Doctor Who #237: The Seeds of Death Part 4

"You dispatched the seeds, in so doing you destroyed your entire species. What is the death of one man compared to that?"TECHNICAL SPECS: First aired Feb.15 1969.

IN THIS ONE... The Ice Warriors throw soap suds at Earth, and there's the habitual crawling through air ducts.

REVIEW: Fungi that destroys oxygen? The biological agent gets vented into Earth's atmosphere and starts to turn into foam, which doesn't look quite as ridiculous as it sounds. In stark black and white, the foam might as well be snow or weaponized anthrax. We get some good shots of an Ice Warrior walking around the countryside, and guards being pelted with foam as if in a blizzard. On the cheap, yes, but once again, director Michael Ferguson impresses me with his sense of the visual. Consider the final shot (above) in which Zoe walks across a wall of light to get to the temperature controls. She is not seen until the last moment when she is finally exposed. The wall has no practical function, and neither does the extreme size of the temperature gauge, but they do have a story telling function. The wall does not light the room so much as it shows us how Zoe is feeling in that moment. That it's done at the expense of the Ice Warriors looking like blind fools again is unfortunately. I might also mention the moment in which the computer narrates what's going on in the world even as the London base is being attacked by an Ice Warrior, a great way to combine an action scene and exposition, giving the sequence ironic weight.

Of course, the visuals don't all work. Phipps failing to get through the air duct hatch because he refuses to move his shoulders is entirely ridiculous, especially considering that all the hatches are the same size and he did manage to get into the ducts just fine. The temperature control really is a terrible makeshift prop, and I wonder if kids started playing with the heating and air conditioning to fight the Ice Warriors at home. I find it amusing that both are invoked here as a means to defend against them. It's something you can do at home! (I'm writing this at 9h30 in the morning and it's already 20 Centigrade, so I'm pretty sure we'll have a Martian-free summer.) And of course, there's Pat's poor double being dragged around the place because Troughton's on holiday. Why does Slaar have Fewsham T Mat him into space instead of just shooting? And again with the Martian blindness as his prone body is taken by Phipps and Jamie out of the T Mat booth. Contrived.

The Doctor's absence, always a disappointment, does allow others to shine. Eldred plays Doctor on Earth, figuring out why the Ice Warriors are only attacking Northern cities. Zoe has a great moment where she uses her eidetic memory to navigate Moonbase's air ducts. Jamie saves the Doctor's life and livens up the proceedings with his trademark impatience. Both Fewsham and Phipps reach their breaking points, which ironically makes them switch places. Fewsham, having been told he's doomed humanity and forced to kill the Doctor (he seems to believe he did, but it's a little ambiguous), has less and less to lose and grows bolder by the minute, heroically diverting the Martians' attention while Zoe creeps up to the controls. Phipps, on the other hand, is less and less heroic, getting a sudden attack of claustrophobia and getting completely lost in the air ducts. It's almost too convenient. He's gone off the adrenaline and now he's finding excuses not to confront the Ice Warriors. Your shoulders aren't that wide, Phipps! The Ice Warriors are, sadly, still ciphers. Slaar's breathing accelerates to the point of hyperventilation when he gets excited, but it doesn't particularly deepens his character. He's cruel, certainly, or else why force Fewsham to kill the Doctor when he could have done it himself, but again, that's expected of the piece's villain. No, these guys could be anyone at this point. Hopefully, the last two chapters can focus on them a little more.

REWATCHABILITY: Medium - While the human characters are well written and used, and Ferguson still has a few tricks up his sleeve, there are too many problems, both in terms of plot and production, to get a better recommendation.


snell said...

"...doesn't Mars have a much higher oxygen mix in its own atmosphere?"

Actually, Mars has almost no oxygen in it's atmosphere, only 1/10 of least in 2012.

Siskoid said...

I grew up with an entirely different notion. I wonder who I have to blame? I'll make the change in the review, thanks for being my fact checker Snell!

LiamKav said...

"Actually, Mars has almost no oxygen in it's atmosphere, only 1/10 of least in 2012."

So, er, 0.1% then? Is this a crazy North American thing where you aren't allowed to use decimals in percentages?

Siskoid said...

Let the Science Wars begin!!!

Siskoid said...

I use decimals with % all the time, to be clear.


snell said...

"one tenth of a percent" sounds better than "point one percent." Sorry, I write the way I talk.

LiamKav said...

With the utmost respect, I am going to disagree (and it says something about my job that this was all I was thinking about while showing and driving to work.)

Saying "one tenth of one percent" forces you to do mental arithmetic halfway though. Most people will think in either percentages or fractions. "I beat him at Mario Kart about 66% of the time", or "I beat him at Mario Kart about two thirds of the time." You wouldn't say "I win about three quarters of 50% of the time."

If nothing else, if someone says a sentence saying "Mars has almost no oxygen in it's atmosphhere, only 1/10 of 1%", then by the point you've said "one tenth" the person's brain has already raced ahead and placed the oxygen content at 1/10 (or 10%), because it sounds like a complete statement. When you add in the "one percent", they have to then race backwards and correct their initial thoughts.

So, in the areas of science, English language, and programming efficiency, I conclude that "point one percent" is superior to "one tenth of one percent". I shall be taking questions from the floor.

Oh, and hey! Doctor Who and all that.

snell said...

Liam, it seems to me that saying ".1 percent" requires exactly as much mental arithmetic as "1/10 of 1 percent."

Perhaps it is an American thing, as it's a fairly common usage over here (e.g., "The Dow was down 3/10 of a percent today.").

Siskoid said...

Now that you mention it, it does sound like Wall Street stuff.

You both made good points. I think the winner is Batman. Usually is.

LiamKav said...

"Liam, it seems to me that saying ".1 percent" requires exactly as much mental arithmetic as "1/10 of 1 percent."

I would argue less, because if you think in fractions then you'd switch 0.1% to 1/1000th, and if you think in percentages you'd just leave it as 0.1%.

Wall Street might do it, but would Spock? Or Data? No, no they wouldn't. Unless there's an example of them doing so, in which case damn it.

Not that I care. I honestly don't care. At all.

But Batman would say 0.1%


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