Posts Tagged With: pyramids of mars

Mugabe Stumbles

If you read this regularly, you’ll know that I normally space posts out in order to avoid spamming you with excessive waffling. However, I have made an exception today, in order to comment on the sensational news story that made headlines across the world yesterday, as ROBERT MUGABE FALLS OVER WALKING DOWN SOME STEPS.

Actually, it wasn’t so much that part that made us all interested as much as the security detail’s unsuccessful attempts to destroy the copious photographic evidence amassed after the unfortunate incident. This – coupled with the West’s general hatred for the incompetent despot – caused the whole thing that go viral in a series of Photoshopped images, some of which were better than others. There is a part of me that feels a little bit uncomfortable about laughing at a ninety-year-old man tripping over his own feet, but I have no love for Mugabe or his regime, having heard first hand about some of the things he did, from people who lived there.

But this isn’t a political post; this is just me weighing in with the usual selection of hastily assembled JPEGs. First we have the obligatory Dinopaws photo.

 

And in another forest elsewhere, the Eleventh Doctor is running away from…something. (I think this is ‘Hide’, but I can’t be absolutely sure.)

 

Here’s Mugabe hanging out with the Scooby gang.

 

And finally (and I confess I rather like this one) here’s a deleted scene from ‘Pyramids of Mars’.

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Doctor Who and the Misplaced Consonants (Part One)

We were talking just the other day about the Biblical creation story, and this reminded me of something that happened a few weeks ago: a Facebook discussion I was reading included a comment from a pastor who said he’d once heard someone read (by mistake, one assumes) about “the spirit of God hoovering over the surface of the waters.”

“You make the jokes,” I said, “and I’ll do the pictures.”

 

Graham Rawle,” said another friend of mine, “is twitching in his armchair, and preparing to lawyer up”. To which I responded “Look, I don’t take any credit for the gag, just its visual execution…”

Anyway, it occurred to me that Doctor Who is full of similar silliness, if you have a list of story titles and a good dictionary to hand. This entire blog was built on a pun – I’ve talked before about possible alternatives for its title, and remain convinced that a good deal of the weary travellers who stumble in here (welcome to you, weary traveller; mind the dog poo) are those who have been searching for ‘Brain of Morbius’ and just got their litters in a twest. Meanwhile, those of you with a few minutes to kill could do worse than check out the Unused Monsters entries. (If anything is liable to provoke the oft-heard and generally loathed remark that I have too much free time, it’s stuff like that.)

But today on Brian of Morbius we launch a new series, which shall be updated as I do them. (There is already a queue, and I haven’t even touched the post-2005 episodes yet.) Rules are simple: the addition of one (and only one) letter to a given word. This is the exact opposite of Graham Rawle’s series, of course, but that’s partly the point. Suggestions are welcome, although I am not short of them for the time being.

 

1. Pyramids of Marks

 

2. The Leisure Chive

 

3. The Wedge of Destruction

 

4. The Twine Dilemma

I sent the last one to Colin Baker, who tweeted back “Pedant alert – misplaced vowel?”

“Indeed it is,” I said. “It’s just that calling the series Misplaced Vowels made it sound like a set of medical blunders…”

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Riddles and sheds

So what have I been doing when I’m not either writing reviews, refining satirical conspiracy-laden theories about the arc or convincing the Metro readership that Classic Doctor Who was better?

Well, reading the news. Doing any sort of journalism, however low-key, requires a finger on the pulse. But even if I’d gone dark, it was hard to miss the Apple iPhone 6 Songs of Innocence debacle.

I also spend a lot of time answering email, and summarising plot threads to Gareth, who has yet to watch any of the new series on the grounds that “You aren’t exactly selling it to me, you know”. It’s true that the quality level has been variable: patches of good and patches of appalling, with one entire episode (‘Into the Dalek’) that lies squarely in between. Capaldi is great, but the scripts are not. I more or less accept this as par for the course these days; I can’t help feeling we’re all marking time until Moffat steps down and Gatiss takes over as chief writer – a prospect which, thanks to his recent output, actually no longer appalls me as much as it once did.

When New Who is proving to be a less-than-fulfilling experience, I go back to the old stuff, which isn’t always a good thing. The other week, for example, we watched ‘The Two Doctors’, which is (as Gareth says) “a tremendous waste of Patrick Troughton”. The basic problem is that there is no story: it takes two and a half hours for the Doctor to have two or three one-minute conversations with his past self, visit Seville and tussle with some comically tall Sontarans. The Androgum thing is a good idea that never convinces, because they’re so downright irritating. On the plus side, Colin Baker does manage to take Nicola Bryant on an early tour of the Google server farms.

Two-Google

Google actually figures – in a manner of speaking – in ‘The Ice Warriors’, which I finished this morning, and in which a group of isolated humans have become so reliant on technology that they are incapable of rationalisation or even thinking for themselves, relying exclusively on technology. When it’s suggested that Director Clent forego the I.T. consultation process and actually make a decision, he freezes and panics. In the 1960s the idea of a supercomputer that could answer any question and suggest a course of action for any situation was still buried deep within the realms of science fiction – but as time passes, and dependency on the internet and the cloud increases, I can’t help wondering if we’re breeding a generation who’d rather use a search engine than cultivate a thought process. Why bother finding out what happens when you drop Mentos in Diet Coke when you can just see it on YouTube?

It needn’t go this way, of course. It’s just a question of encouraging independent thought, which is what I try to do when I tell my children not to believe everything they read. We try and bring a little philosophy into the dinner table conversation. Occasionally this backfires. At Beaver camp earlier this year I spent half an hour in a forest clearing trying to explain the door riddle to Thomas, after he’d seen it in ‘Pyramids of Mars’. In the end I found three trees in a line, and took it in turns to be the guards in front of imaginary doorways. The conversation lasted most of the evening, on and off, in between the games of snap and the s’more session round the camp fire. What I should have done, of course, was this.

Anyway.

My parents have just got back from a holiday in Norfolk – a place that forms what may just about be my first memory, besides the one that I wrote about way back in 2011 when I started this blog.

“This,” said my father, “was in a garden just up the road from us.”

DSC04830

(The TARDIS in question is, I’m told, in Stiffkey, near Wells-on-sea.)

“We knocked,” said my father, “but the Doctor was out”. So they didn’t see inside, although if they had, it might have looked like this:

TARDIS_Int

Edward, meanwhile, has developed the annoying habit of pulling any DVDs he can reach off their shelves, spilling them on the floor. This means that the carpet of my study is at this very moment covered with plastic boxes. Unfortunately the only ones he can reach are the Doctor Who discs, because I like to keep them close to hand, and THEY HAVE TO BE IN THE CORRECT ORDER. Thus, in the process of returning them to their rightful places these last weeks I have become highly prolific at the story sequence for Baker through to McCoy, and could probably tell you them by heart.

But here he is, embroiled in our now daily ritual that is the Touching of Peter Capaldi’s Head.

Capaldi

The other day I put on the recon of ‘The Wheel in Space’, and as soon as he heard the theme music, he clapped. I have trained him well.

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Where’s Clara?

Gareth sent me this. It will probably be part of a series, soon, if it isn’t already. I suspect it’ll wind up with its own Tumblr page.

clara_sutekh

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Spotted in the Look Out Discovery Centre

Seriously, it’s a mashup waiting to happen.

DavrosPyramid

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Pyramids of Sodor

—-

Thomas the Tank Engine, or Thomas and Friends as we must now call it, is banned in my house. I should clarify: it is banned in its current form, which is a horrible, sticky mess. If I was going to be puritanical about this I could say that the rot started to set in after the departure of Ringo Starr at the end of the second series, although I profess to a certain admiration for the vocal talents of Michael Angelis. Besides, saying that you only like the first two series simply makes you sound like one of those people who think that Pink Floyd were never as good after Syd Barrett was given his cards. It isn’t wrong, but we just don’t do it.

In truth the first four or five series are quite good. It’s only in the sixth series, which hosts the introduction of a whole new set of characters (a trend that would continue for some years to come, to the extent that on the rare occasions I watch it nowadays I have NO IDEA AT ALL WHO ANY OF THESE ENGINES ARE), that things start to unravel. By the time of the eighth series, which features some drastic character deconstruction for Edward (the equivalent of what they did to Kryten in Red Dwarf VII), I’d stopped watching. Then they made the mouths move. Then they switched to full CGI and ditched the models. Then – oh, horror of horrors – they brought in different voice actors. These days it is an abomination, a holy nightmare, and the apple has fallen very far from the tree, then rolled across the road and down the same embankment that Gordon encountered at the end of ‘Off The Rails’.

But here’s the funny thing – and here’s where I’m going to borrow shamelessly from an old diary entry I wrote years ago – even in those earlier series, it’s abundantly obvious that Sodor’s railway service is appalling. It’s unreliable and full of whiny self-important engines with tremendous egos. They’re constantly breaking down and having accidents. There were always problems with the railway, and the odd accident, but unless I’m remembering it wrong I’m sure that in the original books the line ran fairly smoothly, largely because of Sir Topham Hatt’s authoritarian stance. “Engines on my railway,” he sternly explained to James, Gordon and Henry (who were on strike), “do as they are told”. This was broadcast on ITV in the days when the spirit of the miner’s unions was slowly being crushed, and even though Awdry had written it forty years previously, the Thatcherite overtones – and, indeed, the Conservative nature of the programme in general – were pretty transparent. There’s a reason that only one of the engines is painted red.

These days, however, there’s less industrial action and more calamity on the line. Part of this, I’m sure, is finance-related. The development of new technology, coupled with a budget that gradually crept up as revenue crept in, means that the technical team can do shedloads (engine shedloads?) of new stunts that they didn’t dare attempt in the earlier series. In 1984 the best you’d get was Gordon lifting very slightly off the rails and into an inch-deep pool of water that was supposed to be a ditch. These days you get engines that go flying off cliffs and into pools of lava (all right, coloured treacle), followed by trucks that explode. They have rock falls and grounded helicopters and goodness knows what else.

Consider this:

Harvey to the Rescue
Some trucks drag Percy down a hill and cause a derailment at Bulgy’s Bridge which blocks the road.

No Sleep for Cranky
Cranky the crane gets so annoyed with Bill & Ben’s constant chatter that he accidentally knocks over a shed, blocking the line.

A Bad Day for Harold the Helicopter
Harold has a chance to prove himself when a broken signal means Percy cannot get through with the mail, and whilst the workmen hastily try to repair it, the mail bags are loaded into Harold’s harness. He is feeling so clever that he decides to take them all at once, but the weight is far too much for him to handle. The mailbags get stuck in a tree and Harold finds himself diving nose-first into a haystack.

The Fogman
A landslide crushes the foghorn, so there is no way to warn the engines of the fallen rocks hidden in the fog. Thomas unfortunately hits the rocks and soon Cyril the fogman arrives to help warn engines he has been derailed.

Jack Jumps In
Jack the front loader ignores the warnings of the other quarry engines, and as a result, he tips over on the road and slides down the hill on his side in a pile of sand.

The World’s Strongest Engine
Diesel pulls so hard on a truck that the coupling breaks, sending him through a pair of buffers and landing on a barge.

Gordon Takes a Tumble
An impatient Gordon is pulling trucks when he is accidentally diverted onto an old branch line the next morning, and lands himself in trouble when the rails can’t take his weight.

Percy’s Chocolate Crunch
Percy is pushed under a coal chute (right as the operator starts pouring the coal), and gusts of wind from Harold the Helicopter’s rotor sends piles of ashes flying…right onto Percy! To help cope with the frustration, Percy takes some sugar vans that must be delivered to the Mr. Jolly’s chocolate factory. He approaches the factory on the sloped tracks that go up to the loading and delivery dock, which are coated with oil from a leaky truck. Percy applies his brakes, but the oil makes him skid past the dock and right into the factory wall. There are a series of gloops and splats from the heart of the factory, and Percy pops out the other end, covered in chocolate.

This is from one season, and these are only the accidents: we’ve also got trucks who cause bedlam, lost and broken whistles, damaged buffers and engines who’d rather sightsee, race buses or search for treasure than deliver the mail (or their passengers). The overall impression you get is one of total chaos, with a dictatorial (if occasionally kind-hearted) bureaucrat who is only just managing to hold the network together. Accidents are never investigated; instead random blame is allocated to whoever is by default the naughtiest engine, leaving hurt passengers and damaged goods and no satisfied customers. The parallels with Railtrack are obvious.

Here’s another thing: said crashes / derailments / industrial action are never the fault of the drivers. You can sort of understand the drivers wanting to jump clear when a train is about to crash – it’s the sensible thing to do. But having a sentient engine doesn’t mean that drivers are without blame. We saw the consequences of going off without your driver in ‘Thomas Comes To Breakfast’ (which I found in a charity shop a few years back, and which Josh, in his Thomas-loving days, greatly enjoyed). I’m therefore at a loss as to why, on all the other occasions when engines shunt trucks violently, the drivers are blameless. If I crashed my car, I couldn’t exactly stand there looking at the mangled wreckage by the crushed lamp post and say “Poppy / Suzie / Bertha, you have caused CONFUSION and DELAY!”. They’d think I was mad. On the other hand, if one of the Sodor trains runs on time it’s always the engine that’s praised and never the driver, so it’s swings and roundabouts. The drivers tend to just sit in the cab, unnoticed and unloved – a forgotten statistic, like Corey Feldman.

“You make a very valid point about the railway,” said my brother when I quizzed him about it, “because they have more problems than most lines. If you were stood on the platform at Reading station at 7.30 in the morning and some fat guy came over and said the train was delayed because it have some grief with some troublesome trucks a bit further up the line, quite frankly you wouldn’t buy it. There would be uproar. However, if the line ran smoothly and the engines weren’t self-important, there wouldn’t be much story. If Gordon took the express on time every week I probably wouldn’t bother watching.”

Ah yes, that Fat Controller. He – as you will have guessed by now, even if you haven’t actually watched the video – is the subject of today’s little foray into the world of Thomas. It occurred to me a while back that an authoritarian knight of the realm with a variety of facial expressions and whose mouth didn’t move was a perfect candidate for some sort of re-dubbing. I wracked my brains for weeks before I came up with two candidates on the same day: the other video will follow in a couple of months when I get round to doing it. In the meantime, the ‘abase yourself, insect’ attitude of Sutekh (one of my favourite Who villains) was ideal. You do have to be a bit careful with Sutekh, because he’s already been used for comic relief in this absurd making-of video on the ‘Pyramids of Mars’ DVD, but there was plenty of dialogue from the story I could rip, and all manner of appropriate Thomas clips with which to match it. I had a blast making this: it took a single evening, including all the cleanup and sound effects, and I’m really quite pleased with the end result. And Joshua (who has seen ‘Pyramids of Mars’ quite recently) enjoyed it – and I was really making it for him. At least that’s what I tell myself in the mirror every morning.

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The Great Doctor Who Party (ii)

(If you’ve missed out on the earlier bits of this little saga, they’re available here. And here. And, if you’re really bored, here.) Let’s start with the suit, which we bought on Ebay.

That buffet, then.

“HI- I- AM-HERE-TO-FIX-YOUR-TAR-DIS.”

 

I’d much rather forget the entirety of this one, but you can’t have a children’s party without pink wafers. It isn’t wrong, but we just don’t do it.

Job well done, I think. I can take no credit for this; I did the labels and took the photos. My other half did all the work.

As I may have mentioned, the Musical Weeping Angels was a non-starter, but everyone went for the find-the-monster quiz – even though we think it was sabotaged by the eventual winners, whom I’ve now decided hid the Empty Child picture after making a note of the number, which would explain why no one else could find the damned thing. Well, you can’t win ’em all. Literally, as it turns out.

Anyway, it all went off swimmingly, and himself enjoyed it tremendously. And that, of course, is the only thing that really counts.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Dalek Zippy

Posted on by reverend61

I always iron in front of the TV. This is because ironing is a therapeutic but monotonous task and I need some sort of stimulus. We don’t watch much of the tube (I really should stop calling it that; it seems hideously out of date, even though we still own a CRT TV) in our household, at least not in terms of collapsing in front of it of an evening; we’re more likely to play a game or chat over a takeaway. Exceptions are made for 24, The X-Files (or any other boxed serial we happen to be watching) and Doctor Who – and, for a few horrifying years, The X-Factor.

One evening last spring I was working my way through the extras for ‘Genesis of the Daleks’. The DVD bonus features for the 2 Entertain sets are generally great – whimsical, nostalgic and insightful, lacking the self-congratulatory air of the more recent stuff and pulling relatively few punches about the sort of problems the team would routinely encounter when producing episodes, whether it was Hinchcliffe coming under fire from Mary Whitehouse or Baker upstaging Louise Jameson. They’re fun and snappy and clever. (I recommend, in particular, the in-character interview with Sutekh the Destroyer in ‘Pyramids of Mars’, which someone has thoughtfully uploaded to YouTube.)

One of the extras in ‘Genesis of the Daleks’ is a potted history of the eponymous monstrosities, from design to execution to evolution, along with occasional dialogue masterclasses led by Roy Skelton. Skelton became synonymous with the Nation’s finest (you see what I did there?) in the 1970s and 80s, but anyone who watched children’s TV during this time will also recognise his name from the credit crawl for Rainbow, a show which catalogued the adventures of three anthropomorphic animals (a hippo, a bear, and a…whatever) who seemed to have taken on the role of foster children with obviously troubled backgrounds, now living with a patient father substitute with ridiculous dress sense. Throughout Rainbows long and memorable run, Skelton managed to voice both George and Zippy, often more or less at the same time, in a staggering feat of almost schizophrenic voicing, by turns making himself sound wet and effeminate, and then immediately brash and boastful depending on who he was doing at the time.

The funny thing about the ‘Genesis’ interviews is that when Skelton is doing his Dalek voice, minus the filters and the sound effects and the omnipresent hum that seems to pervade the ships and lunar bases that housed them in the TV series, he really does sound exactly like Zippy. Specifically Zippy when he’s playing a character in some fanciful game he may have invented – like the memorable episode where he dressed up as Zipman (with George playing Bobbin, the Boy Blunder), fighting against the evil Joker Geoffrey. (Watch it after you’ve watched this one, though, otherwise it’ll spoil one of the punch lines.) The Dalek voice is tinged with monotone, lacking some of Zippy’s rising and falling cadences – nonetheless, the raspy extrovert is there for all to hear and it’s quite apparent that he modelled the Zippy voice on the Dalek voice, or perhaps the other way around; we may never know.

So this set me thinking: what would the Daleks sound like if we took out their voices and dubbed them over with Zippy’s dialogue? Fortunately I had a lot of it. I will make no apology for the fact that the purchase of every single one of our numerous Rainbow DVDs pre-dates the birth of all three of my children. I got very nostalgic for old TV just after the millennium turned and all the shows that I watched in the afternoons after school or on lunch breaks during the holidays started coming out on DVD. Sometimes when you delve into these things again you find they’re not as good as they are in your head (as I recently experienced when I picked up a copy of The Family Ness in our local 99p shop, and found it a bit of a disappointment), but Rainbow – trust me on this – was every bit as good as I remembered it, with a formulaic approach that left plenty of breathing space for occasional variation.

There was only one obvious candidate for the Zippy re-dub, and that was ‘Destiny of the Daleks’. As Dalek stories go, it’s distinctly sub-par. Lalla Ward is as watchable as she ever was, particularly as it was her first story in the Romana role, and Tim Barlow lends decent support as Tyssan, but the Movellan robots are laughably camp, the story is inconsequential and the revived Davros is a huge let-down. The bad taste in the mouth was perhaps almost inevitable when you consider that the last time we saw Daleks was ‘Genesis’, which is arguably the finest Doctor Who story of them all, and certainly the best Dalek one – but really, Terry had five years to come up with something new, and you’d really think he could have done better than this (even if Douglas Adams, script editor at the time, rewrote most of it and may arguably have been more responsible for the mess we saw on screen). For all that, there are a couple of memorable moments – Romana’s interrogation at the hands of the Daleks in the second episode is chilling (despite the fact that all they actually say when they capture her is “DO NOT MOVE”, repeated for about a minute and a half) and despite all its flaws, the serial is arguably worth watching in its entirety purely for the scene in which the Doctor hoists himself up into a vent and mocks the approaching Dalek with the words “If you’re supposed to be the superior race of the universe, why don’t you try climbing after us?”.

The longest job I had was going through every single Rainbow episode to lift appropriate soundbites. Zippy is forever spouting obnoxious boasts and singing ridiculous songs and there was an abundance of suitable material, but chopping out the .wav files took ages (although I did manage to rip out the Rod, Jane and Freddy songs at the same time for an iPod playlist). After that, I dumped them all in over some appropriate moments in ‘Destiny’, added a little ambient noise where it was needed, re-edited the thing (there’s no narrative progression, it was just a question of sequencing for pace and variety) and threw together a patchy reproduction of the Rainbow credit sequence to finish it off. I basically threw the whole thing together in an evening, although it was rather a late one. I uploaded in May 2011, and that was that.

Then Roy Skelton died.

I wouldn’t say it went viral. ‘Going viral’ is one of those terms that gets bounded about far too often and in the wrong contexts, much like iconic (which I’ve whined about before). But the hit counter went from a couple of hundred to over five thousand more or less overnight, and I got all manner of positive comments and a brief mention in the August WhoTube listings in Doctor Who Magazine. And then things settled down again, although it remains one of my most viewed concoctions, and perhaps rightly so – I really am quite proud of it. Someone even added a ring mod filter to make Zippy sound more Dalek-like (something I’d experimented with, but without much success), and it’s quite clever, but I suppose I’m always going to prefer the original – it’s the juxtaposition of Zippy and the Daleks that makes it work, I think, and I do think they sound even more frightening now. I’d never intended this to be a tribute to Skelton but that’s basically what it’s become, and perhaps it’s better that way – the man was a genius and we really ought to recognise that. I don’t expect for a moment that he saw this before his death, but I hope he would have approved.

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The Seeds of Doom

Posted on by reverend61

Sitting in the café at the local leisure centre. One eye is on the uploader, another on this screen, a third on the Americano that’s cooling to my upper left, and a fourth on Joshua’s swimming lesson. And they say men can’t multitask.

‘The Seeds of Doom’ – not to be confused with ‘The Seeds of Death’, an as yet unwatched Second Doctor story – caught us rather off-guard. It contains a nice little two / four split, moving from an Antarctic base, all fake snow and great big furry muffs (you – yes, you at the back – you can stop sniggering, and then come up here and explain the joke to the whole class), in the first two episodes, through to a posh English mansion, with an impressive garden and amazing greenhouse, both of which carry weighted significance in the story. Only I’d failed to realise our stay in said mansion would be extended over a hundred minutes rather than fifty. It wasn’t until the end of episode four, and the realisation that in the remaining few minutes they had an awful lot to wrap up, that I realised there was much more of the story left to be told.

As a parenthesis, I remember experiencing similar feelings of bewilderment at the end of Attack of the Clones and The Matrix Reloaded – both of which, I thought, were fairly muddled and both of which left an awful lot to unpack in their respective sequels in order to bring the story arc to a satisfying and rounded conclusion. The unfortunate truth – the astute among you will have seen this coming – was that neither Revenge of the Sith nor Matrix Revolutions manage anything of the sort, leaving instead a sort of shell-shocked emptiness trailing in their wake. There’s no real sense of closure or satisfaction, very little emotional connection, and you carry a begrudging sense of admiration for the visual spectacle but feel, perhaps, that the whole appearance of both films, if anything, simply gets in the way. You’re left empty, hollow and unsatisfied. It’s sort of how I imagine sex with Katie Price. In any event you can imagine I was pleasantly surprised to see ‘The Seeds of Doom’ stretch to a very comfortable six-episode narrative with plenty of cliffhangers – the good, old-fashioned sort – and a reasonably terrifying monster. Again, how I imagine Katie Price.

We open in an Antarctic base with a superimposed snow effect. (The base itself looks like matchboxes but it is admittedly quite impressive when it later goes up in flames.)

"Camelot!" / "Camelot!" / "Camelot!" / "It's only a model."


The seeds themselves refer to a couple of pods that are found buried in the Antarctic, unearthed by some researchers sporting ludicrous facial hair.

Worst. Fake. Beard. Ever.


I mean you can practically see the glue. The best thing to do in such circumstances, of course, is to pair him with another scientist similarly garbed, in the hope that two fake beards will sort of cancel each other out.

Oh, look. ZZ Top.

While all this is going on, Doctor and Companion are wandering around investigating and generally making a nuisance of themselves. The beards were bad enough, but award for fashion disaster of the week goes once more to Sladen. (And I don’t care that it was the seventies. It’s bloody awful.)

Sarah Jane was running late for her audition for Rainbow.

Back at the lab, one of the pods germinates and latches on to the unfortunate Winlett, who is rapidly transformed into Swamp Thing.

I mean it’s fair enough, really, because if you’re going to turn a man into a plant there’s only so many ways you can do it, so some overlap – whether intended or not – was inevitable. Anyway, stomping around the Antarctic for a while, killing several people in his wake, Winlett is eventually destroyed when the base is destroyed by two saboteurs. The Doctor and Sarah Jane – who have come to investigate – escape with their lives, just barely, and regroup back in London. Here the focus shifts onto millionaire Harrison Chase, who is constantly looking out for rare and valuable specimens with which to embellish his collection.

Part of the joy of ‘The Seeds of Doom’ comes from its casting. Classic Who boasts a wealth of fine character actors in all manner of roles, back in the days when you didn’t need to cast pop stars or comedians to get a big draw. (It should also be noted that this particular bugbear of mine took root before the show’s resurrection – as tempting as it is to blame this on Julie Gardner, it really started in the 80s with Hale and Pace, not to mention the whole Ken Dodd thing.) ‘Pyramids of Mars’, in particular, has a substantial number of established performers (including Village of the Damned’s Bernard Archard, and Michael Bilton, who played Old Ned in To The Manor Born), most of whom don’t live beyond the first episode. Typically these supporting characters carry dignity and weight, irrespective of what side they’re on, and they’re always fun to watch.

‘The Seeds of Doom’ has Boycie. Who is, in this, an utter bastard. He carries the accent he’d later adopt in Only Fools and Horses, more or less, but a little less London. He is still an utter bastard, even though you expect him to mutter “All right, Rodney?” every time Baker walks onto the screen. It’s nonetheless a chilling performance, and we’re left devoid of any real sympathy for what is, as Sarah Jane points out, really a very lonely character.

John Challis, wearing an amazing polo neck.


There is a hint at redemption for the man, in his closing scenes, as the monster closes in. A frustrated and angry Scorby rants at the Doctor and Sarah Jane, as he frets about their imminent destruction:

SCORBY: So what are we supposed to do? Wait here until the Krynoid reduces this place to rubble?

SARAH: Don’t be so negative. Major Beresford’s going to come up with something.

SCORBY: Oh yeah. That laser gun was useless, wasn’t it. Look, I’ve never relied on anybody, just myself. I’ve always got myself out of trouble. Africa, the Middle East, you name it. I’ve not been a mercenary for nothing. I’m a survivor, right?

DOCTOR: Hmm? Scorby, bullets and bombs aren’t the answer to everything.

(The room shakes and more ceiling plaster comes down.)

SCORBY: What are we going to do?

SARAH: Oh, just shut up, will you? We’re all in the same boat.

It was at this point that Emily turned to me and said “Do you suppose he had an unhappy childhood?”. And I suppose he did, but the lovely thing about this scene is that it’s so underplayed. Challis rants, and the implication that he’s seen and experienced dreadful things is heavily implied, but there’s no resolution, no sudden character development, and no moment of clarity for any of the characters. It’s the sort of scene that Russell T. Davies would have been unable to write. Or, if he had, it would have come out something like this:

SCORBY: What are we supposed to do? Wait here until the Krynoid reduces this place to rubble?

ROSE: Oh come on, now, where’s your sense of optimism? The Doctor’ll get us aaart of it, won’t he? That’s what ‘e does. Doctor?

DOCTOR: [not really listening, apparently fiddling with something on a nearby window ledge] What? Oh, yes, of course. That’s right. Still got…ooh, a good fifteen minutes before the end of all civilisation. Plenty of time.

SCORBY: But you don’t have any ideas! You’re fresh out! You can’t turn to your friends out there, they’ve got nothing! You can’t rely on them! [beat] You can’t rely on anybody.

DOCTOR: [turning, addressing him properly, walking across] You know, you talk a lot about being alone, Scorby. Almost out of necessity. And somehow I think it’s because you’ve had to be. [He is now very close to him.] That’s basically it, isn’t it?

Scorby stares hard, swallows, doesn’t respond.

DOCTOR: There’s nothing wrong with feeling vulnerable and reliant on others. That’s not a sign of weakness, that’s a sign of strength. Shows you’re a team player. But you’ve not been able to do that for a long time, have you?

The piano is starting up.

SCORBY: [after a long pause] I was…twenty-three. We were in the Gulf. Doing a sweep of the eastern outskirts of Kabul. Pinned down in a room by sniper. Seven of us. No way of taking him out, not without him…managed to get coordinates out over the radio. They said they’d come get us.

DOCTOR: But they didn’t.

Piano and strings louder; we can hear faint, echoing sniper fire as background FX.

SCORBY: I lost my entire squad that day. We had to move eventually. Jennings was wounded, had to get him to hospital, couldn’t just…worst thing is it was my call. I was in charge. They died because of me. And I learned something that day, Doctor. Learned you can’t rely on anybody else. And that sometimes it’s best not to have anybody rely on you.

The Doctor stares for a moment. The piano and strings build to a crescendo as Scorby breaks down.

DOCTOR: I know what it’s like. You may not think it to look at me, but believe me I know. And I’m sorry. I’m so sorry.

Aaaaanyway. While Scorby’s been spending all his time threatening the Doctor, the second pod germinates – this time the unfortunate victim is Keeler, scientist and somewhat reluctant villain. Keeler’s basically a decent enough chap, a voice of reason who doesn’t deserve his grisly fate, irrespective of what side he’s on. Both Keeler and Scorby, however, stand in the shadow of Harrison Chase, their eccentric (“Poor people are crazy, Jack. I’m eccentric”) employer who is determined to TAKE OVER THE WORLD using plants. As you do. He does this by playing the organ, conducting ghastly experiments and feeding his victims into a compost machine – “The sergeant’s no longer with us,” he remarks to a cornered Sarah in a typical fit of Bond villain delay tactics that conveniently allows the Doctor to reach her in time. “He’s in the garden. He’s part of the garden”.

The sinister Mr Chase, complete with a lovely pair of gloves.

Would you trust this man to water your plants?

It all comes out in the wash – well, the flames, actually – when the house is destroyed by the RAF, mirroring the earlier destruction of the Antarctic base. The closing episode is suitably frenetic and intense, with menacing plants that sound incredibly like the Triffids in the 1980 TV adaptation of John Wyndham’s masterpiece, which led me to deduce that the production team lifted their sound effects from whatever they’d used here (which is again understandable, seeing as once again there’s probably only a set number of ways you can do menacing plants, and it’s only fair, seeing as ‘The Seeds of Doom’ owes so much to Wyndham as well as Quatermass). There’s a general sense of scalating tension, not least from the Doctor, who it seems spends the entire story permanently grizzly, forever shouting at someone or other. For all that doom and gloom it’s a ripping yarn – compelling from its first minutes to its last – although the serious undercurrent is undermined in the final minutes with an amusing final scene where Sarah Jane and the Doctor head off for another adventure, only to arrive promptly back in Antarctica when the Doctor forgets to reprogram the TARDIS. The snow makes it impossible for them to get their bearings and they can’t figure out whether they’ve already been, or are in fact yet to arrive. The two make a hasty exit before they cause any ontological paradoxes, which is funny, because in my experience that was never something the show really worried about…

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