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Feb 27, 2007

Walking On The Moon

The Seeds of Death was the first BBC Video that I got, way back in 1988, so I have fond memories of this particular story because of that reason alone. I remember choosing that one after having read and loved a lot of the Troughton era novelisations such as The Web of Fear, The Cybermen etc.

Once I had watched it I was a confirmed Troughton fan and have been so too this day. Of course, at time, I wasn’t prepared for the sheer length of the story, I mean it was 135 minutes long and it was black and white, so the first time I sat down to watch I did begin to wonder what I had let myself in for, but I persevered and really enjoyed the story.

Let’s see if I feel the same way, nearly twenty-years later.

The Seeds of Death Part One

I thought that the opening credits bit with the story title, written by and episode number thing was quite shot when I first watched the story, and it is still pretty good now, it certainly gives the story a bit of atmosphere from the word go and sets you up for a good old fashioned sci-fi tale.

the moon crew, which basically seems to be a couple of blokes who couldn’t organise a piss-up in a brewery

I had to laugh at the computer voice, and not just because the bloke who did the voice was called John Witty. There was just something about the voice that made me laugh out loud. Maybe it’s just that fact that the way it speeds up as it talks that is quite funny? I’m not sure. It just still makes me laugh.

Another thing that makes me laugh about this story is the really rubbish future fashions on display in this story. I don’t know if it’s just me, but they do look like they are just wearing their pyjamas. Obviously that is what they thought people would be wearing the future, because some of the costumes that we saw in Gerry Anderson’s UFO were also quite pyjama like as well.

There is obviously quite a lot of set up involved in this story, mainly to do with the whole T-Mat thing, because it is a good eight minutes before we get a glimpse of the Doctor, Jamie and Zoë. I mean it wouldn’t happen nowadays would it? An episode where the Doctor hardly appears! Don’t be daft, that would never work!

As shown in the titles this story is broadly speaking split between the Earth and the Moon and we get our first glimpse of the moon crew, which basically seems to be a couple of blokes who couldn’t organise a piss-up in a brewery. I wonder if they just put the most useless members of staff on the moon, where they couldn’t really cause any trouble, and wouldn’t be in their hair? That might work in principle but aren’t those same people, the kind of people who would probably do anything to save their own skin, say, if some alien race invaded the moon. Very possibly I would think.

Zoë appears to be modelling the lastest in the line of fetish future-ware from Ann Summers

On the moon base at that moment was Fewsham, a very weasel like man, who looks as if he is perpetually constipated; Phipps, a good sort, and a couple of other people who’s names escape me at the moment. On the Earth the whole kit and caboodle is run by Miss Kelly who is like Margaret Thatcher in a spangly jumpsuit and Commander Radnor who is basically a civil servant.

In this episode Zoë appears to be modelling the lastest in the line of fetish future-ware from Ann Summers (available in all Ann Summers outlets), not at all practical but as you and I know that is not the point of those sort of costumes at all.

Not a great deal happens in this episode really, it is mainly a massive info dump of the purposes of T-Mat and what the society on the Earth is like at the time, as well as an inkling that not all is well on the t-mat base on the moon. The first thing on the moon that does seem a little odd is when they send one of the top brass up to the moon, only for him not to return and then the whole thing breaking down so that they can’t reach them. Unbeknownst to them all down on Earth control that there is a rather asthmatic alien race lumbering around the moon base shooting people with a gun that makes them die in a rather wibbly wobbly fashion. Well that’s what the screen does when anyone gets shot by and Ice Warrior in this story. And finally at the end of this first episode we know who it is, who is killing the people on the moon base. It’s the Ice Warriors! Well, I never would have guessed that one!

The Seeds of Death Part Two

In part two we jump straight into the action as Radnor and Miss Kelly managed to persuade Victor Meldrew, I mean Eldred, to let them use a rocket to get to the moon to repair T-Mat. Luckily the Doctor and crew are there to lend a hand in actually taking the rocket up to the moon, so that none of the t-mat crew can get their hands dirty travelling in a dirty old rocket, not like the clean, fast and unfussy T-Mat, the only way to travel in the future, it would seem.

That, and the Ice Warrior trying to persuade Fewsham to mend the T-Mat so they can use it for their own (as yet still undetermined) nefarious reasons, is pretty much the whole plot for this episode and surprisingly enough it doesn’t really drag at all.

I put this down to a number of reasons: one it has Patrick Troughton it, a man who is so watchable that even when isn’t the main focus of the scene you can’t help but be drawn to him, which is difficult when Zoë is in the same scene in that costume; two, the rather imaginative and stylish direction of Michael Ferguson is always interesting and keeps you interested. You can tell that now that they had cameras with a zoom function they were going to utilise as much as they can, and they certainly did during the Troughton era, sometimes to good effect, sometimes to not so good effect.

There were some great scenes in the rocket when they were taking off due to the g-force with Troughton doing a bit of gurning that Pertwee would have been proud of. Just before they left Zoë managed to get changed into a more practical white number, well more practical for manning a flight to the moon anyway.

Some of the scenes featuring Fewsham sat on his tod in the main control area of the moon base show Fewsham’s isolation from the rest of the crew very well and Terry Scully is brilliant as playing snivelling little bastards and seemed to make a career out of them.

The set design of the moon base is quite good but it is only just about high enough for the ice warriors to fit in. I mean if they had just made the ceiling a few inches shorter then the Ice Warriors wouldn’t have been able to get in the place, let alone hatch a plan to take over the Earth.

The Seeds of Death Part Three

This episode is pure padding, but it is wonderfully watchable padding nonetheless. There isn’t a single six-part story that I can think of where the third part is little more than a run-around and this one is no different.

For half the episode the Doctor, Jamie and Zoë are in the rocket about to crash land on the moon, and for the other half of the episode they are all running around the moon base being chased by Ice Warriors.

Sod David Tennant, Patrick Troughton is the best Doctor ever!

It shouldn’t be too hard to outrun an Ice Warrior really as they are not exactly Olympic athletes and don’t actually run fast at all, but they always manage to get the person they are chasing.

Troughton is superb in this episode and some of the chase sequences in the latter half of the episode were pure slapstick on the part of Troughton, but they just worked. Particularly enjoyed the bit where it looked liked he had run into a hall of mirrors and then later when he was caught he uttered the classic line “You can’t kill me. I’m a genius” Brilliant, a line that only Troughton’s Doctor could have uttered. Sod David Tennant, Patrick Troughton is the best Doctor ever!

We also got a bit of an info dump about the Ice Warriors in this episode for those of you that hadn’t seen The Ice Warriors only a year previously and the scenes on board the rocket when you thought that they might crash were pretty tense. But at the end of the day this episode is there to simply push the plot along a little further and to its credit it does do that in an entertaining way.

However, by the end of the episode Troughton is out for the count. Will he wake up in the time for the next episode? Only time will tell…

Comments

Patrick Troughton FTW. It's sad the way most of his surviving complete stories comprise the dullest ones, but the playful charisma and twinkle in his eye never lets up for a second and can even distract you from a duffer like The Krotons.

It wasn't until episode 4, when Pat was absent for the week, that it struck me how many dump truck-sized holes it's possible to pick ib the plot to The Seeds Of Death.

Have you been picking up all the Season Five stories on audio CD? Do so NOW if you haven't been.

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