Written by: Brian Hayles.
Companions: The Doctor, Jamie McCrimmon, Zoe Heriot.
Monsters/Villains: Ice Warriors/Martians, Ice Lord.
Brief Synopsis: Some familiar alien invaders take control of T-Mat and hold the world hostage.
Hello faithful readers, apologies that I have been a tad on the absent side recently. I am now returned and excited to let you know about how I got on with The Seeds Of Death or as I have re-dubbed it: The White Balloons Filled With Talcum Powder Of Possible, Yet Unlikely, Death. I was thrilled to be unexpectedly joined for this one by my good friend Phil who happened to be staying with me last week.
So here we are at some point in the 21st century. It's not quite a base-under-siege but more like the whole planet. Completely scrapping cars, trains, ships, planes and space rockets, the world's travel has been completely dominated by T-Mat: a matter transmitter that sends food, supplies and people anywhere on earth and to the moon in the blink of an eye. Sounds good huh, but what happens when control of that technology is seized on the moon by alien invaders?
Osgood, one of the technicians on the Moonbase (presumably the same base from The Moonbase at an earlier point in time) sacrifices himself but not before disabling T-Mat, halting the aliens' invasion plans.
|Commander Radnor and Miss. Kelly.|
Fortunately the TARDIS arrives in a Space Museum (not the same one from Hartnell's story) and the Doctor, Zoe and Jamie meet Professor Eldred, who just happens to be the one man on earth still interested in space rockets and he also happens to have been building one on the sly; convenient that! T-Mat is overseen by Commander Radnor but actually controlled and run by a woman, Miss. Kelly. Towards the end of the first episode one of the moonbase technicians manages to get a message to earth. He tells them of Osgood's death but unfortunately he gets iced before he can say more. I think if it had been me I'd have led with Alien invaders as apposed to one man's death.
|Radnor persuades Eldred to let them use his rocket.|
(The real one not this model)
Episode two is filled with some pretty flimsy, farfetched plot points. Phil and I both agree that it is totally ridiculous when the Doctor, Zoe and Jamie, whose presence there is totally unexplained, are chosen to man the rocket to the moon. If the whole world were in danger, would you send three complete strangers in the one and only rocket you have to get to the moon, without even knowing if they have the knowledge to pilot a rocket or to repair the damaged machinery in the base once they get there, if they get there?
|The irreplaceable Miss. Kelly.|
As if that wasn't enough Radnor refuses to let Miss. Kelly go, because she is "the only one who understands T-Mat." Well that's a little irresponsible, isn't it?! Phil points out what, " what if she's hit by a car." (He then realises there aren't any cars due to T-Mat.) "Well what if she get's killed... somehow?"
|Three rather unlikely rocket pilots.|
Phil points out a hilarious moment when we see the weakness/ingenuity on the budget of Doctor Who in the 60's when the Doctor and his two companions simulate space weightlessness by waving their arms around; priceless.
The Aliens are revealed to be non-other than the Ice Warriors, or Martians for the less xenophobic. To keep their return a surprise, Steve Peters was credited as Alien in the Radio Times for Episode 1. We are also introduced to the first Ice Lord. They are smaller and have different armour and helmets than their ice warrior brothers; they are also more intelligent and speak better. The Second episode climaxes as Phil describes it when Phipps, one of the moonbase technicians 'arranges some heat lamps and uses them to melt one of the Ice Warriors.'
Fortunately for Radnor, Miss. Kelly and everyone one else on earth, the Doctor, Zoe and Jamie make it to the moonbase, but they are captured by the Ice Warriors. The Doctor points out there are too few (Phil and I tried to work out how many there were, we recon about seven) of them to invade the earth and learn that they plan to send "seeds" down to earth to change the atmosphere making the planet uninhabitable for humans and perfect for Martian colonisation.
|Miss Kelly and Zoe fix the "heat lamps."|
Miss Kelly manages to get to the Moonbase when T-Mat is briefly operational again and fix the damage. She soon learns of the Martians and meets up with the Doctor and Phipps. They want to use the same booby trap as before but it is broken. Fortunately Phipps changes the bulb in one of the "heat lamps" and miraculously the signal returns. Miss. Kelly then plugs in the "heat lamp" and another Ice Warrior is melted to nothingness! Meanwhile conditions on earth are worsening and major cities are suffering food shortages. "After one day," points out Phil!
Fewsham, the moonbase’s second in command, fears for his own life and continuously aides the Ice Warriors to save himself including T-Matting their "Seeds" down to earth. We then encounter the aforementioned and titular "Seeds" or "White balloons filled with talcum powder" of (possible, yet unlikely) Death. I think maybe they thought that if everyone in the story who sees one of these organic devices seems to think that they look like seedpods we as the audience will accept this and agree. I think they look like balloons. As if that wasn't bad enough they reclassify the "seeds" as fungus. Now it's been a while since I last did biology but seeds and fungus are different things. It seems to me if you're gonna name a story" The Seeds of Death," you should be pretty damn certain your main threat should definitely be a seed and not a fungus. The Fungus of Death doesn't have quite the same ring to it...
When the "seed" arrives it emits fumes that cause oxygen starvation. Phil points out that Radnor and Professor Eldred; the oldest guys there, are unaffected but the young, healthy, yet dispensable technician guy - dead! Oddly, one guy whom a coughing and spluttering Radnor orders to activate the air conditioning to rescue them seems entirely unaffected.
Zoe and Phipps plan to literally turn up the heat in the Moonbase to take care of the Ice Warriors, rather hilariously the temperature control says 'cold' and 'full on.' Zoe gets caught and is just about to be killed by one of the Martians when as Phil points out the huge cavernous space that is the moonbase control room is almost instantly filled with heat, immobilising the Ice Warrior. Meanwhile one of the Warriors is T-matted to earth with the important mission to sabotage the weather control centre.
|The Doctor handles a ball or "seed."|
The Doctor discovers that ordinary H2O destroys the fungus and runs really fast to the Weather control centre. I laughed as I realised that the rain and weather for London or possibly the whole county or even the world is all controlled from one console; again, seems a little irresponsible. The best/silliest cliff-hanger ever then takes place when the Doctor is obscured by foam as he tries to enter the Weather control centre.
As silly and farfetched yet undoubtedly enjoyable the majority of this story is, the plot takes an unfortunately dull turn for the worst towards the end that is sadly reminiscent of the Wheel in Space. Back on the moonbase the Ice Lord Commander Slaar speaks to Grand Marshal Sparkly Sequins who informs him that the Martian fleet is enroute. Slaar commands Fewsham to connect a homing beacon to guide the fleet to earth.
|Grand Marshal Sparkly Sequins.|
In an act of redemption, Fewsham activates the video link so the Ice Warriors’ signal can be overheard on earth. The earth forces form a plan to send a false signal, which draws the Ice Warriors fleet off track and into the sun. It seems to me that with all this futuristic technology an alien fleet like the Cybermen or the Ice Warriors could find their way to earth from mars without a signal to guide them, and for that matter if they were following a signal that took them straight into the sun they would think: "hmmm, perhaps we ought not to follow this signal anymore, cause I don't know about you guys but I'm getting a little on the warm side."
In this largely futuristic story Zoe has really flourished but Jamie on the other hand seems a little surplus to requirements. They throw him a bone at the very end where he gets to razzle some Ice Warriors, but overall this scenario really exposes his character's weakness in 'future' based stories.
I ask phil for his overall thoughts and his main criticisms seems to centre around the programme's poor/flat direction and shoddy camera work. He says he liked the special effects, for the time, he likes Troughton and his credits but he seems most impressed with Zoe, which I can understand. Phil gives The Seeds of Death 6/10; just one point more than myself.
|Phil and I agree we both love Zoe.|
Regardless of it's often weak plot points I did really enjoy The Seeds of Death, even if they weren't technically seeds. One must bare in mind that in 1969 the world was obsessed by space travel. It's great to turn this on it's head and have a population entirely reliant on T-Mat and uninterested in space travel, which leads to all the problems in the first place. I'm not sure if this was meant to be a comment on space travel as a fad, but if so Brian Hayles was spot on as the worlds space programme is no longer breaking boundaries as it once did. As fun as this ironic premise is, it isn't always enough and the story often doesn't know how to get from A to B, however it still has much to offer.
Join me next time for Troughton's penultimate adventure, and the last of the incomplete stories The Space Pirates...