A Guest Blog by Hevy782
Today we continue our look back at Classic Who and shift the focus onto the Second Doctor played by Patrick Troughton. This week’s story is The Seeds of Death which features Frazer Hines as Jamie McCrimmon and Wendy Padbury as Zoe Heriot alongside Patrick Troughton’s unforgettable incarnation of everyone’s favourite Time Lord. For those of you who don’t know Patrick Troughton is my favourite Doctor and despite some tough competition from the likes of Tom Baker he is still managing to hang on to the top spot on my list. I choose this story because it shows both his silly and his serious side more-or-less equally and it also follows the format typical of many stories from his era. It is of course a base-under-siege story and while it does have some differences to the standard base-under-siege format it is still essentially what it boils down to. It is also the second appearance of the Ice Warriors who were primarily brought back because it was cheaper than making an entirely new monster but also because they had proved popular in the first appearance. The writer of said first appearance, Brian Hayles, was also bought back to write this sequel although script editor Terrance Dicks ended up rewriting the majority dues to issues with the original scripts. Michael Ferguson was bought on to direct the story and that is pretty much all the behind-the-scenes stuff in a nutshell so I think it’s about time to move on to the nitty-gritty of the story itself.
Starting off with the précis (which is basic a posh word for synopsis) for The Seeds of Death, the story begins with the TARDIS landing in the late twenty-first century where a revolutionary teleportation system called T-Mat has superseded all other forms of transport. It is controlled from a base on the moon but when all contact is lost the Earth enters a state of crisis. Unbeknownst to those on the planet bellow, the moonbase has been invaded by a group of Ice Warriors who plan to send seed pods to Earth which will spread oxygen sapping spores and end all life. With no other way to reach the moon, the Doctor, Jamie and Zoe pilot a rocket to there and discover the presence of their old enemies. They then manage to rescue the surviving technicians and teleport back to Earth using T-Mat, but the fungus is already taking effect and there seems to be no way to stop it. After some experimenting, the Doctor finds that the fungus can be destroyed with ordinary water and then goes to the weather control bureau to make it rain. Unfortunately, an Ice Warrior had been sent on ahead to destroy the weather controls but the Doctor is able to rig up a solar-radiation device to kill the Ice Warrior with. He then fixes the weather controls and causes it to rain, destroying all of the deadly fungus that was suffocating the planet. However, an Ice Warrior fleet is moving in and a signal is being transmitted by the Ice Warriors on the moon to direct them there. Earth then sends a satellite up which is transmitting the same signal to lure the Ice Warrior fleet off course and into an orbit which will send them into the sun. The Doctor then heads up alone to disable the signal on the moon so that the Ice Warriors will all follow the false signal but while he is successful he is also captured by the remaining Ice Warriors. Tired of waiting, Jamie follows on after the Doctor and then saves him from the Ice Warriors, dealing with them in the process. with all the threats to Earth now dealt with the Doctor heads off in the TARDIS with Jamie and Zoe, but it’s far from the last he’ll see of the Ice Warriors.
On the whole this story is surprisingly well made given the moderately troubled pre-production and low budget and the effort that went into making this clearly shows in the end product. Obviously it’s not flawless but given what they had to work with they came out better than expected. The sets themselves look very sleek and futuristic but in that classic sixties way. It very much shows what route they thought we were going to go down in the future but now it seems like we’re heading in a completely different. As for the costumes, they are also rather simplistic and while it does make the majority of the male cast members look like rather tacky superheroes the performances thankfully draws the audience’s attention away from the costume and makes them instead focus on the acting and the story. As for Mrs Kelly, one of the few female members of the cast, she’s given a much nicer costume which really stands out as high quality when compared to the costumes worn by those around her. As for the Ice Warriors the general design is pretty much the same as what we saw in their original story, The Ice Warriors, only here they look much more tight and for the most part less tacky. The lip sinking doesn’t match up that well but luckily they don’t have much lines as most are said by their leader, Slaar, who has an entirely different design. He is much more sleek and almost snake like compared to the standard Ice Warriors’ more turtle-like look. He even has a great hissing voice which is reminiscent of a snake. The character is written very well and Alan Bennion gives a great performance. Director Michael Ferguson is definitely aware of the productions strengths and limits but by no means does he play it safe. He takes risks which ultimately pay off and his decision to keep the Ice Warriors hidden for the first episode though use of point-of-view shots was pure genius. There’s also a very nice low angle shot of an Ice Warrior with the sun in the background, it works so well as you can’t make out an of the Ice Warriors features and it gives a real sense of menace.
Interestingly enough, the Doctor doesn’t come in to the story until about half way through the first episode which means that there’s a fair amount of time setting up the characters and the plot even before the TARDIS lands which is nice. One of these characters is Fewsham who ends up helping the Ice Warriors for most of the story. But not out greed or a lust for power but simply because he doesn’t want to die which might not be the most commendable of attributes but it’s certainly realistic. He does, however, die a hero and makes up for his past mistakes which is a nice bit of character development even though it’s a bit predictable. Another great character is Gia Kelly who is one of the few female characters is the story but she is much stronger than most of the men. She doesn’t let anyone push her about, even her superiors, and is very much focus on getting the job done right. Now The Seeds of Death is very much the Doctor’s story (despite Patrick Troughton being on holiday for episode four) but that doesn’t mean that Jamie and Zoe are left with nothing to do and they are given quite an active role in the proceedings actually. It’s also interesting to note that they spend most of the story together whereas some stories like to split the main characters up to drive different strands of the story before reuniting at the end. Here they do split up fairly often but always met up again fairly quickly and practically everyone gets a chance to act opposite each other which is great.
Overall, The Seeds of Death is another great story which is arguably more relevant today than it was back then. It’s all about space travel and how we should be exploring the stars which is something we seem to have given up on these days and are too focused on making our lives easier. Admittedly we don’t have anything like T-Mat to do this but there are loads of other luxuries in today’s world that we could quite easily live without. So it’s a nine-out-of-ten for me on this one and next week we’ll be moving on to the Third Doctor with The Claws of Axos, an absolute romp of a story featuring UNIT and the Master but until then be sure to sound off your thoughts on the story in the comments below.