DVD Review: DOCTOR WHO THE SEEDS OF DOOM

DVD Review: DOCTOR WHO THE SEEDS OF DOOM

Presaging John Carpenter’s seminal film THE THING by a full six years, The 6-part 1976 DOCTOR WHO serial SEEDS OF DOOM, is not only one of the best Tom Baker era Doctor Who episodes, but is one of the best Doctor Who story-lines; in its going on 50 year history(2013 will be the 50th anniversary of the show).

Mixing space born terror, cronenbergesque occupation with body horror, ecological concerns, and human madmen it is a surprisingly brutal and more than a bit horrific entry, in the oft imaginative, but usually tame, family show.

An intelligent, engrossing, exciting and risk taking script by Robert Banks Stewart (script edited by the great Robert Holmes and produced by Philip Hinchliffe, so SEEDS OF DOOM is the highlight of what many consider the best Doctor Who producer/script editor team), is complemented by one of the best directed episodes of Doctor Who by the equally great director Douglas Camfield, and all tied together by stellar performances from the usual suspects (Tom Baker giving one of the most commanding and passionate performances of his seven year run) as well as the guest stars.

It was typical for serials longer than four parts to feel padded, not this one, it starts out engrossing and just gets more intense each episode. My first impetus, upon my original viewing was to grade this an A/A+. Having let some time pass, viewing the episode again, it lives up to that first impression, it rates a solid A+.

If you want a modern comparison it is the BLINK (the best episode of the David Tennant era) of the Tom Baker era. DVD sports a commentary with Tom Baker (The Doctor), John Challis (Scorby), Kenneth Gilbert (Dunbar), Michael McStay (Moberley), Philip Hinchcliffe (Producer), Robert Banks Stewart (Writer), Roger-Murray Leach (Designer) and Joggs Camfield (son of Douglas Camfield, Director).

Final Grade: A+
Doctor Who: The Seeds of Doom (Story 85): Price Your Copy Here!

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CLASSIC TV reviews: DOCTOR WHO! STORY 13 – THE WEB PLANET !!!

This installment of IT WILL NOT BE TELEVISED we take the way back machine to the swinging and bloody early days of 1965, and look at a serial from season 2 of a little known (at the time) Brit show called Doctor Who! And the serial, the 13th Who Serial, is called THE WEB PLANET.

Onto the review:

SERIAL 13 THE WEB PLANET
Original Airdate Weekly from 13 Feb 1965- 20 Mar 1965
Doctor Who: The Web Planet (Story 13) (See all Sci-Fi & Fantasy Cult Movies)


First let’s start with a bit of back-story. What was happening in the world over the six weeks, six Fridays, this serial went out on? Well The News during this Time is… all too human:

-The first US combat troops arrive in Vietnam. By the end of the year, 190,000 American soldiers are in Vietnam.

-In the Audubon Ballroom in New york City on 21 Feb 1965 El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz (perhaps better known as Malcolm X) was assassinated before a crowd of hundreds including his pregnant wife, and 3 of his 4 children.

-18th March, 1965: A Soviet cosmonaut known as Lt. Col. Alexei Leonov exited the spacecraft Voskshod II for a short “spin”. He completed a somersault, and then proceeded to take pictures of space. This took place just days before the U.S. planned to launch its first two-man spaceship and becomes the first man to walk in space.

-18th February, 1965 : An avalanche and Glacial Slide caused the deaths of 26 miners who were removing copper ore from underneath a glacier in British Columbia.

-15th February, 1965 : It was proclaimed by Queen Elizabeth II of England that the Maple leaf would become Canada’s new national flag symbol.

-20th February, 1965 : The Ranger 8 spacecraft crashed on the moon after sending back thousands of pictures of the lunar surface

-2nd March : The Sound of Music Premier 1965

-7th March, 1965 : Troopers with night sticks, shotguns and tear-gas grenades violently confronted 600 civil rights marchers during an attempted 50-mile march from Selma to the Alabama state capitol Montgomery.

-Optical Disk —– 1965 USA by James Russell – now Compact Disk CD / DVD

-The Supremes, “Stop! In The Name Of Love” rises to the top of the charts

So that’s a look at the world 46 years ago. And for a bigger kick to put that world in perspective, here are what things cost then (US prices):

Cost of a new home: $21,500.00
Cost of a first-class stamp: $0.05
Cost of a gallon of regular gas: $0.31
Cost of a dozen eggs: $0.53
Cost of a gallon of Milk: $0.95
Federal debt: $322.3 billion

Average Income per year $6,450.00 (Needless to say this average income bought you a lot more more back then, than today’s average income of $39,423.00 is going to buy you. For one thing far more of today’s money is eaten up in taxes upon taxes, and most things have multiplied faster than income… ie stamps and petrol and the price of a house are nearly 10 times 1965 levels, while income is barely 6 times 1965 levels. So income is trailing inflation by nearly 50% overtime, and that’s not even accounting for various new forms of taxation. And just think, you thought this was just a Doctor Who review! 🙂 )

While the Brits may have been watching Doctor Who (and let’s be honest, very few of them were doing that), In the States the airwaves were packed with shows eating up the ratings from THE FUGITIVE to BEWITCHED to MAN FROM UNCLE to VOYAGE TO THE BOTTOM OF THE SEA to BONANZA to ED SULLIVAN to JONNY QUEST to popular music shows such as SHINGDIG. And 1965 would only provide more programs to keep Americans occupied.

It wouldn’t be till the late 70s, and Public Broadcasting’s increased efforts going across the pond for programming… that would introduce the States to this thing called Doctor Who. And indeed give the show the added funding to keep it running, when other BBC shows of the period had given up the ghost.

And being one of the few shows of the fantastic, Doctor Who offered a cross cultural appeal that continues to… stand the test of time. So to speak. 🙂

So without further ado the review of the 13th Doctor Who story, starring William Hartnell and written by Bill Strutton, produced by Verity Lambert, and directed by Richard Martin:

    EPISODE 1 OF 6

THE WEB PLANET- by Bill Strutton. More shockingly bad alien costumes. Dennis Spooner graduates to script editor. This is a mysterious but not particularly satisfying series opener. Unimpressively directed by Richard Martin. C.

    EPISODE 2 OF 6

THE ZARBI- Strange premise with more shockingly inept alien costumes. Here’s the thing, if you don’t have the budget to do something convincingly… then don’t do it. Not without interest, but those sets and costumes… uggh. C-.

    EPISODE 3 OF 6

ESCAPE TO DANGER- I do like how the Menoptra move. Very elegant. It was Richard Martin’s idea to have dancers play the Menoptra, and a great idea it was. Lacking their… grace, and performances, and strangeness I would not be writing this review. Roslyn de Winter, an Australian mime, was hired to choreograph the Menoptra’s movements and speech, and also plays the central Menoptra… Vrestin. For the actress to act through all that makeup is impressive… for all the actors actually. With this episode I became interested in the serial, in spite of its constraints. B-.

    EPISODE 4 OF 6

CRATER OF NEEDLES- You have to give this serial points for sheer imagination. So much creativity. If I was a kid, the target audience, I would have loved this serial. It is very well written, and passionately performed. And the flying scenes, and battles are quite lovingly staged. While as an adult I could ask for better costumes, effects, sets, what they pull off is still quite impressive. The strength of Doctor Who, being the same strength of The Simpsons or any good Pixar movie, it is layered, smart writing to appeal to both adults and kids. B+.

    EPISODE 5 OF 6

INVASION- From a serial I almost did not finish, when I saw the first one, this has really grown on me. Beyond the questionable budget it is quite a lovely fable, and also at times quite touching, and quite dire.

    EPISODE 6 OF 6


THE CENTRE- All routes lead to the center, as the Doctor and his Crew and the butterfly like Menoptra battle the Animus, an eater of worlds, at the center of all things. A strong denouement, for a surprisingly good serial. B/B+.

So in summation this six part series is not, when recalled, fondly remembered by most. That said its first episode, THE WEB PLANET, originally brought in 13.5 million viewers, the most of any Doctor Who broadcast of the 60s.

Doctor Who never brought in great numbers, but it managed to be consistent, and have a passionate fan-base. Which accounts for the longevity of both the original series, and the success of the new series. If you can get past the questionable first couple episodes, and go along with the conceits, I think you’ll find a serial that is surprisingly… fun. Overall grade: B/B+.

You can pick up the DVD using the link below AND support this blog at the same time! Say it ain’t so, Joe! 🙂 ! But seriously I only recommend things I myself own, and I appreciate any purchasing you do via this blog. Thanks!

Doctor Who: The Web Planet (Story 13) (See all Sci-Fi & Fantasy Cult Movies)

Sources:

http://www.shannonsullivan.com/- Offers background info on this episode
http://www.listzblog.com- Nice overview of popular shows by period
http://www.tvparty.com/- More great overview of what’s hot in tv by year
http://oldies.about.com/od/60srockers/tp/topten1965.htm- A great overview of popular music by year
http://www.1960sflashback.com/- Helped with research on prices in 1965
http://www.ssa.gov/oact/cola/AWI.html- more prices over time data
http://www.thepeoplehistory.com/- another great tool for prices over time
http://doctorwhoreviews.co.uk/N.htm- for a helpful scan, plus see it for another take on this serial. Good stuff.

Favorite New Generation Doctor Who Episodes

Well it looks like the research is in and here’s the list of the favorite New Generation Doctor Who Episodes. Working on a proper article but till that’s ready below is a sneak-peak. The first name is the writer, the second the director. Amazing that this show was able to keep such consistent quality while rarely using the same director. But I guess the consistency in look/feel between episodes is due to the music, cinematography, and editing that was consistent, used the same team, for large chunks of the show. Those stalwart camera/editing/music teams listed at the bottom of this article:

BLINK- Season 3- Grade: A+ Stephen Moffat Hettie Macdonald

THE EMPTY CHILD/THE DOCTOR DANCES- Season 1- Grade: B+ Stephen Moffat James Hawes

THE GIRL IN THE FIREPLACE- Season 2- Grade: B+/A- Stephen Moffat Euros Lyn

THE ARMY OF GHOSTS/ DOOMSDAY- Season 2- Grade: A- Russel T. Davies Graeme Harper

SILENCE IN THE LIBRARY/FOREST OF THE DEAD- Season 4- by Stephen Moffat ends up on a lot of people’s best of list. But not mine, I like it, but don’t love it. Instead I would recommend the claustrophobic Russell T. Davies MIDNIGHT where the Doctor is in a LIFEBOAT type situation. Pretty intense. Followed by TURN LEFT, also by RTD, which I initially wanted to dismiss as rubbish, but grew on me. Both solid B+.

Season 4, Episode 12: The Stolen Earth
Original Air Date—28 June 2008- Balls That’s what RTD has, huge, humongous balls. He thinks bigger than anybody else, no one but him would write a story this big. You have to admire him for that. Just for the sheer audacity of this episode, despite it perhaps not really achieving the grandeur it’s aping (feeling a bit contrived, which is a problem with most of RTDs’s big stories, for the last couple of seasons) it gets an A- for being crazy enough to make the attempt. Pt 1 of 2.

Season 4, Episode 13: Journey’s End- This episode is not a favorite but it is part 2 of the above, so it’s a package deal and needs to be mentioned. There are some spoilers so beware. Okay, there are a lot of great big ideas in this season finale, I mean making a reality destroying gun out of planets, that’s genius. But ultimately it is perhaps too many ideas, there is a fine line between blowing minds, and blowing the own fantastic rules of your fantastic fiction. The whole defeat of the Daleks, rang more than a bit hollow and anti-climatic, and add to that the whole towing of the planet, and it is “check please” time. But those are just symptoms, the real problem is it all just comes out forced and contrived. I like the places the characters are in by show’s end, it’s just the process of getting them there was… flawed. Contrived and forced, there is no better way to say it. So glad I saw it, but definitely some problematic writing. B. I think it was definitely a good time for RTD to step down as lead writer.

HUMAN NATURE/THE FAMILY OF BLOOD- Season 3- Grade:B+ Paul Cornell Charles Palmer

There is a line at the end of this two parter, about the doctor hiding in the skin of humanity to avoid a family of blood, that is possibly the best line that I’ve come across dealing with the doctor (a character that, let’s be honest started out as a bit of nonsensical kids tv/scifi fluff), and that is saying a lot, as a lot of good writing has gone into this character.

It completely encapsulates, what it really means to be the last Time Lord. The horror of that, and the majesty, and the contradiction of that. This seemingly innocuous and affable temporal vagabond and pacifist, who beneath his trappings of humanity, has that within, to make even stars… dim. Wonderful work by director Charles Palmer as well as writer Paul Cornell.

THE SONTARAN STRATAGEM/THE POISION SKY- Season 4- Grade:A- Helen Raynor Douglas Mackinnon

This 2 part episode does not typically get mentioned, but it is one of my favorite two-parters.
The Return of the ravishing Freema Agyeman as Martha Jones (“God, she’s well fit” as the Brits would say :)). Bill Gates 2.0. An Insidious Alien invasion, and cars as weapons. What’s not to love? This episode just worked for me, one of my favorite ones since BLINK. Well written and excellently directed. Great cliffhanger. And the second half is just as great.

THE DOCTOR’S DAUGHTER- Season 4- Grade:B+ Stephen Greenhorn Alice Troughton

Cinematography by
Ernest Vincze (director of photography) (as Ernie Vincze)

Film Editing by
Liana Del Giudice

Original Music by
Murray Gold

Cinematography by
Rory Taylor

Film Editing by
Mike Hopkins

More to come, and feel free to suggest your own favorite episodes.

Doctor Who: The Complete First Series (See all Sci-Fi & Fantasy Cult Movies)

Doctor Who: The Complete Second Series (See all Sci-Fi & Fantasy Cult Movies)

Doctor Who: The Complete Third Series (See all Sci-Fi & Fantasy Cult Movies)

Doctor Who: The Complete Fourth Series (See all Sci-Fi & Fantasy Cult Movies)

Doctor Who: The Complete Fifth Series (See all Sci-Fi & Fantasy Cult Movies)