The Seeds of Death

Your leader will be angry if you kill me—I, I, I'm a genius!


The Seeds of Death
The Seeds of Death.jpg
Season: 6
Episode: 5
Vital statistics
Air date 25 January - 1 March 1969
Written by Brian Hayles
Directed by Michael Ferguson
Episode guide
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RIP Doctor, we hardly knew ye.

The Seeds of Death is a totally GOAT story where Scarfy Jane and Sarah Jane fight giant killer plants.

No, wait, that's the other one. Seeds of Fatal Death is the one with Zoe and the Ice Warriors and T-Mat, right?

Plot

The TARDIS crew, convulsing after listening to the soundtrack for Timelash.

An air traffic controller freaks out and screws up, so Osgood shows up to replace him, but she's not dressed like a Tumblr cosplayer, and also is a man. An Ice Warrior breaks in through the airlock and demands that nobody move and Osgood do its bidding (Osgood is allowed to move) or they will die. Someone moves and they die. So Osgood promises to do its bidding, but he sabotages the controls and fries the transmat machine, and gets killed for it.

Cum face.

Back in a different control center, everyone is freaking out because they've lost touch with the Moon and someone named T. Matt isn't working.

The TARDIS lands in a Space Museum. Zoe watches a video to get an infodump about T-Mat in case you were confused by the intro. Ever since the 2050s, when mankind invented T-Mat, which can get your coke dealer from anywhere in the world to your house in no time flat, what's the point of cars or planes or rockets? And since nobody set up any stations any farther than the Moon, nobody goes any farther than the Moon. In fact, for no apparent reason, all T-matting goes through the central switching station on the Moon, so things are pretty hectic there, and that's why all the things we saw.

Notice that the 2050s are from before the 2079 of The Wheel in Space, and yet Zoe's never heard of T-Mat. Or, alternatively, it's from long after the 2011 or 2020 of Wheel, and man had been colonizing deep space for decades before this. Either way, Peter Bryant had obviously already discovered that History Can Change long before Moffat. It turns out that the secret is just to not give a shit about continuity.

From here on out, the plot is an attempt at a serious hard-SF story (padded out with running through corridors and sneaking through vents) where the science is so bad that you will only be able to follow it if you know less than a retarded kindergartener. And even then, you will still be confused by things like Fewsham finally fixing the T-Mat at least once every episode, without anyone breaking it in between, or people beginning to starve to death within minutes after T-mat goes down. Really, it's all plot hole, disguised by a few tenuous strands of plot like a bad combover.

The Ice Warriors' plan is to T-Mat a Seed of Death to each city, which will release a foamy fungus that can suck up 95% of the oxygen in the air. Its only weakness is water, so they send a single Ice Warrior to take over England's Weather Control Center and turn the dial to Dry. He also smashes up the T-Mat cubicle so nobody can follow him, although the Doctor follows him just fine anyway. Then all of the Ice Warriors will land on the Moon and T-Mat to Earth, instead of just landing on the Earth. But if they don't have a homing beacon on the Moon, they will miss it and fly toward the Sun instead.

The Doctor's plan is to fly the last rocket to the Moon and blow up T-Mat. He also needed a homing beacon or he'd miss the Moon and fly into deep space, except he somehow ended up in orbit around the Moon anyway, albeit whizzing around the Moon every minute or so, with only 17.5 seconds' worth of fuel to land. Anyway, blowing up T-Mat doesn't work because the Doctor gets captured, but Zoe saves the Moon base by turning up the heat to 60°C, which makes the Ice Warriors weak enough that Jamie can kick their asses. The Earth scientists decide to launch a T-Mat satellite to replace the T-Mat station on the Moon, because you don't need rockets to launch satellites. Also, luckily, they start hosing down the foam without realizing that there's any reason to do so. Eventually, the Doctor gets back to Earth to turn the dial back from Dry to Wet, so the rain will wipe out the foam.

But this is the Second Doctor. Fuck saving the Earth, he's here to fuck with the aliens. So they tamper with the homing beacon to make sure all the Ice Warriors fly toward the Sun. And then it turns out that the Martians don't have enough fuel to turn around, or even to dodge the Sun, because this invasion was their desperate last-ditch effort and they had barely enough fuel for the flight to the Moon. Not only that, their entire species was on the invading ships. So the Doctor has just committed genocide, by accident. Except for a handful of survivors on the Moon base, but he and his friends quickly murder all of them. The only way the day could be any better is if he found a new hat, too.

Reception

The Doctor holding two cymbals with nipples on them.

If you don't think about the science and the other gaping plot holes (alcohol or drugs may help), this one is a lot of fun.

Slaar and the Ice Warriors are possibly better than in any other story—not sadists, not psychopath, just efficient soldiers doing their job. Troughton rapidly alternates comedy, drama, and action and pulls them all off, sometimes all at once. And how many times do you get to see Zoe and Jamie working as a duo, complementing each other's strengths, while the Doctor is out of action? While the secondary characters are all somewhat two-dimensional, they're still realized very well, and avoid the stock cliches. Miss Kelly just does her job because it has to be done and doesn't actually give the big "I have to do my duty" speech. The tension all hinges on Fewsham, the cowardly traitor, and his heroic sacrifice has him shaking in his boots instead of boldly standing there self-justified by his redemption. It's also one of the few stories that mixes up a claustrophobic base under siege with other locations without losing the tension (or maybe it's because it's not really base-under-siege when the siege is over 5 minutes in?). And there's some very clever direction for 60s TV—the justly famous shot of the Ice Warrior silhouetted against the Sun, but also the early Ice Warrior PoV shots, the shadow-tracking shot that reverses to show the Ice Warrior, etc. Also, Zoe wears an outfit that really shouldn't work but it's cute as hell because Zoe, and who doesn't want another 6 episodes to watch Zoe?

So, maybe comfy despite not being good.

But it's definitely not a story to binge-watch. If you watch the episodes separately, you won't notice that they're frequently repeating the exact same plot segment they did just two episodes ago, so it doesn't feel all that padded, but if you watch it all at once, you can't help but notice, and get bored, and fall asleep.

Alternatively, watch this either right before or right after reading the VNA Godengine, which is a sort-of-sequel. Each manages to highlight the flaws in the other in a way that pushes both of them well into So Bad It's Good territory.