Terror of the Vervoids
The Seeds of Doom
|Dates||Jan. 31, 1976 -
Mar. 6, 1976
With Tom Baker, Elisabeth Sladen.
Written by Robert Banks Stewart. Script-edited by Robert Holmes.
Directed by Douglas Camfield. Produced by Philip Hinchcliffe.
|Synopsis: A seed pod found under thousands of years of Antarctic snow proves to be as deadly as the Doctor fears, and doubly so when an insane collector vows to get a hold of it.|
A Review by Mary Redus 18/1/97
I do not profess to be an especially knowledgeable Doctor Who fan, but I do know what I like. And what I like is the episode, The Seeds of Doom, starring Tom Baker and Elisabeth Sladen. This was the first Doctor Who episode I'd ever seen and it still stands out in my mind as one of the scariest, and most fun. I like the contrast of the different settings from the frozen Antartic wasteland to the steamy confines of Chase's greenhouse. I like the way the story snared my interst from the first moments, building suspense with the mysterious seed pods and the infection of poor hapless Winlett. And then there's Sarah Jane in that silly snowsuit with those wacky looking furry snowboots, lying face down in the Antartic snow after a bomb blast and somehow managing to survive the sub-freezing temperatures anyway! (But you can forgive such oversights when the story has you so captivated that you can't touch the dial!)
I also like the way the Krynoid grew more and more menancing as we came to know more of its nature. To see a sentient plant twisting and writhing like vines in the wind, with a voice that sounded like dry leaves rustling in a tree seemed like a stroke of creative genius to me! "The plants must win...it will be a new world, silent and beautiful!" (Creepy thought!) "You have to die! All plant eaters must die!" (Jeepers! It's enough to make you want to give up carrots or something!) This was my first encounter with the Doctor and I found him strangely compelling; with his refusal to use violence, his quirky mannerisms, and head-long search for truth. I liked the way the story seemed to teach a moral about becoming so obsessed about something that your obsession literally consumes you! I was hooked, and I hope you will be as well.
A Review by Keith Bennett 13/6/98
I've thought it before and now, just after my most recent viewing of this story, my opinion has not changed. The Seeds Of Doom is my favourite Doctor Who adventure of all.
It is hard to find any fault in this thrilling, enthralling adventure. The characters, performances and grand story all merge beautifully into a breathtaking experience.
The characters couldn't be better. The early scenes with Stevenson are friends at the Antarctic are convincing, even though they don't hang around for very long. But it's the main ones who really catch the eye. Scorby is a memorable henchman in his sneering, brutal way. He is given depth and believability. Mark Jones' performance as Keeler is possibly the story's most underrated aspect -- his nervous character with its erratic body movements are wonderfully realised and convincingly natural. In Harrison Chase, however, played brilliantly by Tony Beckley, we have the ultimate and different madman, surely one of the best ever to be portrayed on screen. He doesn't laugh hysterically or scream out inane dialogue -- but he's not creepily charming in The Master style either. He's sinister and otherwordly, coming across as both a natural human being and a dangerous psycopath. There's even self-mocking humour with his character at times, like when he's playing his "hymn" for his plants and Hargreaves is yelling to try and tell him something. Chase stops and asks, almost comically, "Why are you shouting, Hargreaves?" An old joke that contrasts marvellously with his character.
The Doctor and Sarah also shine. The Doc must've taken angry pills before getting to London because he is as ferocious as he's ever been -- snapping, shouting, sneering... and yet, in the wink of an eye, flashing a smile and telling a joke. His serious attitude to the whole sitation helps us to believe that what's happening is serious. He's also violent, punching out the chauffeur and giving Scorby's neck the ol' twist and click. And Elizabeth Sladen has never been better -- her scenes when Sarah is taking on Scorby are tremendous.
The Krynoid itself also comes across well, particularly the scenes of it covering the house. In fact, the whole idea of plants taking over the world, although maybe not totally original, is wonderfully chilling.
This is an absolutely brilliant story. Exciting, entertaining, funny, scary, with memorable scene after memorable scene. I said it in referring to Genesis Of The Daleks and I'll say it again with The Seeds Of Doom -- no-one has the right to accuse Doctor Who of being anything more than a cheap children's show after watching this.
And then there's even Amelia Ducat! 10/10
Slightly Serious by Therese Drippe 26/3/99
One of the main joys in The Seeds of Doom is its number of beautiful villains. We have the absolutely mad, chilling Chase, whose glassy stare and slight, sinister smile were a joy to behold, and the temperamental head of the henchmen, replete with black beard and a mercenary background. Add to these two charming main personalities a number of assembly-line guards who are blatant cannon-fodder, a few weak in-betweeners like the scientist and the butler, and the Chase Manor becomes a very interesting place. And then to top it all off (literally) we have the krynoid, who is working on becoming the size of St. Paul's cathedral.
This is a very violent episode of Doctor Who, with a great deal of gunplay, shooting, shouting, punching, plant-molesting, compost-grinding, glass-smashing, and even some nasty scenes with weed killer. The krynoids are definitely "behind-the-couch" material, chiefly in the way they possess people. Who cannot be at least slightly chilled by the spectacle of the poor scientist, his breathing labored, as he struggles with the green er - stuff - that is overtaking his body?
However Seeds of Doom is not all terrifying monsters (well, terrifying if you're ten or younger), but also has its moments of hilarity. We have Amelia Ducat, plant painter extrordinaire, and the Doctor doing yo-yo work and propping his inimitable shoes on the desk at UNIT. "Is he quite sane?" And anyone who does not find the spectacle of a giant green blob waving tentacles, flowers, and what look like plant versions of the Dalek's sink plungers funny, is either too scared or spends too much time reading Spinoza and Kant. Chase also, has many great roll-on-the-floor speeches, such as the one where he informs his plants of the dawn of a new age of leaf, flower and stem. And of course, the usual frustrated Doctor Who villain line: "Why am I surrounded by idiots?"
Seeds of Doom was in all ways satisfying, and the six episodes were wonderful, almost never dragging. The scenes in the Arctic were not spectacular, when compared with what was to come, but exciting enough (and let's not talk about the styrofoam - oops, I mean snow). All in all, I put this second on my top ten favorites. It satisfies on all levels. 10/10
A Review by Kris Hough 25/11/99
Hmmm...this story seems to get a fair amount of praise, and I can't say as where I disagree too much. I am no fan of the 6 part+ stories. I feel they very rarely hold together without massive amounts of padding. I am also not usually watching as they were inteneded to be viewed. I watch most of my Doctor Who in movie format that I tape off of PBS. So that may have something to do with it, but I still generally don't much like the longer stories. That said, I enjoyed The Seeds of Doom quite a bit. I think perhaps it could have done with one less episode worth of material, but it certainly would not have been necessary. I enjoyed the Antarctica storyline that seemed to take up the first two episodes or so. I kept thinking the whole time about John Carpenter's The Thing. This aspect of the story was done very well, with good characters and aside from the styrofoam snow, good visuals. I thought the Krynoid here was fairly menacing and I felt bad for the scientist who was transforming. The idea that Scorby and Keeler could just fly into the camp and then fly out was a little far-fetched..but we as Doctor Who fans must ignore these sort of things for the greater good.
I feel that in the next 4 episodes that take place back in England, largely in Chase's estate, there could be some editing done. By and large, these episodes are very good, with decent effects some wonderful acting from Tom Baker, Liz Sladen, and Tony Beckly as Chase. A very good and somewhat sympathetic "villain". The Krynoid itself once it had grown to mammoth proportions also came across pretty well. And the ideas that were brought up, such as plants attacking and taking over, were fairly menacing, and frightening. So in all those ways, I think that The Seeds of Doom is quite an entertainin Tom Baker Adventure. I don't place in classic status, but it does rank pretty high.
A Review by Usman Obaje 17/2/00
"The Music's Terrible." -The Doctor, ep.3 of Seeds of Doom.
Yes this statement said by the Doctor is very true with this adventure. Don't get wrong there are plenty of reasons why i like this story like the Doctor (a little too aggressive, but finally showing his seriousness in a bad situation), Sarah, Chase, Scorby, and the idea of plants taking over. A majority of the previous reviews stated its good points, and even say this story is a classic. Well... it's close but not close enough.
After watching it again I notice some problems with the story. Here they are starting from episode one.
(ep.1) Why was the Doctor back as UNIT's Scientic Advisor, or more clearly why was he on earth in the first place? I mean did he arrive in england trying to bring Sarah back to Earth (a major theme of the thirteenth season), and just happened to visit UNIT, and hear about this? Or did they use the time-space telegraph device to signal the Doctor to come to Earth like in Terror of the Zygons? This wasn't explained very well as illustrated by the scene in Dunbar's Office in episode one where the Doctor first appears with no explanation on how he got there.
(ep.1) In the Antartic, Stevenson, and his crew discover the first pod. The Doctor comes to investigate. Question here is: Why didn't the Doctor take the TARDIS to get to Antartica?
(ep.1,2) Later on the Doctor discuss with Sarah that the planet the Krynoid comes from, the plant eat the animals. Question I have is: First of all do the Krynoids have spaceships, or the ability to travel through space. What I'm trying to get at is how did the pods get to Earth? This wasn't explained that well either. Second: even if they had a way of depositing the pods on Earth why of all places but Antartica, the one continent on earth that is scarce of animals and plants because it is all ice. I mean that's just stupid.
(ep.2) Where was the plane stored that Scorby and Keeler got away in? this was just too convenient, like their story of getting lost in Antartica.
(ep.3) How did Sarah and the Doctor survive the sub-zero temperatures after the explosion?
Other problems were the one time ability for the Krynoid to talk in episode 5 and the lack of blood on Chase's chopping machine after Henderson and Chase went through it in episode 6.
The other downside towards this story goes to the quote I listed at the top of the review. The 'music' was terrible, and I'm not just talking about the 'Hymn of the plants'. Some of the ultra worst moments were at the end of episode one when the krynoid strangles that guy, oh man that 'music' just destroyed the drama of the scene. It was so flowerily done. Then in episode 3 when the Doctor and Sarah escaped Scorby, the chase 'music' with the drums was just as awful, and in the final episode when chase is chopped up by his machine, the 'music' is so awful that I turned my VCR off, and almost returned the tape for my money back.
Needless to say the Seed of Doom had a lot of potential, but with this points expressed, I give a 6/10. No, on second thought, the music was so terrible it reminds me to give it a 5.25/10.
What, no galactic weedkiller? by Ken Wrable 24/2/00
Make no mistake - the Golden Age of Dr Who is from 1975 to 1977. Unlike some other eras of the show, the stories produced in this time period are neither dull but consistent (see Pertwee) nor erratically brilliant but often embarrassing (Hartnell and McCoy) nor visually striking but as nourishing as candyfloss (Davison and C Baker). They're just fantastic, unparalleled, the best television science-fiction ever and although it was only two and a half years, it's amazing the production team was able to keep the quality up for so long.
A case in point: The Seeds of Doom. Now you could say that this is a shamelessly derivative story which steals directly from The Thing From Another World. It's peopled with stereotypes, the monster is as subtle as a walking Christmas Tree (actually, it is a walking Christmas Tree. Nearly) and to top it all, the Doctor doesn't actually do that much to help the situation, apart from breaking the odd window and clubbing the odd chauffeur. And you'd be right, of course. But I'd still hold this one up as an utter masterpiece, a six-part story that demands to be watched all the way through with maybe the best (as in most terrifying, on a primal level) alien ever depicted in the series. And I think at least part of the reason I think this is because of the way the programme was being made (that is, scripts, direction, acting, special effects) at this point.
So what's with the Krynoid? Why's it so compelling? Why did I run dry whole pencil cases of green felt tips trying to recapture it after I was first exposed to this so-called family entertainment at the age of seven? It may be because it is so completely alien - it doesn't want to conquer or enslave or rant at people, it just wants to consume them. It may be because of the way it engulfs and transforms people (Seeds, like a number of stories of this period, foreshadows Alien) . It may be the way it grows so quickly and the fact it looks so organic and messy. But I think the secret killer ingredient is that ominous rattling noise it makes.
And if that were not enough you've got some great great baddies here. Harrison Chase! What a nutter! What a fantastically fastidious and musically challenged headcase! And how finely judged is Tony Beckley's playing of him, always teetering on the edge of but never quite falling into full-on campness. Plus John Challis as Scorby (aka Swarthy)! Shaggy, moustachioed and polar-necked in resplendent Seventies style, enunciating his threats so precisely, but you always knew he was going to crack when the pressure was on. And don't you love the contempt he invests the single word "Arnold" with?
Plus you've got Tom Baker (here in full militant action mode) whose performance as the Doctor is as awe-inspiring as ever. My favourite Tom moment here is when he's brought in front of Chase under armed guard and then commands the loony horticulturist to hand over the pod. And of course the incomparable Elisabeth Sladen as Sarah. Seeds sports one of the most chilling cliffhangers ever at the end of part three, where Chase exposes Sarah's arm to the germinating pod and lisps "I must know what happens when the Krynoid touches human flesh". Sarah really looks traumatised.
A dark and moody score, courtesy of Geoffrey Burgon (not Dudley Simpson, for a change), great location shooting in the estate of an English country house, some highly effective model shots of the fully grown Krynoid dominating the landscape. Oh and some stock footage of some aeroplanes flying. Points against: no Brigadier. But I guess you can't have everything.
Magnificent by Mike Morris 1/4/00
A strange thing happened to me recently. Something wonderful and unexpected. I rediscovered The Seeds of Doom.
"What?" I hear you cry. "But it wasn't lost." Well, no, but it was to me, in the same way that all those Hinchcliffe stories were lost. You see, they're just too... classic. Straight-laced. There are exceptions, opf course, but by and large we've got the same old ground being very effectively retrodden; pick a film! Copy it! Create a monster! There's your story! Occasionally something new is thrown in, say, a splash of Time Lord mythology or a moral dilemma for the Doctor, but we're still very much in similar territory here. All very laudable, and it's good television, but after a few viewings they become a little... flat. Predictable. Dare I say it, simplistic and (gasp) dull.
And, somehow, The Seeds of Doom always ended up in that "classic" category, along with, say, Planet of Evil (Forbidden Planet + Jekyll and Hyde = Story). Seeds of Doom? It's Day of the Triffids with the Doctor in it.
But I was wrong. The Seeds of Doom is wonderful, it's spectacular, it's thoroughly riveting. But why? I mean, it shouldn't really be any good. It should be rubbish. Try disagreeing with the following paragraph and you'll see what I mean.
"The Seeds of Doom is silly and throwaway, features a ludicrous and unoriginal monster with powers and origins that are never adequately explained, and a collection of stereotyped one-dimensional characters (the mad millionaire, the eccentric old woman, etc.). The ending shows a complete lack of imagination. The portrayal of the Doctor is unacceptable - he is violent and even carries a gun."
True? Well, yes. So why is The Seeds of Doom so damn good?
Maybe it's the performances. In many respects this is Tom Baker's best performance as the Doctor. The Doctor here is completely unpredictable, his character changing from scene to scene. He's brusque and rude sometimes, the congenital idiot on other occasions, sometimes a standard action-hero, sometimes thoughtful, sometimes aloof... and yet Tom manages to pull all these different threads of the character together and gives us a Doctor that is completely, utterly believable. It rather puts Colin Baker's performance in The Twin Dilemma in perspective, I'm afraid to say.
And then you've got the guest cast. Basically, actors love caricatures, and every single character in The Seeds of Doom is a caricature. Look at Harrison Chase - he's an evil maniac who's completely, utterly off his trolley and downright nasty anyway. What actor wouldn't love to play him? In the event, Tony Beckley's performance is superb. And then there's Scorby... he's a hired mercenary! He's horrible! That's it! Ample opportunity for any actor to have a ball.
There's the one-liners, too. But then, even these owe a lot to their comic delivery by the actors. Look at them out of context; "Hand over the pod", "even your pension", "I win". It's not exactly Oscar Wilde, is it?
And there's the direction. The whole thing has a wonderfully fast pace to it, and somehow manages to avoid sagging despite the fact that the plot is pretty slow and repetitive. What's more, the chases and fight scenes are actually interesting! That bit with the Doctor beating up the chauffeur in the quarry is great! Hats off to Douglas Camfield, and also to Geoffrey Burgon who's music is wonderful (much as I dislike disagreeing with other reviewers), really adding to the tension of some scenes.
But even so, there's something else underlying The Seeds of Doom, something almost that sums up the Hinchcliffe era and yet at the same time subverts it. There's no pretensions to be serious drama, not really. The baddies don't have any background or depth, they're just mean. The monster is going to kill everyone, and that's that. The Doctor doesn't agonise over whether he's doing the right thing, he just goes ahead and does it. And he doesn't bother outwitting the Krynoid, he just blows it sky-high. There's no message here, just pure mindless enjoyment in twenty-five minute instalments; forget the moral dilemma in Genesis of the Daleks, or the psychological insights of The Robots of Death, this is what the Hinchcliffe era was really about. Nasty monsters, evil but witty villains, meaningless action. We vanished into the realm of "camp" a long time ago.
It's The Androids of Tara of its era. Nothing summarises those seasons better, with the possible exception of Talons. Only even Talons had a theme, a unique backdrop - Chinese coolies and Victoran London. The Seeds of Doom doesn't even bother with that. And where Talons has well thought-out plot and character motivation, The Seeds of Doom makes no pretence at internal logic. Where does the Krynoid come from? How does it control other plants? How and why does it possess Chase? How come it can speak it one episode, but not in any others? They're all valid questions, but there's one valid answer to all of them - "who cares? It's only a story."
And that's why the violence is acceptable, really, because, although the Doctor beats a rather large number of people up, they're not real people. They're just villains, bad guys. The security guards in Chase's employ don't go home in the evenings to a wife and kids. They're thugs, plain and simple, so they deserve a good thumping. There's no attempt to get in the mind of the mercenaries, as Eric Saward would in later years. Why bother to understand a bunch of action-men in uniforms?
But if The Seeds of Doom is similar to The Androids of Tara, it's actually more courageous in one respect. Androids is very self-conscious; it makes no secret of the fact that it's all a big joke, really. But The Seeds of Doom actually has the sheer audacity to pretend to be a serious drama. It's played so straight, it's shot so straight, and it even contains a number of genuinely disturbing scenes (Chase communicating with his plants, Keeler strapped to the bed). I'm speechless in admiration.
Suddenly, from nowhere, it's one of my favourite stories of all time. It's wonderful, it's superb, it's peerless.
But then, I think everyone already knew that; it just took me a while to realise it. I'm glad I did.
A Review by Daniel Spelner 20/5/00
The idea of plant life turning hostile is a risible one, but with convincing characters, circumstances and Douglas Camfields' serious approach, it becomes somewhat less ridiculous. Only in the Hinchcliffe era could Camfield push the dramatic parameters this far, introducing an intensity that transfixes. Powerful, believable acting is crucial to this type of story and it has an abundance of it. This is illustrated in Keeler's metamorphosis which has a horrible realism as he pleads to be released from his dreadful plight. The methodical, supercilious villain is played by Tony Beckley who gives him an remoteness that makes his descent into insanity credible, and Beckley plays it with absolute conviction. The Seeds of Doom was Camfields' final story. Famed for running his productions akin to military campaigns, he was probably the greatest director the show had. An acutely disciplined and charismatic man, he was held in great esteem by the industry for his acclaimed work.
The Roots of All Evil by Andrew Wixon 3/12/00
It's been argued many times that Tom Baker's first three seasons were DW's high water mark in terms of combining creative, critical, and popular success: this era's classics still stand up well today. And, Genesis of the Daleks aside, what they have in common in script terms is their gleeful pleasure in ransacking the horror movies of Universal and Hammer for all sorts of visual and dramatic cues. All this we know; all this is obvious. What's less obvious is why The Seeds of Doom features amongst their number so automatically.
The roots (sorry, it's obligatory) of this story show. The Thing From Another World (stealing from the Nyby version and anticipating Carpenter's), The Quatermass Experiment, even an Avengers episode. But even so, these aren't the usual sources for a Robert Holmes-commissioned script. And then there are the influences that never seem to get mentioned - mainly the James Bond franchise and similar gritty action-adventure series.
The Krynoid is a far from typical Doctor Who enemy. It lacks a face, a complex agenda of any kind, even a voice of its' own for most of the story (the scene in Episode Five where the Krynoid actually speaks is one of the few in the serial not to ring true). It is in every sense alien, compared to the usual villains of the time - Davros, Solon, Sutekh. If anything this foregrounds the truly human adversaries the Doctor and Sarah must face, the Krynoid only becoming the true menace in the last third of the story. Before that, the characters are motivated by human flaws, and these drive the story: Stevenson's curiosity, Dunbar's ambition, Scorby's greed, and Keeler's cowardice.
Only Chase seems like a 'normal' villain. Surely one of the Hinchcliffe era's strengths was the producers' realisation that, in order for the fourth Doctor's personality not to unbalance the drama, he required opponents equally capable of mesmerising the audience, and in Harrison Chase they had one of their best. In theory simply a normal human, he stands up well alongside any of the series' celebrated superhuman enemies. It's telling that episode five closes with a shot of Chase's expression rather than the more obvious threat of the looming Krynoid.
The sense that this is not a typical Doctor Who story carries through elsewhere. The Doctor is an aloof, often intimidating figure, almost totally devoid of his usual humour, brusquely patronising his allies and dealing with his foes with ruthless violence whenever necessary. Science is seen almost as a threat, and is no solution to the menace. It's amusing that, shortly after telling Scorby that 'Bullets and bombs won't solve everything' the Doctor is reduced to calling in an airstrike on the Krynoid to resolve the situation - and when else have events outflanked him so completely that he's forced into such blunt tactics?
The production values and performances don't let the script down. The WEB being fairly obviously based in BBC TV centre raises a smile, as perhaps might the Antarctic exteriors, but these don't detract from the story. Other than perhaps Chase's army of two, all the performances are faultless. Apart from Tony Beckley as Chase, Mark Jones as Keeler and John Challis as Scorby are particularly good - Challis is lightyears away from his much more famous role in the BBC's Only Fools and Horses...
This is Doctor Who pushing the envelope more completely and more extremely than any of the so-called oddball stories. The series has seldom been so down-to-earth, so dark, so casually and openly violent. And it's seldom been so compulsively watchable.
A Review by Richard Radcliffe 27/2/01
The 4th Doctor and Sarah Jane were one of the best Doctor/Companion teams the series has ever produced, maybe even the very best. This story sees them at the peak of their powers, and is as engrossing an adventure as you will find.
The story is really 2 stories moulded into one. The first part is set in the Antarctic, and is spread over the first 2 parts. It's the highlight of the story. The science base provides the claustrophia on which the subsequent revelations achieve their maximum effect. The realization of the alien menace is very effective. The Krynoids are terrifying.
The 2nd part is set in the familiar territory of England - it is really the last of the UNIT stories - but there is very little left of that DW central idea. Played out mostly within the grounds of a stately home, the Krynoid menace is brought home. The villain of the piece is Harrison Chase, a multimillionaire, with an unhealthy adoration for plants.
My abiding memory of this, from the dim and distant past of my childhood, was walking through an elaborate greenhouse at some park. The plants seemed to enclose me in, and thanks to Seeds I couldn't wait to get out to the open air!
Doctor Who was terrifying at times back in the Seventies. The show was at its peak. This is proof why - it's a rivetingly good yarn - with the Doctor the best ever. Excellent. 10/10
A Review by Terrence Keenan 11/4/02
I hadn't seen this story in a long time. It was always a favorite tale, a great action adventure story.
The Seeds of Doom is that, and much much more.
The first thing that struck me was how smooth the direction was. Douglas Camfield, in one of his last efforts of the 70's, give the story drive and inertia. Events move smoothly, the shots are all framed well, images are captured that stay in the mind.
Then there is the story itself. The first two episodes take place in Antarctic, and have a creepy, sinister feel to them. There a nice dual crisis of the pod affecting Winlett and the arrival of Scorby and Keeler with motivations of their own. Events escalate as Winlett gives in to the Krynoid that's infected him and begins killing, while Scorby puts his ruthless plan into action.
The Bulk of the story takes place in the estate of Harrison Chase. The Doctor and Sarah attempt to capture the stolen Krynoid pod, then shift into holding things at bay until a solution to the growing menace can achieved. And as the story moves along towards its explosive climax, the dangers grow in size and shape.
The characters are archetypes: the scientist, the deranged genius, the mercenary, the man of greed. Call then cliches, but the strength of the performers and the conviction in which they play their roles, specifically Tony Beckley as Chase and John Challis as Scorby moves them beyond their one note status. John Challis makes Scorby a very believable mercenary and hired thug. Beckley shows Chase to be unhinged from the beginning, and increases his madness until his gruesome demise. Sylvia Coleridge provides some comic relief as Amelia Ducat, a painter of plants who helps the Doctor and Sarah in more ways than one.
This is probably one of Tom Baker's best 4th Doc portrayals, full stop. We see the Doctor's more aggressive side, his willingness to wage war when its called for. He's angrier than normal because he knows from the beginning what a menace the Krynoid truly is. There's no time for moralizing, no time to try and reason with this true alien menace. He carries a gun, gets into a couple of nasty fights, including breaking a stool over Scorby's back to save Sarah at one point. He harangues authority figures into getting involved with the fight. Tom Baker weaves a huge bundle of emotions into one cohesive character. It's astonishing and brilliant.
Sarah, is Sarah, as usual: getting involved, getting into trouble, being rescued, and rescuing the Doctor as well. Liz Sladen is always on, always rock solid.
Then there's the monster itself. It's the catalyst for all the action and something quite scary, combining body horror (how it comes into being) with big alien menace (and I do mean big). Like many elements of the story, the Krynoid becomes more dangerous as the story progresses, controlling plants, controlling humans growing larger, and in the end, getting close to the point of spewing seeds of itself all over the planet. It can't be reasoned or bargained with. It consumes anything and everything in its path.
One of the best things about the 4th Doc was his ability to get moral and ethical points across without resorting to boring speeches. Usually, a word or better a simple action sufficed for him to get his point across. Going along with that was realizing that, at times, you sometimes just had to roll up your sleeves and fight. The Seeds of Doom is probably the most extreme example of this. And it makes it very special.
The Seeds of Doom is one of the all time classics, mainly because it's not a typical DW story, although all the elements are there. It's a straight action adventure, with nods of the Avengers tossed in. It's definitely one of Tom Baker's best stories, and one that belongs in every fan's top ten.
Is it a Doctor Who story? by Tim Roll-Pickering /8/02
One of the most striking features of The Seeds of Doom is the way it could easily have been a story for an Earth based science fiction series featuring a pair of investigators (Of modern series, The X-Files springs most obviously to mind) and very little of the basic story would have to change at all. The question naturally arises as to whether or not this story is really a Doctor Who story at all. The previous two years of Tom Baker stories show the Doctor as a wanderer at heart, occasionally dragged back to Earth at some reluctance. By contrast this story sees him as so fully established on Earth that he first appears in the World Ecology Bureau and can easily call upon resources. Then there's the trip to the Antarctic which is by helicopter rather than by TARDIS (making the story's ending bizarre since there has been no opportunity for the TARDIS controls to ever be set for Antarctica) whilst back in Britain the Doctor and Sarah once more travel around at ease. This is quite at odds, especially since the forthcoming years of stories hardly ever see the Doctor with any form of automatic credentials amongst the establishment. And then there is the level of violence, which sees the Doctor laying into several of Harrison Chase's thugs and picking up a gun at ease. Whilst the previous The Brain of Morbius had seen the Doctor similarly prepared to resort to such tactics to deal with his opponents, this basic departure from the core ethos of the series is nevertheless shocking.
There's a lot to commend this story for. The use of videotape for the location scenes means that they integrate with the studio sequences far more easily than is often the case (though the modelwork of the Krynoid attacking Chase's mansion now stands out since it is on film) and the direction reinforces this so that there's a strong sense of a contemporary drama. Even the scenes in the Antarctic don't seem a problem. The Krynoid is perhaps the hardest element to realise, but in the earlier stages it remains convincing. As it slowly gets larger it initially looks like the Slyther from The Dalek Invasion of Earth and suffers many of the same weaknesses, but then the giant version once more looks imposing and terrifying.
On the acting side Tom Baker and Elisabeth Sladen give their usual strong performances and they are supported by several excellent ones from the guest cast. As Harrison Chase Tony Beckley gives a masterful performance showing how the eccentric millionaire descends into insanity whilst John Challis gives a good performance as Scorby that is light years from his more famous role as Boycie in Only Fools and Horses. Mark Jones manages to bring to Keeler a sense of tragedy though Kenneth Gilbert's performance as Dunbar is highly forgettable. The real disappointment is that this is the last story for well over a decade to feature UNIT and none of the regulars appear at all. Instead we get the ill fated Sergeant Henderson and the limited Major Beresford, neither of whom appear for more than the last two episodes and give little reason to hope that they would return for future stories. This is a complete damp squib ending for UNIT. Perhaps the best performance of all goes to Sylvia Coleridge as Amelia Ducat, who manages to combine an outer sense of forgetfulness with a strong will inside.
Robert Banks Stewart's script is strong with some very good characterisation, especially for Keeler as he struggles to escape the horror he has stepped into. However the ending is a little too coy, being little more than the RAF flying in and blowing up the Krynoid. The Doctor contributes little to the story other than securing the location of the second Krynoid pod and then discovering who has stolen it. Otherwise this is a story that could so easily have been told elsewhere. This is ultimately The Seeds of Doom's main weakness and the one which drags it down. A good piece of drama but not a particularly obvious Doctor Who story. 7/10
Krynoid pods under the bed at midnight… by Nick Needham 17/9/02
Excuse the self-referencing. I already mentioned elsewhere that The Seeds of Doom ranks with The Talons of Weng-Chiang, in my experience, for possessing the power to weave an enchanting spell over the souls of Dr Who sceptics. So, having told my Talons story, here’s the Doom one.
This time it was more difficult: an entire family to convert. Two middle-aged parents and five children from roughly 16 downwards. It must have been one of the children – the oldest boy Daniel, probably – who wanted to see a Dr Who video. But somehow everyone got mixed up in the matter, and I knew from the parents’ comments that they were expecting a cheap bit of laughable rubbish. Well, there were quite a few specimens that would have lived up to their cynical sneers; I mean, I could have shown them Timelash or Time and the Rani. (Sorry, bound to have offended someone who idolizes these underrated classics.) However, I stubbornly went the opposite route, meditated on what might wipe those sneers off their hardened faces, and soon found myself marching forth with The Seeds of Doom clutched in my fist.
So the lights were doused and the action began. Not too auspiciously; the young teenage girl Hannah made sarcastic remarks about polystyrene snow. But as the pods began bursting, and the men began mutating and dying ("What happened to him?" – "Him? Oh, he died"), and Tom Baker’s Doctor began exuding one of his darkest, most driven performances, and Harrison Chase began almost stealing the show as nasty camp plant-worshipping villain extraordinaire, the sarcasms were over. By the time the RAF had obliterated the second Krynoid, and the lights went back on, the spell had woven its perfect mesmeric charm. The parents looked at me; the look said it all. They’d been anticipating something on the level of Dastardly and Muttley, and instead had got an eyeful of something more like Quatermass and the Pit. Everyone agreed that it had been very, very good, and demanded more. I promised Genesis of the Daleks next time.
As for the title of this piece, it concerns one of the younger boys, Jonathan. He had to go to bed pretty soon after the show was over. But something was wrong. Was he feeling sick? Not exactly. He was frightened in case there was a Krynoid pod under his bed. That was 1996, bringing back memories of yours truly in 1966 with equivalent terrors. Yes, Dr Who can still freak ‘em out.
It’s slightly superfluous after the above to add that The Seeds of Doom is one of my all-time favourites. Perhaps I’ll just mention the huge contribution made to the story by Geoffrey Burgon’s wondrously sad, haunting, unearthly music. It’s a shame they didn’t make more use of him (Terror of the Zygons is I think the only other Dr Who adventure he graced). It’s not often you watch a TV show and deliberately watch the credits to see who composed the incidental music, which is what happened to me after one of the BBC Narnia adaptations – I was sure it was Geoffrey Burgon, and I was right. The CD with the complete Terror of the Zygons and The Seeds of Doom music is perfect background for reading science fiction tales.
I suppose my only regret is that somewhere out there a young man is still casting furtive and fearful glances under his bed at midnight to make sure there are no alien pods. Permanently screwed-up, and it’s all my fault.
Now if you’ll excuse me, it’s time for me to retire… What was that?
The colour for monsters is always gweeen... by Joe Ford 20/3/03
One of the reasons this story will always stay with me is because its so bloody scary. Oh, not the whole thing, in fact for a Hinchcliffe/Holmes production there are relatively few frights. On the whole no it's those terrifying bits with Keeler in the middle episodes that get me. The worst is the horrible moment that we realise he is succumbing to the killer instinct of the Krynoid as he eyes a plate of raw meat in front of him. The other is Keelerès desperate pleas for help as his skin begans to decay with Chase's icy dismissal to do anything as he is turning into "a marvellous new species of plant..." brrr... And the last is the scene where Keeler asks Sarah to untie him prmosing not to hurt her, when she refuses he starts growling and screaming... which of course leads to the meat scene... horrible but very effective.
And that is one of the reasons this story is so effective, they don't for a second shy away from the horror of the idea of a man transforming mind and body into a plant. Keeler is one of those pathetic characters you can't help but like and once he is absorbed you sympathy shoots up. It helps that the Krynoid 'humanoid' costume looks so wonderful (with all those gross tendrils hanging from his head... yuck!) and that the entirely commited cast are reacting with appropriate horror.
Another strength of the story is the entertaining and witty script but that's a given when Holmes is in the script editors chair. The essential runaround story is entirely subverted after two episodes as the tale twists from no-where into another alien invasion plot albeit a refreshing one since it's been at least two seasons (not counting Zygons as their invasion hardly got underway!!!) since we had an effective one. Each character is carefully crafted to add something to the story. We love the Sarah in this because she's gone all Emma Peel on us, running around, doing lots of cool detective bits and generally being a bit kick arse. The Doctor is at his all time most violent and moody (two traits that Colin Baker would take and run with later), adding a lot of drama to the story. Scorby is scum, we hate his guts as he wanders through the story shooting, hitting and generally being a bit abusive. Harrison Chase is one of the scariest Who bad guys ever, he is a bit camp which msakes his sadistic, humanity hating side all the more chilling. And even Sir Charles has a part to play being every bit the charming and helpful British civil servant. And not forgetting that dappy old bat Ms Amelia Ducat who steals any scenes she's in with her cavalier attitude and hysterical eccentric-ness!!!
Given Hinchcliffe is in control of the budget (ie, feeding it more and more from other BBC projects!) and Douglas Camfield is directing (his last story unfortunately but at least its a corker!) the whole thing looks fabulous. The antartic base comes across as a claustrophobic and frightening location (the antartic wastes replicated on British countryside with startling results) and the wonderful action scenes around Chase's house and very exciting and well paced. The sets are exquisite and the majority of the effects divine (there are a few problems with the larger, mobile Krynoid but then the full scale blob on top of the house looks superbly menacing so whose complaining?). At six long episodes it never gets dull and although its rounded off quite convienently with a UNIT explosion (c'mon as soon as we realise they're around the conclusion was forgone!) the cliffhangers are all top notch and twist the story in another rivetting direction. There are just so many chases, guns, killer plants, bluffs, double bluffs and horrible murders to keep you entertained.
The acting is of the highest calibre and no one performer lets the production down. Tom Baker ("Nurtured... you don't mean to say you've been feeding it?"). Lis Sladen ("Oh not to save your skin, not after what you did to us!"), Tony Beckley ("Your death will be agonising Doctor but mercifully quick") and John Challis ("Don't push your luck because if you do I'll start again exactly where I left off!") all give impressive, extremely charismatic performances.
I love this story, it thrills, chills and entertains. It rounds off season thirteen (the best Hinchcliffe year in my book) in style. No other Doctor Who story could get away with the deliciously villanous line of "You'll pass through my compost acceleration unit and be pumped into the garden..." Brilliant stuff...
A Review by Paul Rees 21/7/03
An odd story, this one. Archetypal Who elements are found throughout - however, they are accompanied by some decidedly non-Whoish elements. This uneasy mixture means that, despite its undoubted greatness, The Seeds of Doom can only acquire the status of being a 'flawed classic'.
Let's take the negative elements first. The conclusion to the story is, it has to be said, a disappointment. Not only do the RAF simply drop bombs on Chase's house, but we see a UNIT team without the Brigadier, or indeed any of the regulars! At the end of watching Seeds of Doom, I always think...'well is that it?', and feel somewhat short-changed.
The Doctor's use of violence is also problematic; he carries a gun but insists that he won't use it - which is fair enough. However, does he really have to duff up the chauffeur so brutally? As The Discontinuity Guide notes, at times Seeds feels more like an Avengers episode than a Doctor Who one.
The first two episodes are wonderfully effective, even if the snow is obviously polystyrene. They are fast-moving, tightly plotted and very claustrophobic. Indeed I'd go so far as to say that they represent the epitome of the 'base under siege' storylines at which Doctor Who excels. The scientists do sport rather unconvincing beards, it is true, but all the characters here are credible. It is initially hard to take Scorby seriously, given the actor's later appearance as Boycie in Only Fools and Horses; but you soon forget about Del Boy and Rodney, so assured is his performance. But the prizes for characterisation must surely go to Mark Jones as Keeler - in whom we have a convincing portrayal of a rogue scientist who finds himself suddenly out of his depth.
After the majesty of parts 1 & 2, however, I always find Part Three to be something of a disappointment. There's an awful lot of escaping and getting recaptured, of running around and generally a sense of the plot not getting very far very fast.
On the positive side, however, we are introduced to the wonderfully psychopathic Harrison Chase - surely one of the best villains in Who's history. His performance is very measured, very camp and very chilling. From the very first words that he utters, he know that we are in the presence of a madman - and his having a traditional English butler is also a nice touch.
After the brief lull, things pick up nicely again in episode 4. The scenes in the compost room are particularly effective, and the acting is of a high standard throughout. The realisation of the Krynoid is generally good, although its earlier and later manifestations are rather more convincing than its intermediate stages. I also adore the rather surreal scene of the Doctor, Sarah and Scorby frantically carrying the pot plants out of the mansion, on the grounds that they are the "eyes and ears of the Krynoid". It's like something out of Monty Python, I always think. Overall, something of a triumph.
A Review by Brian May 20/8/03
After fetching out and dusting off my VHS copy of this Tom Baker story after a viewing absence of well over two years, I can still happily recommend The Seeds of Doom as one of the best stories of one of the best eras of Doctor Who - the Robert Holmes/Philip Hinchcliffe years. The finale to Season 13 (surely as great a "monster season" as Season 5?) this is a good old-fashioned monster story.
It's also perhaps the least padded of the show's 6 part stories, by virtue of the 2 episode Antarctic prologue followed by the bulk of the action in England. While it is too simplistic to simply label it as two stories, the shift in location does much justice to the pace, enabling it to hold the viewer's attention - perhaps a lesson learned from the Pertwee years, where 6 part stories could be quite ponderous. Perhaps appropriately, or maybe ironically, this is a tale much more suited to Jon Pertwee's characterisation of the Doctor than that of Tom Baker - the Doctor is once again UNIT trouble-shooter extraordinaire, able to be called upon easily, as was the case with Pertwee. He and Sarah travel to the South Pole via helicopter and not the TARDIS - a move never quite explained and forgotten by the production team at the story's end - but an act of necessity had this been the third Doctor in his exile period. The Doctor is quite angry and violent - how he yells after Scorby when he takes Sarah from the base camp, his headlock on the mercenary in the grounds of Chase's mansion, complete with sickening crack, and how he takes out the chauffeur in the quarry. Not the Tom Baker we're all used to - it's the Jon Pertwee we're used to - but then this story is not really about rules or keeping to genres, as evidenced by the variety of sources the tale owes itself to. The Thing from Another World, The Avengers, Quatermass, The Day of the Triffids - Robert Banks Stewart takes what he wants and moulds them into something quite special. It's not original - most of Doctor Who isn't - but in no way is it simply derivative.
The Seeds of Doom is also a story in which the non-regular characters are given a chance to become more than just one-dimensional. True, the basic outlines of the characters are clichéd - the eccentric millionaire, the hired thug, the cautious scientist, the embittered civil servant - but their realisation, admirable joint efforts between the actors and the writer, turn them into proper identities. Tony Beckley's Harrison Chase is rather camp but never over the top, save for a few naff "Why am I surrounded by idiots?" lines. His possession scenes, which could have been extremely over-acted, are actually subdued, but very frightening. Keeping him in out of the action for the first two episodes, making him a shadowy presence during the story's exposition is also a smart move. Scorby's hardened, cynical mercenary is given real depth by John Challis - in my opinion the best performance in this tale (and I saw this before I saw him as Boycie in Only Fools and Horses, so this is my initial memory of the actor). His alliance with the Doctor and Sarah in episode five is believable; he joins forces with them because he realises it is essential for his survival, but his character is no way transformed into a more likable one. The last few moments before his death emphasise what a despicable man he really is. The other performance of note is Mark Jones as Keeler - the botanist. A weaselly, nervous man, he has the audience's sympathy as a fundamentally decent person who is way out of his depth. I must also say I agree totally with Joe Ford's above review, regarding Keeler's slow metamorphosis into the second Krynoid - the scenes are some of the most disturbing I have watched in Doctor Who. His disgusting mutation, along with his fear and utter helplessness at the hands of the maniacal Chase stay long in the thoughts of the viewer. The first man to become a Krynoid, Charles Winlett, was barely conscious, or at least seemed to be unaware of his plight. Keeler is not let off so easily. Full marks to Jones for his performance. The rest of the characters are peripheral, but for the most part interesting, being fleshed out as actual people, either through their actions and motivations, in the case of Dunbar; or charm, in the case of Amelia Ducat. (Imagine the Doctor travelling through time and space with Miss Ducat and Professor Rumford from The Stones of Blood - now there's a fan fiction/missing adventure idea for you!) The only forgettable characters are the UNIT members Major Beresford and Sergeant Henderson, but only because they are given little to do, and they are no substitutes for the UNIT regulars we have come to know.
Douglas Camfield, one of Doctor Who's best directors, is at his usual high standard in what would sadly be his last story for the show. The incidental music by Geoffrey Burgon is also excellent - ranging from haunting to suspenseful when the plot needs it. Burgon also composed the music for the season's earlier story, Terror of the Zygons, which again, was extremely atmospheric (and shared the same writer and director.) The Krynoid monsters are realised quite well, save for a single wobbly shot at the end of part 4, which actually ruins the cliff-hanger. The film sequences of the monster atop the mansion in the final episode are especially good.
If I had any qualms with The Seeds of Doom, it would be the final episode and a half. The first four episodes of the story are suspenseful - my favourites would have to be 3 and 4 - part 3 is the only one not to feature a Krynoid monster, yet the suspense is extreme - and features what surely must be one of the best ever cliff-hangers in the programme's history! Halfway through part 5, the suspense turns into a simple race against time runaround. But this story is more suited to slow moving suspense than action. I mentioned above that the story has less padding for a 6 parter - I still stick to that, but the final episode is more disappointing and less enjoyable than the rest, mainly on virtue that the suspense has gone. The all too easy ending is perhaps the greatest letdown.
A minor quibble, however. The Seeds of Doom is a very worthy and enjoyable story. 8.5/10
A Review by Stuart Gitteridge 2/12/03
Unlike most 6 parters in Doctor Who, The Seeds Of Doom works because the tale is split into two storylines. On the intensity front, the part set in the Antartic works better, because of the isolated base under siege nature of the plot. That is not to say the remainder isn`t enjoyable, as it is populated by some great characters,expertly portrayed from Sylvia Coleridge`s eccentric Amelia Ducat, to Tony Beckley`s camp Harrison Chase and John Challis`s sadistic Scorby. Unfortunately they get all the best lines, leaving The Doctor and Sarah to muddle through. Similarly the inclusion of UNIT is unmemorable and forgettable owing to the lack of a regular character. Despite this the Krynoid works well particularly as a half-man, it's just a shame an explosion was the only way to deal with it.
A Review by Steve Cassidy 22/5/04?
It's a strange thing when you can date your life from Dr Who..
On the 28th February 1976 I was seven years old. My friend Kerry Bennion was holding a children's party. I'll always remember the date as he was born two days later than me. It was the usual children's party with 'pass-the-parcel', jelly and ice cream and lots of shrieking marauding kids. But someone neglected to turn the television off in the corner and at exactly 5.48pm on that Saturday afternoon came the mysterious swirling music of Dr Who.
Most of the kids froze. Something registered in their brains - "this was a scary programme..." Some of them retreated to the kitchen but some, like me, stayed and watched - and we were scared sh******. After a while the exodus to the kitchen increased. Many, including me, coped with the Doctor and Sarah encountering the Krynoid in the night woods, some were brave enough to sit through the green tentacles attacking the cottage. But most had a breaking point - and mine was the plants strangling Sarah and Scorby in the 'Green Cathedral'. Only the really hard kids sat through to the very end.
The Seeds of Doom has stayed with me for thirty years. Whenever during the eighties and nineties people used to scoff at Dr Who lamenting its rubber monster and crappy production design - I used to think of this adventure and how it used to terrify me. These people were missing out. Even today when I have owned the double-video for eight years it still has the power to thrill me. For you aren't watching a cheap children's programme here you are watching adult horror. And I use those words carefully. This adventure has some very mature themes - body pocession, carnivorous plants, mercenaries, greed and mendacity, flesh-eating - and the feeling all the way through that the Doctor and Sarah have bitten off more then they can chew. I always got the sense that they were outmatched in this one. Proved at the end when the Doctor runs out of ideas and has to call in the services of an airstrike.
Of course, naysayers cry that it is Hinchcliffe era plagarism - that it is The Thing or It came from Another World. If The Brain of Morbius is Frankenstein and Pyramids of Mars is The Mummy, then surely Seeds of Doom must be Day of the Triffids Yeah? Possibly? It is very hard to come up with an original story that has not been done before. And we all know that Hinchcliffe and Holmes liked to do pastiches of some of their favourite Gothic horror. But, frankly, I don't care. This one is so clever. It all just seems to credible - and the actors take it so seriously. The ridiculous becomes real. The set-pieces are nothing less then breathtaking. Keelers fear, Scorby's increasing desperation as he is trapped inside the house with Sarah, the amusing Amelia Ducat (they don't make English ladies like her anymore) and the slow madness of Harrison Chase who must rank with Morgus, Sutekh and Davros as one of the series' great villains. And the script is so tightly constructed. There is cause and effect as the characters move from scene to scene, ie the clue in the car pointing to Harrison Chase, Keeler's infection and the use of a home-made bomb to distract the creature so the Doctor can escape. All clever ideas.
Does it have any faults?.
Well for the Matrix generation the effects are rather poor. I like them, but prop men standing behind a door waving bits of branch and twig aren't that convincing as menacing plants. If you are bothered by weak SFX then you shouldn't be watching Dr Who anyway, but I can see how it would unintentionally amuse some people. And although they do their best - the pond weed smothering Scorby in episode six is rather embarassing. John Challis acts his little heart out but to no avail. And why we are on the subject, the 'conveyer belt to the pulveriser' has been done to death in a Perils of Pauline kind of way. Both the Doctor and Sarah do their time on this tedious machine. Also, it is rather violent for a Dr Who adventure with plenty of fights, throttlings and gun use. It almost works as a conventional thriller. The fact that the Doctor is a Time Lord is superfluous in this adventure apart from the fact that he recognises it as a Krynoid. You could put a contemporary action hero here instead and no one would notice the difference.
Pheww... that was more negatives then I bargained for. Back to the positives...
And there are plenty of those.
Tom Baker? Well, I've never seen him give a bad performance. And here he continues with that hard edge he had in Pyramids and Morbius. This is Baker at the height of the Hinchcliffe years with all the violence mixed with charm that that producer envisioned for the Doctor. He is as tough as old boots - bullying the world bureau into an airstrike or laying on a guilt trip on the scientists in the Antarctic base so one of them would carry out an amputation. And for once we do see the Doctor in trouble. When I purchased this adventure eight years ago and watched it again after nearly twenty years I had the overwhelming feeling that the odds were against the Doctor. And he doeslose. He can't personally win against this one - no 'reversal of the neutron flow' or 'sonic screwdriver' is going to defeat the Krynoid. Only heavy artillery can do that. But the charm is still there - the wonderful sugar-laced insults he espouses when he first meets Chase. And the caring side of the Doctor, not only is he worried about the fate of all animal life on this planet but his 'best friend' is trapped inside that house and we believe she is in terrible danger.
Lis Sladen? Well, I think she is at her toughest here. The odds on her escaping the krynoid are very low and this seems to bring out her inner steel. From the Antarctic onwards she seems to grasp the menace the Krynoid poses and her description of Scorby and Keeler as maniacs is very persuasive when she and the Doctor confront Dunbar and Thackeray. The humour is still there, there is a lovely scene in the Antarctic when the Doctor repeats 'The house that Jack built' to Scorby to baffle him - and she joins in, her playfulness means she can't do otherwise. And let's be honest, her clashes with Scorby when both are trapped in the mansion are some of the most memorable scenes in season 12. The brittle feminist and the overbearing mercenary thrown together under extreme pressure produce scenes of lip-smacking deliciousness.
Tony Beckley as the mad Harrison Chase is nothing less then exceptional. His obsession with plant life is quite understandable - and is taken to extreme lengths. At the start we think he is just another villainous millionaire with an obsession with horticulture. But over the six episodes he becomes more until he almost becomes a blood, or should I say sap, brother of the Krynoid in his hatred of animal life. His speech that animal life is 'parasitic' and they would be nothing without plants is incredibly chilling. He melds with the Krynoid and is just as much of a menace inside the house then the Krynoid is outside. But the scene everyone remembers is when poor Arnold Keeler becomes infected and Chase hides him away in the cottage. When Keeler pleads to be taken to a hospital and Chase refuses - for one split second I hated Harrison Chase. Tony Beckley plays him effetely rather then camply. This was a man who inherited Chase Manor and who is used to being obeyed from an early age. Hargreaves backs him to the hilt when he takes his action with Keeler. The character is incredibly rounded.
The other character the viewers carry away with them is the mercenary Scorby played by John Challis. He is so different from the usual alien menace and one the viewer can actually identify with. He is a hood, a murderer and a bullying thug in the employ of Harrison Chase. But you do believe in him as his character is scene in every cops 'n' robbers show on TV. When he picks up a gun and points it at Sarah you believe he could pull the trigger and his throwing the Doctor around in the pulveriser room looks very painful. Then suddenly at the start of episode five his character does a 180 degree turn. The menace of the man-eating Krynoid means they are all in this together - Scorby, the Doctor, Sarah, even Hargreaves the butler. His mercenary skills suddenly become useful. One more character everyone remembers is Arnold Keeler. From his nervous entrance in the Antarctic we all know he truly is out of his depth. Chase owns him body and soul and his transformation into the Krynoid is one of the most harrowing images the series ever produced. The tragedy is of course that Keeler was such a gentle likeable human being.
The big monster is obviously the Krynoid. The big surprise here is how effective it is. The pod itself glows with menace and the tendril when it bursts out of the pod and latches onto naked flesh is horrible. It writhes and twists like a bean plant, almost sniffing out where its victim is. The Krynoid is a totally belivable creation - a galactic parasite which floats around the universe looking for life to use to germinate and multiply. The premise being that it nourishes itself from the protein of the animal host. This is not as extreme as it sounds. There are a few carnivorous plants in South America that actually do that. This story plays on a primal fear - that the plants that you see around you could turn on you. There can be no one around who hasn't walked past a wasteground and has been unnerved by the quickness it has been colonised by weeds. It is this central premise which provides the horror in Seeds of Doom.
The Seeds of Doom looks the most ambitious adventure yet. The sheer scale of the last episode dwarfs anything else produced and unlike many adventures it builds to an exciting climax. The model work of the Krynoid looming over Chase Manor tentacles flailing was wisely shot on film and looks the better for it. The six episodes are brilliantly script-edited with not a scene wasted and wisely fall into two groups - the first two in Antarctica and the rest at Chase Manor. That season had a thing about creepy old gothic manors ie The Pyramids of Mars But I think this adventure is better than Pyramids. The production design, acting, script, music and direction make this the true highlight of season 12.
In fact I would go so far to say this is the best Who adventure ever made. Anyone disagree? Yes, well... off to the pulveriser with you.
A Review by Graham Sutton 30/6/04
In my opinion The Seeds of Doom represents one of the best stories of the series and also a fine example of British TV science fiction. I remember the first transmission of this story when I was 11 and when it was (finally) released on VHS I brought a copy immediately. I was interested to see whether ‘the memory cheats’ (as someone once said). In the case of Seeds of Doom my memory certainly hadn’t ‘cheated’ at all. The story was as good, if not better than I remembered it to have been.
Why is this? Well in my opinion its strengths come simply from the storyline and the superb casting. Tony Beckley was in my opinion a highly underrated actor anyway who sadly died far too young. His portrayal of Harrison Chase in this story is quite simply outstanding. Chase is a megalomaniac and absolutely off his rocker yet Beckley makes it very easy for the audience to believe he really means it. I have to say that the scenes involving that pulverizing machine are scenes which remained in my memory for many many years after viewing the original broadcast. That sequence where Chase concusses one of the soldiers and simply drags him into that ‘room’ where the machine sits and calmly watches as the soldier is turned into compost is I think quite chilling – as is the dialogue between Liz Sladen and Harrison Chase in the same room. I’ve always thought that the way Chase meets his end is actually worthy of a James Bond villain.
The other performances – John Challis and Mark Jones particularly - are equally great. When I watched this story on video I was also reminded of how moving the sequence is where Keeler is degenerating into the Krynoid – begging for help but surrounded by madmen. I remember feeling genuine sympathy for the character which is usually indicative of a good acting performance in my view. Special effects were often dodgy in Dr Who but as others have said the destruction of the Chase mansion by the Krynoid was quite effectively done – I love the scenes of the Krynoid breaking through the ceilings (as seen from the inside).
I doubt that I am as knowledgeable about Doctor Who as most of you reviewers but I was a good fan of the programme and watched it solidly from 1970-1977 (Spearhead from Space – Talons of Weng-Chiang) and then sporadically thereafter. During the period I watched regularly it was the one programme I would miss everything else to see – ‘Dr Who meant Saturday and Saturday meant Dr Who’ to me. I believe that the programme lost its edge when Philip Hinchcliffe left and never quite recovered. In my view the producers who came after him simply didn’t understand the format which had made the show great nor did they appear to understand the relationship it had with its audience. I would like to add that I adored the original opening titles and music (the original Ron Grainer music and Bernard Lodge visuals) because they were, and still are, SO enigmatic and will always have a place in my heart as they were so much a part of my childhood. WHY oh why did they ruin the title music and use really awful tacky cartoon style opening title visuals (which had none of the gravitas of the versions used up to and including the Tom Baker era)? It was such a shame.
A Review by Michael Hickerson 5/7/07
The Seeds of Doom is an interesting little six-part Doctor Who story in that, while it has a lot of elements that make for a good Doctor Who story, there are parts of that feel distinctly not-Doctor Who-like.
The biggest of these is the Doctor himself, who morphs into an action hero whenever the script calls for it. I am specifically thinking of the opening to part four, where the Doctor crashed through a skylight to save Sarah by punching out the villains' main henchman and threatening everyone with a gun. The script tries to cover the Doctor holding a gun on someone with a quick line saying that they didn't know he wouldn't use it, but the moment still feels odd in the overall context of the character and the show.
And that doesn't even begin to cover the sequences in which the Doctor is even more strangely aloof than usual. He constantly warns about the danger poses to Earth by the Krynoid, but yet is the first one out to find the second pod buried in the snow. This seems a bit odd since the pod is no threat and it's not like anyone is going to know it's there unless he sends them out looking for it. Of course, it's easy to see that this is a necessity of the script, because if we don't have the second Krynoid, the story is only two episodes long or we have to find a way to get the growing and maturing Krynoid back to England and Chase.
Of course, you could say I'm over-analyzing and thinking too much about Doctor Who here and I should just simply sit back, turn the brain off and enjoy the story.
Because there really is a lot to enjoy to this story. It's one of the creepier stories on an era that excelled at creepy stories. The Krynoid is nicely realized, even if it is just the Axon suit painted green. And the supporting cast is nicely realized, especially Harrison Chase and Scorby. Here we have two villians who don't see themselves as the bad guys. Chase simply loves plants and would love to become one (interesting that he doesn't allow the Krynoid to convert him to a plant, instead saving that fate for Sarah Jane or Keeler). His love of plants is quickly taken over by the Krynoid and used to drive the later stages of the story as Chase slowly starts killing and grinding up any humans he can find to feed his precious plants.
As for Scorby, he could easily have been little more than a hired thug. When we first meet him, we don't like him, but as the story evolves, you start to feel a bit more for him than just out and out hatred. By the time Scorby has jumped ship to the Doctor's side and is whipping up Molotov cocktails to distrat the Krynoid, you can almost root for him. And when he dies in a futile attempt to escape the estate, it's easy to feel a bit saddened and not like this is just a bad-guy getting his due. It's a nicely done performance and some good character work by both the actor and the script.
That said, Seeds of Doom does have its flaws. It's the same story told twice over: the Krynoid infects someone and starts growing. The first two parts in Antartica are really a preview of what's to come, though why the Krynoid flees into the snow and cold I'm not quite sure. Being a plant, I'd think it'd want to stay somewhere warm and humid, but I'm not an alien plant, so what do I know? Then the scene shifts to England with Chase running amok and releasing a second Krynoid. One that must be stopped before it conquers the planet and spreads its pods across all of the world. Again, it's intersting that the Axon suit is used for the Krynoid since this is the same dilemma that drives much of the later stages of Claws of Axos.
And while I could point out that it's obvious the production team isn't anywhere near a cold climate when the Antarctic scenes are filmed, what would be the point? It's old-school Doctor Who and honestly if you nitpick it too much, it loses some of the fun.
Seeds of Doom is better than the sum of its parts, quite frankly. It's a good six-part story that has little or no padding (a rare thing for six-part stories) and it features some memorable performances by the regular and guest casts. It's definitely meant to be watched one episode at a time because it helps cover up some things. If you watch this one all at once, the holes will become that much more obvious. It's not a classic Tom Baker story, but it could have been. It's an entertaining, fun and atmospheric story that shows a production staff on the cusp of producing one of the best seasons in the show's long run.