THIS STORY TAKES
PLACE BETWEEN THE
AND THE DECCA LP
"DOCTOR WHO AND
ROBERT BANKS STEWART
'THE SEEDS OF DOOM'
RELEASED IN OCTOBER
WHEN SCIENTISTS FIND
TWO SEED PODS DEEP IN
THE ARCTIC, THE DOCTOR
AND SARAH JANE RUSH
TO INVESTIGATE. SOON
THE DOCTOR'S WORST
FEARS ARE CONFIRMED:
THE PODS BOTH HOUSE
KRYNOIDS, ONE OF THE
MOST PARASITIC AND
DANGEROUS LIFE FORMS
IN THE UNIVERSE. ONE
OF THE CREATURES HAS
ALREADY INFECTED A
SCIENTIST AND SO NOW
A HIDEOUS MONSTER IS
THE BASE, INTENT ON
WHEN THE SECOND POD
IS STOLEN AMIDST THE
IT IS TRANSPORTED INTO
THE HANDS OF INSANE
CHASE WHO, FROM HIS
MANSION IN ENGLAND,
WILL ALLOW THE POD
TO SPLIT OPEN.
BOTH CHASE AND THE
KRYNOID ARE INTENT
ON INFECTING OUR
The Seeds of Doom
31ST JANUARY 1976 - 6TH MARCH 1976
The task of writing the 1975/76 run’s final serial fell to Robert Banks Stewart,
who had so successfully scripted the season’s opening story, Terror of the Zygons, shot at the end of the series’ twelfth recording block. Banks’ action-packed six-parter was entitled The Seeds of Doom and, in true Philip Hinchcliffe and Robert Holmes style, paid homage
to a multitude of movies, most notably The Quatermass Experiment and The Day of the Triffids. A rampant tale of survival, power and greed, The Seeds of Doom remains to this
day one of the most fondly remembered stories of the Tom Baker era, and rightly so.
The two-disc DVD release is equal to the serial’s quiet popularity, boasting an impressive array of bonus material but never over-egging the pudding by going into unnecessary depth. The showpiece documentary, Podshock, runs to just over half an hour and charts the making of the programme in a punchy yet apparently comprehensive fashion. Sadly Tom Baker and Elisabeth Sladen are not on hand to share their respective reminiscences, but this is made up for through the charming contributions of actor John Challis; writer Bob Banks Stewart; producer Philip Hinchcliffe; and especially production assistant Graeme Harper. The latter has some amusing anecdotes about the production’s late director, Douglas Camfield, who literally ran The Seeds of Doom shoot as a military operation – jumper, beret and all!
Above: He may look like Boycie, but he doesn't sound a thing like him: John Challis (Scorby) in Podshock
Harper also takes the opportunity to explain what being a production assistant entails, which
I found interesting as I didn’t have even the foggiest idea of what any of the crew below the director actually did, before going on to illuminate a number of other production roles in the short featurette So What Do You Do Exactly? A further short feature, Playing in the Green Cathedral, sees composer Geoffrey Burgon discuss his approach to scoring the adventure, whilst the Now and Then team take a look at Athelhampton House, thirty-five years on from the shoot there.
This release also houses the long-awaited final instalment of the popular Stripped for Action series, which analyses each of the first eight Doctors’ comic strip adventures in detail. This chapter is a particularly fascinating one as it examines the exciting period that saw Doctor Who shift from its two-page home in TV Comic to the pages of Marvel’s brand-new Doctor Who Weekly, which would of course go on to become the Doctor Who Magazine that is still thriving today. Original editor Dez Skinn provides his first-hand account of the publication’s foundation, whilst the regular troupe of contributors each share their (completely contrasting) views on the dying days of the TV Comic strip. It’s rather amusing to see Alan Barnes play the pragmatic apologist for TV Comic, while Gary Russell fervently slams its “cut and paste” recycling jobs.
Above: Doctor Who Weekly Founder Dez Skinn gets Stripped for Action
The Seeds of Doom itself is presented in its entirety on the first
disc, backed by the usual production subtitles and a commentary
featuring just about everyone who was even remotely involved. As
a result things do get a little crowded at times, but fortunately Tom
Baker’s bombastic presence is such that he can’t help but steer
the ship, acting as a sort of unofficial (and partial!) moderator.
The six episodes really stand up remarkably well today. Director
Douglas Camfield did an absolutely amazing job in realising the
script, utilising clever camera techniques to make even the most
ambitious set pieces look slick and filmic. The engorged Krynoid
looks far better than it might have done, for instance, as Camfield
did not create too many shots featuring the human actors and the
rubber Krynoid together in the same frame, reducing the need for
CSO to the lowest level practicable. Similarly, the story’s stunts
are much more dynamic and credulous than most - at one point
Tom Baker was even allowed to throw himself through a ceiling window, 007-style. And all for £70.00 per week...
“Animals are the enemy.”
The story itself is well-paced and enthralling. I love the conceit that the Krynoid isn’t an enemy per se; it’s a force of nature. The real enemy here is the totally unhinged millionaire botanist, Harrison Chase, who believes that plants are superior to all other forms of life – including his own – and that all animals must die. Tony Beckley’s poised performance makes such lunacy appear credible; in fact, probably the most frightening thing about Chase is that he does not seem mad at a first glance. Even when he’s force-feeding an infected employee in the hope that he’ll turn into a Krynoid or seeking the Doctor’s participation in a “recycling experiment”, Chase is terrifyingly reasonable; very matter of fact.
Indeed, beyond its sturdy narrative, Banks Stewart’s script’s strongest aspect is its charming characterisation. John Challis of Only Fools and Horses fame stands out as the egocentric and ill-famed Scorby. Unlike Chase, Scorby comes across as mad right from his first scene, at least in the context of ‘mad, bad and dangerous know’. The heavy is an absolute nutcase; the quintessential human nasty, and it is so evident from watching The Seeds of Doom that Challis relished every second that he spent in the role, even if he does wax lyrical about his being typecast in the Podshock featurette. Meanwhile Mark Jones’ Keeler, Scorby’s fellow henchman, is so weak-willed and feeble that one can’t help but think that he partly deserves his horrific fate, whereas Amelia Ducat (Sylvia Coleridge) and Sir Colin Thackeray (Michael Barrington) are both such delightful comic characters that when the Doctor invited Sir Colin to join the TARDIS crew at the end of the story, I was half hoping that he would.
“We must destroy what he has become.”
My only real gripe with The Seeds of Doom, as is the case with most six-part serials, is that it is patently protracted. Script editor Bob Holmes and director Douglas Camfield were both called upon to heavily pad out the Antarctic-based episodes at the start of the story, but even given their sterling efforts I believe that Parts 1 and 2 could be excised completely and only a superfluous nod to The Thing From Another World would be lost.
Finally, it’s worth noting
that The Seeds of Doom
saw UNIT make their last
appearance in the series
until 1989, albeit with no
familiar faces on parade.
The UNIT troops seen in
this serial are under the
command of a Major Beresford, as it was felt there wasn’t enough material to justify bringing
back either Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart or Sergeant Benton. Consequently, save for the continuing presence of the redoubtable Sarah Jane Smith, who was nearing the end of her tenure, all ties to the Jon Pertwee era had by this point been cut.
And so as the season drew to a close, the series’ new, gothic direction was proving a huge hit with all manner of viewers. Mary Whitehouse and her cronies may have been calling for Hinchcliffe and Holmes’ heads, but this only seemed to endear Doctor Who to the viewing public all the more. In retrospect, Season 13 may have been Tom Baker’s finest year as the Time Lord – many fans certainly regard this era of the show as being its zenith, and whilst I don’t necessarily agree, stunning serials such as this one do make such claims difficult to contest.
Copyright © E.G. Wolverson 2007, 2010
E.G. Wolverson has asserted his right under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act, 1988 to be identified as the author of this work.
When is now? It could be argued that as no familiar UNIT faces are on parade here, this adventure could take place any time after The Android Invasion, which we posit took place in late 1976. Indeed, the lack of familiar faces in itself suggests that some considerable time has passed for UNIT. However, as the Brigadier is still mentioned as being in Geneva, suggesting that he’s still on the payroll, we feel that this story is best placed in late 1976.
Even if the Brigadier is only in Geneva as a civilian, placing these events after 1976, the story can’t take place any later than 1980 as in Time-Flight, which is set in 1981, the Doctor wonders out loud whether the Brigadier is a General yet, suggesting that his last UNIT adventure was some time prior to 1981.
Please see the UNIT Dating Dossier for further information.
Thanks to Chris McKeon
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