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12 March 2016 @ 06:21 pm
The Randomiser: The Seeds of Death  
The Seeds of Death was one of the first Doctor Who episodes I owned, on betamax no less. I had assumed therefore that Tame Layman would have seen it, since I certainly had the old betamax tapes lying around for a long time and had a vague idea that at some point we'd either transferred them to VHS or acquired one of my parents Betamax machines to watch them.

Apparently not however.

Seeds of Death is a Patrick Troughton story in which the Ice Warriors invade the Moon in order to control the Earth's transmat infrastructure. It definitely benefits from existing in full and a good remastering effort making the picture and sound nice and clear. This makes the fact that the plot often proceeds at a pretty leisurely pace - by the end of episode 2, the Doctor, Zoe and Jamie have still not yet reached the Moon - rather less noticeable.

The story is really in three parts. It starts with a depiction of the Ice Warrior invasion and the crisis caused by the failure of the T-mat system (though the reason why so much of the T-mat system has to be routed through the Moon is less clear - I think the writers must have been thinking of a phone switchboard at some level). The central section involves a lot of running around corridors on the moon and the third involves the Ice Warrior attempt to overcome the Earth with oxygen-sucking fungus. As future societies on Dr Who go, this one isn't badly realised from the technicians on the moon with their technical ingenuity, through the hierarchies in T-mat control and the T-mat skeptic Professor Eldred. Most of the human characters are likeable with the possible exception of the ultimately redeemed quisling Fewsham. The story can't show us much of the wider world, of course, but it manages the best it can with endless computer reports of a society collapsing as the transport infrastructure fails and I'm not convinced the timelines of events match up terribly well - events on the Moon appear to take place over a few hours, while events on the Earth make more sense if playing out over several days.

On the down side, the multiple instances of hiding in plain sight are rather more noticeable, and rather hard to overlook with reference to the constraints imposed on making sixties television. I wouldn't say that convincingly hiding an actor behind something (or even unconvincingly hiding an actor behind something) relied particularly on modern special effects or extra rehearsal time.

In the later episodes the obvious delight the special effects team have in their foam making machine is rather charming.

There are British-style three-pin plugs and sockets on the Moon. I'm not sure why this also seemed rather charming, after all a British run moonbase would presumably have British Standard wiring and we've not shown any sign of giving up our vastly over-engineered plugs just yet. Still, we both found the plugs funny.

Miss Kelly, the deputy T-mat commander is one of the best things about the story. She is brave, determined and go-getting and provides a good contrast to Commander Radnor (who is actually fairly likeable) who tends to get concerned by how things might appear and how dangerous something might be, where Miss Kelly is far more focused on what needs to be done in order to alleviate the worldwide crisis. I seem to vaguely recall from the novelisation that she is portrayed there as somewhat overly pushy which is excused by the observation that she must have fought her way to the top in a man's world. I'm not sure that is what is shown on screen where she comes across more as competent and compassionate. It is true that she is the only woman who seems to be working on the T-mat system and she wears a noticeably different uniform to all her colleagues (for which, given how hideous the male uniform is, I assume she is suitably grateful) and an excellent hair-style. Oddly the one non-T-mat employee, Professor Eldred, also wears this uniform, albeit with a hacket over it. It makes one slightly wonder if this is a future world in which only one outfit is available worldwide.

The child gifted us with her presence for a couple of the episodes in order, she said, to share in our lives. She mostly sat sketching but was pleased to recognise the Ice Warriors when they appeared and didn't seem particularly put out by the slower pace.

It's easy to see why this particular Patrick Troughton was picked for an early video release, although it has to be acknowledged there weren't a lot of complete stories to choose from. While its pacing is distinctly sixties it isn't too langurous and the story has an interesting premise and engaging supporting characters.

This entry was originally posted at http://purplecat.dreamwidth.org/186824.html.
liadtbunny: DW Team Twoliadtbunny on March 13th, 2016 02:48 pm (UTC)
In the future fashion has helped women progress! Miss Kelly is the one who has all the info. The older men are too busy building rockets in their back garden and the younger ones need some gumption or new clothes. I do like that the male character that would normally be the young hero has a wibble in the air conditioning and Zoe has to take charge and go and sneak not very sneakily along the back of the set.

I think there is a tendency in old book adaptations to do down women who have power/knowledge?
louisedennislouisedennis on March 14th, 2016 06:54 pm (UTC)
I suspect it is more that because she isn't particularly cuddly, its assumed she must be one of these terrifyingly liberated women - though john_amend_all who has taken the trouble to look it up, suggests that (since it is quote as the opinion of her coworkers (that she's a cold-hearted witch)) we are supposed to treat it as an opinion that says more about those who hold it than it does Miss Kelly herself.
daniel_saunders: Leekleydaniel_saunders on March 13th, 2016 09:24 pm (UTC)
It makes one slightly wonder if this is a future world in which only one outfit is available worldwide.

Yes, you get that a lot with science fiction on TV, particularly old programmes. I wonder whether it is a failure of imagination or budget i.e. whether the designer could not imagine lots of different fashions or whether there wasn't the budget to let the designer spend the time designing so many costumes.

I like The Seeds of Death. It has some great Troughton moments ("I'm a genius!") and a wonderful OTT score from Dudley Simpson that compensate for some shortcomings.
louisedennislouisedennis on March 14th, 2016 06:57 pm (UTC)
The "future uniform" persists well into the 1970s (on Doctor Who at least) though sometimes it can be over-looked on the grounds that is is some kind of a uniform. NuWho, rather depressingly, mostly assumes everyone in the future will dress just like we do today. I suspect it is a little of budgetry constraints (I imagine there is a cost to each costume design) and little about time constraints and a little of failure of imagination.