Sunday, 7 June 2009

Doctor Who: The Seeds of Death

Part One

"Look at the size of this one, Doc!"

The last Troughton story on DVD. Blimey- we're getting very near the end. We start with one of those funky sequences based around the title that this era has been doing so well, and then we get eight full minutes (I checked) before the TARDISeers turn up- surely a record. Still, the characters are engaging, from the cold, efficient,, yet sexy and charismatic Miss Kelly to the sympathetic coward Fewsham. For the first time in a while all the guest characters are at least memorable, and there are some nice touches- I love the briefcase!

The way the identity of this story's returning foe is hidden from us is rather clever in terms of concept and its execution by Michael Briant. As usual in these circumstances it's suspense, not surprise, that's the real point, but it leads to an effective cliffhanger. These Ice Warriors are immediately sleeker (well, relatively!) and more deadly than they were before.

The scenes with Eldred are mainly plot filler, of course, but the world's backstory is being sketched out for us, and we get some interesting stuff- notably that mankind hasn't yet gone beyond the Moon, and it's arguably implied that this is after Zoe's time. There's a definite character to the futures of this era, from artificial food (here we get a "synthetic carbohydrates factory") to moonbases to rockets to an uber-planned utopian society which is vulnerable to elements from outside the plan. And here' of course, the Doctor's dislike of computers (big, centralised society-directing things) and championing of individualism comes forth. It's a fascinatingly dated idea of the future.

Part Two

"She's after your job, Julian!"

Eldred's refusal to allow his rocket to be used is pure padding ("It's nowhere near ready, woman!"), but it's quite an effective way of fleshing out some of the major characters so it gets away with it. There's a parallel with The Wheel in Space here in that the main plot won't really get started until next episode, but unlike in that story things may be slow but there's excitement and tension, and we're actually getting to know these people and their world.

Interesting admission from the Doctor: "I'm afraid the TARDIS is not suited to short range travel." We also get a very silly line from Eldred about how there's "only enough food and water for three days". Er, oxygen, anyone?

Part Three

"We've been invaded. Aliens have taken over!"

A rocket landing on the moon- how very 1969! And the cliffhanger ending to part three signifies the actual beginning of the plot- how very this era! but it's still chugging along nicely in spite of that. Mind you, isn't it convenient that the seed should be transported to, of all cities, London.

Otherwise it's more of the same: Miss Kelly is still efficient, kick-ass and oddly sexy, the Ice Warriors are still more of a threat than in their previous story, and the direction is still good. We get an interesting line from the computer about "primitive areas". It's political correctness gone mad...

Oh, and finally the Doctor gets to confront the baddies, after a rather fun chase scene and the rather magnificent "I'm a genius". And then gets knocked unconscious, no doubt for the whole of the coming episode. ho hum.

Part Four

"All these tunnels look the same!"

Foam? In a Patrick Troughton story? Well I never...!

Terry Scully continues to be excellent as ashamed coward Fewsham- his reaction when Slaar gloats he's just destroyed his own species is superbly done. Other great things are the Ice warrior wandering around London, seemingly impervious to all harm- these monsters really present a physical threat, something often forgotten.

We get a great cliffhanger, also a great Zoe moment...

Part Five

"You know, I find T-Mat travel rather disappointing."

Fewsham's arc can't help but be believable and genuinely affecting, no matter how entirely predictable it may be. He turns a corner when he saves Zoe, and we instantly knows he's going to a) redeem himself and b) die. Cos this is Doctor Who and them's the rules. But the moment, when it comes, with Fewsham being shot by Slaar after revealing vital information that will genuinely save the world, is suitably heroic.

40°? That's a bit warm, innit?

So, foam, a moonbase, weather control- this is Patrick Troughton's greatest hits! There's even a bit of traditional bad science as the Ice Warriors' Grand Marshal says that "If we overshoot the Moon, nothing will stop them going straight into an orbit around the Sun". Yeeees...

Part Six

"Oh, there's many a slip 'twixt the cup and the lip."

The story ends satisfactorily with the Doctor getting a confrontation scene with Slaar and everything being nicely tied up. I can almost forgive the blatant re-editing of the cliffhanger. As is by now traditional our heroes slip off at the end as soon as the camera's off them. Interesting that there's still a Security Council of a United Nations at this point in the future, incidentally.

That was good fun overall, competently done if rather par for the course- 3/5. This is undoubtedly the story I'd pick as the most representative of the era to this point.

Incidentally, for the first time in the Marathon I've had to tamper with my pre-existing rankings by demoting The Dominators from 3/5 to 2/5- it was just too poor for the company it was keeping!

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