DVD REVIEW: “DOCTOR WHO: THE SEEDS OF DOOM” (1976)

One of the interesting things about revisiting old Dr. Who series, aside from the pure joy of nostalgia, is sussing out the influences brought to bear on a given story, as well as its context. Take “The Seeds of Doom.” The final serial of the show’s 13th season (1975/76) combines bits of Howard Hawks’ The Thing From Another World, John Wyndham’s Day of the Triffids and Invasion of the Body Snatchers with ideas from the then-emerging environmental movement. But as a 9-year-old seeing the show for the first time on my local PBS affiliate back in 1979, I just thought it was an amazing show with a neat monster.

Sladen and Baker as Sarah Jane and The Doctor

This serial sees The Doctor (Tom Baker) and his companion Sarah Jane (Elisabeth Sladen) traveling to the Antarctic to investigate the discovery of a seed pod. It turns out to be a Krynoid, a “galactic weed” (in the Doctor’s parlance) which, if unleashed upon the world, will destroy it. But they’re not the only ones interested in the pod. “Green” millionaire Harrison Chase (Tony Beckley) has sent his right-hand thug Scorby (John Challis) and botanist Arnold Keeler (Mark Jones) to capture it for his collection… at any cost. The first pod germinates, infecting a crew member who promptly turns into a giant vegetable monster. Fortunately for us, The Doctor discovers a second Krynoid pod (they travel in pairs) and the race is on to stop Chase from unleashing the Krynoid upon the world in a bid to destroy “all plant eaters.”

“Seeds” was one of the fourth Doctor’s best episodes. Not only is he ably assisted by Sladen (one of my first crushes),  but Beckley gives a manic performance as Chase. Writer Robert Banks Stewart (“Terror of the Zygons”) has a welcome penchant for balancing scenes of fast-paced action with charmingly eccentric characters (Sylvia Coleridge as flower painter Amelia Ducat, for example), while Director Douglas Camfield handles the proceedings as if he were filming a movie .

 

A Krynoid on the loose

The BBC has done a typically fine job with this 2-disc package, putting all six episodes (and commentaries) on one disc; extras on the other. Among the most memorable extras are the 37-minute “Podshock” making-of featurette; “Playing in the Green Cathedral,” which spotlights composer Geoffrey Burgon; and “Stripped For Action,” a rather fascinating 20-minute mini-doc on the Tom Baker Dr. Who comics.

A unique mixture of Gothic horror and ’50s-era sci-fi, “Seeds of Doom” is doubtless the best giant vegetable monster show ever, as well as a Who that survives nostalgia.

 

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