Written by popular television scribe Robert Banks Stewart, 1976's The Seeds Of Doom is one of the more popular Doctor Who series of the seventies, and for good reason. It's a lean series with a lot of action and plenty of monster effects and it features Tom Baker as the Doctor and surrounds him with an impressive supporting cast.
When the first of the six episodes that makes up this run begins, The Doctor (Tom Baker) is called off to a research station in Antarctica with his assistant, Sarah Jane Smith (Elisabeth Sladen) to investigate a bizarre discovery found by some scientists buried deep in the snow. What they discover is that the scientists have uncovered a pod, which seems innocent enough until it opens up and deadly tendrils emerge and form a symbiotic relationship with a couple of people from the research station. As such, The Doctor and Sarah Jane are forced to deal with some nefarious roaming plant/man hybrids who are prone to attacking people.
If that weren't enough on its own, an insane botanist named Harrison Chase (Tony Beckley) has gotten word of this discovery and will stop at nothing to get the pods for his own reasons - to make sure that vegetation remains on Earth no matter what. This would be all well and good if the pods weren't such a massive threat to humanity as we know it. Good thing the Doctor is around and looking out for us...
Stewart 's script is a good one, allowing us to appreciate the back and forth between the Doctor and Sarah Jane and enjoy their company, so to speak, but not at the expense of action or suspense. By taking a few pages from The Thing From Another World (remade as The Thing in 1981 by John Carpenter, who may or may not have been influenced by this) and mixing them up with a few pages from Day Of The Triffids (and, it should be noted, he predates Scott's Alien with this story, and Romero and King's Creepshow as well - there are similarities to both) he's crafted a fast paced and exiting story with an unusually slanted ecological message. Of course, Baker and Sladen steal the show - they're at their best here with Baker really throwing himself into the role and demonstrating why he was and remains the definitive Doctor to many of us - but the script obviously matters a great deal. The characters are given plenty to do, having to not just overcome the immediacy of the alien menace but deal with the Chase conspiracy factor as well and the end result is a story with something for everyone. Baker's Doctor is a fair bit more aggressive here, which might seem out of place to how he's been portrayed in other stories, but in the context of what he's dealing with, it makes perfect sense.
As far as the special effects go, well, this wasn't a series renowned for its realism and it was often times done on a fairly modest budget. It's not out of line to describe the plant men as guys in rubber suits and most of the explosions or dramatic set pieces are done with what are obviously miniatures and models. While some of us can just accept this as part of the series' charm, it might seem goofy to younger viewers accustomed to digital effects work. Once you get used to it though, the fake snow becomes less fake and the models start to seem large enough and realistic enough to work and it's hard not to admire the creativity at play here. All in all, it's hard not to have a good time with this one and The Seeds Of Doom rightfully deserves its status as classic Doctor Who.The DVD:
This installment of Doctor Who arrives on DVD in its original fullframe aspect ratio. Now, a lot of the episodes from the seventies were shot on 16mm film stock when taking place outside and on tape when shooting took place inside, which resulted in some fairly noticeable cuts between the two formats. This episode was not one of those, it was all shot on standard broadcast television cameras. There are moments where the picture is muddy looking and fairly murky and detail is generally below average throughout playback as the transfer is sourced from the master tape - but this is probably as good as it's ever going to get. It's all watchable enough and scenes shot inside tend to look cleaner and clearer than those shot outdoors (probably due to better lighting), but this isn't really a great transfer even if it's obvious that the powers that be have done their best with the material that they had available. The disc is well authored in that there are no problems with compression artifacts and as soft as it all is, at least it's clean in that there aren't any nasty issues with print damage. Again, for what it is, this looks fine and those accustomed to earlier DVD releases from this era of the show will know what to expect and have no problems - but those expecting pristine quality will be disappointed.Sound:
The sole audio option on this release is an English language Dolby Digital Mono track that comes with optional subtitles available in English only. The quality of the track is fine in that it's always easy to understand and there are no problems to report in terms of hiss or distortion. There isn't a whole lot of range - this is an older mono mix after all - but the levels are well balanced and the feature sounds just fine.Extras:
The six episodes that make up The Seeds Of Doom feature lively commentary from castmembers Tom Baker, John Challis, Kenneth Gilbert and Michael McStay, series Producer Philip Hinchcliffe, writer Robert Banks Stewart, designer Roger Murray-Leach and Joggs Camfield, the son of the series' director, the late Duggie Camfield. This is quite a good discussion of The Seeds Of Doom with Joggs offering up more input than you might expect and telling some great stories about his father's involvement with the series. Baker is on hand to offer up his opinions, which is always entertaining, while the writer and designer get in some interesting points about the creatures and effects seen in the show.
The first disc also features an isolated score and some production notes which, when enabled, play as a sort of pop-up text based trivia track which covers everything from cast trivia to how many takes a certain shot took to details on some of the effects.
The second disc houses a load of extras starting with the thirty-seven minute featurette Pod Shock, which is a pretty interesting look at the making of the series that contains interviews with many of the cast and crew members who worked on the show. Oddly enough Baker doesn't appear here but many others do and there is no shortage of anecdotal material to discuss, from a disease running rampant on set and wreaking havoc with a certain cast member to effects problems and more. Now And Then is an interesting nine minutes spent comparing the locations used for the shoot and showing us what they look like in modern times versus what they look like in the show, while Playing In The Green Cathedral is a nice ten minute piece that examines the work of the late Geoffrey Burgeon, the composer who worked on the series and who recently passed away in September, 2010. The interview clips are interesting as they allow him to talk about his work on Seeds Of Doom and on Terror Of The Zygons made a year earlier. The fourteen minute So What Do You Do Exactly?, hosted by Graeme Harper, gives us some insight into what the different crewmembers involved in the series actually do and where their efforts can be seen on the screen, while the last featurette, Stripped For Action - The Fourth Doctor, is a twenty minute peek into the bizarre voyages that Doctor Who made into comic book form and some of the odd changes that were made to the character and his design to make this happen. Comic book fans will appreciate input from the likes of David Gibbons and Pat Mills.
Rounding out the extra features are a still gallery, a trailer for the first episode of Seeds Of Doom and some continuity bumpers for the five later episodes, a preview for Doctor Who: Meglos, a selection of production notes, and some PDF material for those who are DVD-Rom equipped. Menus and chapter selection are also provided
Doctor Who: The Seeds Of Doom might be campy and corny by modern standards but so what. It gives Baker the chance to strut his stuff and make the part his own and his camaraderie with Sarah Jane helps with character development, making for a likeable team of protagonists. The bad guys are hissably evil while the planet monster effects enjoyably odd. Yes, it definitely has budgetary shortcomings but makes up for all of that with charisma and charm. The BBC's two disc set is a good one, offering up what is probably the best A/V presentation we can hope for and loading things up with plenty of interesting and entertaining extra features. Highly recommended.