Friday, September 23, 2005

'The Seeds of Death'

6 episodes

Strangely compelling stuff, which without ever breaking out into true greatness drags surprisingly little considering its length. We get a substantial setup sequence to introduce the setting, the concept of T-mat and all the supporting characters, although the identity of the villains is kept in the dark until the end of the first episode by clever use of shooting their point of view instead of letting them into the frame. The TARDIS crew take a full eight minutes to arrive, turning up in a space museum (not that one) that houses amongst other things the TARDIS astral map prop from 'The Web of Fear' (shudder) and the Dominators' drill. Funny the Doctor doesn't seem to recognise them...

The Ice Warriors, as they are revealed to be, make impressive monsters again and cement their status in the upper echelons of Doctor Who bad guys, with their leader Slaar being almost unspeakably sadistic in his treatment of Fewsham throughout and in his desire to kill the Doctor by T-matting him into space instead of just having him shot. The seeds of the title are really quite impressive, with absolutely mountains of foam pouring out from them and smothering the landscape. There are some odd plot elements, like the fact that Radnor and co. happily send the Doctor, Jamie and Zoe to the moon in a rocket despite having only just met them and knowing nothing about their trustworthiness or suitabiility to fly, and that the three are sent up without so much as a spacesuit let alone any training! Then there is the fact that the seeds' gas kills by cutting off people's oxygen supply and the characters worry that releasing this into the atmosphere could harm the entire world's population, yet we have already seen that only a person who has a seed explode right in their face will suffocate while those behind them will just cough and splutter for a minute. Then there is the glaring error that presumably arose because the makers were all used to thinking in Fahrenheit back in the day, where we see the Ice Warriors incapacitated by the moonbase's temperature being turned up to a blisteringly hot 60 degrees Centigrade, which would surely have killed the humans present as well... Then, Zoe knows Ice Warrior Slaar's name despite having no way of doing so. And then there's that glowing-lights panel on the wall of the moonbase - although it creates very cool silhouettes of people throughout, does it actually have any other reason to be there besides this??

Still, it is easy to criticise, so I'll try not to pick out any more! There is some good model work, with the takeoff and landing of the moon rockets especially impressive. The T-mats are a nice new concept to introduce into the Whoniverse, and the Ice Warriors make good use of them to spread their killer gas and fungus all over the globe. Radnor, Miss Kelly and Eldred make a good treble-act down on Earth, although I was often distracted by Ronald Leigh-Hunt's uncanny resemblance of Bill Pertwee (brother of the future Third Doctor Jon, and Dad's Army stalwart as ARP Warden Hodges) and Philip Ray's odd facial similarity to Davros!! The unwilling traitor Fewsham is also an interesting role, as he alternates between helping and hindering the Ice Warriors in the moonbase at the risk and ultimate cost of his life. Talking of which: you get so used to Who villains using the kiddie-friendly, somewhat bowlderised expression of "destroying" someone every time they mean to dispatch them gruesomely, it was genuinely chilling to hear Slaar simply state "Kill him" when Fewsham's aiding of the humans is uncovered.

The Doctor is, despite the code of his (still unnamed) people, at his most proactive here, as he wastes no time in wading into the conflict with every intention of righting the perceived wrong and helping out the humans. It is quite surprising to see him rig up a makeshift weapon and kill (sorry, destroy) Ice Warriors, as later especially you get used to his pacifistic stance. Regardless, it is another excellent turn from Patrick Troughton, and with only a single episode plus one complete story left to come I can't help wishing we had so many more of his Doctor's serials still available to enjoy today. At least he made the effort to come back for the Three, Five and Two Doctors adventures in later years!


Episodes watched: 134
Episodes still to watch: 588

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