THE SEEDS OF DOOM
First broadcast 31/1-6/3/1976 starring Tom Baker
Despite this tittersome comment being an oft-quoted line from this delicious six-parter, The Seeds of Doom is a dark, eerie and damn unpleasant story and one that, for me, stands tall at the end of Season Thirteen (one would argue, one of Doctor Who‘s best collection of episodes) and, indeed, within the entire Whoeuvre.
The first time I watched it was on its VHS release back
in 1994, some eighteen years after its initial transmission (incredibly this is now almost twenty years on). It was a story
that I knew very little about and had only seen a handful of pics from
and it was also one of the few Target novelisations from the Tom
Baker~era that I hadn’t read. But it topped DWM’s “Most Wanted DVD” polls so I was more than curious.
Six~parters often get labeled with being overlong – even Genesis of the Daleks suffers from upanddowncorridor~itus (I believe that’s the correct terminology) in a few episodes – but Seeds,
for me, fills every installment very tightly. Having the first two episodes
set in Antarctic was an astute move as it not only gives a geographical
depth to the tale but it also colours the story somewhat beautifully
But the main thrust of Seeds is
the undoubtable unpleasantness of the human race. Us humans are real
nasty in this one, displaying a fatal greed for knowledge, money and
power. Greed is what drives the entire narrative here with scientists (botanist John Stevenson), bureaucrats (Richard Dunbar of the World Ecology Bureau) and millionaires (plant-obssessed Harrison Chase) all with avarice on their mind. One greedy turn leads to another.
There’s also an unhealthy amount of gun~work on display.
Maybe this is why The Doctor gets so shockingly violent – he smashes
through a window, bops someone on the face and brandishes a gun too. The “heavies” in Seeds are
scary; properly frightening and you can see The Doctor thinks this too.
He’s on edge and out of his depth knowing he can’t reason with these
people. (I mean, you can even talk a Dalek out of killing you!)
very gritty Sweeney~esque turn
of events at the old manor belonging to villain of the piece, Harrison
Chase – one of the campest, yet utterly threatening bad guys The Doctor has
ever faced. Tony Beckley (pictured above left) has so many wonderful lines and plays Chase just on the
right side of madness but he’s got some stout competition. Mainly in the form of
Sylvia Coleridge’s Ducat (pictured right) is another in a long line of delightful older
women who pop up and enthrall with their eccentricities, and The Doctor
takes them all close to his heart. It would have been a joy to see her travel with Tom Baker’s Time Lord. She performs the Lady Bracknell-esque role in
an homage to Oscar Wilde’s Importance of Being Earnest “handbag” scene (a scene which Talons of Weng~Chiang also cited) – an absolute joy, and it’s clear Baker revels in her company.
Whereas stories like Talons of Weng Chiang and The Caves of Androzani feature terrific double~acts, Seeds is all about the solo performances. Added to Beckley and Coleridge, just drink in the cracking shows from: John Challis as killer with a conscious Scorby (pictured below left); Kenneth Gilbert as Richard Dunbar, whose calm calculating greed is measured by his redemptive change of heart; and the engaging Michael Barrington as Sir Colin Thackeray (who sadly chose not to travel with The Doctor and Sarah Jane).
Matching these performances is the finest soundtrack for a “classic” Doctor Who – from terrific two-time composer Geoffrey Burgon (who also scored Terror of the Zyons – read my thoughts on that beauty HERE). It’s eerie and fascinating, utilising acoustic sounds and atonal melodies to create a very otherly world. By itself, the music serves as a scintillating piece of work, yet complements the onscreen action perfectly.
The Seeds of Doom shows off Tom and Lis at the height of their powers together in an incredibly dramatic and nasty story that sees them meet the most delightful and slightly horrible of characters. They witness some downright unpleasantness and come up against a fearsome monster and human villain. And, for once, I can safely say this is a deserved six-parter – with nothing needing cut. Like the impressive Krynoid itself, the story is big and just keeps getting bigger until that very explosive ending.