Tom Baker as Doctor Who

Tom Baker as Doctor Who

Sunday, 28 February 2016

426 The Seeds of Doom: Part Five

EPISODE: The Seeds of Doom: Part Five
OVERALL EPISODE NUMBER: 426
STORY NUMBER: 085
TRANSMITTED: Saturday 28 February 1976
WRITER: Robert Banks-Stewart
DIRECTOR: Douglas Camfield
SCRIPT EDITOR: Robert Holmes
PRODUCER: Philip Hinchcliffe
RATINGS: 9.9 million viewers
FORMAT: DVD: Doctor Who - The Seeds of Doom

"The Krynoid is an uncontrollable carnivore that's getting bigger and more powerful by the minute!"

The Krynoid is attacked by the guards allowing the Doctor & Sarah to escape with them & Scorby to the cottages, but the Krynoid finds them. The Doctor has Scorby make a Molotov cocktail to distract the Krynoid while they escape. Sir Colin Thackeray contacts Major Beresford at UNIT, since the Brigadier is in Geneva, to summon his help thanking Miss Ducat for her help. The Doctor runs for the car to go to contact Sir Colin while Scorby & Sarah go back to the house searching for Chase who is in the garden photographing the Krynoid. Reaching the World Ecology Bureau he explains to Sir Colin & Major Beresford what's been happening and brings to their attention that within a mile of Chase's estate the Krynoid has started using other plants to kill people. They assemble a laser gun team to attack the Krynoid. The Doctor phones Sarah at Chase's mansion but they are cut off by the Krynoid which snaps the telephone wires. The guards flee the mansion leaving Scorby, Sarah & the butler Hargreaves behind. They find a guard's body outside strangled by the vines and encounter Chase, who is firmly on the side of the plants & the Krynoid and quite mad. He returns to the house sheltering in a room full of plants refusing to listen to Scorby's pleas for help. The plants attack them, choking them with vines as the Doctor & Sergeant Henderson arrive with pesticide. Chase attacks them calling them murderers. They free Sarah & Scorby but Hargreaves is already dead. They take shelter in Chase's laboratory. They clear the room of plants but while they are dumping them outside Chase locks the door leaving them at the mercy of the now giant Krynoid.

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Much less violence this episode which is a big relief. Ok so Sir Colin asked Miss Ducat to help him.... how does he know of the link between her & Chase - did the Doctor contact him in between leaving her house and driving to Chase's mansion. Chase's madness in this episode seems very real and genuine and very very scary. Top marks to Tony Beckley's performance here. He's been "slightly odd" since the start of the story but as it's gone he's tipped from obsession right the way over the edge into madness.

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And UNIT's back. Except it's not UNIT as we know it. No Brigadier, no Benton, no Mike Yates or Harry Sullivan. Android Invasion *just about* got away with it by having Ian Marter (Harry Sullivan) and John Levene (Benton) involved when Nicholas Courtney (the Brigadier) wasn't available. Here none of them are and it's a bunch of faces we don't recognise. This might of worked if it had been an established pattern over the years of different personnel, like the interchangeable Jimmys in the early days of UNIT, but UNIT has come to mean the Brigadier, plus support, so their appearance here is effectively UNIT in name only. Over the last three stories they've been commanded by officers of decreasing rank: after the Brigadier in Terror of the Zygons we had Colonel Faraday in Android Invasion and now Major Beresford accompanied by Benton substitute Sergeant Henderson. These last two episodes of the story are UNIT's last appearances of the seventies and it's a bit of anti climatic exit. Over the next few years the Doctor will be visiting contemporary Earth a lot less so the story need for them disappears. Save for a few mentions, and a cameo appearance of their headquarters, the next time we see UNIT on active service will be in 1989 in the final season of Doctor Who.

Playing Major Beresford is John Acheson who I know nothing about save that he's been in a previous Douglas Camfield production appearing in the Paul Temple episode Night Train. A quick peak at the cast list for that shows Peter Halliday in the cast also, who Camfield used on the Invasion.

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I also know nothing about Ray Barron, playing Sergeant Henderson. He's got no previous Doctor who appearances to his name but, and I'm sure this will surprise you, Camfield used him before in his 1975 Sweeney Stay Lucky Eh, which features John Challis, who plays Scorby in this story.

Appearing in just this episode is regular extra Keith Ashley as Sir Colin's aide. He's got dialogue here so he probably should be credited! He's previously been a Extra in The Savages episode 1, a Firing Squad Member in The War Games episode one, a Technician in Doctor Who and the Silurians, a Villager in The Dæmons episode three, an Extra in Planet of the Spiders part one, a Dalek Operator in Genesis of the Daleks and a Zygon in Terror of the Zygons. He's got one more appearance as a Brother in The Masque of Mandragora parts one and three.

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There are a number of familiar extras in the guard squad chief among which is Pat Gorman, who's been in everything! I'm pretty sure that Patsy is one of the guards in the cottage with The Doctor, Sarah & Scorby. Ian Elliot was previously a UNIT Soldier in Inferno episode 1, a Daffodil Man in Terror of the Autons episodes three & four, a UNIT Soldier in The Mind of Evil episodes one & two, a Colonist in Colony in Space episode one, a Villager in The Dæmons episode three giving him an appeartance in EVERY story in Season 8, a Guard Warrior in The Mutants episode one, a UNIT Soldier in The Time Warrior part one, a Regular Army Soldier / UNIT Soldier in Invasion of the Dinosaurs part one, a Villager in Planet of the Spiders part one, and an Android Villager in The Android Invasion part one. He's in episodes three to five of this story before returning as a Haemovore in The Curse of Fenric part one. Brian Nolan meanwhile was an IE Guard in The Invasion episode 1, a Resistance Man in The War Games episodes six to eight, a UNIT Soldier in Spearhead from Space episode 1, Doctor Who and the Silurians episode 2 & 6 and Invasion of the Dinosaurs episode 1. He's an Earth Guard in Frontier in Space episodes two & three and after appearing in episodes four and five of this story returns as the TV Cameraman in The Deadly Assassin part one.

Sunday, 21 February 2016

425 The Seeds of Doom: Part Four

EPISODE: The Seeds of Doom: Part Four
OVERALL EPISODE NUMBER: 425
STORY NUMBER: 085
TRANSMITTED: Saturday 21 February 1976
WRITER: Robert Banks-Stewart
DIRECTOR: Douglas Camfield
SCRIPT EDITOR: Robert Holmes
PRODUCER: Philip Hinchcliffe
RATINGS: 11.1 million viewers
FORMAT: DVD: Doctor Who - The Seeds of Doom

"What do you do for an encore, Doctor?" "I win!"

The Doctor jumps through the windows in the ceiling and, overcoming Scorby & seizing his gun, holds Chase at gunpoint. He rescues Sarah, locking them in the lab but the Krynoid pod stings Keeler. Keeler quickly begins to change to Chase's amazed interest. Hiding Sarah in the grounds the Doctor sneaks back to the house. Keeler is taken to a cottage in the grounds. The Doctor finds the opened pod in the lab but is taken prisoner again by Scorby who takes him to Chase's composting machine. Locked in the cottage & bedridden, Keeler continues to mutate. Amelia Ducat turns up at the main gate demanding to be paid for her painting. Sarah sneaks into the cottage and is horrified by what Keeler is becoming. She goes to find the Doctor for help. Chase tries to fob Miss Ducat off by paying her and has Scorby escort her from the premises. Scorby is called away by the guards allowing Sarah to speak to her and gets her to pass a message to Sir Colin Thackeray. Chase has the Doctor placed in the entrance to his composter and sets the machine to start automatically. Miss Ducat returns to her car where Sir Colin & Dunbar are waiting for her. Sir Colin decides to call UNIT while Dunbar goes into the house, admitting his error to Sir Colin. Keeler has mutated into his tentacled form and breaks his bonds, escaping from the cottage. Sarah finds the Doctor and deactivates the composter. Dunbar argues with Chase. Chase's butler Hargreaves tells them Keeler has escaped and Dunbar goes for help. The Doctor & Sarah find Keeler gone. Dunbar encounters a larger Krynoid blob in in the grounds and is consumed by it before it turns it's attentions on the Doctor & Sarah.....

More violence in this episode with the Doctor hitting Scorby in stomach and then smashing chair over his head. Sorry, that's just not the Doctor. Violence from Scorby is more acceptable but his beating the Doctor is a little over the top: this isn't the Sweeney. Then there's the horror aspect of the episode too with Keeler pleading to go to hospital as Chase watches fascinated as he quickly mutates and end up in a form far beyond what Winlett's Krynoid reached:

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Then there's the nasty composter machine that the Doctor is nearly fed to. Yes I know it's just a "saw mill blade with the damsel in distress tied to a log" but with the volume turned up a few notches but it's still very unpleasant and even if you've not seen the story before you'd be putting money on someone going into it before the story's end!

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Like the previous episode there's aspects of this one which leave a rather bad taste in the mouth which is a shame because I think there is some good stuff going on here. When you think about it you do have to wonder why Miss Ducat has Sir Colin Thackeray waiting for her in a car: there's no established link between the two previously in the story.

Right lets deal with the casting "elephant in the room" now: Yes that is Tony Beckley as Harrison Chase. Not heard the name before but think he looks a tad familiar? He was Camp Freddie in The Italian Job. He died of cancer in California in 1980. Seeds of Doom was made 6 years after the Italian Job was released and, though the film was popular, I suspect it hadn't quite reached the popularity it has today.

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At the time John Challis, playing Scorby, was best known for a recurring role in Z-Cars. From 1981 he found fame as Boycie in Only Fools & Horses. He was an actor Douglas Camfield used repeatedly in his Sweeney episode Stay Lucky Eh and then again as Cpl Dupre in his acclaimed classic serial Beau Geste for Barry Letts and Terrance Dicks. You can hear him interviewed by Toby Hadoke in Who's Round 110.

So even though they weren't as well known then you can't watch this now without thinking that the lead villains are Camp Freddie from The Italian Job & Boycie from Only Fools & Horses and that takes you right out of the production.

Kenneth Gilbert plays Richard Dunbar. It's his sole Doctor Who appearance but he was in the Camfield directed Sweeney episode Bad Apple and the first Shoestring episode Private Ear (director: D Camfield) You may recognise him as Harold Earle, one of the politicians who falls prey to Francis Urquart in House of Cards.

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Michael Barrington, playing Sir Colin Thackeray, is probably most familiar as Governor Venables in my favourite sitcom Porridge.

Mark Jones plays the ill fated Arnold Keeler as well as the voice of the Krynoid he becomes. He's yet another Imperial Officer in The Empire Strikes Back and is one of the few Who actors to appear in Red Dwarf where he plays a Canary in Pete part 1.

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Chase's butler Hargreaves is played by Seymour Green who'll be back as the Chamberlain in The Twin Dilemma.

David Masterman, the Guard Leader, was in another Camfield episode of the Sweeney Thou Shalt Not Kill.

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One of his guards, is Harry 'aitch Fielder who finally gets an onscreen credit in this episode! He spent his career as a supporting artist and once you know his face you'll be recognising him everywhere. He's got a stack of Doctor Who episodes to his name going back to 1967 almost all of them uncredited: He was in The Enemy of the World as a Central European Guard, The Wheel in Space as a Wheel Crewmember, Planet of the Spiders as a Guard and Revenge of the Cybermen as a Vogan. He returns in The Deadly Assassin as a Guard, The Face of Evil as a Second Assassin, The Invisible Enemy as a Titan Base Crewman, The Ribos Operation as a Levithian Guard, The Armageddon Factor as a Guard, Meglos as a Tigellan & Castrovalva as a Security Guard. He was numerous uncredited Federation Troopers in Blake's 7, one of which Camfield directed, and is present at the infamous shoot out scene in the final episode. Other Camfield productions he's appeared in include Target: Blow Out (which also features Camfield's wife Sheila Dunn) and four episodes of Beau Geste which we mentioned above.

If you look at his IMDB entry you'll find he has a truly impressive CV! I didn't realise until I started researching this story for the first run of the blog that he'd also appeared on Thames TV children's magazine series CBTV, which I have very fond memories of. He played Harry, the security the security guard on the gates of Teddington Studios that Jim Sweeney & Steve Steen had to get past to get their rooftop studio. Incredibly YouTube footage of this exists, uploaded by the man himself at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AG-lrYSulTc and http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gHkJvLnWats. He's got a website at http://www.harryfielder.co.uk/ and is on facebook at https://www.facebook.com/harry.fielder.9. Once you realise what he looks like you'll be spotting him everywhere!

Sunday, 14 February 2016

424 The Seeds of Doom: Part Three

EPISODE: The Seeds of Doom: Part Three
OVERALL EPISODE NUMBER: 424
STORY NUMBER: 085
TRANSMITTED: Saturday 14 February 1976
WRITER: Robert Banks-Stewart
DIRECTOR: Douglas Camfield
SCRIPT EDITOR: Robert Holmes
PRODUCER: Philip Hinchcliffe
RATINGS: 10.3 million viewers
FORMAT: DVD: Doctor Who - The Seeds of Doom

"I could play all day in my green cathedral!"

The Doctor & Sarah are rescued from the ruins of the Antarctic base and flown to London. Scorby and Keeler deliver the seed pod to Harrison Chase. Dunbar arrives angry at the destruction Chase has caused and tells them that the Doctor & Sarah are still alive. The Doctor meets with Dunbar and his superior Sir Colin Thackery at the World Ecology Bureau. The Doctor worries information has leaked from the bureau and warns them of the danger the pod causes. The Doctor & Sarah leave in a car for the Botanic Institute but are instead driven to a quarry where their driver tries to kill them. The Doctor beats him unconscious. Examining the boot they find a painting by famed painter Amelia Ducat who identifies it as one she sold to Harrison Chase. Keeler has qualms about experimenting on the pod. The Doctor & Sarah drive to Chase's country mansion and are chased by guards but caught by Scorby then taken to Chase. He tells them he has the greatest collection of plants in the world and the plant that will hatch from the pod will be the centrepiece. The pod starts to activate & Chase is summoned allowing the Doctor & Sarah to escape from Scorby. Sarah is sent to summon help but is swiftly recaptured. The Doctor tries to get back into the house to get the pod. Sarah is taken to the seed pod and held down as it starts to open.....

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The thing that stands out for me from this episode is how violent the Doctor is. We're used to see the Third Doctor throw people about and defend himself with Venusian Akido but here the Doctor is physically violent in a way we've not seen before striking the Chauffeur with his fist and punching Scorby in the stomach then twisting his neck to render him unconscious. It stands out from what we've seen before and doesn't feel right. In times to come the later piece of action would probably been accomplished by tripping him up with the scarf! My feeling is that this is the script as Robert Banks-Stewart wrote it and script editor Robert Holmes who was pushed for time (30 days between the script's commission & location filming) didn't have time to rewrite the scenes. It feels quite out of character for the Doctor and spoils the episode for me.

On the other hand there is some really great stuff in here with Chase's madness in his devotion to his plants coming to the fore:

CHASE: The hymn of the plants. I composed it myself. People say that you should talk to plants. I believe that. Just as I believe they also like music.
SARAH: Got to get out of here.
DOCTOR: (mutters)
SARAH: What?
DOCTOR: I said, the music's terrible!
SCORBY: Shut up.
CHASE: Now I shall play you my requiem. My Floriana Requiem, dedicated to Linnaeus.
CHASE: You know, Doctor, I could play all day in my green cathedral.
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There's some great dialogue elsewhere and the wonderful exchange between the Doctor & Amelia Ducat about the painting really stand out:

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DOCTOR: No. We found it in a car boot.
AMELIA: A car boot?
DOCTOR: A Daimler car boot.
AMELIA: The car is immaterial.
SARAH: The driver wasn't. He tried to kill us!
Ducat is the first of several completely dotty older ladies that Tom Baker's Doctor has such fun interacting with.

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The Doctor's exchange at the start with Thackeray and Dunbar is fab too, especially the Doctor's parting line:

THACKERAY: But why should people go to such lengths to get their hands on the pod?
DOCTOR: Greed. Greed. The most dangerous impulse in the universe. Do you realise that on this planet the pod is unique? I use the word with precision. Unique. And to some people, its uniqueness makes it valuable at any cost.
DUNBAR: You make these two mystery men sound like fanatics.
DOCTOR: Fanatics? Tell him. You tell him. You tell him!
SARAH: These two mystery men had everything planned. They had an aeroplane, guns, even a bomb. It was organised down to the last detail. Now, if that isn't fanaticism, well, what is?
DUNBAR: Surely you're exaggerating.
SARAH: Exaggerate? Now look, I was there. We were nearly killed!
DOCTOR: Be calm. Be calm. Listen, both of you. Are you both listening to me? I think they were dangerous, but they were stooges. I believe they were working for someone else.
SARAH: And if that's true, that someone else must be a complete madman.
DOCTOR: What's more to the point is how they knew of the pod's existence. The discovery had been reported only to your department, correct?
THACKERAY: That's correct. But Doctor, I trust you're not suggesting that information was leaked from this bureau?
DOCTOR: Why not? Why shouldn't it be?
DUNBAR: Doctor, how can you suggest such a thing?
THACKERAY: In any case, what would be the gain?
DOCTOR: Oh, money.
DUNBAR: Money?
DOCTOR: Yes, money. Hired thieves and murderers don't usually work for love.
DUNBAR: Since you seem to have it all sewn up, Doctor, perhaps you can tell us where the pod is now?
DOCTOR: I'll make a guess. Right here, in this country. Action! Action, that's what we need. If we don't find that pod before it germinates, it'll be the end of everything. Everything, you understand? Even your pension!
Another great bit of script is the Doctor's introduction to Harrison Chase:
SCORBY: Some visitors, Mister Chase.
CHASE: So, the meddling Doctor. You lead a charmed life. You arrive without a chauffeur, not even a touch of frostbite.
DOCTOR: How do you do. Have you met Miss Smith? She's my best friend.
CHASE: Is she? And still beautifully intact, I see.
SARAH: I try my best, under the circumstances.
DOCTOR: And this is Mister Scorby. I don't know his first name. And these two gentlemen
CHASE: Yes, thank you, Doctor, we are acquainted.
DOCTOR: How nice. Hand over the pod.
CHASE: After all the inconvenience I've been put to? Oh no, Doctor. Perhaps you didn't know, but in this house is assembled the greatest collection of rare plants in the world. When the pod flowers, I shall achieve the crowning glory of my life's work.
DOCTOR: Take care. I notice a little greenfly here and there.
CHASE: Your envy is understandable, Doctor. However, as I propose to have you both executed
SARAH: Why? We haven't harmed you.
DOCTOR: Be reasonable, Sarah. What choice has he got? We keep interfering.
CHASE: Exactly, Doctor. However, before you die you will be granted a unique privilege. The last things you will ever see will be my beautiful plants. Please come this way.
But in the middle of it is something that stands out as peculiar: The Doctor describes Sarah-Jane Smith as his "best friend". It's an odd turn of phrase for the Doctor who hasn't really described anyone as a friend before. Companion, assistant yes. But friend? Again I wonder if given a little more time to script edit the episode this line might have been tweaked.

Cast: Harrison Chase's violent chauffeur is played by Alan Chuntz who was a regular member of the HAVOK stunt team and has been in the background of many a Doctor Who story either hitting someone or falling down. This is his ONLY credited role in Doctor Who but IMDB also think he was, all uncredited, Harvey in The Seeds of Death episode one, a Thug in The Ambassadors of Death episode 1, a Technician in Inferno episode 1, a UNIT Soldier in Terror of the Autons episode four, a Prisoner in The Mind of Evil episodes three & four and a mercenary in episode five of the same story. He was Omega's Champion in The Three Doctors episode three, a Security Guard in The Green Death episode two, a Guard in Planet of the Spiders part one, a Kaled Soldier in Ravon's HQ in Genesis of the Daleks part one, an Elite Guard in Genesis of the Daleks part five and will return as a Guard in State of Decay part three

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Ian Fairbairn appears briefly at the start of the episode as Doctor Chester, the man in the orange snow gear. He was first in The Macra Terror as Questa, then became a Camfield regular appearing in The Invasion as Gregory and Inferno as Bromley & the Penetration Announcer before this. Camfield keeps using him as he appears in a Camfield episode of The Onedin Line, the first broadcast episode of The Professionals, Private Madness, Public Danger, that Camfield directed and also in one of Camfield's Shoestring episodes Link Up. The same episode also features Doctor who actors Stewart Bevan (Professor Clifford Jones from Green Death), John Woodnutt (most recently in the Camfield directed Terror of the Zygons), Camfield's wife Sheila Dunn (Dalek Masterplan, The Invasion & Inferno) plus Sylvia Coleridge who's Amelia Ducat in this story as well as appearing in Blake's 7: Gambit as the Croupier.

We're back at Buckland Sand and Silica Co Ltd, this time serving as the quarry where the chauffeur tries to kill the Doctor & Sarah.

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The exterior of the World Ecology Bureau is probably the shortest distance Doctor Who ever travelled to film: it's the entrance to BBC Television Centre!

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Meanwhile Harrison Chase's estate is filmed at Athelhampton House in Dorset.

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The estate surrounding the house features prominently in the story.

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It's therefore of no surprise to discover that they're highlighted in a Then & Now feature on The Seeds of Doom DVD

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The house is open to the public so you can pay it a visit and cross it off your list of Doctor Who locations!

Sunday, 7 February 2016

423 The Seeds of Doom: Part Two

EPISODE: The Seeds of Doom: Part Two
OVERALL EPISODE NUMBER: 423
STORY NUMBER: 085
TRANSMITTED: Saturday 07 February 1976
WRITER: Robert Banks-Stewart
DIRECTOR: Douglas Camfield
SCRIPT EDITOR: Robert Holmes
PRODUCER: Philip Hinchcliffe
RATINGS: 11.4 million viewers
FORMAT: DVD: Doctor Who - The Seeds of Doom

"I told you he was changing form. Already his mind's been taken over. Very soon his entire body will alter. There'll be a transition period, a grotesque parody of the human form. By now, Winlett himself no longer exists and we must destroy what he's become."

Scorby arms himself to prepare to take the pod by force, despite Keeler's objections. Sarah finds Moberley's body and the base door opened. The Krynoid creature Winlett has become makes it's way through the snow as the Doctor tells Stevenson that they must destroy it. Dunbar speaks with Chase and tells him that they have heard there's been a virus outbreak at the base. Scorby destroys the base's radio when the medical rescue team try to contact them. Keeler finds the opened pod causing them to look for what has come out of it. Scorby takes the Doctor & Sarah prisoner and asks them about the pod. The Doctor tells him it's taken over Winlett. Stevenson returns to the base and is captured, accidentally revealing to Scorby that there is a second pod which Scorby has him fetch from the Freezer. The Doctor & Stevenson are tied up in the base while Scorby ties Sarah to a bomb in the generator plant, despite Keeler's continued objections. The Doctor & Stevenson sever their bonds and escape, the Doctor going to the generator to find Sarah. Stevenson attempts to contact help but is murdered by the Krynoid. Scorby & Keeler escape with the pod in their plane. The Doctor finds Sarah as the Krynoid enters the base's generator plant seeking shelter & food. They escape sealing it in as it's consumed by the explosion.

Perhaps a little on the slow side but there's some decent tension in this episode. Will Scorby & Keller find what they're after? Will the Krynoid kill them all? Will Sarah be rescued before the bomb goes off ? They've been a bit grim in places, with the Doctor proposing to amputate Winlett's arm to save him, the mutating form of Winlett and Scorby's violent attitude but it's all good stuff so far. I've liked these first two episodes which, in the picture of the complete story, essentially form a two part tale by themselves.

If you're thinking the Krynoid monster looks familiar then it is: It's a resprayed Axon monster costume from 1971's Claws of Axos.

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I'll see if I can find a better shot of it for comparison later in the story.

Seeds of Doom was a somewhat late addition to this season, replacing another story. The original idea was that season 13 would conclude with The Hand of Fear, a six part Bob Baker & Dave Martin story that was originally intended to kill off the Brigadier. For various reason the story fell through, being redrafted as a four parter for the next season. Script editor Robert Holmes turned to Robert Banks-Stewart who created Seeds of Doom in something of a hurry. Banks-Stewart was commissioned on 30th September 1975: By the 30th October location filming was taking place. The Axon costume reuse saves time & money creating a new costume, neither of which the production had. Indeed the lack of time is reflected throughout the story in aspects that could have done with being rewriten or altered by the script editor.

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Believe it or not but the exterior Antarctic scenes in this episode were filmed on location at Buckland Sand and Silica Co Ltd near Reigate. It'll be back looking more like it's natural self later in the story.

There's one moment that really took me out the story this episode: as Stevenson gets the second seed pod out the freezer and brings it took Scorby it looks like he's serving a Christmas Pudding covered in cream!

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