Doctor Who #238: The Seeds of Death Part 5

"Are you suggesting we should psychoanalyse it, Doctor?"TECHNICAL SPECS: First aired Feb.22 1969.

IN THIS ONE... Fewsham turns on his masters, the Martian fleet is incoming, and the Doctor prays for rain to wash away the soap.

REVIEW: If Fewsham started out as a toad and the audience dismissed him as a coward, those expectations are blown out of water by Part 5. In deep need of redemption for the trouble he's been a party too - coerced into it or not - here he physically prevents an Ice Warrior from firing on Zoe, sends everyone back to Earth except himself, and sends word of what the Martians are planning back to base. Thanks to him, Earth will be saved. And of course, he must give up his life. There's this wonderful shot of him, angst-ridden, contemplating the T Mat booth, knowing it will never take him home. His resolve took time to reach its apogee, but he did die a hero.

That shot is only one of many instances where director Michael Ferguson shines. A discussion filled with technobabble is filmed from behind circuitry/blueprints painted on a glass partition. Chemistry is made exciting by having the Doctor manically try every substance on a seed before it blows. Slaar seems to break the fourth wall when he notices the video link is active, noticing the audience, and then having his men fire at it, at us. The foam arrives in large quantities, like a slippery rising tide. I think it works, though that may be in part because Fury from the Deep is a missing story. There, too, soap suds were used as a threat, and perhaps it would look more of a cheat if we were as familiar with it as we are Seeds of Death.

Zoe and Jamie are as resourceful as they've ever been, but it's the Doctor who's the real star once again, a one-man solution machine. He's taking samples, he's getting lucky in the lab, he's figuring out how to confuse and destroy the Martian fleet (that damn need for beacons again, it was the Cybermen's undoing too), and he's racing to the weather station, risking his neck to get it to rain. I also find it highly amusing how he's disappointed with T Mat because there's no sensation. It says a lot about why he travels. With all those qualities, it's unfortunate that the design is cheap and clumsy, and that the science is so dodgy. The seeds are destroyed by water, fine, but are immune to sulfuric acid? Bit extreme. The episode also plays fast and loose with the temperature, getting the Ice Warriors to pass out when it passes 50 Centigrade, when clearly, that heat's enough to cause humans unconsciousness as well. I do like the idea that the Ice Warriors are terraforming Earth though (or is that Marsaforming?).

REWATCHABILITY: Medium-High - The flaws in the production are easily forgivable when so many elements are this good. The Doctor is in excellent form, and you'll find yourself caring for Fewsham. Fewsham!

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