Will Brooks’ 50 Year Diary - watching Doctor Who one episode a day from the very start...
Day 242: The Seeds of Death, Episode Four
Over the course of the last 242 days, I've complained more than once about six-part serials, because you simply run out of things to actually say about the story somewhere around Episode Four. Often it simply falls to me to enjoy the story, through the cast and the direction, but as Terrance Dicks notes on the commentary for today's instalment: 'that's another disadvantage of this episode - it's Troughton-less'.
I think that the lack of the Doctor in this episode (conscious, at least) is actually really effective. It helps to sell the threat of the seed pods even more as they start exploding all across the Northern Hemisphere, because we've already seen it take out the Doctor. Anything that can incapacitate our hero in such a way is sure to be a real threat to the planet.
We've then got the threat of the Doctor being sent out into space between the Moon and the Earth, killing him well and truly. The problem I have with all this is that I just don't believe it. We're told that the system needs to be tinkered with in order to allow transmitting to somewhere other than another T-Mat capsule, but that seems like nonsense. If you can T-Mat things just to anywhere with only a few minutes tinkering, then why does everything have to be sent via the Moon in these capsules? It all seems a bit daft. Yes, in a story where the Moon has been taken over by giant reptiles sending seed pods to take over the Earth, this is the thing I find unbelievable.
Thankfully, the aftermath of the seeds pods arriving in London is fantastic. I'm glad that I hadn't been imagining these shots as for a few weeks now, whenever I pass through a small section of trees on the way into Cardiff, I've had images of an Ice Warrior roaming about among similar trees and i thought I might just be going mad. As it is, they form some fantastic shots of the creature roaming around the countryside, wading through the foam. It's another one of those instances where I'd really love to see these stories upgraded for Blu-Ray, with their film sequences rendered in HD. It's a beautifully shot few scenes, and I'd love to watch them crystal clear.
The Ice Warrior isn't so successful when it's still inside the T-Mat control room, sadly. I really liked the shot of him smashing the front of of the cubicle to break out into the room, and it's very effectively done, but then he just seems to stand around in a bit of a drunken haze for a minute, shooting his sonic weapon only at people who aren't part of our main guest cast, and then stumbles out of the room to kill a few more off screen. It's not the Ice Warriors' finest moment…
That said, the direction throughout the episode is fantastic on the whole, and special praise needs to be saved for the parallel zooms we cut between as we build up the the Doctor being teleported out of the T-Mat cubicle. It's so unlike anything I'm used to, and it looks brilliant.
A tricky episode to really say much about, as it's caught in an awkward point of the story, but with the Doctor back tomorrow (yes?) and the invasion of Earth well and truly underway, I've got high hopes…