Serial Title: The Seeds of Death
Doctor: Patrick Troughton
Companions: Jamie McCrimmon (Frazer Hines), Zoe Heriot (Wendy Padbury)
The Moon, in the LATE 21st CENTURY- STOP THAT!!!- the Moonbase (not the Moonbase from “The Moonbase,” though perhaps its forerunner?) This lonely outpost is the coordinating and relay system for T-Mat, the global teleporter system that we saw being pioneered in The Dalek Master Plan. (Possibly). A ship docks, and from it emerge a combat squad of Ice Warriors, who take over the base! Heroic leader Osgood sabotages the controls, preventing them from taking T-Mat, and they kill him for it. Cowardly Fewsham values his life above all else, however, and gets to work on invalidating his superior’s (in every sense of the word) sacrifice by repairing the controls in exchange for an extended lifespan.
Fewsham is order to T-Mat the Doctor into space, but secretly transports him elsewhere within the base, instead. Then, the T-mat breaks again, for some reason. With the unconscious Doctor safe, the TARDIS group, Kelly, and Phipps decide to attack the Ice Warriors by turning up the heating. On a mission to the control room, Phipps is killed (poor guy), and Fewsham musters enough backbone to delay an Ice Warrior and allow Zoe’s escape. He then repairs the T-Mat again, and, while the Ice Warriors are incapacitated by the heat, sends all of the survivors back to London- but stays behind, knowing the consequences of his traitorous actions await him back on Earth. Instead, once the Ice Warriors get the heat down, he activates a video link and allows everyone on the planet to hear the Ice Warrior’s plans: They plan to use the Moonbase to transmit a signal to guide in their invasion fleet. Once this trick is discovered, Fewsham is killed.
The recovered Doctor discovers that fungus can be destroyed by water- the teraforming can be halted if they make it rain. Zoe and Jamie set out on their own for the Weather Control Bureau, and when the Doctor learns that they’ve gone, and that it is where the Ice Warrior is, he runs off to their rescue. Though locked outside with growing poisonous fumes (while a murderous Ice Warrior chases Zoe and Jamie inside), he manages to get inside soon enough to lead the Ice Warrior on a chase and eventually replicate Phipps’ solar energy weapon, destroying the warrior.
A plan to launch a satellite to serve as a new temporary T-Mat hub is co-opted into converting the satellite into a beacon, replicating the Ice Warriors’, to lead their fleet astray. The beacon is launched, though drowned out by its real Moonbase counterpart. The Doctor, a portable rigged version of the solar weapon in hand (and draped over his back and shoulders in a messy tangle of cables and wires), T-Mats up to the Moonbase to disable the real beacon. After dispatching several ice Warriors, he attempts to do just that, the steady, rhythmic beeping signaling impending doom- but the Ice Warriors thwart his attempts before he can succeed. The arriving fleet hails Slaar, the Ice Warrior leader (Yeah, now I give you his name, at the END of the synopsis)... cursing his name, as his beacon has led them all to fly into the sun! A triumphant Doctor reveals that while he couldn’t shut off the beacon, he did disconnect it from the Moonbase transmitting antenna- the slow, rhythmic beeping of the functioning beacon that they can hear can only be heard in that room, leaving the airwaves outside free for the decoy beacon to lead the fleet astray. As his explanation finishes, Jamie T-Mats up to follow the Doctor and dispatches the remaining Ice Warriors, and the invasion is ended.
The Seeds of Death is a variation on the Invasion-of-an-isolated-base theme, even returning to the moon as a location, but it is a very fresh and original take on the notion- as the story starts, the invasion has already occurred, and our heroes have to reach the base and besiege it themselves in order to take it back. There’s a man in hiding that you're rooting for, interesting characters on the ground, a weaselly little traitor who you're just begging to receive his comeuppance, and a rocket trip to boot! This one has it all!
It starts with a very cool opening graphic- the flare of the sun being eclipsed by the surface of the moon, with the camera then emerging on the other side of the moon to see the Earth hanging into space. To keep things moving, each of the 6 episodes alternates mirroring the same shot, adding variety to an already impressive graphic- each also ends up either moving behind the moon to focus on the Earth, or moving behind the Earth to focus on the moon- depending on where the story is taking place.
That said, characters are the strength of this serial- from the crotchety old professor who still believes in rocketry (though is absurdly contrary and negative- "Stop handing me the means to realize my dreams on a silver platter, blast it- it'll never work!!!"), the self-sacrificial and heroic moon base leader, who sabotages the controls and then smugly turns to inform the Ice Warriors that they've blown a circuit- knowing full well he is likely about to be killed for his actions in protecting the Earth, the crew chief and his efficient and no-nonsense second in command, the man left behind (who, for whatever reason in his writing, is kept interesting and a compelling character- as opposed to the standard stock generic crew character- so that you really, truly do care about what happens to him and whether he survives- kudos to the writers!) and even the weaselly little traitor, that pathetic subhuman scum who negates the commander's sacrifice and practically dooms Earth with the plaintive plea of "They would have killed me otherwise!" (Then die, you repulsive scum-! Show some backbone and take it like a man, rather than putting your life above every other person on Earth's.) Still, even the loathsome toad gets some measure of redemption- though his sudden decision to self-sacrifice and clever information transmitting don't begin to make up for his detestable actions, they do offer him some measure of humanity and a chance to rectify his attitude in the end. So, while I can hardly call him a hero in the end- more a traitor whose guilt finally gets the better of him for his heinous crimes- he at least does something heroic in the end.
(Also, while I can’t take credit for noticing this- the wiki pointed it out- the T-mat technology in this episode may well be the same technology system being tested in the Daleks Master Plan, making the Doctor the first T-mat passenger, there at its birth and its re-imagining here…)
The heroic commander. Rocket launch. Springing the trap on the Ice Warriors. The Zoe cliffhanger. And many more- most especially, the Doctor running to the rescue.
4.5 out of 5 Bickering Dominators for the invasion-done-right story of the Seeds of Death, which, despite a few small shortcomings, manages to entertain, engage, and even surprise- one can only imagine what the teleporter/rocket/model-heavy episode (with supposed globe-spanning invasion) could have been with a modern FX budget to truly capture the scope that its script implies! Even so, what’s there, on a character and personal level, is very, very good- another highly recommended adventure from the Second Doctor’s era, and one of the few high recommendations that can actually be watched in full motion!
Plus, the original title of this serial was “The Lords of the Red Planet,” which is a title so cool that it bestows points on the serial even though it was never used.