BBC HomeExplore the BBC

14 July 2014
Accessibility help
Text only

BBC Homepage

Entertainment Cult

Contact Us

Like this page?
Send it to a friend!

 
The Seeds of Doom

Production Code: 4L

First Transmitted

1 - 31/01/1976 18:00

2 - 07/02/1976 17:30

3 - 14/02/1976 17:55

4 - 21/02/1976 17:45

5 - 28/02/1976 17:45

6 - 06/03/1976 17:45

Plot

Two alien seed pods are found buried in the Antarctic permafrost and the Doctor realises that they are from a Krynoid, a form of plant life that infects and transforms all animal life on planets upon which it becomes established.

One of the pods infects a scientist at an Antarctic base but the developing Krynoid is destroyed by a bomb set by two men, Scorby and Keeler, who have made off with the other pod for their boss, eccentric plant collector Harrison Chase.

At his mansion in England Chase arranges for the pod to be opened under controlled conditions while a human host - Sarah - is held nearby. The Doctor rescues Sarah, but Keeler is infected. Keeler's transformation into a Krynoid is accelerated by Chase, who has him fed with raw meat.

The creature escapes and goes on the rampage, rapidly growing to giant proportions. Chase decides to turn the Doctor into compost by feeding him into a pulverising machine. The Time Lord escapes, but Chase falls into the machine and is killed. UNIT have meanwhile been called in, and they arrange for the Krynoid to be bombed before it can spread its pods across the Earth.

Episode Endings

In the Antarctic base the scientist Winlett is rapidly changing into a plant. The Doctor suggests amputating his arm, as that is the source of the Krynoid infection. Of the others at the base only Moberley is qualified to perform the operation. He gets the necessary equipment together, but then encounters the sick man in a corridor. Winlett, unrecognisable, attacks Moberley.

The Doctor rescues Sarah from the power plant of the Antractic base with only moments to spare before the bomb planted there by Scorby and Keeler is set to explode. The Krynoid enters behind them but they manage to escape, locking it in. The bomb explodes.

Chase decides to use Sarah as a part of his experiment. He holds her bare arm to a table beside the Krynoid pod, which starts to open.

Richard Dunbar of the World Ecology Bureau, having failed to make Chase see sense, flees through the grounds of the mansion chased by Scorby. He suddenly comes across the Krynoid, now about ten feet tall and totally inhuman. He is killed, but his scream alerts the Doctor and Sarah, who run to help. Sarah screams as the creature surges towards them.

The Doctor and Sergeant Henderson from UNIT arrive with defoliant sprays and rescue Sarah and Scorby from the Krynoid-controlled plants in Chase's mansion. The Doctor decides to move all the plants outside and they start to do so. Chase, however, locks the door behind them and they find themselves trapped outside as the giant Krynoid approaches. Chase smiles faintly.

The danger over, the Doctor and Sarah leave for a holiday on Cassiopeia - but are taken back to the Antarctic by the ever-unpredictable TARDIS.

Roots

The Thing from Another World (an isolated Antarctic base).

The Quatermass Experiment (alien parasites infecting scientists).

The Trollenberg Terror (ditto).

Day of the Triffids (murderous plants).

The Avengers episode Man Eater of Surrey Green (the above, plus a dotty old lady and a villainous chauffeur).

The Mutations.

The Doctor quotes from the nursery rhyme 'The House that Jack Built'.

Scorby says 'When it comes to money, Mr Chase and I are of the same religion' to which the Doctor replies 'Franklin Adams, American humorist!'

Dialogue Triumphs

The Doctor : "I suppose you could call it a galactic weed, though it's deadlier than any weed you know. On most planets the animals eat the vegetation. On planets where the Krynoid gets established, the vegetation eats the animals."

The Doctor : [To the World Ecology Bureau's Sir Colin Thackeray.] "If we don't find that pod before it germinates, it'll be the end of everything. Everything, you understand? Even your pension!"

Harrison Chase : "What do you do for an encore, Doctor?"

The Doctor : "I win."

Harrison Chase : "The plants must win. It will be a new world. Silent and beautiful."

Amelia Ducat : [Discusses her painting (a homage to The Importance of Being Ernest)] "Where did you say you found it?"

Sarah : "We found it in a car boot."

Amelia Ducat : "A car boot?"

The Doctor : "Yes, a Daimler car boot."

Amelia Ducat : "The car is immaterial!"

Dialogue Disasters

Chase : [On minions] "Why am I surrounded by idiots?!"

RAF pilot : [On his plans for the Krynoid] "Okay chaps... let's turn it into chop suey!"

Double Entendre

Amelia Ducat : "I camped out in the Chilterns night after night to catch it at sunrise."

Chase : "You know, Doctor, I could play all day in my green cathedral."

Continuity

The Krynoid, a 'galactic weed', has been buried for at least 20,000 years [the late Pleistocene era]. The Doctor speculates that volcanic turbulence on its home planet sends surface matter shooting into space. He is called in as an expert by Sir Colin Thackery of the World Ecology Bureau. The Doctor states that he is President of the Galactic Flora Society.

The Brigadier is in Geneva, UNIT's forces being commanded in his absence by Major Beresford (whom the Doctor knows). At the end, the Doctor tries to take Sarah to the holiday planet of Cassiopeia.

Location

South Pole; the World Ecology Bureau.

Amelia Ducat's home.

Harrison Chase's mansion.

A quarry.

England, [Autumn 1973] (Two pence is the minimum amount to operate the pay phone.)

Trivia

The costume for the humanoid stage of the Krynoid was created by taking one of the surviving Axon costumes from The Claws of Axos and spraying it green.

Myth

This story was originally written as a four-parter and the opening two episodes were added by script editor Robert Holmes and/or director Douglas Camfield. (It was commissioned and written as a six-parter by Robert Banks Stewart from the outset.)

The location scenes for this story were shot at a house owned by rock star Mick Jagger. (Jagger's house, Stargroves near Newbury in Hampshire, was used as a location for Pyramids of Mars; the house seen in The Seeds of Doom is Athelhampton House in Athelhampton, Dorset.)

Goofs

Why doesn't Scorby just shoot the Doctor and the others in Antartica rather than go to all the trouble of tying up Sarah in the generator and setting it to blow up?

The TARDIS returns to Antarctica at the end of the story, the Doctor having not re-set the coordinates - but the TARDIS never went there in the first place (he and Sarah travelled by helicopter).

In episode six, during the 'steam!' scene, the Doctor grabs Sarah's chest.

Cast & Crew

Cast

The Doctor - Tom Baker

Sarah Jane Smith - Elisabeth Sladen

Amelia Ducat - Sylvia Coleridge

Arnold Keeler - Mark Jones

Charles Winlett - John Gleeson

Chauffeur - Alan Chuntz

Derek Moberley - Michael McStay

Doctor Chester - Ian Fairbairn

Guard - Harry Fielder

Guard Leader - David Masterman

Hargreaves - Seymour Green

Harrison Chase - Tony Beckley

John Stevenson - Hubert Rees

Major Beresford - John Acheson

Richard Dunbar - Kenneth Gilbert

Scorby - John Challis

Sergeant Henderson - Ray Barron

Sir Colin Thackeray - Michael Barrington

The Krynoid's voice - Mark Jones

Crew

Director - Douglas Camfield

Assistant Floor Manager - Sue Shearman

Costumes - Barbara Lane

Designer - Jeremy Bear

Designer - Roger Murray-Leach

Fight Arranger - Terry Walsh

Film Cameraman - Keith Hopper

Film Editor - M A C Adams

Incidental Music - Geoffrey Burgon

Make-Up - Ann Briggs

OB Cameraman - unknown

Producer - Philip Hinchcliffe

Production Assistant - Graeme Harper

Production Unit Manager - George Gallacio

Production Unit Manager - Janet Radenkovic

Script Editor - Robert Holmes

Special Sounds - Dick Mills

Studio Lighting - John Dixon

Studio Sound - John Holmes

Title Music - Ron Grainer and the BBC Radiophonic Workshop, arranged by Delia Derbyshire

Visual Effects - Richard Conway

Writer - Robert Banks Stewart

Bottom Line - from The Discontinuity Guide

'I've heard of flower power, but that's ridiculous!' Robert Banks-Stewart's unfamiliarity with Doctor Who's format leads to a script that is really an Avengers episode in disguise. The Doctor is as violent as he's ever been, engaging in fisticuffs, carrying a gun and describing Sarah as 'Miss Smith, my best friend' (turning Sarah from a flapping ornament into a quasi-Mrs. Peel).

Another gem, and one much befitting from an excellent performance from Tony Beckley as Harrison Chase (the scene in episode five in which Chase communicates with his plants is particularly chilling).

Analysis - from Doctor Who, the Television Companion

The Seeds of Doom is an odd story as it is one in which the Doctor, aside from finding the second of the two Krynoid pods in the ice and thereby arguably precipitating the major crisis, plays no significant part in the unfolding of events or in their resolution. The plot would still hold up if he and Sarah were not in it at all.

Tim Munro, however, suggested in DWB No. 129, dated August 1994, that the story was in many respects typical of its era: 'It's an intriguing hybrid of the new and the old; a fascinating indicator of how much the show had improved. Its basic elements - its Earthbound setting, action set-pieces, establishment troubleshooter Doctor, rampaging monster, [Quatermass] plot and big bang finale - could all fit comfortably into a Pertwee story. What's striking is how much better is the presentation. For all its regressionist aspects, the story's rich characterisations, inventive dialogue, dark atmosphere, memorable villain and intense portrayal of violence and emotion make it quintessentially Hinchcliffe/Holmes. In this era, more than any other, everything came right; a production team was formed with a clear vision of what the show should be, the talent to achieve it and the freedom to do so. The Seeds of Doom may not ascend to the heights of season fourteen, but it is a superb example of the qualities which make this era the most highly regarded in the show's history.'

Alistair Pegg, writing in The Black Scrolls of Rassilon Issue 4, dated winter 1995, shared these sentiments: 'The question that springs to my mind when watching a story that is as entertaining and enjoyable as this is - just how do they do it? It's a query that can be levelled at much of the Hinchcliffe era. Just how did they make the programme so consistently superb? Why do other periods of the show's history never match up to the excellence nearly always evident in the serials from 1974 to 1977? After all, other producers had many of the factors that made up The Seeds of Doom at their disposal: Tom Baker giving his all; strong companion(s); a good cast; well-constructed plot; and scary monsters etc. The Seeds of Doom is good because it possesses all these elements. But it has more, and in my opinion it is the following that really lift this adventure from routinely good into the realms of greatness. It is a) money, b) a fertile writer and c) Douglas Camfield.'

Writer Robert Banks Stewart consciously structured the story as a two-part segment set in the Antarctic followed by a four-part segment set in England, and this works extremely well. The initial segment draws inspiration from the 1951 RKO/Winchester horror film The Thing from Another World, in which an alien is found buried in the Arctic ice and subsequently goes on the rampage, and is equally gripping - even if the snow looks terribly fake in the closer shots of the Doctor uncovering the pod. The characters are all well written and played, but it is really the make-up that is the star here as the hapless Winlett undergoes a horrific transformation into a Krynoid.

The segment set in England is no less effective. Tony Beckley is simply excellent as Chase, with an icy calm and level of control worthy of the Master (whose habit of wearing black leather gloves he also shares). As Jeanette Napier commented in TARDIS Volume 1 Number 8, dated July 1976: 'I found it a nice change to have a baddie whose chief love wasn't money or power, but plants.' Chase's 'number one heavy', Scorby, is also well acted by John Challis, who neatly conveys the character's sense of increasing desperation when faced with the growing Krynoid.

The Krynoid itself, after it has been unwisely fed by Chase, turns first into a large green sack with tentacles and suckers and then into some vast thrashing creature that towers above his mansion. The modelwork by way of which the latter scenes are achieved is very nice, and overall the Krynoid is a good addition to the ranks of Doctor Who's monstrous foes - although the revelation that it is able to talk places an unnecessary strain on the viewer's credulity, and the idea of it being able somehow to influence other plants and cause them to lash out at people is, frankly, rubbish.

The only really disappointing aspect of The Seeds of Doom though is its portrayal of UNIT. With none of the old regulars present, they come across as a faceless and characterless bunch whose sole function in the story is to resolve the situation by arranging for the Krynoid (and, in the process, Chase's mansion) to be blown to pieces. This is all the more regrettable with hindsight, given that UNIT would subsequently be absent from the series for a lengthy period. 'The story's biggest flaw,' wrote Guy Blythman in TSV 43, dated March 1995, 'particularly when everything that comes before it is so good, is the ending, with the Krynoid bombed to bits by the RAF. It isn't so much the use of stock footage that annoys me here as the feebleness of resorting to conventional means to remove the threat to civilisation. The Doctor should employ original and interesting methods to defeat his enemies. His loss of touch here is rather alarming. I feel the imagination of the [writer] deserted [him] at this point.' This is perhaps a little hard on Robert Banks Stewart, but the story does certainly close on a rather odd note as the TARDIS takes the Doctor and Sarah back to Antarctica. 'The part that made me puzzle,' wrote Keith Miller in Doctor Who Digest Number 2, dated September 1976, 'was when Sarah said at the South Pole, "You forgot to reprogram the coordinates!" Considering they [originally] landed at the Pole in a helicopter, that was rather unlikely, wasn't it?'

< The Brain of MorbiusFourth DoctorThe Masque of Mandragora >

This episode guide is made up of the text of The Discontinuity Guide by Paul Cornell, Martin Day and Keith Topping, and Doctor Who: The Television Companion by David J. Howe and Stephen James Walker.

The Discontinuity Guide © Paul Cornell, Martin Day and Keith Topping 1995.
Doctor Who: The Television Companion © David J Howe and Stephen James Walker 1998, 2003.



About the BBC | Help | Terms of Use | Privacy & Cookies Policy