Doctor Who – The Seeds of Death (Special Edition)

This an example of that sadly rare thing, an intact Doctor Who story from the Patrick Troughton era. It’s the first of three in the second Revisitations box set, an earlier DVD having been released in 2003. So, what do we have here?

Patrick Troughton is the Doctor, Frazer Hines is Jamie and Wendy Padbury is Zoë[1] in this six-part story first shown in early 1969. After this, there were just two stories left for Patrick Troughton – The Space Pirates and the era-ending, Time Lord introducing The War Games, but for now it’s business as usual as the Doctor and his friends arrive just in time to get involved in a bit of a situation. It’s the late 21st century, and humanity has given up on all that boring space rocket stuff, not to mention aircraft and it would seem buses and the like, in favour of a matter transportation system called T-Mat. For perfectly good plot reasons, T-Mat is run from the Moon, rather than, you know, from nearer to where people travel, or from geosynchronous satellites or anything sensible like that.

So it’s a bit of a problem when a small force of Martian Ice Warriors, nasty green grey[2] chaps that the Doctor has met previously. As usual, the invaders have a Cunning Plan, which involves making the Earth into a suitable home for themselves, what with Mars being a but run down and all that. Unfortunately, this will make the Earth rather less suitable for humans, who will all die.

Can the Doctor and his friends foil the invasion? Well, of course they can, and there’s a good bit of fun to be had along the way, not least seeing Wendy Padbury cracking up when a foam covered Patrick Troughton slithers into a weather control station. Like most stories of its time, the pace can seem very slow compared to 21st century Doctor Who, but it’s worth keeping your attention focussed, sitting back and enjoying the fun.

In addition to the usual commentary, production subtitles and other bits, there are some quite reasonable extras:

  • Lords of the Red Planet – Nie documentary on the origin of the Ice Warriors and their return here
  • Sssowing the Ssseedsss – Iccccccce Warrior actorssss remember playing the ssssibilant aliensssss. And the clossssing creditssss repeat the sssss gag, so I thought I would too. Some nice recollections of the remarkably tall Bernard Bresslaw, best remembered for his work in the Carry On movies, but who also played an Ice Warrior in an earlier ssstory.
  • Monster Masterclass – Michael Ferguson, who directed The Seeds of Death, talking about directing assorted monsters
  • Monsters who came back for more! Nick Briggs and Peter Ware of Doctor Who Magazine discuss why some monsters keep coming back, and indeed why some don’t. Quarks, anyone?

If you’ve never seen any of the 1960s stories, this is as good a place to start as any – the main cast are all nicely settled in to their roles, the monsters are good fun, and the story hangs together pretty well. Though the whole T-Mat thing does bring out a bit of the Doctor McCoy in me…

[1] Often listed as Zoe, but the original intention, as discussed in the production subtitles was for her name to be complete with the umlaut
[2] This DVD is presented in the original glorious monochrome, with a typically excellent restoration job.