Serial Review: The Seeds of Doom (Season 13)
A group of scientists in the Arctic region discover a strange seed pod. When folks back in the mainland are informed, they seek out the help of UNIT, who in turn send the Doctor and Sarah Jane to investigate this strange alien life form. At the same time, corrupt operators are trying to sell the rights to the seed, while the scientists become overly violent in protecting their discovery. Meanwhile, the seed seems to burst and take over one of the scientists, turning him into a strange plantlike humanoid. All sorts of shit hitting all sorts of fans.
Six part stories have the inherent problem of having 150% of the time to fill that the usual four parters do. Slow pace is a common complaint of the classic serials, and when you have that much more space to deal with, it is all together too likely that the problem will pop up even more. “The Seeds of Doom” seems to be an exception to this, however, as it is one of the few stories longer than four parts that seems to fly by, much like the similarly named Patrick Troughton serial “The Seeds of Death”.
This serial has Tom Baker playing it very serious, as the script requires. I’ve always said that I think Baker handles comedy much better than he does drama, but he’s damn near awesome here. Both he and Elisabeth Sladen absolutely bring out their A game. There are times when Baker’s version of the Doctor is written as being a complete asshole towards Sarah Jane, but I still like the Doctor overall as a character more as a dramatic role than a comedic one. Although I don’t think Tom handles drama as well as say Sylvester McCoy or Patrick Troughton, I’d still rather watch a serious Doctor than a funny one, and in this particular serial Baker is excellent.
In terms of story, “The Seeds of Doom” has a lot of intrigue. The idea of a sort of symbiotic plant alien landing on Earth and taking over the life forms isn’t all together too original, but it is interesting enough and this story has a great pace that was able to hold my interest better than the average story of the Tom Baker era. I would imagine it would be slightly controversial in that at one point the Doctor pulls back and punches a guy in the face in part three, but being that I really enjoyed the Pertwee era, I like when the Doctor goes for a bit of a rough and tumble. In real life, I’m not a fan of violence as a rule, but somehow I enjoy a good fist fight in my fiction.
To compound the excellent parts of the story, the villain is brilliant. He is sort of a cross between your average conniving Bond villain and Poison Ivy from the Batman comics. He’s a psychotic environmentalist and plant enthusiast who is played picture perfectly by Tony Beckley. There are some thematic similarities between this and “Invasion of the Dinosaurs”, both of which deal with extremist environmentalists. In both instances, the Doctor indicates that he sympathizes with their overall perspective of concern for the environment, but feels that their means are too extreme. It’s a fair point and a good moral for the story, really.
I was jumping for joy when watching “The Robots of Death” a couple weeks ago, but I liked this even more. I basically have nothing at all to criticize about this story, which is definitely a rarity for me. My new favorite Baker serial by far, and at the very least in my top ten favorite Doctor Who stories.