The Seeds of Doom

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085 – The Seeds of Doom
Doctor Who serial
Krynoid1.jpg
Infected by an alien seed, Winlett is transformed into a Krynoid.
Cast
Others
Production
Writer Robert Banks Stewart
Director Douglas Camfield
Script editor Robert Holmes
Producer Philip Hinchcliffe
Executive producer(s) None
Incidental music composer Geoffrey Burgon
Production code 4L
Series Season 13
Length 6 episodes, 25 minutes each
Originally broadcast 31 January – 6 March 1976
Chronology
← Preceded by Followed by →
The Brain of Morbius The Masque of Mandragora

The Seeds of Doom is the sixth and final serial of the 13th season of the British science fiction television series Doctor Who, which was first broadcast in six weekly parts from 31 January to 6 March 1976. It placed the serial squarely within the Gothic Horror-influenced era of producer Philip Hinchcliffe and script editor Robert Holmes. The serial comprised the culmination of Tom Baker's second series as the Doctor.

Plot[edit]

In Antarctica, British scientists Charles Winlett and Derek Moberley discover a pod buried in the permafrost and take it back to their camp. John Stevenson, the base botanist, identifies it as vegetable-based and estimates it has been buried in the ice for twenty thousand years.

In London, Richard Dunbar of the World Ecology Bureau shows the Doctor photographs of the pod at the urging of his superior, Sir Colin Thackeray. The Doctor believes it to be extraterrestrial. He tells Dunbar to tell the expedition not to touch it until he arrives.

Back at the base, Stevenson discovers that the pod is growing larger and he believes it is absorbing ultraviolet radiation. In England, Dunbar visits the estate of millionaire Harrison Chase, who considers it his mission to protect the plant life of Mother Earth. Dunbar shows him pictures of the pod and tells of its possible extraterrestrial origin, giving Chase the location of the pod. Chase calls for one of his men, Scorby, telling him to take Keeler along.

At the base, Winlett is near the pod when it opens. A frond-like tentacle stings his arm, causing Winlett to collapse in pain. When Stevenson and Moberley find him, Winlett's face is covered with green hives. The Doctor and Sarah arrive at the base. In the sickbay, Winlett's body temperature and pulse are dropping rapidly. His face and body are covered with green fungus, and its growth is accelerating. Outside the base, the Doctor uncovers another pod and notes that they travel in pairs. On analysis, Winlett's blood is found to contain no blood platelets, but instead has schizophytes – microscopic organisms akin to plant bacteria.

The Doctor tells Sarah that Winlett is turning into a Krynoid, a galactic weed that settles on planets and eats the animal life. Stevenson and Moberley escort two men – Scorby and Keeler – into the base. The new arrivals claim that their private plane got lost.

Moberly is killed by the mutated Winlett. Transformed into a Krynoid, Winlett flees the base and shelters in the outside generator hut. Scorby and Keeler – who are revealed to be employees of Chase – steal the remaining pod, then escape in their plane. The Doctor and the others are attacked by the Krynoid, which kills Stevenson. The Doctor and Sarah flee the base as a bomb set by Scorby and Keeler destroys the area.

Later, the Doctor and Sarah are picked up by a team from South Bend. Meanwhile, Scorby and Keeler return to Chase in England with the second pod. Dunbar warns Chase that the Doctor and Sarah are still alive and are scheduled to meet with him and Sir Colin in two hours.

At the meeting, the Doctor and Sarah describe the theft of the pod. He tells Dunbar to arrange for him to go to the Botanic Institute. As they leave the building, a driver meets them. However, the limousine stops in the countryside, and the driver orders them out at gunpoint. The Doctor jumps the driver and punches him out. The Doctor and Sarah search the car and find a painting by Amelia Ducat, a flower artist. When they visit her, Ducat tells them that the owner of the painting is Harrison Chase, who never paid her for the work.

Chase orders Keeler to inject the pod with fixed nitrogen. When the Doctor and Sarah try to sneak into the mansion, they are captured and brought before Chase, who decides to show them around the mansion and his plant laboratory before he executes them.

When Scorby escorts the Doctor and Sarah into the gardens to kill them, the two overpower him. Sarah escaped but is captured again. The Doctor rescues her and in the confusion, a frond from the pod stings Keeler's arm. Keeler soon begins to transform.

When the Doctor returns to the laboratory, he is captured and taken to the compost room, where Scorby activates the crusher. Meanwhile, Sarah escapes back to the house, attracts Ducat's attention and asks her to take a message to Sir Colin. Outside, Ducat enters a car with Sir Colin and Dunbar inside and tells them what Sarah said. Dunbar, realising he has made a terrible mistake, says he will get the Doctor. He tells Sir Colin that, if he does not return in half an hour, to return to London and call UNIT.

Sarah turns off the crusher in time to save the Doctor. Hargreaves finds that Keeler has almost completed his transformation and runs in a panic as the creature frees itself. In the mansion, Dunbar pleads with Chase to abandon the experiment as Hargreaves reports Keeler's transformation to Chase. Dunbar goes to get help and is pursued by Scorby.

The Doctor realizes that Keeler is missing, takes a sword, and goes with Sarah to search for the Krynoid. Dunbar runs into the monster and is killed. Dunbar's screams attract the attention of Scorby and the guards as well as the Doctor and Sarah. The latter get there first, the Doctor drawing the sword above Dunbar's body as the Krynoid lurches towards them. They escape to a cottage and barricade themselves in. The Krynoid speaks using Keeler’s voice, demanding that the Doctor join it and it will spare the others. The Doctor suggests Scorby rig up a bomb so they can all escape while the Krynoid is distracted.

Sir Colin gets through to Major Beresford for assistance.

Scorby throws his improvised bomb out an upstairs window, and the Doctor escapes in the limousine. Scorby tries to find Chase at the greenhouse and discovers where he is from Hargreaves. Chase makes his way through the grounds and confronts the Krynoid. It notices him and he approaches, taking photographs.

The Doctor arrives at the Bureau as Major Beresford warns he can’t do anything without evidence. The Doctor shows reports of people near Chase’s estates being killed by plants. He then calls Sarah Jane and tells them Beresford is preparing to attack the Krynoid with a laser gun, but the Krynoid cuts the phone wires. Chase arrives and tells them that it’s the plants’ world, and humans are parasites. He goes to the manor to develop his photographs, then begins speaking to the plants in his greenhouse.

Scorby, Sarah Jane, and Hargreaves confront Chase, and he speaks of how the world will be made perfect. Sarah Jane notices that the plants are closing in on them. The Doctor and a UNIT soldier drive onto the grounds while the plants overwhelm Sarah Jane and the others and start to strangle them.

The Doctor and the UNIT soldier, Sgt. Henderson, arrive with chemical plant-killer. They dispose of the plants, saving Scorby and Sarah Jane, while the older Hargreaves is dead. Chase runs away, and the Doctor and the others go into the lab and start removing the plants. Once they're outside, Chase locks the door behind them and they watch as the now enormous Krynoid towers over them. UNIT soldiers arrive and open fire with their laser gun, distracting the Krynoid so that the Doctor and his group can get to another door.

After they leave, Chase slips back into the laboratory and destroys the loudspeaker system. The others return to the laboratory, and the Krynoid tries to break in. Meanwhile, Chase puts Henderson in the compost machine and activates it, killing the unconscious soldier.

The Doctor works to repair the loudspeaker system as the Krynoid renews its attack, and Scorby panics and runs. He makes his way across a pond, but the plants grab and pull him underwater, killing him.

The Doctor and Sarah Jane realize that Henderson is gone, and Sarah Jane goes to look for the soldier. She makes her way to the compost machine room, and Chase confronts her, telling him he’s become part of the plant world thanks to the Krynoid. Chase plans to support the Krynoid and refers to humanity as parasites, then attacks Sarah Jane and knocks her unconscious.

Beresford contacts the Doctor, who warns they have 15 minutes until the Krynoid germinates, spreading its seeds across England. The Doctor tells them to launch an air strike before it’s too late.

Chase has tied up the unconscious Sarah Jane and starts feeding her into the compost machine. The Doctor arrives and shuts off the machine to untie Sarah Jane. In the ensuing struggle, Sarah Jane is saved, but Chase is pulled into the machine.

The RAF launches a sighting run as Beresford and Sir Colin look for the Doctor. Sarah Jane and the Doctor can’t get out through the plant life covering the house, but the Doctor rigs a steam pipe and they blast their way out. They make their way through the hostile plant life and take refuge as the RAF opens fire and destroys the Krynoid along with the mansion.

Continuity[edit]

The serial marks the final regular appearance of UNIT. UNIT did not reappear until a brief appearance in The Five Doctors. None of the established UNIT characters are seen in this story, as Nicholas Courtney was unavailable to reprise the role of Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart.[1] Cuttings of the Krynoid from this story are kept, leading to the events in the Eighth Doctor audio story for Big Finish entitled Hothouse.

Production[edit]

The serial was written by established television writer Robert Banks Stewart, who was influenced in the writing of this ecological tale of rampant flora by his then residential location abutting Kew Gardens as well as his familial connection to botanist Joseph Banks. After a long association with Doctor Who this story was director Douglas Camfield's last involvement with the show.

Location shooting at Chase's estate took place at Athelhampton House in Athelhampton, Dorset. This is the third serial of the programme to shoot exterior location scenes on Outside Broadcast (OB) videotape rather than film; the previous two were Robot and The Sontaran Experiment. On 7 December 1975, whilst location filming the closing scene outside the TARDIS at Buckland, the TARDIS prop collapsed on Elisabeth Sladen; it was the original prop used since 1963.[2]

A few weeks before the serial was due to begin its original transmission, the master tape for the first episode was found to be missing. A brief panic ensued and producer Philip Hinchcliffe began planning a re-edit of the second episode allowing the story to begin at this point, but the tape of the opening episode was eventually located, having been misplaced in the tape storage system (apparently due to having been incorrectly numbered.[citation needed])

An Omnibus repeat of The Seeds of Doom for Christmas time 1976 was scheduled, however for unknown reasons this did not take place, and was instead replaced by a showing of the Gerry Anderson produced Into Infinity, although unmade the notes for the compilation version were included as a PDF extra on the DVD of The Seeds of Doom.

Outside references[edit]

This story has parallels with The Quatermass Experiment in which an alien invader from another planet transforms a human and the giant form of the monster swamps a building; The Thing from Another World where a research base is terrorized by a plant-humanoid and the short story on which the film was based, Who Goes There? (the Antarctic setting); The Day of the Triffids (more killer plants);and The Avengers 1965 episode "Man-Eater of Surrey Green" (rich eccentric English killer; male and female investigators of the paranormal; an extraterrestrial killer plant). The Doctor's dialogue with Amelia Ducat about the car boot and model homages Oscar Wilde's The Importance of Being Earnest.[3] In a conversation with Scorby, the Doctor incorrectly attributes the quote "when it is a question of money, everybody is of the same religion" to Franklin Pierce Adams, whereas this is widely attributed to Voltaire.

Cast notes[edit]

Paul Cornell, a writer of later "Doctor Who" episodes, named the characters "Arnold Keeler" and "Derek Moberley" in the "Casualty" episode "An Accident Waiting To Happen" as a homage to the characters of the same name in "The Seeds of Doom".[citation needed]

Broadcast and reception[edit]

Serial details by episode
Episode Broadcast date Run time Viewers
(in millions)
"Part One" 31 January 1976 (1976-01-31) 24:10 11.4
"Part Two" 7 February 1976 (1976-02-07) 24:09 11.4
"Part Three" 14 February 1976 (1976-02-14) 24:51 10.3
"Part Four" 21 February 1976 (1976-02-21) 24:26 11.1
"Part Five" 28 February 1976 (1976-02-28) 25:06 9.9
"Part Six" 6 March 1976 (1976-03-06) 21:51 11.5
[2][4][5]

The Seeds of Doom was one of the Doctor Who serials which drew criticism from Mary Whitehouse for violent imagery. She wrote, "Strangulation – by hand, by claw, by obscene vegetable matter – is the latest gimmick, sufficiently close up so they get the point. And just for a little variety show the children how to make a Molotov Cocktail."[6][7] In reply, the BBC stated that Doctor Who was aimed at families, not just children.[7]

In The Discontinuity Guide, Paul Cornell, Martin Day, and Keith Topping described the serial as "an Avengers episode in disguise" and called it "Another gem, and one much befitting from an excellent performance from Tony Beckley as Harrison Chase".[8] In The Television Companion (1998), David J. Howe and Stephen James Walker praised how the story was split between two settings and the monster in general, though they felt some aspects of the Krynoid were "rubbish". They wrote that the only real disappointment was UNIT, which contained none of the old characters and as a result "[came] across as a faceless and characterless bunch whose sole function in the story is to resolve the situation".[9] In 2010, Mark Braxton of Radio Times described The Seeds of Doom as "a rich, classy serving, with plenty of meat accompanying the vegetables". He praised Baker and the guest actors and their characters. However, he noted that the plot contained a "giant crevasse" in that " it takes a ridiculous amount of time for the Doctor et al to know how to tackle the Keeler-Krynoid, having seemingly forgotten that the Winlett-Krynoid was killed by an explosion".[10] The A.V. Club reviewer Christopher Bahn said that the serial was "one of the greats" of the era, particularly praising the pacing and Baker's performance.[11] DVD Talk's Ian Jane gave The Seeds of Doom four out of five stars, calling the script "a good one".[12] Ian Berriman of SFX gave the story five out of five stars, writing, "Often bleakly grotesque, blessed with an eerie, mournful score and shot with real brio, this is a rare Who six-parter that you can consume in one sitting, with nary a moment of boredom." He also was positive towards the performances of Beckley and Baker.[13]

Commercial releases[edit]

In print[edit]

Doctor Who book
Book cover
Doctor Who and the Seeds of Doom
Series Target novelisations
Release number 55
Writer Philip Hinchcliffe
Publisher Target Books
Cover artist Chris Achilleos
ISBN 0-426-11658-5
Release date 17 February 1977

A novelisation of this serial, written by Philip Hinchcliffe, was published by Target Books in February 1977. A slightly "Americanized" version of Hinchcliffe's novel was released as #10 in the Pinnacle Books series in March 1980 with a foreword by Harlan Ellison and a cover illustration by David Mann.

Home media[edit]

The Seeds of Doom was released on a double VHS in 1994 in the United Kingdom. In North America it was released as a single VHS. The story was released on DVD on 25 October 2010 in the United Kingdom,[13] and on 8 March 2011 in the United States.[12] Music from this serial was released on the CD Doctor Who: Terror of the Zygons. This serial was also released as part of the Doctor Who DVD Files in Issue 120 on 7 August 2013.

References[edit]

  1. ^ Commentary on Seeds of Doom DVD
  2. ^ a b Sullivan, Shannon (2007-08-07). "The Seeds of Doom". A Brief History of Time Travel. Retrieved 2008-08-30. 
  3. ^ Cornell, Paul, Martin Day and Keith Topping, Doctor Who: The Discontinuity Guide, Virgin Books, 1995, pp. 191–192.
  4. ^ Shaun Lyon et al. (2007-03-31). "The Seeds of Doom". Outpost Gallifrey. Archived from the original on 2008-07-31. Retrieved 2008-08-30. 
  5. ^ "The Seeds of Doom". Doctor Who Reference Guide. Retrieved 2008-08-30. 
  6. ^ The full quote is in Michael Tracey and David Morrison Whitehouse, London & Basingstoke, 1979, p.85
  7. ^ a b Levy, Geoffrey (9 November 2012). "Who's mocking Mary Whitehouse now? Book of her wonderfully forthright letters reveals the tireless anti-smut crusader was usually right". The Daily Mail. Retrieved 12 November 2012. 
  8. ^ Cornell, Paul; Day, Martin; Topping, Keith (1995). "The Seeds of Doom". The Discontinuity Guide. London: Virgin Books. ISBN 0-426-20442-5. 
  9. ^ Howe, David J & Walker, Stephen James (1998). Doctor Who: The Television Companion (1st ed. ed.). London: BBC Books. ISBN 978-0-563-40588-7. 
  10. ^ Braxton, Mark (7 August 2010). "Doctor Who: The Seeds of Doom". Radio Times. Retrieved 4 May 2013. 
  11. ^ Bahn, Christopher (16 September 2012). "The Seeds of Doom". The A.V. Club. Retrieved 4 May 2013. 
  12. ^ a b Jane, Ian (17 March 2011). "Doctor Who: The Seeds of Doom". Retrieved 4 May 2013. 
  13. ^ a b Berriman, Ian (22 October 2010). "DVD Review Doctor Who - The Seeds of Doom". Retrieved 4 May 2013. 

External links[edit]

Reviews
Target novelisation