Thursday, January 24, 2013

Doctor Who #429: The Seeds of Doom Part 6

"And you'll all flower happily ever after."
TECHNICAL SPECS: First aired Mar.6 1976.

IN THIS ONE... The Doctor calls and air strike on the Krynoid and Chase is fed into the composter.

REVIEW: Wow, UNIT is really screwing the pooch in this one. I'm almost glad the Brig or any of the other regulars aren't there to see it. I'm not going to make fun of their "laser gun", because I think the idea is kind of cool. I jeered, however, at the UNIT man dragging a couple of flimsy planks behind him as if they were heavy beams. Completely deserved getting knocked on the head, though of course, I don't applaud anyone getting "pumped into the garden". Later, the UNIT army is just standing around, out of ideas, and the Doctor, of all people, has to suggest an air strike. Used to be that UNIT ending with the exploding building was what he was striving to avoid. Worse, the Doctor gives those orders on a walkie-talkie with terrible reception, and it was subtitles to the rescue. Now, I'm sure bombing the thing was a last resort, but why not make it a little more interesting by using the tried and proven herbicides? It's like the serial doesn't follow up on its own continuity (more on that below).

In this story apparently written for more violent protagonists, I suppose it shouldn't come as a surprise that the Doctor would order a bombing. The episode is quite violent, in fact, climactic fisticuffs ending with Chase getting ground up in his composter, screaming and then silent. We don't see it, but we do feel it, and I do wish they had made it this grand camp moment (worthy of Chase's character), but there are no grand speeches, no wink at the audience, just a brutal death. Scorby gets the better death, I think. He's going through the five stages, isn't he? After denying the danger, and trying to come to terms with how his Ayn Rand-scripted life has led him to this (he's a survivor!), hopelessness comes and he finally makes a break for it. He might have made it too, if he hadn't fallen in a pond where floating vines rose up to smother him. A very effective sequence, both in terms of character and effects.

There's too much action to really indulge in witticisms, though Sarah Jane does get one or two in. The duo get their sense of humor back only in the epilogue, in which the Doctor apparently invites Sir Colin into the TARDIS. Well, I can't quite imagine him as a companion, so it was probably a joke. The final scene, with the TARDIS materializing in the Antarctic while Sarah is in beachwear (an echo of Death to the Daleks) is charming and all, but suffers from a couple continuity problems. First, they say they were brought full circle because the Doctor forgot to reset the coordinates since the last trip... except they never came to the Antarctic in the TARDIS! They came by plane! And second, the final line they speak together ("or are we yet to come?") while clever for time travelers has never been spoken before. It was never their catch phrase and their use of it comes out of nowhere. I like the chemistry, and that we end the season with our heroes laughing at their absurd situation, but it's a payoff without a set-up. I love it as a stand-alone clip, but once again, Seeds feels like a mongrel beast, created from unlikely parts that never quite join up with the rest.

VERSIONS: In writing the Target novelization, producer Philip Hinchcliffe took out most of the Amelia Ducat character's scenes, leaving only one mention.

REWATCHABILITY: Medium - UNIT is so lame, they might as well have used the regular army, but Scorby's death, even if it is the least memorable of the three villain kills this episode, is a worthy moment. By the time the protagonists find their voices again (as opposed to Steed's and Mrs. Peel's), it's all over 'til next year.

STORY REWATCHABILITY: Medium - After the first two episodes, I was ready to give this a higher rating, but once we leave the Antarctic, the story absurdly goes south and shows its Avengers roots. It's too violent to be Doctor Who, the wit evaporates quickly, and though a lot of moments are indeed memorable, it just never feels quite right. Too bad, because it was off to a great start.

1 comment:

-Peder said...

I think you're being too kind with the medium rating here. What a humorless set of episodes to end with! I was also bothered by the lack of effort when actually fighting the Krynoid. How do you attack a plant? You cut it apart or you set it on fire. Why didn't they try either of those things?
My favorite part of the last episode was easily the bomber attacks on the house. The first two look like, well, a bomb hitting a house. But the third one must have hit the reactor core because BAWHOOOM!, it all goes up. And finally we have some fire and the day is saved.