Deathday and The Cybermen. For IDW Publishing the Sea Devils appeared in The Forgotten and for Titan Comics in Clara Oswald and the School of Death. Those of a certain age will also remember a Sea Devil could be encountered by the Graak in the video game Destiny of the Doctors.