The Seeds of Death ★★★

The Ice Warriors attack the Moon as part of their Earth invasion plans

77

Season 6 – Story 48

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“You dispatched the seeds. In so doing you destroyed your entire species. What is the death of one man compared to that?” – Slaar

Storyline
Landing on 21st-century Earth, the trio learn that humans have become reliant for global travel on a matter-transmitter called T-Mat, supervised by Commander Radnor and his assistant Gia Kelly. But because the system is failing, the Doctor, Zoe and Jamie take the outmoded transport of a rocket to T-Mat’s relay station on the Moon to investigate. Ice Warriors from Mars prove to be responsible: they are hijacking T-Mat as part of an Earth takeover bid, sending deadly spores to destroy the atmosphere, rendering the planet habitable for their own kind…

First transmissions
Episode 1 – Saturday 25 January 1969
Episode 2 – Saturday 1 February 1969
Episode 3 – Saturday 8 February 1969
Episode 4 – Saturday 15 February 1969
Episode 5 – Saturday 22 February 1969
Episode 6 – Saturday 1 March 1969

Production
Location filming: December 1968 at West Heath, Hampstead, London
Filming: December 1968 at Ealing Studios
Studio recording: January/February 1969 in Lime Grove D

Cast
Doctor Who – Patrick Troughton
Jamie McCrimmon – Frazer Hines
Zoe Heriot – Wendy Padbury
Commander Radnor – Ronald Leigh-Hunt
Gia Kelly – Louise Pajo
Professor Daniel Eldred – Philip Ray
Slaar – Alan Bennion
Brent – Ric Felgate
Fewsham – Terry Scully
Phipps – Christopher Coll
Osgood – Harry Towb
Locke – Martin Cort
Sir James Gregson – Hugh Morton
Grand Marshal – Graham Leaman
Security guard – Derrick Slater
Computer voice – John Witty
Ice Warriors – Steve Peters, Tony Harwood, Sonny Caldinez

Crew
Writer – Brian Hayles
Incidental music – Dudley Simpson
Designer – Paul Allen
Script editor – Terrance Dicks
Producer – Peter Bryant
Director – Michael Ferguson

RT Review by Mark Braxton
You would think it a colossal dampener that the plot of The Seeds of Death is contingent upon two calamitous flaws. First, making this miracle of the space age, T-Mat, operable from the Moon strains credulity till it’s piano-wire taut. Only when it all goes belly-up does gig-runner Gia Kelly look into controlling the system from Earth. Well, dur! Second, a conquest plot that involves sending H2O-susceptible fungus to a planet that’s 70 per cent water and where rain is always likely is never going to work, is it? The Doctor merely accelerates the inevitable.

Still, with those sizeable gaffes swept lumpily under the carpet, we can get on with the job of enjoying what is a perfectly serviceable if somewhat padded potboiler.

Brian Hayles and Terrance Dicks (who heavily rewrote episodes three to six), give us stacks of action, abundant changes of scenery, imaginative imperilment and a few engaging characters. In common with many tales from Troughton’s tenure, we have a sinewy female lead in Gia Kelly, a proactive, head-girl-at-Roedean type who may not be top dog but basically calls the shots. “You’ve stopped me once; please don’t try it again,” she tells the toothless Commander Radnor, who capitulates, knowing his grasp of T-Mat will always be inferior.

Incidentally, in the same weeks that The Seeds of Death was playing, the actor playing Radnor, Ronald Leigh-Hunt, could also be seen in the ITV children’s series Freewheelers. Perhaps he had a doppelganger. And he’d be joined in Freewheelers by Wendy “Zoe” Padbury two years later.

Aside from Philip Ray’s crusty cliché of a professor, there’s also Terry Scully’s petrified quisling Fewsham (few sham quite like he does), who cooperates with the enemy merely to save his skin. He contributes a few decent twists to the story.

Other areas of the production range from the impressive to the awful. The sets, for example, are manifold and functional, but after the expansive control rooms and cramped corridors, the rocket is disappointingly shoddy. And the countdown sequence, rendered by means of poor-quality photographs of dials and knobs, compounds the misery. Again, the Weather Control Station (or is it a Bureau? They can’t seem to decide) is a decent set, but the climate controller within appears to be a small espresso machine.

Costumes. Somehow, wearing pants outside trousers is supposed to be futuristic. Thank goodness, then, for the return of the Ice Warriors, with their crusty chins, triangular teeth, shambling gait and reticulated shells. Having introduced his hissyfitting horrors the year before, Hayles now presents a tripartite Martian society: a don’t-argue-with-me Grand Marshal, the facilitating “Ice Lord” (Slaar) and the dung-shovelling hoi polloi.

Though it’s a perfunctory outing for the companions, Troughton is on imperious form as the Doctor, dodging his foes with a Chaplinesque bounce of the feet, touching his fingertips together repeatedly when he gets excited and repelling attempts to be executed with the words “Your leader will be angry if you kill me – I’m a genius!” He’s so good that he fully deserves his rather obvious holiday for the duration of episode four!

Despite containing little that’s original – essentially it’s a fusion of The Moonbase and The Ice Warriors – this steady six-parter, incorporating the sort of lunar capering that pandered to Space Race enthusiasts in the real world, is rattling good stuff.

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Radio Times archive material

RT billings

Episode 1
Episode 2
Episode 3
Episode 4
Episode 5
Episode 6

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[Available on BBC DVD]