Monday, March 16, 2015

The Doctor Has A Foam Party - The Seeds of Death

After their debut, I wasn't overly enthused about another Ice Warrior outing, but I figured skipping it was a bad idea because The Curse of Peladon is also in this set. Damn I glad I did, because The Seeds of Death is pretty epic.

Two episodes in and we're dealing with T-Mat being down and the Ice Warriors invaded the moon base that co-ordinates it all, but with no real reason given to the audience. Back on Earth the Doctor has the idea of pulling a viable space program out of mothballs to go see what's happening. The titular seeds aren't even mentioned yet. It adds a level of mystery to the proceedings that I hadn't realised I was missing.

In fact, Seeds of Death does something that I've not seen in awhile, it treats the extended serial nature of the show as a way of doing several distinct arcs. First is T-Mat going down and Ice Warriors mysteriously arriving on the moon. Then you have the Doctor, Zoe and Jamie reaching the moon with a Die Hard type atmosphere (as ridiculous as it is to swallow that Earth decides to just send those three) and finally you have the Doctor back on Earth dealing with the terraforming Seeds while a Ice Warrior fleet closes in.

The seeds are an interesting concept. We've had the Doctor deal with world-wide problems before, but thanks to the T-Mat setup and the script once the seeds start foaming, it feels properly international. Certainly we don't get any shots from abroad, but the shots we do get of the security teams fighting back does help. It's something that we start seeing from the Pertwee era, the public having to deal with this, but not this early on. Maybe Web of Fear with the Yeti walking along London streets, but I feel it works better here and surprised me to see it so early in the show's life.

(It also amuses me that I refer to this as 'early'. We're six years in, which most programmes would love to reach, but I guess fifty years and 12 Doctors puts a different spin on things.)

Perhaps one of the bizarrest parts of this serial is how the Ice Warriors' fleet is dealt with. The Doctor tricks them into flying into the sun with a fake landing beacon. There's no hesitation, or warning. This is incredibly un-Doctor like for a New Who watcher. Not only New Who. In just two Doctor's time we'll have Tom Baker refuse genocide of the Daleks because he doesn't have the right. To a slightly lesser extent, before that we have Pertwee argue for the survival of the Silurians as they may have wished humanity dead, but they have as much right to this planet as we do.

This is, in what is a pretty well put together serial, some incredibly bad scripting. Especially when paired with the Doctor and his heat ray. It might be another character that designs it, but the Doctor makes it portable and runs around with it destroying Ice Warriors with no real compunction. The Fifth Doctor might pick up a gun because of Daleks, but this is just the Doctor outright killing aliens.

Apart from this weird blot on the final episode, The Seeds of Death is a great Troughton outing, and somewhat of a redemption for the Ice Warriors, their design is still ridiculous, and they've done nothing to fix the incredibly annoying breathing. I hoped it was a one-off and their return would do something different, but instead of an early attempt at one of Darth Vader's tics, it comes across like a sex pest on the phone. But at least they have a story that makes it understandable why they're iconic.

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