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Doctor Who Enemies: Silurians and Sea Devils

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A Sea Devil with a Silurian and Homo reptilian head on Sandown beach

The Sea Devils and the Silurians featured in the BBC's longest running and most popular sci-fi series, Doctor Who (1963-1989). Though they might not be as instantly memorable as the Cybermen or the Daleks, for fans of a certain generation they left a lasting impression, despite only appearing in three stories, largely because of their very well-developed noble background.

Inhabitants of the planet Earth, the Silurians and the Sea Devils were highly intelligent reptilian humanoids who ruled the planet just as humans were evolving from their ape-like ancestors and other mammalian life forms were beginning to appear. The Silurians lived on land, often residing in deep underground caves, whereas their aquatic relatives, termed 'Sea Devils' by the few humans who have seen them, lived beneath the sea in huge domed bases on the seabed. The Silurians were naked and could be recognised by the distinctive third eye on their forehead - this could discharge concentrated bolts of mental energy and either stun or kill opponents or be used for operating Silurian machinery. The Sea Devils wore garments; some adapted fishermen's nets, while other castes wore Samurai-styled battle armour. They had turtle-like heads with flapping gills protruding from the sides of their heads. They carried circular hand guns that could work underwater, while they also had their own trained sea beast, a half-dinosaur, half-mechanical creature called the Myrka. The Myrka had four legs and two short arms that poked out from below its long neck. It could discharge electricity like an eel that could kill living beings at a touch. The Myrka had little tolerance for white light and almost none at all for ultraviolet light (see 'Warriors of the Deep').

When an unknown object was detected rapidly accelerating towards the Earth and threatening to remove its atmosphere, the Silurian and Sea Devil scientists predicted that all life above the surface would die. However their astronomers said that the unknown planet would pass by and the atmosphere would eventually return. To prepare themselves for the approaching disaster, the Silurians and the Sea Devils built vast underground and undersea shelters, where they would hibernate in suspended animation until the atmosphere returned. To wake them once this had happened, timing devices were placed at surface level to trigger huge amounts of power that would awaken them.

While the reptiles slept, the greater gravity of the Earth caught the object as it swept by, the atmosphere never left and the timing devices were never triggered. For a million years the Silurians and their aquatic cousins slept on, unaware that the apes they regarded as pets were evolving into the dominant species on the planet. Mankind never found them and regarded the Earth as his world. The little planet captured by the Earth's gravity was named the Moon.

Story Guide

Below is a description of the Doctor Who stories that featured the Silurians and Sea Devils.

'Doctor Who and the Silurians' (1970)

Shortly after being exiled to Earth by his own race, the Time Lords, the Doctor (by now in his third incarnation) discovered that the activities of a nuclear research station had revived a group of hibernating Silurians in their caves. The Silurians' leader proposed a peaceful solution to the problem of finding a place for his race on the greatly changed planet, but many younger Silurians wanted to wipe out mankind and re-claim 'their' planet. The Doctor tried to mediate and see this peaceful solution went ahead. However, one rebellious young Silurian killed the Old Silurian and took charge of the survivors of his race. Forcing the humans and the Doctor to operate the station's nuclear reactor, they used a device of their own construction that threatened to destroy the Van Allen Belt, the Earth's natural barrier against the harmful rays of the sun. Without the Van Allen Belt, the Silurians had predicted (correctly) that humans would die within a matter of minutes and reptiles such as themselves would be the only survivors. The Doctor deliberately overloaded the reactor, forcing the Silurians to return their caves while the nuclear scientists deactivated the Silurian technology. This the Silurians contained, the Doctor had hoped to progress with a peaceful solution. However, without his knowledge, the Doctor's old friend and ally Brigadier Alistair Lethbridge-Stewart of UNIT1, blew up the caves and sealed the Silurians inside.

'The Sea Devils' (1972)

Though he was incarcerated within a high-security prison, this predicament didn't prevent the Doctor's arch enemy, an evil Time Lord known as the Master, from constructed a homing device in his coastal prison chateau to revive and lure a group of Sea Devils to him. When the Navy and the Doctor intervened, the Sea Devils forced the Doctor to build a device that would revive all of their kind, still hibernating below the ocean depths. Mirroring the demise of their land-based cousins, the Sea Devils were stopped when The Doctor sabotaged the revival device and caused the Sea Devils' undersea base to blow up. The Master, however, managed to escape from the base in a stolen hovercraft to face the Doctor another day...

'Warriors of the Deep' (1984)

A hundred years passed and another group of revived Silurians found and repaired one of their old sea cruisers. They then set off to awaken a group of Sea Devil Warriors and their pet Myrka. At this time in history, mankind had split itself into two huge power blocs on the verge of war. The Silurians - Icthar, Scibus and Tarpok - used the Sea Devil warriors, led by a Commander Sauvix, to invade a secret sea base with a plan to exploit the political situation by sabotaging the sea base's proton missiles and fire them at their opposing Bloc's sea base nearby. Such an act would inevitably cause a global war that would result in mankind's destruction. The Myrka was used to break through the Sea Base's air lock and clear the way to the command room, but the Doctor (now in his fifth form) used ultra-violet light to destroy the Myrka. After pleading with the Silurian leader, Icthar (the sole survivor of the incident in the caves), the Fifth Doctor had to resort to flooding the Bridge with Hexachromite Gas, a gas (conveniently) lethal to reptiles. The Silurians and Sea Devil Warriors were all killed and the Doctor managed to disarm the proton missiles with only a couple of minutes to spare. Though the disaster was averted, it was not without massive fatalities on both sides.

Writing Credits

The Silurians and the Sea Devils were created by writer Malcolm Hulke in 1970 to fit his theory that when stranded on Earth, the Doctor's enemies would either have come to Earth from another planet or originated on Earth itself. Hulke wrote two of their three stories before his death in 1979. Writer Johnny Byrne wrote their third and final story as part of the show's 21st season - often dubbed 'the Monster season' by fans.

TV Episode Checklist

  • 'Doctor Who and the Silurians' (1970). 7 episodes, written by Malcolm Hulke. Old Silurian played by Pat Gorman, Young Silurian played by Dave Carter.

  • 'The Sea Devils' (1972). 6 episodes, written by Malcolm Hulke. Sea Devil Chief played by Peter Forbes-Robertson.

  • 'Warriors of the Deep' (1984). 4 episodes, written by Johnny Byrne. Icthar played by Norman Cormer, Scibus played by Stuart Blake, Tarpok played by Vincent Brimble, Commander Sauvix played by Christopher Farries.

1The United Nations Intelligence Taskforce, an army-based group that dealt with alien invasions on Earth.

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