Doctor Who "Legend of the Sea Devils" Boring Gift to Keep Us Going
Alas, Doctor Who: Legend of the Sea Devils was not the triumph that anyone hoped it would be. Was anyone truly optimistic that it would be good? Unfortunately, it was boring, and that was consistent with the season and special that came before it. The Doctor (Jodie Whittaker) vs. the Sea Devils. That's all it is.
We don't set out to slag off a show. We want to like it, but the script does so many things that are just lazy and unsurprising. Why would The Doctor think anything was impossible? The Doctor knows all kinds of things that make anything possible and delights in being surprised. Previous showrunners Russell T. Davies and Steven Moffat would never have the Doctor say Something was impossible. Little details like this betray the script's mediocrity and woeful lack of vision. It takes its characters, plot, and ideas and does nothing interesting with any of them.
It takes a real-life legendary pirate queen (Crystal Yu) and makes her utterly boring.
It takes the Doctor-Yaz (Mandip Gil) love story and makes it utterly boring.
It takes the ancient Chinese high seas setting and makes it utterly boring.
It makes a heroic sacrifice utterly boring, because it never stopped long enough to make us care about the character.
That said, some of us always found the Sea-Devils boring and had no expectations that they would become interesting in any way. And even our expectations were met – they were as boring as we thought they would be.
Doctor Who should never be boring.
Chris Chibnall keeps committing the worst sin that every screenwriter is constantly told not to do: telling, not showing. The characters spend most of the hour standing around spouting expositing explaining the plot to each other. You can't get more boring than that.
This special actually has the exact same look as a Chinese TV creature feature that's on their TVs every night, that is on YouTube. Here's an actual official stream of a Chinese B Creature Feature on YouKu's Channel. Who says we don't give you nice things?
Did Chibnall also realise how boring this special was that he waited till the end to put Tegan (Janet Fielding) and Ace (Sophie Aldred) in the teaser for his final special to get old-time fans excited?
Chris Chibnall Did the Best He Could
A friend who watched it said, "I can even be angry at Chibnall at this point." Indeed. He did the best he could. It seems he and co-writer Ella Road had to settle a lot on what was adequate in the script, probably due to countless production and schedule pressures.
Chibnall has talked about how COVID nearly made them decide to cancel another season altogether. It's become very clear that the pandemic made him desperate to get the season made, so he ended up getting it done rather than making it good. This is a common trend in TV, more often in Hollywood than in the UK because US network shows often had to produce over 20 weekly episodes to meet the order for a full season.
The design work, the sets, and the art direction were impeccable. Chibnall, the cast & crew set out to give us more Doctor Who when they could have just packed it in and sat out the rest of the pandemic. No one sets out to make a bad TV show or movie, and they did the best they could under the circumstances. It's churlish to say they shouldn't have bothered when they wanted to gift this to us.
Doctor Who: Legend of the Sea Devils is streaming on BBC America in the US.