Doctor Who
The Seeds of Death

Starring: Patrick Troughton
BBC Worldwide
RRP 19.99
Certificate: PG
Available now

The Doctor, Jamie and Zoe arrive in the late 21st century, at a time when mankind has become dependent on T-Mat, a revolutionary form of instantaneous travel. They discover that the Ice Warriors plan to invade Earth, using T-Mat to transport deadly fungal spores...

The Seeds of Death is not a classic of the same stature as The Tomb of the Cybermen, the previous Troughton story to be released on DVD. Indeed, as a sprawling six-parter, its pace is not as tight as any of the four-part tales thus far issued in this format. However, the padding is not as apparent as it is during many other Season Six serials, such as The Space Pirates and The War Games.

In its favour, this 1969 story brings back the monstrous Martians following the success of their first appearance in the previous season's The Ice Warriors. There aren't many of them in evidence - we only ever see three regular warriors on set at any one time - but they look superb, with none of the ill-matching headpieces that were seen during their previous serial. The troops are joined by a new rank of Martian, in the guise of the Ice Lord Slaar (Alan Bennion), who looks sleeker but, complete with Judge Dredd helmet, no less formidable than his underlings.

The human cast fare less well in the costume department. By the end of the 21st century, according to this story, humans will be donning outfits that give the unfortunate appearance of wearing underpants on the outside of their trousers. Trust Frazer Hines to raise this point during the audio commentary! Another less than successful design element is the Martian seed pods, which are clearly nothing more than balloons.

Brian Hayles' script, like the subsequent The Space Pirates (which has just been released on audio CD) cashes in on the then extremely topical subject of manned space flight. The TARDIS crew materialise in a space museum, and later on they go to the moon in a rocket - something that humans had yet to achieve at the time of transmission. Watch out for Troughton, Hines and Wendy Padbury stretching their faces to simulate the effects of G-force!

One factor that makes this DVD release extra-special is that this story has never before been issued in episodic form. The VHS release, way back in 1985, was edited into a single 136-minute feature, which omitted the re-enacted reprises and opening model shots of the Earth and moon from Parts Two to Six.

As usual, the Restoration Team have done a splendid job of optimising the sound and picture quality. Those of you who have seen the VHS version of this story may recall the dramatic variations in quality between the un-restored film recordings, with Part Five (which was edited on 35mm film for production reasons) putting the fuzzy first episode to shame. These variations have now been ironed out and the other episodes brought almost up to the standard of Part Five. It would have been nice to have had a little feature illustrating some "before and after" stages of the restoration process, as we got on the Tomb and Aztecs DVDs, but such a feature is strangely absent here.

What we do get are the, as ever, informative on-screen production notes (did you know that Jamie wasn't included in the original draft?), a newly recorded interview featurette with Ice Warrior actors Alan Bennion and Sonny Caldinez, and an audio commentary featuring Frazer Hines, Wendy Padbury, director Michael Ferguson and script editor Terrance Dicks. The commentary livens up considerably when Dicks enters the fray for discussion of the final four episodes. As with the Tomb disc, one featurette, The Last Dalek, comprises home-movie footage from the production of the special effects in the last episode of The Evil of the Daleks, this time in its raw format. But as intriguing as this is, The Last Dalek might have seemed less out of place on the Tomb DVD.

Despite its flaws, The Seeds of Death has plenty going for it - including, of course, another excellent performance by Patrick Troughton. This is an attractive package and, since the presence of a second disc adds nothing to the cost, it is great value for money.

Richard McGinlay

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