The Seeds of Doom

Posted in Episode by - December 07, 2016
The Seeds of Doom

Aired 31 January – 6 March 1976

Concluding a season filled with some truly great four-part stories, ‘The Seeds of Doom’ returns to the ambitious six-part format to pioneer what would become a more epic finale mainstay for the Tom Baker era, in the process blending espionage, horror, alien invasion, and action to create a very strong serial that revels in the gothic ambience this season has held so dear.

Although these longer serials are becoming much less frequent as time progresses, writer Robert Banks Stewart wisely splits his epic into two smaller stories, learning from some of the more successful longer stories of previous eras as the tale initially begins with the Doctor and Sarah Jane in the Antarctic as an alien presence is uncovered before switching to the more traditional estate manor of Harrison Chase for the fallout. Given all of the alien threats that Earth has faced in Doctor Who, it’s rather surprising that vegetation has not been a true villain to this point. Plants have certainly wreaked havoc in previous stories on other worlds, but the Krynoid spores and impressive hybridization works incredibly well here as their treat continues to build even within the confines of the tight budget.

With plants such a focal point, the entire serial hinges much more on the human villain than many other stories, and fortunately Tony Beckley gives a nuanced and understated performance that lends a credibly unnerving menace to Harrison Chase’s insanity as he shows a callous disregard for humans around him and devotes his attention to his plants instead. While Chase does ultimately exhibit some of the more obvious flaws of literary and cinematic villains such as not killing his victims on sight and thus allowing them the opportunity to escape, his henchman, Scorby, is remarkably single-minded and cold-blooded and further amplifies the threat. It’s interesting to note that Scorby is along just for the paycheque and that Chase’s villainy stems simply from his desire to hold the pod as such a unique pod, making these two characters very human threats in a time dominated by otherworldly menaces.

The Krynoid threat is impressively brought to life as it undergoes several stages of transformation from seed pod to a hulking monstrosity that dwarves the estate by the end of the serial, some stages understandably a bit more realistic than others. However, given the necessity for several different props, costumes, and special effects, everything meshes fairly coherently with the stunning surroundings without ever detracting from the overall experience. Even with the Doctor working for UNIT once more despite his obvious desire to do anything but, this is just another aspect of the serial blending together many disparate aspects and genres into a satisfying whole. It would be quite easy for the programme to rely on the horror genre that have proven so successful already, but ‘The Seeds of Doom’ provides a showcase for everyone in front of and behind the cameras as everything comes together exceedingly well to prevent a story that so easily could have become an overacted and cheesy story that fell apart under its own ambitious scale from doing do, providing an immensely satisfying finale for a very strong season.

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