- 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.