Oh goody: just what we’ve been waiting for – a sequel to perhaps the worst Doctor Who story so far. Except The Seeds of Death is immediately much better than The Ice Warriors, despite containing very similar plot beats – a tyrannical commander, his efficient female second, a quickly-established threat, and a warning against over reliance on technology and planning over human endeavour and inspiration.
If anything, the script has a surprisingly modern message about how quickly human beings become entirely dependent on the latest technical marvel, and how lost they are when that technology proves less resilient than its inventors claimed. T-Mat is economically and effectively introduced – not just through seeing it in operation, but through a neat little sales pitch in Eldred’s space museum. And the future it’s enabled – instantaneous transport across the globe – is so reliant on the rapid transfer of people and goods that when the Ice Warriors strike at the T-Mat Moon control, world governments are immediately up in arms.
The direction is great: Michael Ferguson drops in a lot of dynamic camera movement, and depth in his shots. The Ice Warriors are largely introduced through point of view shots, which are even more effective than the use of the same technique in The Krotons because we see the cornered humans’ terrified reactions to the Martian invaders. It’s only at the end of the episode that we finally see the Ice Warriors – with the new Ice Lord design a particularly effective variation, making Slaar look less like a giant turtle and more like a hooded cobra.
Ferguson also uses planet model shots to indicate the transition of scenes between the Earth and the Moon, but also plays with the audience’s expectations by revealing that a model of a rocket is exactly that: I can imagine a few dads in the audience scoffing at its first appearance shutting up pretty quickly when the Doctor works out it’s an exhibit in a museum.
This is a cracking first episode, enlivened by the brilliant interplay between the three leads, and some obviously ad-libbed innuendo between Troughton and Hines admiring one of Eldred’s rocket models:
JAMIE: look at the size of this one, Doc.
DOCTOR: Yes. My word, Jamie, look at that. Very large.
Next episode: The Seeds of Death – Episode Two