Wednesday, 2 May 2012

Doctor Who Review: The Seeds of Death

This week we look at story from the last season of the second Doctor, Patrick Troughton. Often described a joker or buffoon, this jokey exterior hid a brilliant mind inside, in fact; Troughton’s influence is easily seen in Matt Smith’s portrayal of the role. At this moment the Doctor is travelling with Jamie, a Scotsman from the time of Culloden and Zoe, a genius from the future. They make a very good team, each being played brilliantly and all the actors sharing a great chemistry which makes any scenes with them great fun to watch. So, we already have a good basis for this story to sit on with one of the best Tardis crews, my favourite since the original. But does this episode show them at their best, or is it a bit of a disappointment?

Well, the main leads put in their usual strong performances, although at times it seems like they haven’t got enough to do, as quite a lot of the action revolves around the other characters. That would be a problem, however in this story it really isn’t because of the quality of the supporting cast. There’s a disgruntled old professor who can’t move on from his time, a super serious professional woman (unusual for the time), a hapless technician who begins to break down over time, a coward who gains inner strength and a desperate leader who’s willing to risk anything to save his people. This rich set of characters really adds a level of depth to this story and each is well written and acted and interesting to watch. And of course, there are the villains, the Ice Warriors. They’re basically Martians, but they have a rasping, hissing voice and unique visual design that make them hard to ignore, and they became one of the best known recurring aliens in Classic Who. They’re very like Viking warriors and have a great screen presence. Also in this story they have a gun effect which basically just is a bending of the film, but it looks absolutely brilliant. In fact that’s true of most of this story; it’s well directed, well shot and has very nice sets which along with some rather well done music provide a very creepy and tense atmosphere.

So it looks nice, has good villains and entertaining characters, so what else is there? The plot. And this is where things get more complex. Because there is a slight problem. The basic story is that aliens invade a moonbase which is the control centre for transmats which is the only method of transport in this future. They plan to use it to send pods to the Earth to change the atmosphere to more like Mars and invade with a huge fleet. The problem that I talked about is the length. This story is 6 25 minute episodes long. This means it needs padding. So instead of the Tardis landing on the moon, it lands on Earth and they need to get a rocket to the moon. This allows for some very atmospheric scenes on the Moon where the technicians there get attacked, however it means the scenes on Earth lack the tension and ruin the mood. The story improves immensely at the beginning of episode 3, when the Doctor arrives on the Moon and things can get started. Another problem is that the Ice Warriors’ actions supposedly affect millions, however due to the limitations in the budget, we’re only told of certain things and we don’t see them. And the final episode takes a rather dark turn, but this is never really brought up. The plot is interesting and has a lot of good ideas, just not enough to hold up a story of quite this length.

In conclusion then, The Seeds of Death is an above average story, due to it’s great characters and look, has a memorable set of aliens and has a lot of good ideas. It’s brought down a little however by an overlong running time and a limited budget and so misses out on the chance of being one of the all time greats. However if you’re feeling patient one day and up for a good adventure then give it a shot.


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