Chapter 111. Doctor Who – The Seeds of Death (1986)

Synopsis: The T-Mat system, a form of instantaneous transport across the planet Earth, is controlled by a crew based on the Moon. Invaders bring operations to a halt, leaving Earth in chaos.T-Mat is so all-encompassing that the only rocket is in a museum – and the only person with enough training to fly one is the Doctor. Taking Jamie and Zoe along for the ride, the Doctor heads to the Moon, where he finds a party of Ice Warriors with a plan to destroy all humanity.

Chapter Titles

  • 1. Trouble with T-Mat
  • 2. Enter the Doctor
  • 3. Radnor’s Offer
  • 4. Countdown
  • 5. Blast-Off
  • 6. Crashdown
  • 7. The Genius
  • 8. The Pods
  • 9. The Blight
  • 10. The Invader
  • 11. The Rescue
  • 12. The Renegade
  • 13. The Sacrifice
  • 14. Trapped!
  • 15. Signal of Doom

Background: Terrance Dicks adapts scripts by Brian Hayles for the 1969 story.

Notes: According to Dicks, gender equality in the 21st Century is ‘still more theoretical than practical’ and that to gain high rank, ‘a woman had to be not simply as good as, but measurably better than, her male colleagues.’ The base on the moon was intended as the start of a huge city, but the creation of T-Mat saw an instant lack of interest in space travel and the project was abandoned.

The Doctor is ‘a smallish man with a mop of untidy black hair and a deeply-lined face that looked wise and gentle and funny all at once’. He wears ‘baggy check trousers, supported by wide, elaborately patterned braces, a wide-collared white shirt and a scruffy bow tie’. Jamie is a ‘brawny young man’ wearing ‘a dark shirt and a battle-dress tunic over the kilt of a Scottish Highlander’. We’re reminded that Zoe first met the Doctor and Jamie on the space wheel. She’s a ‘very small, very neat, very precise young woman with a fringe of short dark hair looked on with an air of equal scepticism’. She’s dressed in ‘a short skirt, a short-sleeved, high-necked blouse with a waistcoat over it, and high boots, all in shining, colourful plasti-cloth’ and we’re told that her clothes, like Jamie’s, are ‘an indication of the time from which she had been taken. Zoe is said to be ‘highly intelligent and with a great deal of advanced scientific training [with…] a precise and orderly scientific mind’.

There are some splendid descriptions of the Martian invaders: Slaar’s voice is ‘harsh and sibilant, a sort of throaty hissing whisper that seemed to put extra s’s in all the sibilants’; one of his lumbering warriors has a:

… massive body [that] was covered in scaly green hide, ridged and plated like that of a crocodile. The head was huge, helmetlike, ridged at the crown, with large insectoid eyes and a lipless lower jaw. The alien leader shared the same terrifying form, though its build was slimmer, the movements somehow less clumsy. The jaw too was differently made, less of a piece with the helmet-like head.

As a description, it does seem to be a closer fit for the ‘big-head’ versions like Isbur from The Ice Warriors, as the ones in this TV story don’t have especially huge heads. The Grand Marshal who appears on the videolink has a helmet that’s ‘differently shaped from that of Slaar… studded with gleaming jewels’ and his voice ‘although aged, was filled with power and authority’.

Osgood’s first name is ‘Harry’, though Radnor’s first name (Julian on TV) is not mentioned. The Doctor is referred to anachronistically as a Time Lord a couple of times.

Cover: Tony Masero’s debut cover for a first edition shows an Ice Warrior on the surface of the Moon.

Final Analysis: Welcome back, Terrance Dicks! We’re treated to a rather special adaptation here; while he follows the scripts methodically, as we’d expect, Dicks also provides insight into the characters that might not be obvious from their portrayal on TV. Of particular note is the Minister who’s responsible for T-Mat, Sir John Gregson, who – we’re told – ‘could turn a difficulty into a disaster in record time’. Not since Chinn in The Claws of Axos have we seen the character of a politician so completely assassinated. It’s a joyful subtlety.

It’s worth remembering that Bryan Hayles’s scripts were written in the lead-up to the first successful moon landing; just over four months before Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin boldly went where the Doctor and his chums had gone before. The book, however, came 11 months after the Space Shuttle Challenger exploded on take-off, a disaster which led to a three-year grounding of the space shuttle fleet. While the people of this 21st Century might have forgotten the thrill of the space program, we get a real sense of it through the characters as they rediscover their lost skills – especially the inventor of the all-important space rocket, Professor Eldred:

Eldred stood looking at a monitor, watching the rocket streaking steadily upwards. On his face was the incredulous delight of a man who sees his lifelong dream come true.

Then a shadow of sadness crossed his face. For him, the dream had become reality too late. From now on, he could only watch…

The Seeds of Death was one of the earliest stories to be made available by BBC Home Video, making this the first novel to be released after its VHS release. The point I’m making here is that Terrance Dicks’s usual approach was to recreate a story pretty much exactly, as readers wouldn’t be able to rewatch it. But slowly, things were changing.

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