DOCTOR WHO: THE SEEDS OF DEATH and Why Nobody Cares About Space Exploration Anymore

“THE SEEDS OF DEATH” – Season 6, Serial 5, Story 48 – Written by Brian Hayles and Terrance Dicks; Directed by Michael Ferguson – The Second Doctor, Jamie, and Zoe visit a space museum where they run into the First Doctor, Ian, Barbara, and Vicki. I’m lying. They visit a space museum on Earth and in the 21st century where they run into the Ninth Doctor and Rose. I’m double lying because the Doublemint Twins are my heroes. The Doctor, Jamie, and Zoe actually visit a space museum where they wind up involved in an Ice Warriors invasion of Earth. Do you need more to tune in? Okay, here’s more. They use a foam machine and produce so much foam that MTV shows up halfway through and has drunk 20 year olds start ripping their clothes off and dancing to some whack techno beats. What’s that? You’re right, I’m lying. Because Even Doctor Who Writers Who’d Never Heard Of MTV Knew It Would Be Irrelevant By The 21st Century.

Here’s why I love the subtitle commentary on the DOCTOR WHO DVDS:

“In the 1960s the BBC had invested in a foam machine and encouraged programs to feature it.”

Seriously. Can you imagine being a TV producer, working frantically to get your scripts in and actors cast and episodes filmed as you dealt with costume designers, set designers, directors, stars, and stars’ agents, not to mention your screaming kids, your pill-popping wife, your infuriating mistress, and some upper management prig who got the promotion you felt should have been yours rings you up and is all, “Cheerio, Peter. How’s Bonnie and the kids? Kid, I mean. How’s Bria- er, Kevi- er, how’s that boy of yours? Oooh, caught a bit of the polio, did he? Nasty stuff. Now listen, mate, I’ve been reading your scripts and you’ve got this Ice Warriors story coming up in six or seven months and they’re going to teleport seeds to Earth and yippidy dippidy and all that science stuff and they’re going to hahahahahahaha, sorry, they’re going to take over the world hahahahahahahahaha over the world with hahahahaha seeds – my god, how do you stay on the air – and, well, anyway mate, I’m thinking this is a great opportunity for you to use the foam machine the Beeb just bought.”

“Er? Foam Machine? That’s stupid.”

“Is your mistress staying in Camden or Greenwich?”

“Foam machine it is!”

I don’t think Jerry Bruckheimer has to deal with this, do you? “Hi Jerry, it’s Les. Yeah, listen, CBS just laid out a good $30,000 on a new foam machine. I want to see it on 2 of 3 CSIs by the end of the year. Maybe we can do a foam event or some crap.”

This is a long way of saying two things:

1. There’s extensive use of the foam machine in SEEDS OF DEATH.
2. It’s not a very memorable serial.

Sometimes with DOCTOR WHO, a serial will come along that isn’t, in and of itself, a bad episode, but it is just so formulaic and pedestrian in its plot that you can’t work up the effort to care. At other times in DOCTOR WHO, the actor playing the Doctor puts on such an enjoyable performance that you don’t care about the plot because you’re so focused on him.

SEEDS OF DEATH sort of does both.

On the one hand, this is a perfectly fine, routine serial about the Doctor and his companions stopping the Martian/reptilian Ice Warriors from invading Earth. On the other hand, however, it’s such a pedestrian been-here/seen-that story that you can’t help but think of the other times you’ve seen things done.

Oh, and there’s this – the Ice Warriors f*cking blow. They’re reptile men from Mars who do the spooky alien voice thing. I mean, hell, just because they’re reptile soldiers from Mars (which would be an awesome band name for any high schoolers out there – just send me a 1% royalty check for every dollar you earn) doesn’t mean they have to talk incoherently.

Want to know how to beat the Ice Warriors if you ever come across them? Yeah, turn up the f*cking heat because they can plan an interplanetary invasion, but they’re totally helpless against a thermostat.

Oh, I’m not done with the Ice Warriors, yet, either. They’re not just stupid about central heating, but they don’t even know how to use the teleportation system (introduced here as “T-Mat” tech and later re-christened as “transmat”) that their invasion is dependent upon. Heavens to Murgatroyd, I’m not even kidding when I say that the entire f*cking serial could have ended in episode one if the crew of the Moonbase was like, “No, we will not show you how to operate the T-Mat.” The Ice Warriors woulda been screwed.

Screwed, I tells ya.

But they get the one coward to do what they want and they end up teleporting seeds to Earth and when they burst a white gas comes out and kills you dead. Unless you’re the Doctor. If you’re the Doctor, you get to go on vacation and have someone else play you lying on the floor for a week. (Which is what happens.)

The Ice Warriors are also so slow that they can’t catch those people at the Wal-Mart who drive the electric shopping cart around.

Despite all of this narrative lameness, Troughton, Hines, and Padbury and the guest stars not dressed like reptile warriors from Mars do a solid job with this basic script. I wish they’d kept the old scientist Eldred around for a bit. Eldred explains to the Doctor how nobody cares about space exploration anymore because they can teleport anywhere they want and there’s something really engaging here about a society that loses its interest in going someplace new when they can easily go to every place they already know.

It’s still a thoroughly mediocre but not at all unwatchable serial.

One thought on “DOCTOR WHO: THE SEEDS OF DEATH and Why Nobody Cares About Space Exploration Anymore

  1. Can’t disagree with you at all really, though I think Hayles wrote strong scripts generally. There were some nice touches in this serial that I really liked, showing how the writer imagined the 21st century would be more progressive in some ways, despite the lack of space exploration. What I really love about Seeds though is the music…all those tympans and xylophones are great. hah


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