27 August 2013

Will Brooks’ 50 Year Diary - watching Doctor Who one episode a day from the very start... 

Day 239: The Seeds of Death, Episode One

Dear diary,

I'm in two minds about The Seeds of Death. I know I've seen it before, but there seems to be conflicting memories fighting for space in my head. On the one side, I recall not really caring for it very much. On the other, I can remember really enjoying it. This one really could swing either way…

The thing that really stands out as we’re dropped into the new world for this story is how very familiar it all feels. You could quite easily mistake this for a story from Season Five – we’ve got the regulation high-tech base, with a crew wearing regulation ‘futuristic’ clothes, and then before you know it, we’ve been invaded by the regulation monster-of-the-week, and it’s even a monster from last season!

What’s quite clever about the introduction of the Ice Warriors to the story is just how they play it all. Obviously, coming to this story forty-something years later, I’m well aware that the Ice Warriors are the enemy this time around. As soon as we see the first member of the Moonbase killed, we can see quite clearly who our enemy is, as it’s the same effective ‘death’ effect that they had in their last appearance.

Just in case the effect of their sonic arm weapons didn’t give it away, you’ve then got that voice. The Ice Warrior’s way of speaking is one of the most distinctive of any alien from the programme’s history, to the point that when they returned in a story earlier this year I had work colleagues who don’t even watch the show mimicking their whispery tones in the build up to the episode.

And yet… they still try to build up the mystery. We get lots of Point-Of-View shots as the creatures lumber down the corridor towards the main control room, and our crew stare fearfully into the camera. Somewhere around the halfway point, we catch a glimpse of an arm, and then a few minutes later, we’re treated to the back of a shoulder, too. I have to admit that I was getting a bit frustrated by it all. It’s an Ice Warrior! We know it’s an Ice Warrior! Just show us!

The best thing is that when they do finally swing the camera round to show us the full creature, it’s not an Ice Warrior! Haha! The whole thing has been a game, tricking you into thinking you know what to expect, then completely pulling the rug out from underneath you. We do get the standard model of Warrior turning up within a couple of minutes to do some more killing, and to reassure you that you were right, to some extent, but it’s a great reveal.

The story isn’t afraid to set it’s cards out on the table early, either. The Doctor and his friends don’t actually appear for the first eight minutes of the episode, which gives us plenty of time in the company of our guest cast, getting used to the world in which we’ll be spending the next few weeks. It seems obvious that Osgood is being set up as one of the main characters for the story, and he heads off to the Moonbase and even blows Miss Kelly – another obvious main guest – a kiss from his T-Mat cubicle.

It feels like he’s going to be our point of reference for the group up on the Moon, but then he’s killed facing down one of our unseen Warriors before the Doctor has even shown his face in the tale. It’s quite brutal in a way, and perfectly in keeping with the kind of throwaway deaths we had in The Invasion, too.

It’s a good start for the story, and I’m actually quite excited top have the Ice Warriors back on the scene, which is always a good sign. It feels nice to have what I’m going to describe as a ‘traditional’ story (when what I really mean is that although the repetitive format of Season Five started to grow tired by the end, it’s nice to see it again after a bit of a break), and I’m eager to move on.

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