My irregular Doctor Who rewatch has reached Robert Banks Stewart’s second and last script for the series. First things first, a few plot-holes that have always slightly irritated me.
In episode three, Dunbar tells Chase that he’s attended to the Doctor and Sarah (via a decoy chauffeur who’s rather handy with a gun). We later learn that the chauffeur was on Chase’s payroll. Eh? Surely it would have made more sense for Chase to send the homicidal chauffeur to intercept our heroes, especially considering the way that Dunbar reacts in horror to the deaths in Antarctica. So it doesn’t scan that Dunbar is happy to dispose of the Doctor and Sarah in cold blood.
Still, it’s some recompense that the chauffeur was played by Alan “Chuntzy” Chuntz, a familiar Doctor Who stuntman who rarely had the luxury of dialogue. When you hear his rather stilted delivery, the reason becomes clear …..
The link between Chase and the stolen pod is done in an incredibly clumsy way – via Amelia Ducat’s painting, left in the car boot. Surely Banks Stewart or Holmes could have found a slightly more nuanced way to bring Chase to the Doctor’s attention.
Another slightly baffling moment occurs when Amelia turns up at Chase’s palatial country house to demand payment for the painting. That’s fine, but the revelation that she was sent there by Sir Colin makes little sense. How did he know that the Doctor and Sarah had spoken to her?
But a few carps about the plotting aside (like Pyramids of Mars this had to be put together in extreme haste after other scripts collapsed) Seeds is gripping stuff. Tony Beckley’s super-camp performance is an obvious highlight and from his first scene he’s an absolute joy (there’s no doubt that without him the story would sag a little).
Mark Jones’ role as Keeler is less showy, but equally impressive. He’s clearly marked as doomed from the moment we first meet him and Jones is perfect as the twitchy, conscience-stricken scientist.
Possession has always been a theme in Doctor Who and it’s especially prevalent during the Hinchcliffe/Holmes era, where it’s usually tied in with a body horror theme (Noah in The Ark in Space, Sorenson in Planet of Evil). It’s bad enough to be taken over, but even worse when it results in a grotesque physical change ….
Tom Baker’s Doctor dabbles in fisticuffs in a few other stories (such as knocking out Salamar in Planet of Evil) but this is certainly the serial in which he’s in full-on Duggan mode. Had this happened more regularly it would have ended up as a touch monotonous, but there’s something undeniably appealing about the way that he becomes the man of action – springing through the skylight to duff up Scorby at the start of episode four is a definite highlight. “What do you do for an encore Doctor?” indeed.
So although the tone of the story is odd and off-kilter (it rather feels like an ultra-violent TV Comic strip) it’s hard not to love The Seeds of Doom. A little pruning (sorry) would have tightened things up – as a four-parter it would have been unbeatable – but I’m not unhappy with what we ended up with.