The Seeds of Death

Cover of Doctor Who: The Seeds of Death DVD release


  • 17 February 2003 (UK)
  • 2 March 2004 (US)




A story built upon illogical plot holes and a complete absence of creativity makes this a seriously flawed serial. The directing is excellent and there are a few other positive qualities, but the plot is so problematic that the story is not saved by these good features.

The Seeds of Death - 6 episodes

The Seeds of Death is a story with a completely illogical plot. The premise is simple. On a future earth, all transportation takes place through a system called T-mat. T-mat can instantly teleport people and objects between T-Mat cubicles, so all goods, including food, are moved via this system. So far, it's a fairly reasonable and interesting idea. The catch is that all T-Mat transportation must proceed through a relay station on the moon, and that as a result of T-Mat's success, all other forms of transportation have been completely abandoned, including vechiles as well as rockets for space exploration. There is no backup system in case T-Mat malfunctions or is sabotaged, and the most important element of T-Mat is located far away on the moon, where it can only be reached though T-Mat itself.

As one might expect, a hostile alien force decides to invade earth, and the above system (alternatively: the creative bankruptcy the writers) makes it exceedingly easy. The moonbase is taken over, and soon a global food crisis ensues. It's left to the Doctor and some resourceful humans to save the day.

The Seeds of Death has several positive qualities, the most obvious of which is the direction. Director Michael Ferguson, who had previously expertly helmed The War Machines, employs innovative and striking techniques to convey the story. Scenes often open with ususal tracking shots, some scenes on the moonbase are filmed, quite effectively, from the perspective of the invaders, there is a unique opening credits sequence, and jump cuts between the moonbase, T-Mat headquarters on earth, and the Doctor's adventures keep the plot moving forward. Also notable is the unique musical score, the high death count, and the generally well-produced sets.

One of the few interesting plot features of the story is the moral quandry faced by Fewsham: he is caught on the moonbase with the invaders and is forced to either assist them or be killed. Frewsham is a cowardly, pathetic character, but actor Terry Scully does a reasonably good job portraying his plight. Meanwhile, the villians of the story are appreciably intimidating, if a bit ungainly.

Frewsham bargains with the invaders
Frewsham bargains with the invaders

However, in addition the the plot problems, the story suffers from several other shortcomings. Many standard sci-fi / Doctor Who cliches are present in the serial. Humans try to gain information by talking to an intelligent computer. The computer is so advanced that it can understand and respond to the human voice, yet so primitive that it responds in a monotonic, robotic voice and never provides really useful assistance. Moreover, the actor voicing the computer seems to raise his voice as more questions are asked, so that by the end of a series of questions, the computer seems disturbingly excited. It may seem strange that sci-fi humans always interface with computers so inefficiently, by speaking muiltiple entire sentences to them and then waiting for more sentences in response. But it's not so strange; it's a plot device that lazy writers use to achive plot exposition without needing to think too much. The computer plays no real role in the story, and the interactions only serve to slow down the plot and annoy the audience.

The chracters are fairly standard tropes: the strong female in a leadership role with little personality beyond pride in her competence and a tendency to bristle with her male colleagues; the stern and serious leader who speaks with gravitas; the misunderstood man who ends up being able to save the world; the coward who ends up collaborating with the enemies. The actors aren't that bad, but they're given very little to work with. And then of course there's the classic Doctor Who shorcoming: a world invasion must be portrayed with three men in monster suits. These issues aren't bad enough to make the story unwatchable, but they highlight a major shortcoming of the serial: there's nothing creative or unique about it.

The story's greatest problem lies in the plot. The idea that humans would be so narrow-minded as to construct a global transportation system, T-Mat, dependant on a relay station on the moon and abandon other forms of transport so that the only way to reach the relay station to fix it in the event of a malfunction is through the system itself is beyond unbelievable. The preimse that there would be no backup plan whatsoever is really bad plotting, and the idea that only an old-timer whistful for the olden days of rocketry can save the day is a bit melodramatic. Norally a plot hole or two is not enough to ruin the story if the directing is good and the pacing makes for good entertainment. But here plot holes are what creates the very story itself, and that makes them more difficult to overcome. What's more, as the story progresses, more unbelievable situations spring up to further propel the action. After London and other cities are attacked from the moon, it becomes clear that there is apparantly no way to turn off T-Mat, allowing the global attack to proceed quite easily. In episode five the audicence learns that earth possesses a previously unmentioned weather control system. This new device, previously completely unmentioned, then becomes central to the story. The poor plotting by the writers significantly detracts from the story.


Special features

The special features here don't offer very much. Several of the features on the second disc have nothing at all to do with the story at hand. The one that does, "Sssowing the Ssseedss", is well-produced, featuring informative interviews with the actors who portrayed the villians and members of the design team. The feature is insightful, but the problems is that only one interviewee had any lines in the story and it doesn't include any of main cast or the production team. This limits its appeal, and sadly there is no other feature which offers these qualities.

The information text for the episodes is quite informative. The auidence learns that in an earlier version of the script, the titular seeds, which are described as oxygen depleating, are suseptable to water precisely because they remove oxygen, leaving hydrogen gas which can be ignited. This is a bit more interesting chemically! The episode commentaries tend to ramble, given the absence of a modearator. Even director Michael Furgeson isn't as informative as he had been in his commentary for The War Machines. Things improve a bit one script editor Terrance Dicks shows up in episode three. He sheds some light on why the final script was less than ideal: writer Brian Hayles received conflicting information about whether Jamie would be in the story. When he finished writing, the producers order re-writes, but he was only able to complete two episodes, so Dicks himself had to re-write the final four episodes.