Book Review – Doctor Who: House of Cards

  • Title: House of Cards
  • Series: Doctor Who Companion Chronicles
  • Discs: 1 CD
  • Author: Steve Lyons
  • Director: Lisa Bowerman
  • Characters: Jamie, Polly, Second Doctor, Ben
  • Cast: Frazer Hines (Jamie), Anneke Wills (Polly)
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 12/12/2018

House of Cards is another story in Big Finish’s Doctor Who – The Companion Chronicles line, which features stories from the point of view of the Doctor’s companions, often with two actors performing the parts as if it was a two-hander play. This story is mostly from Polly’s point of view, but also includes parts performed by Frazer Hines as Jamie McCrimmon. The story features the Second Doctor (as played on television in Doctor Who by Patrick Troughton), Ben, Jamie, and Polly.

The story opens with the foursome already split up, and the Doctor is absent for much of the story, the TARDIS crew has landed in an intergalactic casino. The enforcers in the casino are snake-like beings called the Sidewinders, and the casino is owned by Miss Fortune. Polly is appalled by the Sidewinders. No sooner than she complains to Ben about them being split up than the casino’s slot machines go haywire and start spitting out chips. Patrons rush the machine for free chips, even with the Sidewinders urging them to turn in the casino’s money.

Ben picks up enough chips to start playing one of the games – badly. Jamie watches Ben play while striking up a conversation with a red-haired girl named Hope. Across the table from Ben, Jamie and Hope, a mysterious woman in a red cloak and china mask is the only person at the table who seems to win. Jamie tells Ben to copy her, and he does, winning back some of his losses.

Polly, meanwhile, tries to find the Doctor – passing a pit where robot dogs are viciously fighting each other, and meeting a gambler down on his luck named “Lucky Bill”. She catches up with the Doctor and ends up with a time bangle, which someone had slipped in his pocket. Time travel is absolutely forbidden in the casino. Taken to meet Miss Fortune, Polly is informed of the rules against time travel and finds out Ben has lost his stake and the money he borrowed from the casino. He and Lucky Bill must now play the Game of Life – Miss Fortune tells Polly she must press one of two buttons – which will either allow Ben to go free but kill Lucky Bill or the reverse. Miss Fortune coldly tells Polly that because the buttons are randomized even she doesn’t know which button will kill Ben and which will save him. But when the time comes Polly doesn’t push that button – she grabs the time bangle and activates it.

Polly arrives a bit earlier and meets Hope – the redhead from Ben’s gambling table. Hope is a time traveler and the woman in the China mask too. Polly tries to explain it was her and her companions who set off the time travel alarm but it doesn’t go well. She tries to save Ben by getting him some money so he doesn’t have to borrow money and to find the Doctor for help. Plus, Polly wants to help Hope too – knowing she’s stuck in a bad situation.

Ben avoids the Game of Life – but the Doctor gets stuck in a game of life of his own – playing a winner takes all card game against Miss Fortune for Polly’s life and their freedom. The Doctor chooses the game and produces “Happy Family” cards. He wins by laying down all his cards at once. Miss Fortune disappears in a red mist. The Sidewinders take over the casino and the Game of Life is shut down. Having won his amnesty – Lucky Bill starts over, trying to win again. The time travelers leave the casino.

This story seems to take place immediately after The Selachian Gambit since that story is mentioned. It’s a fun story, somewhat basic (most of the little stories going on are similar to what you’d find in any story about a casino) and the setting is very confined. I did like the fighting robot dogs – they reminded me of K-9. And the robot croupiers who look like playing cards were very cool. But there’s not much meat to the story itself. It starts with the Doctor, Ben, Polly, and Jamie already in the casino. They meet people, do stuff, then leave. I liked that Polly got to do a lot in this story – but Jamie seemed under-used, especially as Frazer is narrating. So it’s like the reverse of Selachian Gambit which had a lot of Jamie and less of Polly. Still, it’s fun, it’s light, it’s enjoyable and it’s a good adventure – so if you’re looking for an enjoyable Second Doctor story, this is a good place to start. Recommended.

Find out more about Big Finish audios at their website: www.bigfinish.com.

Click to order House of Cards on CD or Download.

Note: No promotional consideration was paid for this review. I review because I enjoy it!

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Book Review – Doctor Who: The Selachian Gambit

  • Title: The Selachian Gambit
  • Series: Doctor Who Companion Chronicles
  • Discs: 1 CD
  • Author: Steve Lyons
  • Director: Lisa Bowerman
  • Characters: Jamie, Polly, Second Doctor, Ben
  • Cast: Frazer Hines (Jamie), Anneke Wills (Polly)
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 12/05/2018

**Spoiler Alert** Space sharks robbing an intergalactic bank vault? The Second Doctor (as played by Patrick Troughton on the long-running British SF series Doctor Who) and his companions Ben, Polly, and Jamie get caught up in a bank robbery. The Selachian Gambit is an audio play in Big Finish’s Doctor Who The Companion Chronicles series, with Frazer Hines as Jamie, the Doctor, the Selachians, and other voices, and Anneke Wills as Polly.

The Doctor, Jamie, Ben, and Polly return to the TARDIS, only to find it clamped and covered by a force-field with a notice saying 10 credits is due for parking fees. As they are outside a bank, Ben, Polly, and Jamie convince the Doctor to go inside to get the money. But the Doctor is unable to fill in the form to open an account – refusing to provide a name or address because “he can’t”. However, there isn’t much time for anyone to argue about this as three sharks in space suits enter the bank to rob the vault.

The sharks wave around guns, Ben manages to hide before anyone sees him, and Polly is sent to make tea for twenty in the kitchen. The Doctor tries to defuse the situation. When Polly heads off to the kitchen, she runs into Ben who has been crawling around in the bank’s ductwork, trying to find a way to help. The two discover some glue that hardens quickly until it’s rock-hard. They make three “glue bombs” to attack the robbers. Polly is able to pass one to Jamie, but when she tries to tell him the details of the plan she’s made with Ben – they get caught and she has to shush.

The sharks demand the bank manager open the vault, but he says he doesn’t have the combination. The sharks then open the vault with a combination they have – but instead of a bank vault, all they see is a blank void. The vault is dimensionally transcendental (“Like the TARDIS!”, Jamie points out) and without the proper combination, it remains hidden in a pocket dimension. Next, the sharks try to blow the vault door – this doesn’t work.

Seeing that the sharks may be violent but not particularly smart, the Doctor offers to “help” them if they stop killing hostages (they kill one woman when they first enter the bank). Very soon Tartarus Security contacts the bank – and the Doctor becomes the negotiator. He manages to get six hostages released including Polly, despite the sharks’ complaints. But they also threaten Jamie. A bomb is discovered, but Jamie uses his glue bomb to gum up the works.

The Doctor is able to convince the sharks that the only way into the vault is the hoppers used to deposit and remove valuables. Polly reaches the Tartarus Security ship with the other hostages and soon discovers the captain intends to storm or even blow-up the bank, hostages included, to stop the Selachians.

Things come to a head, and Polly thinks the bank including the Doctor, Ben, Jamie, and all the hostages have been destroyed by Tartarus. But the Doctor managed to get everyone inside the dimensionally transcendental bank vault. He then opens a bridge, so the door can be opened on the Tartarus ship. The Doctor also discovers that Galatibank had made a series of bad investments, losing their investors’ money and valuables, and lied about it. The bank had hired the Selachians and Tartarus to ensure that the bank itself was destroyed. As a result, the embezzlement would remain hidden and the bank’s investors would be paid off by insurance companies. The bank’s manager is so disgusted he decides to offer bonuses to everyone affected by the robbery with higher rewards to the Doctor, Jamie, Ben and Polly for rescuing everyone from certain death. Ben is surprised the Doctor takes the money but finds out from Jamie that he asked for his reward to be given to charity, except 10 Credits – which the Doctor uses to pay the parking fee on the TARDIS which the Tartarus captain found floating in space and claimed as salvage.

Moral of the story? Always pay your parking fees!

The Selachian Gambit is an action-packed story, very much in the flavor of Classic Doctor Who though it feels a bit more like a Third or Fourth Doctor story than a Second Doctor story, even though it features the early Second Doctor cast of Ben, Polly, and Jamie. Frazer Hines is brilliant – handling a number of different voices, including the monsters (which I didn’t realize was Frazer – I thought it was an uncredited Nicholas Briggs. I learned it was Frazer when it was mentioned in the after the story interviews/commentary). I liked Polly in this too. She’s often an under-used companion, but even though she’s sent “to make the tea” it’s clear that both the Doctor and Polly know that’s code for, “See if you can find anything to get us out of this mess”. This is a recommended and fun story.

Find out more about Big Finish audios at their website: www.bigfinish.com.

Click to order The Selachian Gambit on CD or Download.

Note: No promotional consideration was paid for this review. I review because I enjoy it!

Book Review – Doctor Who: Second Chances

  • Title: Second Chances
  • Series: Doctor Who Companion Chronicles
  • Discs: 1 CD
  • Author: John Dorney
  • Director: Lisa Bowerman
  • Characters: Zoë, Jaime, Second Doctor
  • Cast: Wendy Padbury, Emily Pithon
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 08/22/2018

**Spoiler Alert** Big Finish’s Companion Chronicles audio Doctor Who Second Chances is the final volume in the Zoë series, which is now four titles total. The audio picks-up where the previous one left off, with Zoë in the clutches of The Company who want information from her – information on the Doctor, on Time Travel, and even on the Achromatics from Echoes of Grey. But whereas before Zoë had been reluctant to say anything, her interrogator, Kym, gets her talking pretty quickly this time.

Zoë tells Kym that the TARDIS landed on a space station. She the Doctor, and Jaime learned quickly that the station was one of a pair, and the sister-station, Apollo, had just broken up. But before the break-up, Artemis Station received a coded message. Zoë offers to decode the message. As she works, she realizes the full horror of the message – it’s a computer virus that can jump species and infect humans as well, through sync operators that plug physically into computers. She tries to block and contain the virus but is knocked out.

Back at the company’s stronghold, Kym returns and tells Zoë that the Apollo Station has been destroyed, but since she said Artemis Station was destroyed two days later, they can reach the station and stop the destruction. Zoë agrees. But when she gets to the station, she slowly realizes the truth. It was Kym who knocked her out in the station – allowing the virus to get loose. And it was the older Zoë herself who gave the injured younger Zoë a breather, stating it’s “standard issue”. It’s even Kym and Zoë who are locked in the shuttle that refuses to let anyone from the station on board – and then rips the station apart when leaving. But Zoë is able to send the virus to The Company’s computers – to utterly destroy the company, and then burn itself out before it does any more damage. Younger Zoë is rescued in space by the Doctor. Older Zoë is rescued by Jen, a former Company employee and the pilot of Kym’s shuttle, who tells Zoë she will use leftover Company technology to help her remember – no strings attached.

I enjoyed this story. It was good to have the Zoë Trilogy (Quadology?) finally wrapped up and with a satisfactory conclusion. I did find the story to be a bit predictable though. Still, the performances are excellent, and I liked the story. It is highly recommended. Do listen to the first three volumes first, however.

Read my review of volume one: Echoes of Grey.

Read my review of volume two: The Memory Cheats.

Read my review of volume three: The Uncertainty Principle.

Find out more about Big Finish audios at their website: www.bigfinish.com.

Click to order Second Chances on CD or Download.

Note: No promotional consideration was paid for this review. I review because I enjoy it!

Book Review – Doctor Who: The Dying Light

  • Title: The Dying Light
  • Series: Doctor Who Companion Chronicles
  • Discs: 1 CD
  • Author: Nick Wallace
  • Director: Lisa Bowerman
  • Characters: Second Doctor, Jamie McCrimmon, Zoë Heriot, Quadrigger Stoyn
  • Frazer Hines (Jamie, The Doctor), Wendy Padbury (Zoë), Terry Molloy (Stoyn)
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 08/15/2018

The Companion Chronicles series by Big Finish usually has one or two performers only and is like a two-hander play. The Dying Light, however, has three performers, which makes this more like a traditional full-cast play, although Zoë gets very little to do. This is also the third audio play in the 50th Anniversary “Stoyn” Trilogy. The first audio play is The Beginning and the third is Luna Romana. I didn’t realize it was a trilogy when I purchased them separately, so I actually listened to Luna Romana first and then The Beginning and finally this one, but it still works without being too confusing.

The TARDIS with the Second Doctor, Jamie, and Zoë lands in a cave, and when they exit they find they are in a desert that looks like a sea from the heat shimmer, the sun is also a dying sun. However, the planet is not deserted and the TARDIS team soon find a large city called Sanctuary. The first person they meet is a scientist who is researching the local rock formations. The rock looks like granite but it’s very light, porous, and even buoyant. The Doctor gives the scientist a scanner. The scientist who doesn’t seem surprised at all at the TARDIS team’s sudden arrival, tells them where new arrivals should go. Following directions, they meet Catherine who explains more about Sanctuary. The Planet Provides is their motto, and she explains they have two types of storms here – sandstorms, which are dangerous because the sand can literally cut or blind you, so it’s best to stay under shelter until it passes, and the other kind of storm – that bring the ships. Sometimes small craft and other times other larger ships – but all are welcome at the Sanctuary. This explains why no one is surprised that the Doctor and his young companions have arrived. Catherine tells the Doctor that all faiths are welcome, and points to the flags of the different faiths. She brings him to a cave where food is grown and shows him a plant laden with pods that are filled with potable water. Then a storm comes and they see a ship crashing above – it passes the city and crashes into the sea. Catherine asks Jamie to join her and they rush to the rescue boats to rescue the passengers and crew of the ship. After the dramatic rescue, they find out that there’s been an accident – the scientist they met earlier has died, apparently falling off the cliffs where he was working. The Doctor is also brought to Stoyn who’s become a religious leader on Sanctuary. He has his priests bring the Doctor before him.

In part two, the Doctor and Stoyn square off against each other. First Stoyn insists the Doctor give him the TARDIS key. The Doctor does, but it doesn’t work for Stoyn because the Doctor’s set the TARDIS to never let Stoyn in. Stoyn decides to just take the TARDIS’s power so he can somehow return to Gallifrey. He tells Jamie that the Doctor was a god amongst gods but he left. As Stoyn’s attempts to steal power and power a beacon to get started, the threatening sand storm grows worse and worse. The Doctor realizes, through some encounters that Jamie and Zoë have with alien creatures that seem to made of the same stone as the Sanctuary, that Sanctuary is a living entity – and it provides everything that those living in the Sanctuary need. Because the World Provides – they don’t need technology, and tech is actually an anathema to the world, which is treated as an infection. Even the crashing ships are there because Stoyn needs them to escape and the others need new people to survive – not to the point that Sanctuary is a Bermuda Triangle in Space of traffic hazards, but some of the people on Sanctuary need company. As Stoyn ignores the Doctor’s warnings and explanations – and tries to operate his newly constructed and powered beacon, the sandstorm worsens. Zoë points out the symbols on tapestries and similar ones on the tunnels in the temple. Jamie remembers that the scientist they meet earlier thought the city looked like the ship. The Doctor has the people Catherine’s brought to the temple for shelter moving the tapestries and the city becomes a ship under full sail. The Doctor also tells Stoyn he must destroy his power converters and beacon. Stoyn doesn’t listen but it blows-up, and Stoyn disappears. The Doctor, Jamie, and Zoë quietly leave in the TARDIS. The Doctor tells Jamie that the city and the planet have hundreds of years before the sun goes out.

I liked this story better than its predecessor, The Beginning, but Stoyn is still an annoying character. He’s angry, homesick, and a bit stupid – but he also blames the Doctor for everything and doesn’t really seem to understand anything that’s going on. He also doesn’t listen to the Doctor – when Jamie, and then Zoë mention the rock creatures that attacked them – Stoyn insists they are lying. When the Doctor explains something about the power Stoyn needs and cannot get from the TARDIS, which seems like common sense – again, Stoyn insists the Doctor is lying. And Stoyn blames the Doctor for being carried away from Gallifrey.

Zoë is criminally underused in this story, which is a pity – Sanctuary seems like the type of place she’d really like.

Frazer Hines does a brilliant job as Jamie as well as playing the Doctor.

Overall, a good story and I recommend it.

Find out more about Big Finish audios at their website: www.bigfinish.com.

Click to order The Dying Light on CD or Download.

Note: No promotional consideration was paid for this review. I review because I enjoy it!

Book Review – Doctor Who: The Emperor of Eternity

  • Title: The Emperor of Eternity
  • Series: Doctor Who Companion Chronicles
  • Discs: 1 CD
  • Author: Nigel Robinson
  • Director: Lisa Bowerman
  • Characters: Victoria Waterfield, Jamie McCrimmon, Second Doctor
  • Cast: Deborah Watling, Frazer Hines
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 4/16/2018

**Spoiler Alert** The Emperor of Eternity is a volume in the Big Finish Companion Chronicles line of audiobooks and audio plays. The Companion Chronicles feature stories told from the companion’s point of view and usually rather than being a full play in the audio format like most of Big Finish’s productions, they are a smaller, two-hander production. The Emperor of Eternity is a purely historical story featuring Victoria, Jamie, and the Second Doctor (as played on the Doctor Who television series by Patrick Troughton) set in Ancient China during the end of the Chin Dynasty in 200 B.C.

Victoria tells most of the story with assistance from Jamie. The TARDIS materializes in space, gets hit by an asteroid and the re-materializes in Ancient China to make repairs. But as the Doctor, Jaime, and Victoria wander while waiting for the TARDIS to repair itself, they come across utter devastation. It seems that the general for the emperor took the “falling star” as a sign of the gods’ displeasure with the village where the meteor fell, so he ordered the destruction of the village and the killing of the men, women, and children living there. The TARDIS crew is appalled, especially Victoria.

They meet a young woman and warrior who takes them to another village. There they meet a wandering monk. The people of the village argue about who might be a spy or assassin out to kill the emperor. Some of the people in the village insist that as strangers, the TARDIS crew, especially Jamie must be assassins. Jamie insists the strange monk must be the assassin because he doesn’t really look like a monk. But Victoria says that the village should show kindness to everyone. She says that she and Jamie and the Doctor are travelers, and no doubt they should show a holy man respect. The Emperor’s warriors also arrive. Victoria also convinces them not to hurt anyone. But they take the Doctor prisoner in the night.

The next morning, discovering the Doctor missing, Jamie and Victoria decide they must rescue him. One of the people in the village agrees to lead them to the Imperial City. They sneak in through the underground tunnels, that her father built. In the tunnels, they discover rivers of mercury, which freak Victoria out a bit, but they successfully get to the throne room. They discover the Doctor is fine, and that the Emperor has asked him to provide an elixir to grant him eternal life. But in the throne room, the woman who led them to the city kills the old man on the throne. She blames the emperor for her father’s death because the mercury vapors in the underground tunnels killed him. She is executed by the emperor’s general – and the old man turns out to be a decoy. Victoria is appalled by this turn of events and the death and violence. Victoria, however, still argues for clemency, for understanding. She shows sensitivity and caring for all. The emperor insists the Doctor take him to his machine of wonders, TARDIS, which would allow him to wander in eternity. The Doctor refuses of course.

The Doctor and company are sent to the dungeons. That night, someone arrives and lets them out and offers to help them escape. They make their way to the TARDIS in the foothills of the mountains, but Victoria insists they must warn the village, thinking the emperor might target them for allowing prisoners to escape. Near the TARDIS, they again meet the monk from earlier. The general arrives also and captures Victoria. Victoria insists the Doctor and Jamie should leave without her. The monk reveals he is the real emperor, who disguises himself to find out what the people really thought of his rule. He is impressed by Victoria’s kindness and caring – and angered by his general’s violent answer to everything. But most importantly, the emperor has had a change of heart. He no longer thinks he needs to live forever to avoid the wrath of the gods. And he is angered at how his general has exploited and harmed his people. He fires and executes the general, vows to be a better emperor, and lets the Doctor, Jamie and Victoria go to the TARDIS unmolested.

The Emperor of Eternity is a good story. It’s nice to have a purely historical story for a change – and Deborah Watling does a wonderful job telling the story as Victoria. Frazer adds to the story as Jamie. Overall, this is an enjoyable tale and I recommend it.

Find out more about Big Finish audios at their website: www.bigfinish.com.

Click this link to order The Emperor of Eternity on CD or Download.

Note: No promotional consideration was paid for this review. I review because I enjoy it!

Book Review – Doctor Who: The Apocalypse Mirror

  • Title: The Apocalypse Mirror
  • Series: Doctor Who Companion Chronicles
  • Discs: 1 CD
  • Author: Eddie Robson
  • Director: Lisa Bowerman
  • Characters: Jaime, Zoë, Second Doctor
  • Cast: Frazer Hines, Wendy Padbury
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 03/07/2017

The Apocalypse Mirror is a Doctor Who Companion Chronicles audio play from Big Finish featuring the Second Doctor (Patrick Troughton), Jamie and Zoë. It is not part of the previous Zoë trilogy. The TARDIS lands in a big city in the far future, but it seems to be deserted. A hologram appears reminding them to stay in their homes. The Doctor, Jamie, and Zoë meet up with some rebels, who are convinced that “the state” is using the Hawkers to kidnap people. People are also suffering from “nostalgia sickness” seeing visions of the city that was, or a different city.

The Doctor, Jamie, and Zoë try to find out more, but Zoë finds a room of military computer equipment. None of the rebels knows how it works. Zoë gets it working, but has very bad news – a meteor is about five hours away from hitting nearby. The impact will destroy the city – and even if it’s far enough away to not actually hit the city directly, the cloud of dust and ash from the impact will block out the sun. The Hawkers attack.

The Doctor and Jamie end up at the council chamber where they meet the few in government – who are as clueless if not more so than the rebels. Yes, the government has a transmat system that they have used to try to bring people to the council chamber – but thousands of people have just disappeared, and the council knows nothing about them. Zoë is one of the disappeared. She finds out that there is another version of the city. That’s what the so-called, “nostalgia sickness” is – people who are forward-thinking, who want a better way of life for everyone, who aren’t stuck dwelling on the past, can see this other city – a city that moves forward into the future. The other city, the decrepit, old, half-abandoned city is stuck in the past. Zoë also says that the new city has the technology to destroy the meteor. The scientists built a phase mirror for something different, but it caused the city to be split in half – one-half old and stuck in the past – falling apart and doomed. The other half – new, full of people, exciting, and looking forward to (not fearing) the future. The people can cross-over to the new city and survive but they must want to – they must believe in the future and the new city. Jamie gives a speech via the hologram system to all the old city residents. He and the Doctor cross over to the New City and meet Zoë. Many of the rebels are there, but not all, and one of the women is reunited with her husband. The TARDIS, which had disappeared, is right where they left it in the New City. Zoë announces that over 4 million people made the transition to the New City, but just over 3 million are still in the old, doomed city. The Doctor, Jamie, and Zoë make their way to the TARDIS and leave.

The Apocalypse Mirror is about belief – belief literally making the world to be the way you believe it to be. If you believe the world is falling apart, that it’s doomed, that it’s the end, and everyone and everything is going to die – that will happen. But if you believe in the future, in progress, that things will always get better, that there is a future, that the future is a bright and successful and “happy” place – that will happen. The story is about how the power of belief shapes reality – that in a sense there is no empirical reality at all but believing makes it so and shapes reality itself. It’s a powerful message of hope in a time filled with apocalyptic films, books, and TV shows – filled with death and horror. This is a story that speaks to the power of a hopeful future and it’s importance, over doom and gloom messages and “end times” preaching. I found that to be a powerful and important message.

The audio brings together both Frazer Hines and Wendy Padbury as Jamie and Zoë to perform the story, and like others in the Companion Chronicles series – it is not a full audio play. However, unlike some in this series by Big Finish, this is closer to an audio play because Frazer and Wendy can play off each other – and Frazer plays the Second Doctor as well, so it feels much like he’s telling a story but doing all the voices. I enjoyed this story very much! The only negative, probably because of the short running time, but the ending seems a bit pat or contrived. Still, I highly recommend it.

Find out more about Big Finish audios at their website: www.bigfinish.com

Click here to order Doctor Who: The Apocalypse Mirror on CD or Download.

Note: No promotional consideration was paid for this review. I review because I enjoy it!

Doctor Who – The Seeds of Death Review

  • Series Title: Doctor Who
  • Story Title: The Seeds of Death
  • Story #: 48
  • Episodes: 6 half-hour parts
  • Discs: 2
  • Network: BBC
  • Original Air Dates: 01/25/1969 – 03/01/1969
  • Cast: Patrick Troughton, Frazer Hines, Wendy Padbury
  • Format: Standard, Black and White, DVD, NTSC

“Your leader will be angry if you kill me. I’m a genius!” – The Doctor

“How do you propose getting it to the launch pad without T-mat?” – Eldred
“Just so happens I found a petrol car in a motor museum.” – Ms. Kelly
“Really? What make?” – Eldred
“I have no idea but it has four wheels and it goes.” – Ms. Kelly

“The Seeds of Death” is one of my favorite Patrick Troughton stories, and I actually like it better than the first Ice Warriors story. For a six-parter it moves at a good clip too, in large part due to the various locations – and the computer voice commenting on the world situation makes the story feel like it’s on a larger scale, not the normal base under siege. There are a few issues with the T-mat system, but that’s part of the whole point.

The first episode largely introduces T-mat and the situation, there’s the female controller, Miss Kelly, who’s about to do a shift change sending an ill-fated controller to take over from Fewsham, who is known for making minor mistakes. Miss Kelly states one day Fewsham will make a major mistake – boy is she correct! The new controller for the day is almost immediately killed by an Ice Warrior on the moon control station for T-mat, another technician is also killed, Fewsham decides to save his own skin by throwing in with the Ice Warriors, and Phipps escapes and ends up in the solar store. Meanwhile, on Earth, all T-mat deliveries have stopped, causing food shortages, chaos, and disorder (this gets worse as the story goes on – at first there’s just great concern over the lack of deliveries).

The Doctor, Zoë, and Jamie land in the TARDIS in a rocket and space transportation museum. They meet the museum owner – an old rocket scientist. Kelly and her boss arrive, and try to convince the museum owner, Eldred, to help. The Doctor finds out about the issues with T-mat, which Kelly and her boss know isn’t working but they can’t communicate with the moon station to find out why. The Doctor proposes going in person to the moon to investigate. With Eldred’s help they get a rocket ready and the Doctor, Zoë, and Jamie head to the moon. The communications break down immediately.

On the moon, Phipps uses flare from the solar power generator to attack an Ice Warrior, it works for him but unfortunately knocks out the automatic homing beam for landing the rocket. Fortunately for all concerned, Phipps also tries to make radio contact with anyone, raises the rocket on short-range transmission and is able to set up a homing beacon.

After the Doctor arrives he goes to find out what’s going on, but Jamie and Zoë stay in the ship to check things out and make repairs. Unfortunately, the rocket’s engines are burnt out and can’t be repaired – it’s useless. The Doctor and company will need to return by T-mat. Jamie tells Phipps that the Ice Warriors are vulnerable to heat. Phipps has already discovered bright solar power can be used as a weapon against the Ice Warriors. The Doctor is captured by the Ice Warriors. He discovers they are sending deadly seed pods to Earth by T-mat (and is knocked out). Once T-mat is working, Kelly and some technicians arrive. Fewsham tells her that the controller went crazy and started killing everyone. Kelly doesn’t really believe it, but the Ice Warriors are in hiding.

Very soon after, Kelly meets up with Zoë, Jamie, and Phipps, and finds out the truth and that Fewsham is in league with the Ice Warriors. She also learns the Doctor’s been kidnapped. Jamie lets Kelly know the Ice Warriors are vulnerable to heat. They want to rescue the Doctor and get the heat turned up. Turning up the heating is a bit more complex than it sounds – the control is in main control with the Ice Warriors – Phipps tries to sneak in but can’t make it through the last grate. Zoë insists on trying and succeeds, with the Ice Warriors temporarily incapacitated by the heat. T-mat though is working and sending deadly seeds to earth. One kills one of the technicians in the London control office and reports come in by communications computer of deaths in other T-mat control offices. Not only that but the seeds expel a deadly foam that is causing a plant blight and absorbing the oxygen. All the deaths are from severe oxygen depletion. This, on top of the starvation and disruptions caused by T-mat not working to transport food and supplies.

Jamie and Phipps get the heat going and rescue the Doctor whom the Ice Warriors wanted to send into space. On Earth a minister shows up at T-mat control, complaining about the “unbelievable” report – he soon believes it as first the Doctor, Zoë, and Jaime are sent back to the Earth station and then Miss Kelly arrives, but Fewsham doesn’t follow as he said he would. Ice Warriors are sent by T-mat and attack guards but seem to have a single goal – to get to the Weather Control station.

The fungus (foam) and seeds are becoming a real problem, and the Doctor examines it, finding it to be organic and absorbing oxygen – threatening to make the atmosphere so thin humans couldn’t live, but it would be like the surface of Mars. The Doctor also discovers the fungus can be destroyed with simple water. He sends Zoë and Jamie to tell the commander about this. Unfortunately, he’s in a meeting with Ms. Kelly and the Minister, and the computer refuses to put the call through. Zoë decides to find the weather control herself, and Jamie comes along. They make it through the foam and to weather control, but find everyone there is dead and an Ice Warrior is on patrol preventing access to the now broken machine. There’s a bit of hiding from the Ice Warrior.

Back at control, the Doctor talks to Miss Kelly and the controller, and they get a video message from the moon – which includes the homing signal for the Ice Warrior fleet, and info on their plans. Fewsham finally grows a spine, but the Ice Warrior realizes what he’s doing. Still, the Doctor realizes they can put the signal on a telecom satellite and use it to draw the Ice Warrior fleet into orbit around the sun. Meanwhile, the Doctor asks about progress on getting rid of the fungus – only to discover the commander and Ms. Kelly never got the message because they were in a meeting. He also realizes Zoë and Jamie must have gone to weather control themselves. He runs off to rescue them. The Doctor is trapped at the door by the fungus. Jamie draws off the Ice Warrior and Zoë lets him in. They manage to use a solar weapon against the Ice Warrior and the Doctor gets the weather machine to make rain. The Doctor also makes one final trip to the moon where he disables the Ice Warrior homing beacon there – so the fleet will follow the other one into the sun, which it does. The Doctor also tells the Ice Warriors he’s figured out how to stop the fungus.

Back on Earth Eldred tries to convince Ms. Kelly that they need a secondary transport system as well as T-mat. Miss Kelly and the controller want T-mat controlled from Earth. The Doctor and the TARDIS crew head back to the museum and leave.

I like “Seeds of Death” – for a six parter it moves fast. Yes, the fungus is dish soap bubbles, but seriously – they did the same thing for the web/fungus in “Web of Fear” and it’s a bit more threatening here where it bubbles up to swallow people, plus there’s the whole “absorbing oxygen” thing that makes it seem deadly. Also, the first episode shows us how T-mat works, the issues of late shipments, Kelly’s professionalism, and Fewsham’s bad reputation – so when the Doctor arrives we’re actually ahead of him in terms of what is going on. This is Doctor Who showing not telling and it’s more effective.

The Ice Warriors are also held back and we only see parts, a hand, a weapon, legs, and feet. Even once we know who they are, when some of the Warriors get to Earth we just see legs and huge feet stomping through the forest. This is effective, and a good way to build suspense.

T-mat is an interesting system, and the entire point of the story is no system is perfect, so secondary systems, overrides, and methods to fix things are needed. Half the story could have been told with no alien invasion at all. When the Ice Warriors do invade they hit a thinly-manned station on the moon, which is easily taken over. Fewsham isn’t the typical “guy working with the invaders” – he doesn’t have any plans to get rich, or to obtain power, or anything – he’s simply a coward out to save his own skin. And from the first episode, we know he isn’t trusted by his co-workers anyway.

This story has some brilliant direction and a competent woman in T-mat Controller Kelly. The Ice Warrior costumes are less blocky. I highly recommend this story.

The six-part story with commentary and info text is on Disc One, and the special features are on Disc Two.