Doctor Who #235: The Seeds of Death Part 2

"It takes more than enthusiasm to get a rocket off the ground."TECHNICAL SPECS: First aired Feb.1 1969.

IN THIS ONE... Our heroes take off in a rocket to the moon, while the Ice Warriors lure the T Mat staff there through other means.

REVIEW: This episode does a good job of building suspense. I've often railed against procedural countdowns in the Doctor Who of this era, but if you're going to do one, do it this way. It's short and to the point, but most importantly, it's VISUAL. Ferguson punches into pictures of the instrumentation as flight checks are completed, the rocket model work is very well done, and the countdown itself features those lovely numbers lighting up Gia Kelly's face. Memorable where every other technical procedural was not. The seating inside the rocket is a bit strange, designed to get everyone in shot more than any other functionality, but barely a month after Man made the first round trip to the moon, Doctor Who's going to actually land there (or at least crash there), and it's exciting even today. Please ignore the mock G-force face pulling and weightlessness bits.

On the moon, Ferguson uses percussive music and the depth of the sets to heighten tension. Consider Fewsham, seen from afar, alone and powerless. Or the Ice Warriors plotting in the foreground, while humans work in the far background, unaware of their presence. The camera helps tell the story. Ferguson's misstep this time around is in the scene where a Warrior fails to see Phipps hiding in plain sight. Even Phipps looks surprised. It's not an uncommon occurrence on Doctor Who - far from it! - but it might have been avoided with a different camera set-up. An overhead camera just gives too much away. Phipps is turning out to be the anti-Fewsham, fighting a guerrilla war with Jerry-rigged equipment, going so far as melting a Warrior with heat lamps. A bit extreme, but a nice used of the camera's polarizing action (we used to flip that switch all the time to get cheap special effects when I was working in public access television back in the 80s). You know, it's about time the Doctor got to the moon, because someone is stealing his shtick! Elsewhere, the Ice Warriors are being smarter than their blind, melty tracker, luring Miss Kelly to an active T Mat booth and forcing Fewsham to explain away all the deaths with "space madness". Love a bit of space madness, but that's the classic Ren & Stimpy fan in me.

One character I dearly love in this episode is Jamie, who has to negotiate to get himself a seat on the rocket. It's funny enough to have the guest characters not being sure of his flight status, but even the Doctor was considering leaving him behind. He gets no respect, so he demands it. Poor Jamie. It certainly helps fuel the sibling rivalry between him and Zoe that she's suddenly become the favorite, the one who speaks the Doctor's language. The two men still maintain an entertaining rapport, and Jamie manages to harrumph at the Doctor's assurances at exactly the right moment to embarrass him. Payback is sweet.

REWATCHABILITY: Medium-High - Not perfect, but wonderfully designed and tense. Events feel like they're building to a more and more dangerous situation.

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