BlogtorWho was fortunate to be present for another BFI event celebrating Doctor Who. As the next release in The Collection series of box sets is Season 9, the BFI on the Southbank in London screened ‘The Sea Devils‘.

Tickets for these BFI events have become so sought after that on this occasion they never made it onto general sale. Few should be surprised however as the opportunity to see ‘The Sea Devils‘ on the big screen was bound to be popular. Although six episodes made for a long day it was neatly broken up with guests, hilarity and lots of entertainment hosted by Justin Johnson and Dick Fiddy. This event proved yet again why tickets are so sought after; Doctor Who at the BFI is simply wonderful fun for fans of any age.

Doctor Who: The Sea Devils BFI screening – Justin Johnson, Dick Fiddy, Julia Haworth, Isabelle Palmer, Pete McTighe and Katy Manning (c) Bedwyr Gullidge

Opening up proceedings was a screening of the special trailer ‘Defenders of Earth‘ which announced the Season 9 box set. Present to discuss the short film were the three human cast members Katy Manning, Julia Haworth and Isabelle Palmer plus writer/director Pete McTighe. Of course, this is Doctor Who so filming on the beach took place with snow falling! As a special surprise, effects supremo Mike Tucker, who sadly could not attend, did send ‘Junior’ the Sea Devil hatchling. Well, his head anyway! The adult Sea Devil was portrayed by Hal Townsend who was also in the audience for the event and received a well-deserved ovation of applause. It was lovely for this piece to receive acknowledgment as it was a wonderful tribute to Stewart Bevan who passed away last year.

The Sea Devils

Following this lovely introduction the audience settled down to watch ‘The Sea Devils’ on the big screen. Watching Doctor Who in this format with an audience is a genuine thrill. The communal laughter. Cheers for the “reverse the polarity of the neutron flow” line. And the electricity in the room for the Delgado and the Clangers scene was a special moment. Having the pictures on a big screen, with no distractions as you might have at home and a fully immersive sound system all adds to the experience. It also allows the viewer to pick up on little moments. Delgado’s expression of disappointment when he learns the Clangers are merely puppets. Donald Sumpter‘s nervous twitches as things go awry on the submarine. Details which are much easier to appreciate on this grand scale.

Doctor Who: The Sea Devils BFI screening – Justin Johnson, Dick Fiddy and Clanger (c) Bedwyr Gullidge

This story has great significance for me because it was the first example of Doctor Who that I ever saw. Watching in awe as these creatures emerged from the sea and came in land captured my young imagination. More than 30 years on from that BBC2 repeat and here I was watching the same images on a big screen in an auditorium full of people. Pure Doctor Who magic!

Q&As and VAM

Following the first two episodes Hugh Futcher, who played Hickman in the story, shared a few memories. Working with Declan Mulholland in their scenes on ‘The Sea Devils’ was described as “an absolute joy.” Futcher also told the story of how he was told that he’d missed out on the role of the Doctor to Sylvester McCoy. Although a terrible disappointment at the time, Hugh Futcher still feels very lucky to have had the career which he has, involved in seven of the Carry On films for instance. Having watched the two episodes of Doctor Who he felt flattered to be part of the legacy of the programme. Hugh Futcher was a lovely addition to the day’s events and a terrific interviewee.

Doctor Who: The Sea Devils BFI screening – Dick Fiddy and Hugh Futcher (c) Bedwyr Gullidge

Treating us between episodes three and four was Jess Jurkovic, all the way from the US, tinkling the ivories with some of Malcolm Clarke’s incidental music featured during ‘The Sea Devils’. There were also some delightful Doctor Who themed cinema adverts for ice lollies projected on the screen. Following the remaining two episodes and to tease the audience for the upcoming Season 9 box set, a series of clips were shown from some of the upcoming Value Added Material which will be included on the release. Clips came from ‘Location, Location, Location: Season 9’, ‘Time and Atlantis’ a new documentary on ‘The Time Monster‘ presented by Toby Hadoke, ‘Stuart Fell: The Fell Guy’, ‘Michael E. Briant at the Helm’ and ‘Behind the Sofa’. This is clearly a box set release which is not to be missed!

Katy Manning

To conclude the theatre event Justin Johnson interviewed the wonderfully effervescent Katy Manning. As is customary for Doctor Who companions Jo’s costume came in for complaint. On this occasion it was a woollen suit which shrunk when it got wet. At least it was a suit instead of a miniskirt! Watching it back for the first time in 50 years Katy felt tremendous compassion for the Sea Devils. Also rage at Walker the Parliamentary Private Secretary! Of course the chemistry between Roger Delgado and Jon Pertwee was rightly highlighted. However unlike Katy, those two tremendous actors however didn’t have to battle eyelashes! Revisiting this time in her life for The Collection special features has been emotional for Katy but a period she clearly looks back on so fondly.

Doctor Who: The Sea Devils BFI screening – Justin Johnson and Katy Manning (c) Bedwyr Gullidge

Post-screening events

Following the screening of the episode, Katy Manning and Hugh Futcher signed autographs on specially commissioned artwork. Elsewhere at the BFI, Ioan Morris hosted The Quiz of Rassilon to test the Doctor Who knowledge. Special rounds were provided by Toby Hadoke, Jess Jurkovic, Beth Axford, Matthew Sweet and Richard Unwin. These are wonderful social occasions with Doctor Who fans of all generations intermingling and talking about their favourite programme. Discussions abounded about the merits of ‘The Time Monster‘, if ‘The Sea Devils‘ could’ve been improved by reducing it to four episodes, and so many other debates raged long into the evening.

As you can hopefully tell this event was an absolute delight to attend and BlogtorWho would like to thank those at the BFI for their hospitality. We are already looking forward to the next one!

Doctor Who: The Collection – Season 9 (c) BBC

Doctor Who: The Collection – Season 9 is available to preorder now from AmazonZavvi and HMV in the UK, and Amazon in the US ahead of its release on 20th March 2023.


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