Dr Who and The Turtle Men is a story that holds a special place in Whoflix’s affections as it’s the first one that he can remember watching on original transmission. Like Terror of the Autons before it, this is a sequel to an earlier monster-centric story but with the Master in it to jazz things up and stop it from being a Terry Nation-style rewrite. The moral dilemma of possible peaceful co-existence that The Silurians took its time over lasts about five minutes in this one. It`s not the greatest story ever but that scene of the string-vested Turtle Men coming out of the sea and onto the beach is probably one of the most memorable images in the show’s entire history.
We open the edit with the Doctor and Jo visiting the Master, losing both the original opening sequence and the trip to the actual prison. Once they leave him, I cut both his laughter and the scene with Trenchard that makes it clear he’s up to no good. I think it would have served the drama better if that revelation had been held back until later in the narrative.
Once the Doctor and Jo leave the Master, the Edit concentrates on the Doctor’s investigations and so we lose all the stuff with the two workmen on the fort. It’s just as dramatic if we find out what happened at the same time as our heroes do.
Then it was time to scoot straight to episode six and edit the other end of the story, in what is now becoming my standard approach. Editing the two most important episodes first helps you work out the quickest way from the beginning of the story to the end.
And they key to getting a grip on that is knowing that, if something is involved in the resolution of the plot, it’s important that we as the audience see it beforehand. If, on the other hand, something is not involved in resolving the plot, it can probably go.
For instance, the entire subplot involving the submarine and it’s escape has no bearing on the resolution of the story so it’ s really just a cleverly disguised piece of padding. If the sub and its crew were still held captive when the place was about to go up, that would have been different, and probably better. But the reason why Mac Hulke is up there with Terrance Dicks and Robert Holmes is that, like Chris Boucher after him he understands the principle of Consequential Plotting.
As a result, The Sea Devils is yet another of those stories where it’s nigh on impossible to cut anything out without the narrative taking a sudden jump and no longer making sense. So the Sub subplot has to stay as it’s impossible to get rid of it without it being obvious that cuts have been made, something Fan Editing seeks to avoid.
So, knowing that this was a case of trimming & tightening and not cutting, I went back to episode two and started editing again from there. The attack by the Sea Devil gets cut right back, tightening up most of the shots to make the sequence more dramatic. I split up the Doctor and Jo’ scene with the radio to avoid both the Eocenes and Jo’s terrible info-dump. Similarly with Trenchard distracting everyone while the Master is up to no good in the stores, the easiest way to incorporate that was to use the second of the two scenes, that way the revelation that Trenchard is in with the Master comes for us at the same time as it does for the Doctor and Jo.
Fun though the swordfight is between Delgado & Pertwee, we don’t learn anything that moves the plot forward so instead we cut away after the Master produces the gun. Once the Doctor & Jo escape we join them on the beach, no abseiling required. And no boom mic in shot either, thanks to a little zooming in. Similarly, don’t go looking for the infamous wobbly set moment when the Sea Devil enters the sub, as I managed to cut around it, after all, it’s not as if we don’t know what’s coming through the melting door…
The only Pertwee On Earth story with no Brig, UNIT getting the briefest of mentions, which is more than can be said for the TARDIS, this is the story that gives us a fascinating glimpse into what might have been. I’ve long said that seeing the Doctor’s exile as a simple binary of alternating between Alien Invasion and Mad Scientist is just flat out wrong. To my mind Doomwatch was always a much better template for an exiled Doctor but by this point, the writing’s on the wall for the Doctor’s exile anyway.
Even allowing for the more “adult” nature of its content, the variance in the storylines of Torchwood shows that exile doesn’t have to be boring. Particularly not when you have an updated version of Pertwee In Exile with Torchwood Cardiff as UNIT, Gwen Cooper as The Brig and Jack Harkness as Pertwee. In many ways the best thing about watching The Sea Devils is that it gives you the idea of the sorts of adventures the Doctor has when UNIT aren’t around.