After a short stay in Season 7 we jump all the way to the other end of Pertwee’s TV run and get a story set during Season 11 with Sarah Jane Smith and The Doctor travelling around in the TARDIS, so the complete opposite of the Earth bound UNIT stories. While Sadie Miller does a great job with her mother’s role I will say that The Gulf was sometimes a bit of a slog to get through… Let’s take a look!
The TARDIS lands on an ocean planet where the Doctor and Sarah find themselves stranded on a former rig, which has recently been converted into an artistic retreat.
But art is far from the residents’ minds. A troubled member of their collective has disappeared, and the Doctor senses a sinister psychic presence. The waves are rising. And there’s something in the water.
*spoilers appear from here on out!*
The story has a lot of unique ideas, and I do like the isolated ocean world setting. The Doctor and Sarah land on an old rig that was pulling a highly dangerous substance from the oceans but was abandoned, leaving it open for a group of artists to turn it into an isolated retreat where they can create their masterpieces. The leader of the this group is Marta Malvani (Wendy Craig), with the rest of the group comprised of three female artists in Laurel, Lynette and Pen (Lucy Goldie, Bethan Walker and Jennifer Saayeng) and a cook / old friend of Marta in Jesko (Issy Van Randwyck) There are some interesting interplay between them, apparently there is a war between a rebellious group of “terrorists” and those that supress them in “Galaxy 3” and Marta’s daughter was killed during a skirmish, but it turns out that she was actually a rebel and grew close to Pen, leading to Pen joining the retreat to be closer to her old lover’s mother. Laurel and Lynette were drawing the dangerous substance from the oceans again in order to paint with and sell it respectively, and generally there are a lot of secrets around the place.
This all comes to a head when a psychic entity eventually referring to itself as “The Gulf” begins to possess members of the cast one by one, existing by drawing out the salt from their bodies by making them cry at traumatic memories. An interesting and pretty nasty idea for a threat, plenty of running around and a scene where The Doctor falls into the ocean and manages to survive after directly talking with the creature. In the end the facility is sank and the creature defeated, with very few cast members left…
Looking at the cover it’s surprising just how little it has to do with this story. Just Sarah Jane and one rig pillar…
It has to be said that this story is extremely slow and talky. There were moments across all four parts where I began to wonder if I’d missed the end credits/open credits and was into another episode but it turned out the same episode was still running, it just felt like it was going on forever. I don’t want to be too harsh on something that does such a good job of world building and does create some interesting characters, but it really is poorly paced.
Nothing to say, really. No dialogue to place this specifically somewhere in the Season 11 run, no returning creatures or locations… it’s pretty stand alone!
The Gulf does a good job of world building and creates some interesting characters but sadly the pacing is slow, so slow that my attention easily drifted off during moments and left some episodes feeling extremely long. A single complaint, but a rather crucial one, so I doubt I’ll be listening to this again…