The Seeds of Death

October 21, 2016

Aired 25 January – 1 March 1969

Following a run of relatively varied story types, Doctor Who returns to its trusted base under siege formula with ‘The Seeds of Death,’ once more showcasing the Ice Warrior race that had made such an impact just as the titular foe a year earlier. Although the story plays it relatively safe in regards to overall plot despite some rather forward-thinking and chilling segments, ‘The Seeds of Death’ certainly offers plenty of spectacle and ends up being another fine example of the Troughton era.

Wisely, ‘The Seeds of Death’ uses a moonbase as the setting, tapping into the space race that consumed the public consciousness as the Apollo 11 moon landing neared. It seems superfluous to the story that such a significant portion of the beginning is dedicated to the Doctor, Jamie, and Zoe experiencing the entire rocket sequence from takeoff to landing since the T-Mat transmat device is fixed before they even arrive on the moon, but this again shows just how exciting the overall prospect of rocket travel was at the time. Intriguingly and in a moment of prescience, the transmat technology has dulled humanity’s sense of exploration and ambition since instantaneous travel across Earth and to the moon is possible, and nobody except a few dreamers even entertain the thoughts of achieving more.

Although the story doesn’t necessarily do anything new to further round out the Ice Warriors, ‘The Seeds of Death’ certainly cements them as a dangerous foe worthy of further encounters. They may be slow and lumbering, but their militaristic aggression is unrelenting, and hints are given that they are on a mission of survival as they attempt to escape their dying planet. Unfortunately neither the human nor Martian factions attempt to talk or negotiate with each other, and there naturally feels as though there is a missed opportunity for much more detailed information about the invaders to be offered. While the Ice Warriors’s presumption that they are worthy of survival in place of the humans is clearly flawed and misguided, it’s surprising that the Second Doctor here takes one of his more ruthless stances as he seems quite content with sentencing the brutal invaders to death after they tried to destroy the planet below.

Aside from presenting menacingly credible threats, ‘The Seeds of Death’ also succeeds in bringing very strong and intelligent women to the forefront, a very progressive move for the time. Zoe and Miss Kelly are easily two of the strongest characters in this serial aside from the Doctor, and the fact that Miss Kelly’s boss directly acknowledges that the entire T-Mat operation would fail without her is refreshingly forward. Quite why such a complex operation is so reliant on just one person is another matter entirely, but he story certainly does not feel encumbered by gaps in logic that aren’t completely addressed or explained. As such, explanations for Miss Kelly’s going to the moonbase herself, the Earth rain control device, and even why the Ice Warriors’ tactic is so reliant on a spore that is damaged by water are left wanting.

‘The Seeds of Death’ again showcases the strengths of Patrick Troughton as an actor, a man with heroic outcomes without playing to traditional heroic stereotypes. With a strong repeat appearance by the Ice Warriors that confirms their lasting legacy and a simultaneously forward and stagnant future Earth, ‘The Seeds of Death’ is a highly enjoyable if not overly revolutionary tale.

Wrap Up

The Seeds of Death

Pros

  • + Ice Warriors confirmed as a credible threat
  • + Troughton astounding in a tale that also gives prominence to its female characters
  • + Prescient view of the future

Cons

  • - Missed opportunity to expand on the Ice Warriors' history
  • - Gaps in logic that aren't explained

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