Tune in for this bonus minisode as Talia and Lucia discuss LEGEND OF THE SEA DEVILS. We debate the importance of character arcs versus plot structure, gush about Thasmin, and can’t help but comment on those outfits.
Talia Franks: Hello and welcome to the Wibbly Wobbly Timey Wimey Podcast!
Lucia Kelly: I’m Lucia Kelly, expert at applied analysis, and I’m ahead of the curve.
Talia Franks: And I’m Talia Frank, media critic, fanfic enthusiast and I want to create chaos.
Lucia Kelly: And we’re here today for a Wibbly Wobbly minisode!
Talia Franks: Today, we’ll be talking about Legend of the Sea Devils, the 2022 Easter Special of Doctor Who.
Lucia Kelly: Legend of the Sea Devils aired on the 17th of April, 2022. It was written by Chris Chibnall and Ella Road, and directed by Haolu Wang.
Talia Franks: Reminder that time isn’t a straight line, it can twist into any shape, and as such, this is a fully spoiled podcast. We might bring things in from later in the show, the comics, the books, the audio dramas, or even fan theories and articles.
Lucia Kelly: With that out of the way, the world has been disrupted because of what Madame Ching has unleashed, so let’s get in the TARDIS.
Talia Franks: Content warning, discussion of transphobia during this episode.
Lucia Kelly: IMDB says, this is the one where the Doctor, Yaz, and Dan traveled to 19th Century China, where a small coastal village is under threat from both the fearsome pirate queen Madame Ching, and a monstrous force, which she has unwittingly unleashed.
Talia Franks: Our synopsis is that this is the one where (Talia starts singing) Thasmin’s been canon all along!
Talia Franks: Thasmin is canon, y’all!
Lucia Kelly: It’s canon!
Talia Franks: (Talia starts singing again) We did it! We did it! We did it! Yeah! Lo hicimos, we did it!
Lucia Kelly: Yeah, no, my sister was making a lot of fun of me cause I was flapping around the room and being very excited about the fact that we had textual confirmation people! No subtext! No beating around the bush! None of this, you know, speaking in euphemisms. Hundred percent, this was (hits desk rhythmically to emphasis point) real romantic Thasmin in text. Ah!
Talia Franks: Yeah. And especially after years, and years, of Thasmin shippers being told that we’re ridiculous, that we’re just seeing things, that this isn’t real, finally being validated and told that, Yes. What you’re seeing is real. Yes. That this is intended. Yes. That this is intentional. It’s finally here and it’s just – It’s so upsetting that it’s finally here in the penultimate episode –
Lucia Kelly: Right?
Talia Franks: – And it’s just like, why is it finally here only for it to be about to end?
Lucia Kelly: We know why. (Lucia laughs)
Talia Franks: I mean we know why. We know why. I mean, It’s a variety of factors, right? One of it is because this wasn’t what was fully intended by Chris Chibnall and the rest of the creative writing team.
Talia Franks: Like, I remember, when I was at Gally, Mandip Gill said that a lot of the chemistry in between the 13th Doctor and Yaz, was something that partially developed from the chemistry between her and Jodie Whittaker. She said that a lot of the chemistry between her and Jodie Whittaker had to be toned down in Season 12 because the two of them were closer than the Doctor and Yaz were.
Talia Franks: She said that from her perspective, it didn’t seem like it was planned. Generally what was said was that Thasmin wasn’t something that was entirely planned by the creative team, but with something that they sensed, and especially with the fans noticing it, that they decided to make Canon, (Lucia mhmms in agreement) because it was something that was developing naturally in the subtext. And so then they decided to make it text.
Talia Franks: I think … that’s part of the reason why it didn’t become Canon right away. And I honestly appreciate that they’re owning the fact that they didn’t mean for it to happen, but then they’re embracing it when it did happen.
Talia Franks: I just wish they had embraced it harder and went with it sooner. Like it’s clear that they started embracing it at the beginning of Flux.
Lucia Kelly: With the inclusion of Dan, may I say! May I say! That Dan has been a mover and shaker (Talia giggles) in the Thasmin train! (Lucia also giggles)
Talia Franks: Yes. I’m saying that I wish that they had sped up the Thasmin train and made it more of a core of Flux. Like, I just wish the level of Thasmin that we have seen happen in Eve of the Daleks and Legend of the Sea Devils, I wish that level of Thasmin, instead of these two specials, had shifted to like, the first two episodes of Flux.
Talia Franks: Not gonna lie. I wish that we had had all of Series 13 with the Thasmin and not just these two specials with the Thasmin.
Lucia Kelly: I mean, another large part of it has to be said, is that BBC as a company and Britain as a country is still largely conservative.
Lucia Kelly: Like the furore, the furore about the fact that Jodie became the Doctor at all. To make her then a queer Doctor is – Obviously something that I am all for, and I know a lot of fans are all for, but there’s also – to put it very bluntly – a financial risk for the BBC, which sucks.
Talia Franks: I mean, she’s inherently a queer Doctor by the fact that she’s a woman who was a man, (Talia laughs) like that’s inherently queer!
Lucia Kelly: I know that! Do you think that the hardcore fans that are pitching the BBC about the fact that Jodie should be replaced, have even comprehended that in their tiny little minds?
Talia Franks: No.
Lucia Kelly: No. Exactly. (Lucia laughs)
Talia Franks: And I’ve seen Instagram comments that are like, “I can’t wait for Russell T Davies to come back.” ” I can’t wait for the Doctor to be a white man again,” Like people are just out here saying things with their chests that are so bad and wrong? And –
Lucia Kelly: Well also just so completely, blatantly uncompassionate as well. Like, there comes a point, especially in a fandom as large as Doctor Who, in a sort of property like Doctor Who, where you have got so much fan discourse happening at any given time, there is no way you can like, blind yourself from other people’s experiences, except by doing it willingly and doing it with intention.
Talia Franks: Yeah. And I’ve definitely seen, and there was a huge big thing on Twitter, just a – a bit ago about these people on this conservative show. And I’m not gonna say their names because I don’t think they’re important enough to give them a platform, but I will say that some of them were saying that they thought that the Thirteenth doctor was acting predatory towards Yaz.
Talia Franks: And that the Doctor being with a companion like that was predatory and that none of the other Doctors would have done that. And I’m like, have you –
Lucia Kelly: Have we forgotten Rose?
Talia Franks: And they specifically cited Tom Baker to David Tennant never would have done that.
Talia Franks: And I’m like, and I only saw a clip on Twitter, so I didn’t see the whole thing. And if I had the opportunity to see the whole thing, I probably wouldn’t have watched it cause I wouldn’t be able to stomach it. But I’m like, this person obviously has not actually seen Doctor Who, (Lucia mhmms) because if they had seen Season Two – which we’re covering right now, outside of this bonus episode, we’re covering season two and we’re covering all of the problematic things having to do with Rose – and Rose in her season is nebulously 19, 20, maybe 21, at the oldest. By the end of her run she is probably at the oldest 21, 22, depending on how long she’s been traveling with the Doctor – I don’t really get a good sense of how long she’s travelling with the Doctor – but like, at the oldest, I feel like she’s 21, 22. Yaz, as we’ve established in our previous discussions, is probably 26, 27 at this point.
Talia Franks: What the fuck?
Talia Franks: And the Doctor, yes, is thousands of years old, so it’s weird for her to be with any human at all, (Talia laughs) whether or not they’re 22 versus 27, like that’s still hell of an age gap, as Rose said in her first episode or not her first episode, her what third or fourth?
Lucia Kelly: Yeah.
Talia Franks: But the fact of the matter is that it’s just blatant lesbophobia. It’s blatant lesbophobia. (Lucia makes a noise of agreement) And like, I wasn’t around in the fandom back when like, Tenrose was first being introduced. I’m pretty sure there was backlash then, I would be very surprised if there wasn’t, but I don’t think it was to the same extent we’re seeing now.
Lucia Kelly: Yeah, particularly the use of the term predatory is feeding straight into the predatory lesbian stereotype and fear, and also completely ignores the fact that during the episode, the Doctor is actively trying to distance herself from Yaz. That’s what the entire beach conversation was about.
Talia Franks: This did come out before the episode –
Lucia Kelly: Okay.
Talia Franks: – but it doesn’t excuse it.
Lucia Kelly: But it’s also what she’s been doing this whole time, like –
Talia Franks: She has been doing it this whole time. And I will say it’s also blatant transphobia because it is very much the narrative that’s being spread across the world, but very strongly in Britain right now that trans women are predators to basically everyone.
Talia Franks: Like the laws that are being passed in the UK, and the US, are –
Lucia Kelly: And Australia.
Talia Franks: And Australia. Yeah. I will freely admit I am not as well versed in Australia, sorry to say. It’s the US and the UK that I’m most familiar with.
Lucia Kelly: I’m so offended. (Lucia laughs)
Talia Franks: I know! I’m sorry I don’t know as much about your country. I deeply apologize. (Talia also laughs)
Talia Franks: But yeah, it’s – it’s disgusting. Like, as a trans person, like, (Talia groans in frustration) I – I cannot – and like, particularly how it’s impacting trans youth right now it’s …
Talia Franks: Okay! (Talia claps) Uh, we’re not here to talk about transphobia. We’re here to talk about how great this episode is because it’s a great episode.
Lucia Kelly: We might have differing opinions.
Talia Franks: No, I do think it’s a great episode. (Lucia squeaks)
Talia Franks: You don’t think it’s a great episode? I really liked this episode.
Lucia Kelly: Uh … I – Okay. So, I think the way that I saw the episode was very disjointed. First of all, I felt like there was a lot of reliance on CGI, that didn’t need to be there, to the point where like, even skimming the rocks was CGI. That just was taking it to a degree that kind of took me out. That’s nebulous though.
Lucia Kelly: When you come down to like, basic story construction, when it comes from TV episode, (Lucia takes a deep breath) the general rule is that all of the storylines carry the same theme, they’re dealing with the same sort of, broad issues. Generally, what we’ve got here is we’ve got the Sea Devils, we’ve got Madame Ching and her crew, and we’ve got the TARDIS team, in terms of like characters, and then, theme wise, you’ve got the Sea Devils, their primary motivation is about reclaiming land –
Talia Franks: Reclaiming the sea. They want to turn the land into the sea. They don’t care about the land parasites.
Lucia Kelly: Like, reclaiming property, let’s say, reclaiming living space, with a very particular colonial mindset of stamping out perceived lesser beings.
Lucia Kelly: And then you’ve got Ying Ki, Ji-Hun, and Madame Ching, all of whom – their storylines revolve around this idea of family and duty. And then you’ve got the TARDIS team, which is primarily Thasmin. It’s about figuring out the Doctor and Yaz’s relationship and in particular, exploring why the Doctor is reluctant to pursue that, which has to do with past traumas and refusal to process them.
Lucia Kelly: All of those key themes are incredibly different, and they don’t actually correspond or weave into each other really in any kind of way? They’re all very separate. And none of them are really explored to any great depth. There’s no thematic linking between these three different stories. The only thing that links them is the plot which overall leads to a very disjointed and mismatched episode that I personally felt could have been done better, either by making it all one theme, or taking the time to build those links between them.
Talia Franks: Yeah, I think this episode did suffer from the fact that, one, it wasn’t as long as some other specials have been. It was only 50 minutes, which is the length of a typical Jodie Whittaker Doctor episode – which is longer than the other Doctor’s episodes have been.
Talia Franks: One of the major changes with Jodie Whittaker’s Doctor is that her seasons have only had 10 episodes, but they’ve been longer. Whereas other Doctors have had 13 episodes per season, shorter episodes. But this special was actually much shorter than Eve of the Daleks, which I think was a little over an hour?
Talia Franks: So, there are a few places where it feels like things were cut. For example, there’s the bit where the Doctor and Yaz and Ji-Hun are escaping from the Sea Devils and then suddenly they’re swinging on board Madame Ching’s ship. Like, we don’t get to see that transition? That feels like maybe there was a scene cut there. But, even with those bits, I didn’t really feel like the fact that the storylines weren’t perfectly aligned, that wasn’t really a problem for me, because I was able to keep track of all the storylines, and I felt like, to me, they did make sense in a way, and they were linked, just not explicitly.
Talia Franks: There’s the Sea Devils, who are trying to reclaim what they see as their planet, which, to me, it’s a twisted form of family and community, but in a way, they are trying to bring together what they see is right. And then, in a way, Madam Ching, and Ying Ki and um, Ji-Hun, their storyline also felt very community oriented. And so did the Doctor and Yaz, and even Dan’s little bit at the end where he’s reconnecting with Di, like that also felt very community oriented. So it’s very different kinds of community and very different kinds of relationships, especially with the Sea Devils and they’re like, villainy of it.
Talia Franks: Also, I have a bone to pick with you disliking the CGI because you can’t blame that on Doctor Who, you have to blame that on COVID.
Lucia Kelly: Even the stone skipping?
Talia Franks: I really think that they were under too many restrictions with COVID. They did not have a travel budget. They had to film in very isolated conditions. They were probably indoors the entire time. They had a very restricted budget. They did not have the space for sets.
Lucia Kelly: But I’ve got a bone to pick with you about community with the Sea Devils. No way. The Sea Devils were so weirdly under and over developed. So we’ve only got our main guy, right? None of the other Sea Devils get any kind of development. They’re just this mass.
Lucia Kelly: We don’t have any idea about the way that they speak to each other. The way that they communicate with each other. Any other kind of individual wants or needs. The motivations were very underdeveloped. And then – So this main Sea Devil guy, who we never get a name for, is very clearly got something going on for him. Like he was this guy who got trapped and imprisoned. He’s clearly very important. He’s got the communicator on him and he’s got this whole backstory apparently. And then he’s just killed and there’s no consequences for it.
Lucia Kelly: Like the whole thing about the ship happening, like, “Oh, it instills fear in the land dwellers” That doesn’t seem like a sufficient enough explanation at all. Like for bringing back a classic villain, it felt very odd. Particularly, um, we very recently released our episode about the Rise of the Cybermen/Age of Steel double from Series Two, which was the re-introduction of the Cybermen, which was so well done.
Lucia Kelly: This just felt really – it felt like – what I’m getting from this episode overwhelmingly is this idea that they wanted to do a pirate story, so they just fit in as many elements as they needed in order to make a Doctor Who pirate story, and then just kind of squished everything in to fit the mold, rather than actually thinking it through properly, because there are so many places that feel mismatched or undeveloped. It’s a very odd episode. (Lucia laughs)
Lucia Kelly: So to your point, about everything being about community building – Ideally – So the Doctor has been pushing back against this romance with Yaz for a long time at this point, and that has been traveling smoothly from subtext to text for a while, but very explicitly from Flux. And so it would make sense that this is the episode where she verbalizes that and makes sense of it. But nothing about what just happened, nothing about what just happened to her and to her team, to everyone around her, and like, the adventure that she just had, is not connected to the scene on the beach. It’s a conversation that makes sense and is true to the character, but it’s not connected to what just happened.
Talia Franks: So, I disagree. (Lucia laughs) I do think it’s very connected to what just happened because what just happened is what triggered the conversation? Like, they had the conversation because of the circumstances of what was going on.
Talia Franks: Like, it might’ve been that different things triggered the conversation, but the whole reason they have the conversation was because things had been building to that point throughout all of the different adventures that they had together.
Talia Franks: Like that whole scene where they’re underwater together and they’re having all these adventures together. It’s the bonding of being together on all of these adventures and having all of these experiences together that is causing this.
Lucia Kelly: But it’s not an emotional truth that’s learnt through the last 40 minutes. What’s prompting this more than anything is Dan is pushing them to talk to each other. So, like, yes, the line that made me jump around the room about “not being a bad date right?” That is specifically triggered by being at the bottom of the ocean.
Lucia Kelly: But the Doctor shows Yaz amazing unique vistas every day. Nothing unique to this episode is what prompted that emotional journey. It was all internal, it was all character driven, which – I’m a big fan of character-driven stuff – it’s about making sure that everything’s interlocked properly.
Talia Franks: Yeah. But so – The thing is – I don’t see what the problem is with this episode, given that -This is a very character-driven episode. It just has different characters that are being driven in different ways. And I don’t see what the problem is with having different characters having different motivations that aren’t interlocked if they all make sense. Yes, they’re traveling in different paths and what they’re being connected by is the plot more than the theme. But I don’t see what the problem is with being connected by the plot if the characters are what guide the story.
Talia Franks: I think you are someone who is very invested in making sure that everything is super interlocked and like, everything is super cohesive, and everything is like, a very tight package, whereas I’m someone who’s like, if the plot, loosely makes sense, if you can get from point A to B and you don’t lose me? If I like, enjoy the journey that the characters go on, even if those journeys are separate paths? Then I can enjoy the episode a lot.
Talia Franks: I really enjoy the character growth and journey that Madame Ching goes on. I really enjoy the character growth and journey that the Doctor goes on. Even if it’s not connected to the plot of the episode, the characters have growth, and the characters go on journeys, and yes, they’re not super connected to the plot, but they go on journeys in this episode that make sense and that I enjoy. And so I don’t see why the fact that the plot itself is weak has to diminish the excellent journeys that the characters go on.
Lucia Kelly: So you admit that the plot was weak. (Lucia laughs) No, I’m serious. I’m ser – like, we can agree to disagree. We have different core values in what we’re look in in media and that’s fine.
Talia Franks: The thing is I don’t care about a weak plot if it has good characters.
Talia Franks: I feel like the characters, have motivations that yes, they’re loosely linked. Yes, the plot is loose. And like I said, I think the characters are loosely linked by what I see as a thread of community. I do see this loose thread of community. I think it’s very loose. I think it’s very different types of community. I think it manifests in different ways. But I think that they are journeys that they go on.
Talia Franks: The overall plot and the way it’s linked is weak, but the plot does makes sense to me. I can get from A to B and understand it.
Talia Franks: If I can get from A to B and understand it, if I can enjoy the journeys and the character growth, then, I enjoyed the episode. I thought it was a good episode. I had a good time.
Talia Franks: And it had an excellent sword fighting scene. I really enjoyed that sword fighting scene. Did you see that cool little back flip that Jodie Whittaker did? Oh my God. It was amazing.
Lucia Kelly: I did. Yeah. Yeah, no. The sword fighting scene was good. I will give it that.
Talia Franks: It reminded me of the 1972 sword fighting scene in the original Sea Devils episode. (Lucia hmmms) Have you seen the original Sea Devils episode?
Lucia Kelly: No, but I’ve seen clips.
Talia Franks: Yeah. I watched it with a friend a few weeks ago. And there’s an iconic sword fighting scene between the Doctor and the Master that’s just like (Talia makes a kissing noise) chef’s kiss.
Lucia Kelly: I will say this episode had really big Pirates of the Caribbean energy, which I appreciated and enjoyed. Like, (Both laugh) everything kind of about, it was really pushing this fantasy aspect Dan’s outfit. It’s a good joke, like, for a scene, and then it’s just bad.
Talia Franks: I thought Dan’s outfit was fantastic. Dan’s outfit was great. I loved Dan’s outfit. But we are in fact running out of time.
Talia Franks: So, I don’t think we have time to talk about costumes.
Lucia Kelly: The costumes were amazing.
Talia Franks: The costumes were amazing. I did see one person who is critiquing the costume. And saying like, “Oh, it didn’t make sense for them to be in costumes, blah ditty blah ditty blah.” Like “T hey didn’t know they’re going to be there. They thought they were going to just regular beach,” and I’m like, “No, it didn’t make sense for them to be there because they were specifically seeking the treasure of the Flor de la Mar, because they specifically said at the end of The Eve of the Daleks that that is where they were going.” People, pay attention!
Lucia Kelly: Not everyone else has your encyclopedic knowledge of Doctor Who, Talia. You need to – (Lucia dissolves into giggles)
Talia Franks: No. This was in an official recap article. I read an official recap article that was critiquing the fact that they were in period costume, and I’m like, “Come on, you’re supposed to be an actual critic.”
Talia Franks: I won’t say which outlet is for, but it was a relatively big outlet and I’m like, “Come on.”
Lucia Kelly: I love that you think that – I love that you’re like, (Talia giggles) “I won’t tell you which one it is, but – “
Lucia Kelly: Alright. So –
Talia Franks: I try not to read critique articles because they always make me mad.
Lucia Kelly: They do always make you mad. You should live like me in blissful ignorance. Don’t give them your time.
Lucia Kelly: Anyway. Funky, Fabulous, or Foul?
Talia Franks: Fabulous. It’s fabulous. It was so good. It was so, so good!
Lucia Kelly: I’m going to go with funky. I’m sorry! I really enjoyed it, but it was hanging together by a loose thread and that’s not gonna go for me. Sorry. Like, in the moment, super enjoyed it.
Lucia Kelly: It’s a super watchable, super fun episode. It’s just very weak on a constructive level. (Talia harumphs) And that is a big value for me. Sorry. Not sorry, actually! (Talia harumphs louder) It’s funky.
Talia Franks: Fine.
Talia Franks: Dear listeners stay tuned for our next episode, which is going to be another minisode, about the trailer for the centenary special, because holy shit. (Talia laughs)
Lucia Kelly: Holy shit! You can’t see, because this is an audio medium, but I’m doing happy flaps because I have things to say!
Talia Franks: I also have things to say, but we appreciate that not everyone watches trailers, and we don’t want to give spoilers, so we’re going to do a second minisode about just the trailer. And yeah, see you next time, folks!
Lucia Kelly: Bye!
Talia Franks: Bye!
Lucia Kelly: Thank you for listening to The Wibbly Wobbly Timey Wimey Podcast.
Talia Franks: We hope you enjoyed this adventure with us through space and time.
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Talia Franks: Special thanks to our editor, Dee who has been a vital member of the Wibbly Wobbly Team.
Lucia Kelly: That’s all for now. Catch you in the time vortex!