Doctor Who: Seeds of Death - Special Edition
Directors - Michael Ferguson
Cast - Patrick Troughton, Frazer Hines, Wendy Padbury
Country of Origin - U.K.
Discs - 2
MSRP - $34.98
Distributor - BBC Home Video
Reviewer - Scott MacDonald
The Serial (2.5/5)
I get really grumpy when watching Patrick Troughton (2nd Doctor) era Doctor Who episodes. It's not that I find them bad, or I dislike his Doctor. I am just the type of person who constantly envisions what could have been, rather than what I have directly in front of me. It is a short-coming I know, and I do find it quite a bit annoying.
The fact is Troughton is one of the finest of all of the classic Doctor's, and do the infamous BBC purges of the early 70's that left a great number of Doctor Who serials (in addition to other classic BBC shows) deleted, and gone forever. He is also one of the most under represented on home video. Patrick Troughton recorded 121 individual episodes of Doctor Who over 21 separate serials (I'm not counting the Three, Five, or Two Doctors), and close to half of that is missing. Of course that makes what is left all the more important, but as I am not a fan of recons of any stripe I find myself desiring more of his fantastic performances.
The Seeds of Death is Doctor Who Serial Number 48, and comes late in Troughton's run. It features the return of the Ice Warriors, who would later resurface in the Troughton era for the Peladon Tales. In this serial the Doctor, Jamie, and Zoe find themselves on Earth in the far future. All travel has been replaced by the use of T-Mat (think instant transport). As the serial begins we find that communication between the Earth and it's moon base has been cut off. This turns out to be part of a plot by the Ice Warriors who have taken control of T-Mat, and are now sending Seeds pods that contain a breed of fungi that will eliminate the oxygen from Earth's atmosphere raising the temperature slightly, and bringing the conditions in line with the living conditions on Mars, the Ice Warriors home planet. This will kill off all the humans on Earth, and create a new home planet for the Ice Warriors. It is up to the Doctor, Zoe, and Jamie alongside a few members of the science and military teams at a T-Mat relay station to stop the Ice Warriors before they can take over the planet.
As I stated in my quite lengthy intro, I frequently lament the fact that a good deal of 60's Doctor Who is not accessible after being purged. It's even sadder when a story that is remaining is average at best. I would love to say that Seeds of Death is a lost masterpiece of Doctor Who, sadly it is not. It suffers from being a 6 Parters that goes 2 to 3 parts too long. While watching Seeds of Death, I thought part 1 showed great premise. However, parts 2, 3, and 4 seemed to drag quite a bit with the serial picking up greatly in episodes 5 and 6.
I found the performances across the board fantastic. Up until recently the only Troughton I had seen were the Multi-Doctor specials, and although I thoroughly enjoyed Tomb of the Cybermen when I finally caught it a few months ago, I didn't really care for Victoria as a companion. In the last week I have watched both the Mind Robber and Seeds of Death, and have to say that Jamie and Zoe matched with the 2nd Doctor are absolutely one of the best Companion/Doctor relationships in the history of the show, and are seriously challenging by all-time favorite Jo Grant and the Third Doctor.
I was also pleased to finally see the Ice Warriors in action. I loved both Peladon stories (even Monster...), but those stories were more political in nature, and Seeds of Death had a more action oriented B Movie vibe with a crazy plot, and the Ice Warriors, as the big bad monster of the week. It's only 2 bad that their first serial (The Ice Warriors) is incomplete.
Overall, we have a decent serial, that could have been a total blast had it been a few episodes shorter. We have a great TARDIS team, who have an amazing chemistry. On top of that the Ice Warriors are some of the most memorable villains in Who history as the big bad. There is a lot of fun to be had with Seeds of Death.
BBC Home Video in conjunction with those restoration gurus with the Doctor Who Restoration Team have presented Seeds of Death with an immaculately restored 1:33:1 full screen transfer reflecting the episodes original 1:33:1 aspect ratio. This is a very sharp transfer with excellent contrast, very nice black levels, and a very good amount of detail on display. I did not see much in the way of print damage here, and was very pleased with the result. This may be the best looking 60's Doctor Who episode I have ever seen.
The audio is similarly excellent with the usual Dolby Digital Mono track in English. The track features optional English subtitles, and a subtitle trivia track that has become common to these releases. The dialogue is completely audible throughout, and is mixed at a decent level with the music and effects. I could not hear much in the way of audio defects such as pops or cracks, and the only hissing came from the Ice Warriors themselves (leaves the hall).
The Revisitations are pretty awesome releases combining new and old extras to create a ridiculously awesome package for pretty notable Doctor Who titles. The Seeds of Death revisitation is, of course, no exception and has an excellent slate of extras. The disc kicks off with a commentary track featuring Wendy Padbury (Zoe), Frazer Hines (Jamie), with director Michael Ferguson, and script editor Terrance Dicks. The commentary is a fun and informative listen.
The first featurette on the disc is Lords of the Red Planet, the title of which is taken from one of the working titles for this serial. This is a roughly half hour long making of featurette that interviews the surviving cast and crew of Seeds of Death. We then have a short piece called Monster Masterclass which interviews director Michael Ferguson on his methodology for the presentation for monsters on Doctor Who. This is followed by The Monsters Who Came Back for More, a really fantastic new feature that interviews Big Finish head honcho and some others about the reasoning for recurring monsters on Doctor Who, and their constant plans to take over the Earth. It's a really fun piece with a great sense of humor.
We then get to the lesser extras of the package starting with a 4.5 minute photo and publicity gallery, PDF materials, a coming soon trailer for the previously released Jon Pertwee swansong Planet of the Spiders, and TARDIS Cam No6, a CGI animation that last a minute that was apparently made prior to the series 2005 revival to show off what Doctor Who could look like in the digital age.
The Seeds of Death is not the greatest 2nd Doctor Serial, but there is a lot of fun to be had here. There is a great villain in the Ice Warriors, and the team of Zoe, Jamie, and the 2nd Doctor has fantastic chemistry. The restoration work on this serial is absolutely glorious, with quite possibly the best image I have ever seen on a 60's Doctor Who DVD. The extras are elaborate, entertaining, and informative. Recommended to Doctor Who fans.