Steve Goble

Choose life. (Deuteronomy 30:19)

If you wanted to make a parody that would both celebrate and poke fun at Doctor Who, you’d probably make The Seeds Of Death. Especially episode 3.

In the red corner, the effects are some of the cheapest in the show’s history...

Place in bowl for steaming
The rocket landing on the moon, complete with smoke blowing quickly to the side. The blink-and-you’d-miss-it T-MATT effect. (which I admit we’ve all used, ahem) The show’s second extensive use of soap suds.

Space opera or soap opera?
The moment when, to frantically restore the vital radio transmission, Phipps changes a lightbulb, is the stuff of Red Dwarf.

I change the lightbulbs.
Yet there is a sense that this is all being done as knowing comedy. Patrick Troughton, who began his run as the Doctor by playing him quite quiet and almost sinister, by this point has well and truly descended into the knockabout comedy that so defined his three returns to the series. For example, his line immediately before the radio transmitter breaks down is an asking-for-it “We are coming in on your signal now. Whatever you do, keep transmitting.”

Later the same episode, he gets a whole Chaplinesque mute chase sequence, gurning and running away down various corridors from a lumbering Ice Warrior, to what can only be described as silent movie music. I may get lynched for saying this, but I honestly felt like I was watching Sylvester McCoy in Vision On. Anyone who thinks that the similar sequence in Love & Monsters is out of place in Doctor Who, really needs to see this.

Mr Sylvester?
Thanks to for this image
But though I poke fun, The Seeds Of Death is a brilliant story. It defines everything that makes Doctor Who such a joy, not least because of the great concept, plot, fine dialogue, characterisation, imagination, audio and visuals. And serious sense of fun.

Big set, filmed from a distance to look even bigger
My last word of praise though has to go to the completeness of the DVD release. The last time I watched this story was off the movie-length omnibus release on VHS in the 1980s. That had been over two hours long, in the middle of which the Doctor was suddenly unconscious with his face hidden for 25 minutes.

Finally seeing this one episode at a time on DVD, complete with each episode's sub-credits and recaps, over several weeks, you can really see how episodic this exciting cliffhangered serial is.

The start of each episode - DVD extras?

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