Doctor Who #239: The Seeds of Death Part 6

"It just so happens I found a petrol car in a motor museum." "Really? What make?" "I've no idea, but it's got four wheels and it goes."TECHNICAL SPECS: First aired Mar.1 1969.

IN THIS ONE... Ice Warrior plans fall apart as the Doctor makes it rain and their fleet is thrown into the sun.

REVIEW: Though it's sometimes hard to take the Ice Warriors seriously, that's mostly a matter of production limits. The costumes are bulky and force actors to lumber around blindly, and there's never very many on screen at the same time. However, their plan was far from being rubbish, and it's the Doctor's fierce intelligence that defeats them in the end, along with the bravery and resourcefulness of those around him. This isn't a case of easy to defeat enemies easily defeated, quite the opposite. It's one of the Doctor's most decisive victories... so it borders on the genocidal. It's a credit to Troughton's genial performance then that the episode seems far more bloodless than it is. But he does engineer the events that send an entire fleet to its destruction, and more personally, wields the very Doctorish portable heat lamp device used to kill two Ice Warriors. AND directs another Warrior's sonic gun at Slaar who is killed in the scuffle. This is the Doctor death follows as so often mentioned in the new series.

So it's interesting that the confrontation between him and Slaar has the Doctor play the Bondian villain's role, explaining his clever plans to the Ice Lord. Of course, the Doctor's been in enough of those situations to know not to reveal them until it's too late to do anything about it, and Slaar just auto-destructs. It's the most crushing of defeats. It's a great scene and it's wonderful that the true climax of the story is done with dialog despite all the action of the finale. The slip and slide through soap suds - with Zoe famously laughing through a dangerous, but obviously fun, situation - the skirmish between the guards and a lone Warrior, and the final shoot-out are exciting and dynamic, but total victory is achieved with words as well as deeds. Jamie's impatience finally comes in handy after a number of missteps. The boy is flipping any switch he can early in the episode, but finally makes good when he T Mats without permission to save the Doctor. It's a small character arc that builds to a satisfying conclusion.

And of course, there are Michael Ferguson's usual visual touches. The cut from the model of Earth to a bursting seed. The flood of fungus obscuring the camera's point of view. The way the door vibrates with sonic energy in the same way the mirror pane does in the sonic kill effect. The Ice Warrior shrugging off bullets with a simple twitch of its head. The satellite model and animated solar system graphics. Even the way the Grand Marshal is shot, all a-glitter, seems to tell us something about the Martians' normal living conditions. He's the only one that doesn't breath heavily or hiss, so that must be a function of our atmosphere, and in theirs, they can breathe easy and enjoy a diffusing haze that makes them sparkle like Twilight vampires. Yes, I wish the Ice Warriors had more of a personality in The Seeds of Death, but as a dangerous and clever enemy for the Doctor to defeat, they did their job admirably.

VERSIONS: I am unaware of notable differences in the Target novelization.

REWATCHABILITY: Medium-High - A great finale with plenty of action and the Doctor being the Doctor. Does not leave you unsatisfied like many similar action-driven finales have in the past.

STORY REWATCHABILITY: Medium-High - The first time I saw this story, I liked it, but found it a bit long. My re-evaluation of it, looking at it with a more critical eye, has turned it into a favorite. It has a visual flair I admire, and despite some of the dodgier design elements and science, a cracking script filled with tension, reversals and action. When people asked what story I would recommend as a typical example of the era, I usually recommended Tomb of the Cybermen, but in the future, I think Seeds of Death could be the better choice.

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