Friday, 14 June 2013

The Seeds of Death

We return to a base-under-siege format for ‘The Seeds of Death’ and see the return of the rather immobile Ice Warriors in a story which takes place on Earth and the moon. It’s a lot of fun really. The regulars are great and the guest cast is fantastic. It’s a six parter that moves well and doesn’t get bogged down, and my friend Andrew tells me it was the first Troughton story he saw which apparently makes it special. His favourite Doctor, I should add, is Patrick Troughton.

I did enjoy this story, and although it’s not brilliant, it’s a very strong story in the style of the previous season. Season Six, which we are now in, has been experimenting up to this point, and this is the first and only return to monsters and base-under siege, the staple diet of the fifth season which ended with ‘The Wheel in Space’.
It’s full of amusing curiosities, such as the death effect for the Ice Warriors’ weapons which twist and distort the victim, and a computer which announces everything that is happening to expedite the plot outside the story show on screen. The computer is constantly telling the audience and indeed the characters what is happening in other countries around the world. The seeds themselves, designed to create foam and change the atmosphere of Earth, are basically just balloons that get bigger and then burst. It’s simple, but effective most of the time but looks dodgy at others.
The direction is rather good. I gather the story stretched its budget to the limit, and Terence Dicks had to re-write most of the final four parts, I believe mostly for budgetary reasons. There is a bit of evidence of the budget not quite stretching all the way – the sets wobble a bit, mostly on the moonbase, but I didn’t notice it until the production notes on the DVD told me! The corridor sets are apparently just one or two used over and over again, shot in different ways from different angles, inter-dispersed with halls of mirrors which don’t make a lot of sense, but look rather stylish!
A look at the dubious costume design of the Seeds of Death.

The one thing that really dates the futuristic stories though is the use of old TV sets for monitors. There are a few here. Then we have the costumes. I’m sorry, they are awful! It is the worst costumed story I have seen. The plastic suits with stripes that make it look like people have their underwear on the outside is seriously embarrassing. Then to put it on older actors looks ridiculous. Only the Doctor, his companions and Gia Kelly escaped this awful costumes.

Alan Bennion as Slarr, the Ice Warrior Leader.
And the Ice Warriors of course! These lumbering great beasts are great villains, but I have to admit at times they look far too slow to do anything. Add to the fact that their hands are very impractical, and maybe they don’t stack up as great monsters. They were able to dig out the costumes from the previous appearance which was good, and I think it’s fair to say, with Wendy Padbury apparently pay half the cost of her costume so she could keep it, costumes were done on the serious cheap in this story.
The foam seems to be exactly the same as what was used in ‘Fury from the Deep’ – well if it worked once, why not? For a futuristic story there aren’t a lot of special effects. The exterior shooting seems to fit in quite well with the studio stuff which is good.

Trohgton at his best.
The cast are stellar. Troughton, Hines and Padbury all have some good moments, Troughton takes a holiday during episode four (I think) when he’s replaced, perhaps not too subtly, by an unconscious double. Well, I’m sure he wasn’t actually unconscious. 

Louise Pajo as Gia Kelly.

Louise Pajo is perfect casting for Gia Kelly, a role which was originally to be male, which would have left Zoe as the only female character in the story! Louise Pajo, people may be interested to know, had a role a few years later in the first season of Prisoner, the Australian TV show, not the British!
Terry Scully, whose personality might have been similar to the character he played, Fewsham, was perfectly cast. He appeared in Terry Nation’s ‘Survivors’, but had to be replaced during the shooting for mental health reasons. Then we have Christopher Coll as Mr Phipps, a great character we build sympathy for as an audience only to have him killed in episode four George R.  Martin style. Ronald Leigh-Hunt  as Commander Radnor and Philip Ray as Professor Eldred complete a great ensemble.
It’s a highly enjoyable tale, and was the first black and white story to be released on video. It’s easy to see why.


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