The Seeds of Death Retrospective
Guest contributor William Atkinson takes a look back over the second Ice Warrior story.
“The Seeds of Death” is a fantastic story, as it is so typical of the Troughton era. When fans think of the Second Doctor’s era, they image a fun Doctor, scary monsters, excellent stories and classic companions. While it may not be as loved, regarded or remembered as lost classics such as “The Underwater Menace” “The Evil of the Daleks” , Doctor’s classics such as “The Dominators” “The Tomb of the Cybermen” or just plain classics like “The Krotons” “The War Games”, “The Seeds of Death” has all these defining qualities-in buckets.
The Ice Warriors are classic foes (stand up “Cold War”), and writer Brian Hayles uses them to tremendous effect. The shots of the eponymous Martians stalking the countryside are effective in extending their menace – more Dalek on a bridge than Yeti in a loo – and the classic sonic wave effect was seared onto my mind when I first watched it (I got the DVD as a Christmas present after I read about them in my “Doctor Who Book Of Monsters”). The introduction of the Ice Lords gives the Ice Warriors their own Davros, allowing the audience to connect with Martians on a new level. Alan Bennion performance is chilling, and the less restrictive make up allows him to give Slaar a more emotive quality. Meanwhile, the Martian plot to conquer the world with deadly exploding seeds sets them apart from other monsters at the time.
Another memorable part of “The Seeds of Death” is Michael Ferguson’s direction. For the time, it was experimental and edgy. Ferguson plays with perspective to create dramatic tension. In a notable scene, he uses the Doctor’s scared reflection to impose fear on the viewer. He also does a great job of realising the story’s many set pieces, using black and white to help the story, and forgive certain things that would be impossible a year later. He also adds in an extra sequence at the start where the camera starts on either the moon or the Earth depending on which the episode starts.
Any story turns out bad if it isn’t performed well, and “The Seeds of Death” certainly can’t be blamed for that. This story shows the TARDIS crew of the Doctor, Jamie and Zoe at their height . Troughton is fantastic, going through every aspect of his character in these episodes, showing every possible action, emotion and state that the Doctor is capable of-including unconsciousness. Jamie and Zoe also light up every scene they appear in together, their battle of wits and words spreading across the entire serial.
In addition to the regular cast, “The Seeds of Death” is gifted with a fantastic guest cast. Terry Scully as Fewsham is a particular delight, making the character entirely believable, going on to give the Troughton era one of its best performances. He is chilling as a man who, through terror, sells out his whole species, his whole planet just to save himself, yet Scully makes sure the character is still sympathetic, however greatly his actions can be condemned.
Another great part of this serial is the plot. Remember, when this story was written and filmed man hadn’t even landed on the moon yet, so to write a story where he can’t even be bothered must have struck a chord with the children of the sixties and their space rockets and robots. Also, the Ice Warrior plan to suffocate the world with seeds is certainly original, and it doesn’t feel strange or tacked on.
There is one more factor I haven’t mentioned yet that makes this story so brilliantly Second Doctor-the foam machine! Yes, it’s back! In the final episode, Troughton, Hines and Padbury are buried beneath a layer of white bubbly foam, the liquid (I’m not sure of the correct term – anybody who wants to correct me can say in the comments) cramming its bubbly goodness into all the space possible. In fact, Padbury actual has to stop herself laughing when the Second Doctor emerges from behind a door (check it out in part six).
This story is often said to be slow and plodding, but I disagree. Whenever I watch it, the story seems to speed past, though I must admit that some parts could’ve been cut away with no ill effect.
In conclusion, if you enjoy the Ice Warriors this weekend, then you could do worse that pick up a copy of this story (it even comes in a boxset with “Resurrection of the Daleks” and “Carnival of Monsters”!), yessssssssssssssss*.