Tag Archives: The Seeds of Death

The Seeds of Death

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The Doctor had long shown himself to be adept at time travel, however it was not until the 1969 serial The Seeds of Death that he was seen to man a more conventional form of space transportation, a rocket.  That the Doctor and his friends should find themselves on a rocket to the Moon should come as no surprise given that this serial was broadcast in early 1969 and the Apollo 11 landed the first humans on the Moon on 20 July 1969. What is more astounding is that in the world of Doctor Who rockets are perceived to be outdated and an anachronism.  In The Seeds of Death Professor Eldred is the curator of a space museum who spends his spare time secretly working on a rocket.  All transportation is now carried out by T-Mat, otherwise known as transmit, a form of instantaneous particle matter transfer. Even motor cars have become redundant and the T-Mat system is used to transport people and produce throughout the world.  There is a T-Mat relay on the Moon and it is from there that the Ice Warriors intend to commence their conquest of the Earth.

Jamie, the Doctor and Zoe arrive on Earth following their adventures with The Krotons

Jamie, the Doctor and Zoe arrive on Earth following their adventures with The Krotons

The Doctor is covered in foam as he attempts to gain entry to the Weather Station

The Doctor is covered in foam as he attempts to gain entry to the Weather Station

That there is no alternative transport to T-Mat is extraordinary, particularly as the sustenance of the whole world is dependent upon its operation. This extreme example of “putting all your eggs in one basket” was what led the Doctor and his companions to risk their lives in an untested experimental rocket.  It appears that together with world famine, local stock-piling of goods has long since ended. Although the details provided in The Seeds of Death are sketchy, it appears that the T-Mat system is operated, if not wholly owned, by a corporation named Travel-Mat.  What Travel-Mat’s relationship is to the governments of the world is not specified. Perhaps Travel-Mat is the world government? Travel-Mat certainly has some relationship with the United Nations as Professor Eldred describes Sir James Gregson as the United Nations Plenipotentiary.  Radnor clarifies this by saying that Gregson is the Minister with special responsibility for T-Mat. I suspect that the climate change sceptics with whom I frequently debate would revel in declaring The Seeds of Death to be an accurate prediction of their New World Order conspiracies. Come to think of it, most climate change deniers know so little about science that they’d probably think the mistaken “science” of The Ice Warriors is correct.  Distinguishing fact from fiction can at times be difficult for some, hence the premise behind The Mind Robber!

T-Mat employees wear an unfortunate uniform with their underpants on the outside

T-Mat employees wear an unfortunate uniform with their underpants on the outside

Arguably the most powerful person employed by Travel-Mat is Miss Gia Kelly, the Assistant Controller, who inexplicably is the only person who completely understands T-Mat.  Again the question arises as to what would happen to this world-wide transport system, on which the distribution of all Earth’s food is dependent, if Miss Kelly suddenly became indisposed. It’s a pleasant development in Doctor Who to have a women in such a powerful role and not be denigrated for her gender by fellow on-screen workers. Kelly even managed to escape the sexism inherent in the UNIT soldiers’ praise for Zoe in The Invasion, when they said that she was “prettier than a computer”.  That being said, I’m at a loss to understand why Kelly was portrayed as so officious and unable to smile.  What does this say about our perceptions of powerful women? Do women that attain the giddy heights of success necessarily relinquish all vestiges of humanity in the minds of others? Even a casual observer to Australian politics in recent years would be cognisant of sexist vitriol thrown at our former Prime Minister, Julia Gillard. Being “deliberately barren” was perhaps the most offensive of them all.  I would posit that the writer Brian Hayles’ portrayal of Kelly is an example of this offensive stereotyping of successful women.

Miss Kelly is the only person who truly understands T-Mat.  She is pictured here with the rocket countdown reflected onto her face

Miss Kelly is the only person who truly understands T-Mat. She is pictured here with the rocket countdown reflected onto her face

Gia Kelly is arguably the most powerful person working for Travel-Mat

Gia Kelly is arguably the most powerful person working for Travel-Mat

Unfortunately I have a concern with the Doctor’s ethics in The Seeds of Death. At the serial’s end the Doctor sent the Ice Warriors’ rockets onto an orbit close to the Sun by transmitting a fake homing signal.  When the Warrior Slaar told the Doctor that he has destroyed their whole fleet, the Doctor’s response was that “you tried to destroy an entire world”. Given that the Doctor believed these Warriors to be the only survivors of their species, he was effectively committing genocide. Whilst we all now know that the fleet didn’t comprise the last of the Ice Warriors, that’s not the point.  The Doctor acted in a similar manner to the Daleks in The Evil of the Daleks and to the Drahvins in Galaxy 4. In my review of Galaxy 4 I discussed in some detail how the Doctor’s apparent genocide of a race was at odds with his classic moral deliberations in The Genesis of the Daleks.

The Doctor kills the first of many Ice Warriors

The Doctor kills the first of many Ice Warriors

Akin to Brian Hayles’ problems with science in The Ice Warriors, The Seeds of Death is similarly tainted.  Remarkably, whilst the Ice Warriors collapsed when the temperate reached 60 degrees Celsius, the humans exhibited no ill effects at all.  Not a bead of sweat was seen to develop on a single brow. This story did, however, again exhibit Hayles’ apparent concern for things environmental. The plant consuming foam which emerged from the Ice Warrior’s seeds would eventually result in the removal of all oxygen and the death of humans as the atmosphere became more akin to that of Mars.

The Doctor discovers that water destroy's the Ice Warriors' seeds

The Doctor discovers that water destroys the Ice Warriors’ seeds

Technology had also caught up with Doctor Who by the Ice Warrior’s second appearance. Filmed inserts for episodes were by then being produced during the recording of the previous stories.  Because of the 1968/1969 Christmas/New Year break, some inserts were filmed up to six weeks prior to the recording of the episodes. It’s for that reason that careful observation will show that within the same episode the Doctor can at one point have particularly bushy side-burns, and the next moment has none.

The Doctor discusses retro rockets with Professor Eldred

The Doctor discusses retro rockets with Professor Eldred

When Jamie suggested that the Doctor should use the TARDIS to travel back to the Moon the Doctor was quick to advise that “the TARDIS is not suited to short range travel”.  It’s a shame that the Eleventh Doctor  didn’t remember that  when he decided to take the TARDIS for a quick hop to the Moon to run her in during The Eleventh Hour (2010).  He didn’t come back to Amy until two years later!  The Doctor also seemed to have forgotten exactly how much of an unpleasant time he’d had when last he visited a space museum (The Space Museum). Quite naturally Zoe knows how to pilot a rocket so she necessarily went up in my esteem, yet again.  She also has a photographic memory.

Clearly the Eleventh Doctor had forgotten that the TARDIS is not suited to short range travel in The Eleventh Hour (2010)

Clearly the Eleventh Doctor had forgotten that the TARDIS was not suited to short range travel in The Eleventh Hour (2010)

Amongst her many skills, Zoe can pilot a space rocket

Amongst her many skills, Zoe can pilot a space rocket

With the conclusion of The Seeds of Death we say goodbye to the last monster story of Patrick Troughton’s tenure.  Not only is it the final monster serial of the 1960s but also of Doctor Who’s monochrome era.  Troughton’s penultimate adventure, The Space Pirates, has no aliens although it does have a space cowboy who is almost as bad, in a frightening sort of way!

The Seeds of Death was originally broadcast in the UK between 25 January and 1 March 1969

The Seeds of Death was originally broadcast in the UK between 25 January and 1 March 1969

Vivien Fleming

©Vivien Fleming, 2013.

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The Krotons

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The second part of Series 7 of Doctor Who, which is also referred to as Series 7B, has been said by some to be a “love letter” to Classic Doctor Who.   Resplendent with obscure references to Who’s 50 year history, the Eleventh Doctor’s final complete season also contained “shout outs” to the Second Doctor’s tenure.  Together with the re-appearance of the Great Intelligence after a 44 year absence and the Ice Warriors following a 39 year hiatus, Series 7 also made reference to the mysterious HADS, the Hostile Action Displacement System.  In the same episode that heralded the Ice Warrior’s return, the TARDIS dematerialized from a sinking submarine in the South Pole to the North Pole (Cold War).  When functioning correctly the HADS dematerializes the TARDIS to a close-by location when it is under external attack. It needs to be manually set, however, and the Doctor usually forgets to set it.  The first and only on-screen reference to HADS prior to Cold War was in the 1968-1969 serial, The Krotons.  In that instance the TARDIS relocated several metres up a hill after being attacked by Krotons.

The Krotons - HADS

That a story as humble and lowly regarded as The Krotons should be alluded to more than four decades later is a testament to the high regard in which the Patrick Troughton era is generally held.  Even “bad” Troughton stories have their redeeming features, not least of which is the very presence of the Second Doctor himself.  Troughton has some charming scenes in this story including his classic encounter with the Kroton’s intelligence testing machine.  As seen in the clip below, the Doctor decides to take the test after Zoe accidently completes it and receives a score twice as high as the Gonds’ previous best students. “Zo-Gond” (Zoe) is chosen to be a Companion of the Krotons and the Doctor won’t allow her to enter the Kroton’s Ship, the Dynatrope, alone.  Easily flustered, the Doctor has difficulties at the commencement of the test which precipitates a wonderful banter between the pair.  After assisting the Doctor to put on his headset and press the correct button, the Doctor barks at Zoe, “All right, there’s no need to shout!  Now go away and don’t fuss me.  No, come back.  What’s this?  It’s all right, I know.  Right, fire away, I’m ready”.

Great Jumping Gobstoppers, The Krotons.

“Oh, my giddy aunt” is one of the better known Second Doctor’s expressions, however it’s in The Krotons that it makes its debut – less than six months before the end of Troughton’s tenure. As shown in the video posted, “great jumping gobstoppers” is also a lovely Troughtonism.

The Doctor and Zoe are approached by a Kroton

The Doctor and Zoe are approached by a Kroton

Zoe’s extraordinarily high intelligence is remarked upon several times in The Krotons.  She tells Selris that the “Doctor’s almost as clever as I am” whilst earlier the Doctor had said to him, “Yes, well, Zoe is something of a genius. Of course it can be very irritating at times”. The Doctor, however, is never seriously concerned by Zoe’s brilliance. There’s no sense of threat and never a suggestion that her intellect is unbecoming of a young woman. Similarly, the Doctor is not dismissive of Jamie, notwithstanding his apparent dimness. What Jamie lacks in schooling and cultivation he more than compensates for in gut instinct and cunning. The Doctor is equally as accepting of both his companions.

The Doctor is almost as clever as Zoe

The Doctor is almost as clever as Zoe

Zoe helps the Doctor take the Kroton's test

Zoe helps the Doctor take the Krotons’ test

I have little doubt that if I’d watched Zoe as an impressionable young girl then she’d have been my heroine.  Able to complete any mathematical task better than a male and even the Doctor on occasion, Zoe had intellect in abundance and was gorgeous to boot. If I was 6” shorter, numerous kilos lighter and a few decades younger, playing Zoe would be my ultimate Cosplay ambition! The Third Doctor’s first companion, Liz Shaw, continued and expanded upon Zoe’s keen intellect and abilities, although her tenure was regrettably cut short.  I will extrapolate upon this when Season Seven in reached.

The delightful Wendy Padbury as Zoe Heriot

The delightful Wendy Padbury as Zoe Heriot

The moral that I took from The Krotons were the dangers of indoctrination and limitations to free scientific enquiry.  The Gonds had been in a state of self-perpetuating slavery to the Krotons for thousands of years.  They were educated by machines created by the Krotons and forbidden to study chemistry.  As the Doctor noted, there were tremendous gaps in the Gonds’ knowledge.  He asked why the Gonds had never thought to question why the prohibition on chemistry existed.  That people would be educated by machines in the future was a prediction considered several times in 1960’s Doctor Who. The First Doctor’s companion Vicki, an orphan from the 25th Century, had been educated for only one hour a week on machines and considered the History teacher Barbara’s 1963 curriculum to be infantile.  The manner of Zoe’s education is unclear, however as a product of City’s Educational institution she, like the Krotons, had enormous gaps in her knowledge.  Whilst able to undertake mental calculations in a second, she was bereft of social skills.

The Gonds have been in self perpetuating slavery to the Krotons for thousands of years

The Gonds have been in self perpetuating slavery to the Krotons for thousands of years

The 1960’s fear of educational indoctrination would most certainly have had its genesis in the Nazi’s brainwashing of the German people.  Technophobia is also likely to have been influential. Distain for computers was evident in The War Machines and The Invasion. In the latter the Doctor loudly proclaimed his hatred for computers on several occasions.  The Luddite-like smashing of the Kroton’s educational machines by a group of Gonds further evidences this fear of technology.

The growing awareness of South African apartheid, in which the minority whites  enslaved the black population, could also have influenced Robert Holmes in the writing of this story. On the suggestion of Roy  Skelton, he and Patrick Tull voiced the Krotons with a slightly South African inflection.

The Krotons spoke with South African accents

The Krotons spoke with South African accents

Yet another attempt at a Dalek replacement, the Krotons were a poor substitute.  With arms that looked like the robot’s from Lost in Space, the Krotons were disabled by their strange and inflexible metal hands.  Possessed of a rather cool spinning head, the poor Krotons were not so lucky with that part of their costume below the waist. A rubber skirt was merely tacked on to disguise the operators’ legs.  The concept behind the Kroton’s creation was rather more interesting. Crystalline beings, the Krotons survive in their space-craft, the Dynatrope, in suspended animation in a form of slurry.  To reconstitute themselves they must absorb sufficient mental energy.  It is for this reason that every year they have taken the best two Gond students, drained them of their mental powers, and then killed them.  Rather than exterminating them as the Daleks do, the Krotons “disperse” them in a process in which the victim in essence disintegrates.

The Krotons with Jamie

The Krotons with Jamie

Join me for my next review when the Ice Warriors return in their second adventure, The Seeds of Death. Our time with Patrick Troughton is fast coming to an end.

The Krotons was originally broadcast in the UK between 28 December 1968 and 18 January 1969

The Krotons was originally broadcast in the UK between 28 December 1968 and 18 January 1969

Vivien Fleming

©Vivien Fleming, 2013.

The Evil of the Daleks

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Season four draws to a close with the Daleks’ last appearance in Doctor Who for five years in The Evil of the Daleks. Ranked 18th in the Doctor Who Magazine’s Mighty 200 poll of 2009, this serial bears all the hallmarks of a classic. The most highly placed Second Doctor story in the poll, The Evil of the Daleks displays a hitherto unseen darkness in the Doctor’s character. By melding the BBC’s panache for period piece Victoriana drama and the futuristic world of Skaro, the serial arranges the Daleks in a threatening new light.

The Doctor looks on as Edward Waterfield and Theodore Maxtible discuss their experiment

The Doctor looks on as Edward Waterfield and Theodore Maxtible discuss their experiment

Written by David Whitaker, The Evil of the Daleks in part draws upon Whitaker’s own Dalek cartoons which were a feature in TV Century 21 magazine. Published over 104 issues in 1965 and 1966, the Dalek cartoons featured a Dalek Emperor, the titular head of the Daleks not hitherto encountered in the television series.  In cartoon form the Dalek Emperor was more similar in appearance to the 1988 Dalek Emperor of Remembrance of the Daleks than the large elaborate one of The Evil of the Daleks. That a Dalek spin off cartoon should influence the television production of Doctor Who clearly exhibits how iconic the Daleks had become in the mythology of Doctor Who during those early years.

The Dalek Emperor first appeared in the David Whitaker penned Dalek cartoons published in TV Century 21 magazine

The Dalek Emperor first appeared in the David Whitaker penned Dalek cartoons published in TV Century 21 magazine

The Dalek Emperor of the comics was more faithfully reproduced in the 1988 serial Remembrance of the Daleks

The Dalek Emperor of the comics was more faithfully reproduced in the 1988 serial Remembrance of the Daleks

The Doctor co-operates with the Daleks in putting Jamie to a test in saving the daughter of Edward Waterfield, Victoria who has been imprisoned by the Daleks. In doing so the Doctor engages in an uncharacteristic argument with Jamie with the sole intention of utilizing reverse psychology to obtain his own ends.  The Doctor tells Jamie that he has never purported that “the ends justify the means”, however Jamie consider this to be mere words.  “You and me, we’re finished.  You’re just too callous for me”, Jamie says to the Doctor. “Anything goes by the board.  Anything at all”.

Jamie's task is to save the companion-in-waiting, Victoria Waterfield, from the Daleks

Jamie’s task is to save the companion-in-waiting, Victoria Waterfield, from the Daleks

The test which Jamie was undertaking would enable the Daleks to plot and distil those essential human characteristics that had until then always permitted humans to defeat the Daleks. Courage, pity, chivalry, friendship, and compassion were some of those virtues and emotions that Jamie exhibited in his trial to rescue Victoria.  When three dormant Daleks were impregnated with the “human factor” they behaved in a somewhat unexpected manner. Episode five ends with the Doctor being taken for a “train” ride by a Dalek.  “Jamie, they’re taking me for a ride” the Doctor exclaims in delight, “they’re playing a game”.  Episode six opens with the Doctor advising that the Daleks are only children, but will grow up very quickly – in a matter of hours, in fact. He advises the baby Daleks that Jamie is a friend and to their delight gives each of them a name – Alpha, Beta and Omega.

Jamie and the Doctor drink coffee in a cafe during episode one

Jamie and the Doctor drink coffee in a cafe during episode one

Despite their childish play the Daleks do not take on the comic like features that they did in The Chase. The Doctor’s oldest foes remained menacing because  of their radical and quick transformation back to their dangerous and menacing form. By impregnating a large number of Daleks with the “human factor” the Doctor incites a Dalek Civil War as the humanized Daleks question the orders of their superiors. Never before had the Daleks questioned “why” they automatically follow commands.  This was very much a human trait. Notwithstanding that total genocide of the Daleks is a possible consequence of the Civil War, the Doctor nonetheless  encourages their destruction.  This is very much at odds with the classic stand of the Fourth Doctor in Genesis of the Daleks.

The Evil of the Daleks – 3D Animation – Prelude to the Civil War

Victoria's father, Edward Waterhouse, sacrifices himself to save the Doctor

Victoria’s father, Edward Waterhouse, sacrifices himself to save the Doctor

The chief human baddie, Theodore Maxtible, looks surprisingly like our most common images of Karl Marx.  I wonder if that was intentional? Although the Daleks were conjured into Maxtible’s 1866 Victorian home by mistake, he is nevertheless keen to make what he can out of the Daleks’ technology.  Waterfield co-ops the Doctor and Jamie’s assistance against their will but for the more honourable cause of having his daughter freed.  Waterfield is disturbed by the death that surrounds him and his complicity with the destruction caused. When he accuses Maxtible of constantly avoiding reality – that people are dying because of them – Maxtible remains indignant. “We are not to blame for everything that has happened” he said “No English judge or jury would find it in their hearts to convict us of one solitary thing”. The legality of what they had done was not Waterfield’s concern, but clearly the morality of it.  He went on to state that he would confess his role in everything once Victoria was released.  Unfortunately that opportunity was never afforded to him as he sacrificed his life to save the Doctor.

The character of Theodore Maxtible, played by Marius Goring, bears an uncanny resemblance to Karl Marx

The character of Theodore Maxtible, played by Marius Goring, bears an uncanny resemblance to Karl Marx

The real Karl Marx

The real Karl Marx

The “human factor” in The Evil of the Daleks would re-emerge in a somewhat different form, as DNA, in the Rob Sherman penned Dalek in 2005. In the first Dalek story of New Series Doctor Who, companion Rose Tyler replenishes a long dormant Dalek by placing her hand upon it.  Her DNA enables the Dalek to regenerate its casing and break free of the chains that have bound it. Later the Dalek experiences human emotions as a consequence of the human DNA.  Psychologically traumatised by emotions that are alien to Daleks, the Dalek commits suicide after commanding Rose to order its own death.  The “human factor” in The Evil of the Daleks, which precipitated questioning, the Dalek Civil War and ultimately the (temporary) Dalek destruction, had the same decimating effect on the pepper pot’s psychology and continued existence in Dalek.

Rose Tyler comforts a Dalek in the 2005 episode Dalek, thereby transferring some of her DNA to it

Rose Tyler comforts a Dalek in the 2005 episode Dalek, thereby transferring some of her DNA to it

Rose is compelled to order the Dalek's own destruction as it is psychologically traumatized by its human DNA

Rose is compelled to order the Dalek’s own destruction as it is psychologically traumatized by the human DNA

The Evil of the Daleks has aged badly in respect of its racial stereotyping of the character of Kemel.  Played by the West Indian born Sonny Caldinez, Kemel is a Turkish wrestler and strongman for Maxtible.  Although possessed of almost super-human strength, Kemel is both unintelligent and mute. He’s almost the kind of character that you would expect in a First Doctor story, as William Hartnell was unfortunately infamous for his intolerance of all but Caucasian Englishmen. Sonny Caldinez would go on to play an Ice Warrior in each of the four Ice Warrior themed serials in the Classic Series, The Ice Warriors, The Seeds of Death, The Curse of Peladon and The Monster of Peladon.

Sonny Caldinez played the role of Kemel, a Turkish wrester and strongman

Sonny Caldinez played the role of Kemel, a Turkish wrester and strongman

Sonny Caldinez subsequently appeared as an Ice Warrior in four Classic Series stories.  He's seen here with the Third Doctor and Alpha Centauri in The Monster of Peladon (1974)

Sonny Caldinez subsequently appeared as an Ice Warrior in four Classic Series stories. He is seen here with the Third Doctor and Alpha Centauri in The Monster of Peladon (1974)

The Evil of the Daleks does leave us with perhaps one of the Doctor’s best ever quotes.  In speaking to Terrall the Doctor says,  “I am not a student of human nature.  I am a professor of a far wider academy, of which human nature is merely a part. All forms of life interest me”. “Professor” is the name that companion Ace playfully called the Seventh Doctor, but I’m rushing ahead of myself here.  Join me for my next review where Season five opens with the first 100% complete Second Doctor serial, the iconic Tomb of the Cybermen.

The Evil of the Daleks was originally broadcast in the UK between 20 May and 1 July 1967.  Episode 2 is available on the triple DVD set Lost in Time

The Evil of the Daleks was originally broadcast in the UK between 20 May and 1 July 1967. Episode 2 is available on the triple DVD set Lost in Time

Vivien Fleming

©Vivien Fleming, 2013.