The Serial (5/5)
I have always found it strange when personal perception of media changes. When watching a movie today, I may have a different emotional response than I will have watching it a few years up the line. I bring this up, not just because Doctor Who has long been my favorite television show, but recently I began to understand it's changed meaning in my existence.
I discovered Doctor Who like many people may age, through my local PBS station. I never knew when it was scheduled to be on, but when flipping channels on a weekend night, if I stumbled upon an episode I was glued to the set. It wasn't until years later that I started collecting episodes, and getting to see these great pieces of television in their fully intended form. When I started watching on PBS, it was just an awesome sci-fi show, however, watching it now it sort of acts as a sort of televised comfort food. When recently I had a bad stretch that lasted about a month, I found myself making my way through the entirety of the Key to Time Collection (with Tom Baker), and the early Pertwee serial Spearhead from Space, alongside more recent episodes like David Tennant's The Stolen Earth/Journey's End Two-Parter, and of course, the recent Blu-ray release of Matt Smith in a Christmas Carol.
I have never seen Doctor Who - The Seeds of Doom prior to getting this DVD in the mail. It has long been pretty high on my list of Doctor Who serials, that I still needed to see, and was pretty much neck and neck for my most anticipated Who release of 2011 with the Jon Pertwee swan song Planet of the Spiders. However, that serial has to be all kinds of amazing, to top the greatness that is The Seeds of Doom.
Doctor Who - The Seeds of Doom is a six part serial from Tom Baker's second season as the Doctor. Normally, six part Who serials suffer from being about 2 episodes too long for their stories, I am happy to report that it is not the case with The Seeds of Doom. The serial begins at an Antarctic base similar to the Howard Hawks/Christian Nyby film The Thing from Another World, and stays in that locale for 2 episodes before switching back to England. This change in location could very well be the reason why this six parter never drags, the opening 2 episodes end up feeling like an extended prologue to the 4 episodes that follow.
Seeds of Doom was created under show runner Philip Hinchcliffe, who depending on who you ask, is the greatest producer in classic Doctor Who history. Hinchcliffe's during his tenure on Who attempted to turn the show into a more mature direction, that sort of grew with the early adopters of the series who were now in their teens and twenties. His episodes played with a lot of gothic horror conventions, and felt like throwbacks to the prior decades Hammer Films productions. Seeds of Doom in particular is quite the excellent horror story mixing elements from Invasion of the Body Snatchers, Day of the Triffids, and the aforementioned Thing from Another World.
The serial as I mentioned earlier begins in Antarctica with a scientific expedition stumbling on 2 pods frozen in the thick permafrost, by the depth they were found it was assumed that they were down there for 20,000 years. The story then cuts back to London with the Fourth Doctor in the office of Richard Dunbar from the World Ecology Bureau, he has been sent by UNIT to investigate the situation with the newly discovered pods, and right away he recognizes them. He warns Dunbar that the people at the Antarctic encampment should not touch the pod until he arrives the next day. After The Doctor leaves Dunbar's office, Dunbar goes to the home of millionaire botanophile Harrison Chase, he shows the pictures to Chase who immediately wants these rare specimens for his own collection, and sends 2 of his associates to retrieve the item before the Doctor can get his hands on it.
In the mean time the scientist at the Antarctic base succumb to temptation, and continue experimenting with the pod, which does eventually open up from exposure to ultraviolet light, and attacks Winlett a scientist who was in the room watching over it. He immediately falls to the ground in pain, and becomes infected by the plant,. The Doctor and his companion Sarah Jane Smith arrive on the scene, and demand a blood test on Winlett, in the process discovering that his body is becoming plant-like, and he is turning into an alien creature known as a Krynoid. Chase's henchmen then arrive in their own small plane, claiming to have gotten lost while flying. While they are settling in one of the other scientist is killed by Winlett, as he makes his escape into the Antarctic night.
Scorby and Keller, the henchmen sent by Chase go about the business of collecting the 2nd, and currently undamaged POD. After collecting they go about blowing up the generator that powers the station, and is the current location of the Winlett-Krynoid. The Krynoid kills the last remaining scientist, before the bomb blast sets off a chain reaction destroying the base, and everything around it. The Doctor and Sarah survive, while Scorby and Keller escape into their plane. The next morning Sarah Jane and the Doctor are found by a rescue party, and returned to England where the pod comes into the possession of Harrison Chase.
Chase then begins his experiments on the Krynoid pod, and ends up turning Keeler into a Krynoid. Rather, then try and help him, he allows Keeler to change to satisfy his own personal fascination with the creature. The Krynoid then begins growing, and threatening to germinate spreading his seeds all over the Earth, and causing a Krynoid invasion. It is up to the Doctor, Sarah, a few of Chase's remaining henchman, and the military power of UNIT to stop the Krynoid invasion of Earth.
Doctor Who and The Seeds of Doom is presented in it's original 1:33:1 broadcast ratio. The actual transfer looks fantastic, and is a testament to the excellent continued work of the Doctor Who Restoration Team. Doctor Who and The Seeds of Doom was shot using broadcast camera, and committed to master tape, even in the external sequences, and while Doctor Who typically used this for internal sequences in the case of this serial it was used both internally, and for external shots, which offers a more consistent image than the shift between film and tape in most serials. The only negative is a bit of softness in some brighter sequences, but this probably has less to do with the transfer, and more to do with the original source material.
The audio is presented in it's original English mono track. This track is perfectly serviceable with no pops, hissing, or other aural distortion to be heard. The dialogue, music, and effects come through crisp and clear. Optional English subtitles, and a subtitle trivia track are included.
Doctor Who and The Seeds of Doom has a slate of extras that are simply worthy of Criterion. Of course, even the most insignificant Who releases tend to get at least a few decent extras on their DVD release, but this 2 Disc set is fully loaded. The set kicks off with an audio commentary fsweaturing Tom Baker, Kenneth Gilbert, Michael McStay, John Challis, Philip Hinchcliffe, Robert Bank Stewart, Roger Murray-Leach, and Joggs Camfield. The track is a nicely paced affair, that is a mix of informative, and entertaining. Disc 1 also features an isolated musical score, and production notes that play using the second subtitle track.
Disc 2 kicks off with a fantastic 37 minute making of documentary entitled Podshock. This is followed up by a 9 Minute Then and Now piece, that show off the locations from Seeds of Doom as they looked then, and how they appear today. We then have Playing in the Green Cathedral which works as an interview piece/homage to composer Geoffrey Burgon who wrote the music for this serial and also Terror of the Zygons. This is followed up by a fairly interesting piece called What do you do Exactly? It's 14 minute long, and features Graeme Harper discussing the various productions jobs seen in the credits of Classic Who. We then have a 20 minute feature called Stripped for Action : The Fourth Doctor which goes into detail about the Doctor Who comic strips. The disc is rounded off by Trails and Continuity, a Photo Gallery, some trailers for upcoming releases, and some PDF extras including notes, and the radio times listings.
One of Tom Baker's finest serials is finally here on DVD. If you are a Who fan this is a must. The A/V work is solid, and the extras are elaborate, interesting, and entertaining. Doctor Who and The Seeds of Doom comes highly recommended.