Doctor Who

Doctor Who: Seeds of Death – Good Acting Saves Script Weakness and Really Bad Effects

Written by Brian Hayles
Directed by Michael Ferguson

Doctor Who is a British science fiction television series that has been around off and on since 1963. The main character is just known as “The Doctor” and is a Time Lord from the planet Gallifrey. This means he travels through time to various places. One of his favorite places to visit is Earth. Typically, he has a companion traveling with him, usually female, sometimes male, sometimes one of each. He travels in a time machine known as a “Tardis” which is disguised as a British Police booth.

A Time Lord can regenerate if fatally wounded, which has accounted for all the different actors who have played The Doctor throughout the years. In these episodes, aired at the beginning of 1969, he is portrayed by Patrick Troughton.

In the future, Earth has developed a teleportation technology known as T-Mat. They have also stopped looking for life outside of our solar system and are no longer exploring space. They do have a pivotal T-Mat station on the moon which begins experiencing a series of difficulties.

Meanwhile, The Doctor, and his traveling companions, Jamie and Zoe (portrayed by Frazer Hines and Wendy Padbury) land at a museum that has a collection of the various vehicles once used for space exploration. When the T-Mat station on the moon goes out and can’t be reached, Commander Radnor (portrayed by Ronald Leigh-Hunt) turns to the museum’s owner, Professor Daniel Eldred (portrayed by Philip Ray), for help. There’s no other way to get to the moon except by rocket, but no one is able to man it. Since the Doctor knows the most about space travel, he, Jamie, and Zoe use one to travel to the moon. Why they don’t just hop in the TARDIS, I don’t know.

On the relay station, the crew has been captured by a militant martian race who calls themselves Ice Warriors. Only one of the crew goes along with the plans the Ice Warriors have. The rest remain defiant and try to warn Earth about the threat of invasion from this race. Two of the crew are killed.

While the story in Seeds of Death is fun in a lot of ways, the plot holes make it quite contrived at times. It also gets its material from a variety of other sources, most notably the way the Ice Warriors are about to invade being ripped off from Invasion of the Body Snatchers.

The depiction of the Ice Warriors is decent. As an enemy of the Doctor and Earth, they are pretty fearsome. This is not so much for their technology, but rather for their personality. They have no qualms about slaughtering anyone who stands in the way of their plans. While the costuming may leave something to be desired by today’s standards, it’s quite a bit of fun for this time period.

The acting is good. I am actually starting to enjoy Troughton in the role quite a bit. He brings a very distinct quality to the Doctor. He seems to have an earnestness to prove himself worthwhile to the universe and in that respect jumps in to help at every opportunity. It’s a quality that’s seen in the Doctor throughout the series after Troughton’s turn as the character as each regeneration seems to leave something behind for others to build on.

I liked Jamie and Zoe as companions quite a bit. Zoe especially is depicted as a strong, smart woman which is something special during these years. Even in 1978, Battlestar Galactica struggled to depict women as fighter pilots. In 1969, Doctor Who managed to make a better female character. Wendy Padbury is excellent in the role as well, not coming off at all like a wilting violet but rather as brash and unafraid.

The less courageous role falls to Jamie, but he is also a bit of comic relief. Frazer Hines portrays him as somewhat goofy and it works as it’s not overdone.

The guest cast is good and does the best they can with some very difficult parts. Commander Radnor in particular seems terribly weak for someone who has risen to his stature in the world. Again, the female role of Gia Kelley seems much stronger.

The special effects are pretty laughable. The weapons the Ice Warriors use emit what looks like a bright light as if the camera is put close to a lightbulb that is turned on and then shut off again after a short time. Don’t even get me started on the fungus which appears to be straight out of The Brady Bunch episode where one of the kids put too much detergent in the washer.

Filmed in black and white, the restoration is pretty good. I saw little to no interference or snow in the picture and it was fairly clear for the era it’s coming from. The sound was pretty clear and even, as I rarely had to adjust the volume while viewing it.

Overall, Seeds of Death was decent if uneven. What made the story work were the actors and the roles which were written stronger. I don’t usually expect much in special effects from Doctor Who, but it was pretty bad here, as were some of the plot contrivances. I would definitely recommend it to series fans, but most others won’t appreciate it.


SPECIAL FEATURES:

• Commentary with Director Michael Ferguson, Wendy Padbury, and Frazer Hines
• Information Text
• New Zealand Censor Clips
• 40th Anniversary Celebration
• The Last Dalek
• Tardis Cam No. 6
• Sssowing the Ssseedsss
• Who’s Who
• Photo Gallery


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