The BBC revisits another classic Doctor Who story, this time from the second Doctor, Patrick Troughton. Previously released on DVD, this special edition of The Seeds of Death isn't a huge improvement on the original disc, mainly because the bar was set so high originally. This six-part adventure has a lot going for it: it features the Ice Warriors who launch an ambitious, if slightly odd, invasion of Earth, The Doctor travels to the moon via rocket, and soap suds bury part of
In the latter 21st Century humans have perfected the T-Mat, a matter teleportation system that has made all other forms of travel obsolete. With a single station on the moon acting as a relay station and running everything, people and goods move instantly from one part of the globe to the other. Why would you need cars? Everything is running smoothly under the watchful eye of Gia Kelly and her boss Commander Radnor until... the moon base goes silent and transportation ceases. There's world-wide panic and food quickly becomes scarce in the larger cities.
The trouble is that the Earth is being invaded; people just don't realize it yet. On the moon Ice Warriors, soldiers from the dying planet of Mars, have taken over the T-Mat station and killed everyone there with the single exception of Fewsham, a cowardly collaborator. Luckily one of his colleges managed to damage the T-Mat system before being killed, but the Martians demand that he fix it or he'll end up like his colleges.
Back on Earth the TARDIS materializes inside of a museum dedicated to the nearly lost science of space travel. It's run by Professor Eldred, an engineer who was developing a new, powerful rocket when his funding was abruptly pulled due to the invention of the T-Mat. The Doctor, Jamie, and Zoe soon run into the professor, and he and The Doctor hit it off, talking about the fine points of rocket design and space travel.
That's when Kelly and Radnor arrive. They need to get to the moon to see what's happening, the Earth is starting to panic, and they know that Eldred has been secretly building his improved rocket. It's not ready to fly, but The Doctor assures him that it can soon be made operational. Once it is, The Doctor and his two companions take it to the moon so they can sort out the T-Mat system there.
While The Doctor is in space, Fewsham fixes the emergency T-Mat system but sets the controls so that travel is one-way from the Earth to the moon. When Kelly sees that the moon base is receiving, she and a pair of technicians travel to the satellite. When she arrives she fixes the main T-Mat system, and is abducted by the Ice Warriors. With a working system, the invaders now send seed pods to Earth. Once there, they expand and blow up, releasing spores that turn into an oxygen-eating fungus. The Ice Warriors are going to turn the Earth into a copy of Mars. But with the Doctor and his companions on the moon, their plan might not unfold as easily as they had hoped.
This story is pretty good, but not great. Viewers have to swallow a lot at the beginning: that the new T-Mat system is so ubiquitous that cars are obsolete, if one particular T-Mat station goes down the whole system stops and the world goes into a panic, and that the only weapon the Ice Warriors could have sent to Earth has a weakness that is amazingly dumb. If you can just accept that at the beginning (and the fact that everyone seems to accept The Doctor after a few minutes) the rest of the story is decent.
The plot if fairly complex for a kids program, which is nice and the twists and turns make keep the six episodes fresh. Usually six parters drag in the middle, but with all of the traveling between the Earth and the moon (both physically and through the narrative) as well as the dual menaces of the fungus and the Ice Warriors, the story keeps hopping.
One of the things that sets this story apart from others from this era is the fairly impressive directing. Michael Ferguson was at the helm of this adventure and he did a very good job. Not only did he tell the story well, but he managed to include some interesting shots, the count down numbers from the rocket launch shining on Kelly's face from the monitor comes to mind, which only happens rarely given the tight schedules that most Doctor Who episodes are recorded under.
The three main characters all do a nice job here. By this time they had been working together for a while (this was the sixth story with all three) and they are obviously comfortable with each other. Watch for Wendy Padbury to laugh when Patrick Troughon slips and falls in a bunch of 'fungus' (actually soap suds) after she rescues him from certain death. The group has a good report and it comes through in their performances.
The supporting actors were also very good. Terry Scully was particularly good as the craven Fewsham, and Ronald Leigh-Hunt was authoritative as Commander Radnor. I also really liked the fact that they cast a female as the most knowledgeable person when it came to T-Mat technology, and Louise Pajo came across as a very competent woman who didn't let her good looks over shadow her brains. I'm just sorry that they couldn't get Ms. Pajo (who now lives in
This show comes with the original mono soundtrack that fits the show just fine. The dynamic range is nothing to write home about, but the dialog is generally crisp and clear and there is no background noise, tape hiss, distortion or dropouts. There are optional subtitles in English.
The full frame B&W image is very good, but then again, so did the original release. I don't have that earlier disc at hand to do a side-by-side comparison, but I can't see a lot that has been improved. Looking around the web it appears that on the first release some of the film-based sequences underwent Vidfire restoration when they shouldn't have. This has been corrected now. In any case the show looks fine. The Restoration Team did their usual fine job and this story, really making the most of what they had to work with. The image is nicely balanced and the definition and level of detail is very good. The contrast has been adjusted too to create a very pleasing image.
This disc two-disc set has some okay extras, but not anything too outstanding. I was expecting a bit more since this story has already been released. Luckily, everything from the earlier release is ported over with the exception of two short bits available elsewhere (The Last Dalek home movie is now on the Resurrection of the Daleks SE and the New Zealand Censor Clips can be found in the Lost in Time boxed set). The original bonus material includes a nice commentary track with actors Frazier Hines and Wendy Padbury, director Michael Ferguson and script editor Terrance Dicks. There is also Sssowing the Ssseedsss, a 24-minute interview with two actors (and audio clips from a third) who appeared as Ice Warriors and a costume designer who worked on the outfits (though not the person who originally designed the monsters) and TARDIS Cam No.6 (a one-minute CGI animation of the Tardis on a snowy mountain).
This SE includes a trio of new video featurettes. First up is a 28-minute behind the scenes look at the serial, Lords of the Red Planet. I especially enjoyed hearing the plot to an unfilmed Ice Warriors story that was to take place on Mars and eventually morphed into this adventure. Next up is Monster Masterclass where director Michael Ferguson discusses what makes a Doctor Who monster successful and why. The last new feature is Monsters Who Came Back for More. This 16-minute short examines the creatures who were evil enough to make repeat appearances on the show.
In addition there is a pop-up informational text option which is very informative as always. It does give some dry statistics, like how many people viewed each episode, but there are also some interesting notes such as script changes that were made and background information on the supporting characters. The extras are rounded off with, a couple of photo galleries, and the listings from the Radio Times in .pdf format.
If you already have this adventure, it's hard to recommend it. The video upgrade is limited to only the film-based footage and seems pretty minor based on my recollection of the original release. The three new extras are alright, but nothing that's really astounding or worth buying on their own. If you haven't picked up this serial yet however, it's worth getting. While the story isn't as good as Tomb of the Cybermen, it's decent and it does feature Patrick Troughton as the Doctor and that's always a treat. Recommended.