The TARDIS arrives on Earth where T-Mat has revolutionised travel. However, the Ice Warriors have seized control and use T-Mat to distribute Martian seed pods across the world.
The Seeds of Death is a solidly constructed episode of Doctor Who, even if it isn’t one that I’d use to introduce the Second Doctor to someone who had never seen his era before. The return of the Ice Warriors is welcome, even if they are defeated a little too easily and the story never really justifies its six-part run time.
Brian Hayles’ script feels a little bit too stretched, and certainly could have benefitted more from being a more tightly plotted four-parter rather than the sprawling six we have here. I did enjoy the premise of Earth having developed beyond the need for other transport with the advent of the T-Mat and having the weather control centres, both of which were ideas I recall coming up with in primary school when asked to describe my dream house! Those are ideas that fundamentally appeal to younger audiences and sell a sense that we are in the future relatively simply. I think I’d go a bit mad with that voice reporting on every single successful delivery to cities around the world. Maybe if the Earth persists with T-Mat beyond the departure of the Doctor and his companions at the end of this story, they might consider installing a mute function. The padding seems to largely be around the launching of a space rocket to get to the moon base (no, not that Moonbase), and the story struggles after this point after a really positive opening. Ultimately, when viewed as the whole, the story does nothing to justify its extended run time. The Ice Warriors are ultimately defeated too neatly, with the humans, assisted by the Doctor, being able to beat them with a combination of weather and heating, and the Doctor managing to get the approaching battle fleet to fly too close to the sun.
I love the direction of Michael Ferguson in this story. It is a solidly directed story, and there can be no doubt that The Seeds of Death benefits hugely from his work on it. The use of silhouettes as the Ice Warrior travels from T-Mat Control to the Weather Control Centre makes them feel genuinely terrifying. Ferguson is certainly a director who can easily be forgotten when thinking about the great directors in the show’s past, potentially because of his relatively short credit list, including this story and three others, but he deserves to be included alongside the likes of Douglas Camfield and Graeme Harper. This story could easily feel much more repetitive and overstretched in lesser hands, but Ferguson at least makes it feel visually interesting, even if the story isn’t entirely up to scratch. Ferguson uses point-of-view shots and a lot of over-the-shoulder shots to make the Ice Warriors feel intimidating, which fundamentally works really well throughout the episode.
There are a few guest performance that are worthy of comment. One of the more interesting parts of this story is the role of Gia Kelly, played by Louise Pajo. It is rare in 1960s Doctor Who to see such a woman in a position of authority who is so no-nonsense, and Miss Kelly is definitely that. She has no qualms about reporting her boss, Radnor, to the relevant authorities when he just wants to cover all of this up. Equally, Fewsham, played by Terry Scully, a character who acts in this situation like a lot of people probably would, appearing to help the invading Ice Warriors on the Moonbase. He captures that quandry really well, especially well presented when the Ice Warriors order him to use the T-Mat to put the Doctor between the Moon and Earth, killing him.
The more I see of Patrick Troughton, the more I see why people hold him in high regard. I’m sure that, by this stage of him playing the role and filming stories to go out every week he was utterly sick and tired of the role but none of this comes through to his performance. There are two moments where he really stood out. The first is when he arrives in Professor Eldred’s exhibit of space travel, made defunct since the advent of T-Mat travel, and the second is where the Doctor is desperately trying to get to his companions in the Weather Control Centre as the deadly foam advances, where he really captures the necessary feelings of fear and sells the moment well. It is perhaps most noticeable that he is absent in Part 4 as the story seems to drag a log, perhaps because there is not much material given for either Frazer Hines or Wendy Padbury to get their teeth into here, with Hines feeling particularly underserved. I do like the dynamic between these two companions though, with Zoe looking down on Jamie. The Doctor and Zoe very much operate on a similar intellectual level, but Jamie is seen, especially by Zoe, to be a bit of a fool to the extent that she won’t let him touch buttons on the spacecraft.
Verdict: An overlong story is helped by good direction by Michael Ferguson and performances from Patrick Troughton and Louise Pajo, amongst other guest performances, but is a bit too simple. 6/10
Cast: Patrick Troughton (The Doctor), Fraser Hines (Jamie McCrimmon), Wendy Padbury (Zoe Heriot), Alan Bennion (Slaar), Louise Pajo (Gia Kelly), John Witty (Computer Voice), Ric Felgate (Brent), Harry Towb (Osgood), Ronald Leigh-Hunt (Radnor), Terry Scully (Fewsham), Christopher Coll (Phipps), Martin Cort (Locke), Philip Ray (Eldred), Steve Peters, Tony Harwood and Sonny Caldinez (Ice Warriors), Derrick Slater (Security Guard), Hugh Morton (Sir James Gregson) & Graham Leaman (Grand Marshall).
Writer: Brian Hayles
Director: Michael Ferguson
Producer: Peter Bryant
Composer: Dudley Simpson
Original Broadcast Dates: 25th January – 1 March 1969
Behind the Scenes
- The working title for this story was The Lords of the Red Planet.
- When writing this story, Brian Hayles believed that Frazer Hines would be leaving the show and replaced with a new companion Nik. Hines changed his mind about leaving the programme, apparently persuaded by Patrick Troughton. This led to Hayles struggling to write the script, especially when he was told to leave the Doctor out of Part 4. Terrance Dicks rewrote a lot of the script with Hayle’s consent.
- This story marks the last time a main cast member would go on holiday during production, as the production block and episode count were reduced from the next season.
- Episode 4 features the only on-location filming to feature an Ice Warrior.
- The Ice Warriors were chosen for a return following having been a popular introduction in the previous season and there were hopes that it would justify the high costs of the costumes.
- Alan Bennion would go on to play Ice Lords in The Curse of Peladon and The Monster of Peladon.
- Ric Felgate had previously played Roy Stone in The War Machines and Charles Van Lyden and an alien ambassador in The Ambassadors of Death.
- Harry Towb would go on to play George McDermott in Terror of the Autons.
- Ronald Leigh-Hunt would go on to play Commander Stevenson in Revenge of the Cybermen.
- Christopher Coll went on to play Stubbs in The Mutants.
- Martin Cort had previously played a Voord, a Warrior and Aydan in The Keys of Marinus.
- Graham Leaman had previously appeared in The Macra Terror and Fury from the Deep and would go on to play Time Lords in Colony in Space and The Three Doctors.
I loved the scenes of the Ice Warrior in the park which really felt quite scary.
You have destroyed our entire fleet!
You tried to destroy an entire world.Slaar and the Second Doctor
Previous Second Doctor review: The Krotons