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Doctor Who review, ‘Legend of the Sea Devils’: Are the Doctor and Yaz finally on the cusp of their big romantic moment?

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“If it was going to be anyone, it’d be you,” are the words Doctor Who fans will cling to after Sunday’s Easter special. Showrunner Chris Chibnall teased that Jodie Whittaker’s (and, indeed, his) penultimate episode would portray the “developing” relationship between the Time Lord and her companion Yaz (Mandip Gill); the episode may be titled “Legend of the Sea Devils”, but it might as well be called “Yaz and the Doctor: Will They or Won’t They?” The answer, it seems, is yet to be determined.

The backdrop is a village in 19th-century China, where the steely Madame Ching has stolen a statue and unintentionally released a swarm of Sea Devils. These baddies were first faced by Jon Pertwee’s Doctor in 1972 and, in the nicest possible way, you can definitely tell they’re a BRTD (before Russell T Davies) creation. They might’ve been nipped and tucked, but as with a lot of old Who monsters, these bug-eyed lizard monsters are too cartoonish to be truly scary.

Fortunately, the episode features an excellent ensemble cast. Crystal Yu brings a sharp edge to warrior Madame Ching, while Marlowe Chan-Reeves is sweet and immensely likeable as Ying Ki. It’s easy to rag on Doctor Who for its CGI, but the effects here are impressive, with plenty of stunning shots of sweeping seas and alien armies.

The story is compelling enough, but it ultimately ends up feeling like background noise to the romance. After Yaz finally confessed her feelings to Dan (John Bishop) in the New Year special, the Doctor took her companion by the hand, the words “Yaz, with me” flowing off her tongue as if they were the most natural thing in the world.

It turns out that preventing the end of the human race makes a great backdrop for Serious Relationship Chats, with the Doctor telling Yaz that “dates are not something I really do” without stopping to meet her eye. You can practically see Yaz’s heart drop. But then, those words. “If I was going to, believe me, it’d be with you,” the Doctor says. “I think you’re one of the greatest people I’ve ever known.”

The titular Sea Devils (BBC Studios/James Pardon)
The titular Sea Devils (BBC Studios/James Pardon)

It’s a beautifully tender scene, but step back and there’s a hollowness. After all, there’s a clock ticking for the Doctor. She was told last series that her journey is “heading to its end” and knows time is running out. The audience, having read the endless speculation about who will replace Whittaker when she bows out at the end of the year, knows it too.

Yaz and the Doctor will probably get their big romantic moment in Whittaker’s last episode; after all this hinting, it would be cruel not to. But given the Doctor is going to regenerate, it feels like a bit of a “bury your gays” moment – and look how that turned out for Killing Eve. “I wish this would go on forever,” the Doctor says. Fans will probably feel the same.

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