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The Seeds Of Doom
An Antarctic expedition unearths two pods which the Doctor recognises as Krynoids. Once germinated, the pods will infect humans, turning them into giant carnivorous plants which will quickly overrun the world. The Doctor and Sarah Jane manage to destroy one Krynoid, but the other is stolen by an insane botanist named Harrison Chase, who intends to use the alien entity to help plants take over the world.
The story originally intended to conclude Doctor Who's thirteenth season was The Hand Of Fear, at that stage a six-part story from the writing team of Bob Baker and Dave Martin. Baker and Martin submitted their idea to script editor Robert Holmes on May 29th, 1975, and were commissioned to write Serial 4L on June 20th. A week later, director Douglas Camfield was contracted to work on the story; Camfield had recently completed the season premiere, Terror Of The Zygons. As development continued on the scripts for The Hand Of Fear, however, producer Philip Hinchcliffe became increasingly worried that there were too many problems with the serial to be resolved before it entered production. Holmes had been preoccupied with rewrites on The Brain Of Morbius, but by late September had come to share Hinchcliffe's misgivings.
Feeling that there was no way that The Hand Of Fear could be broadcast as a six-part story, Hinchcliffe and Holmes requested permission from Head of Drama Bill Slater to pare two installments off Season Thirteen so that Baker and Martin's story could be refined into a four-episode serial. This was refused, however, so instead Holmes turned to his friend Robert Banks Stewart to provide a back-up six-part adventure in case The Hand Of Fear proved unsalvageable. Stewart, who had previously written Terror Of The Zygons, was commissioned on September 30th for a serial entitled The Seeds Of Doom.
The Seeds Of Doom drew heavily on The Quatermass Experiment, Nigel Kneale's landmark 1953 television serial about an astronaut who transforms into a plant creature due to an alien infection. Stewart christened his monsters “Crinoids” and “Crynoids” before the spelling finally became fixed as “Krynoids” -- a crinoid actually being a type of echinoderm, a marine animal also known as a sea lily or a feather-star. Harrison Chase originally bore the first name “Harrington”.
For the last time in the 1970s, The Seeds Of Doom also incorporated the involvement of UNIT, the United Nations Intelligence Taskforce. The organisation had been a Doctor Who fixture since 1968's The Invasion and had played a key role during Jon Pertwee's tenure as the Doctor, but had been slowly phased out since Hinchcliffe and Holmes took the reins of the programme. The Taskforce's loss of prominence was particularly apparent in the omission of any of the regular UNIT characters from The Seeds Of Doom. Instead, the roles normally filled by Brigadier Lethbridge Stewart and Sergeant Benton were given to two new characters, Major Beresford and Sergeant Henderson.
Stewart delivered his scripts for The Seeds Of Doom very rapidly, and to the approval of Hinchcliffe and Holmes. The Hand Of Fear was therefore dropped from the schedule on October 14th, and The Seeds Of Doom became the new Serial 4L; a four-part version of The Hand Of Fear would eventually be transmitted during Season Fourteen. Unfortunately, not long after The Seeds Of Doom was greenlighted, designer Jeremy Bear fell ill after working on the Antarctic camp; Roger Murray-Leach was quickly brought onto the production to replace him. As a cost-saving maneuver, the costume for the humanoid version of the Krynoid was adapted from an Axon outfit originally created for 1971's The Claws Of Axos.
Exterior work on The Seeds Of Doom began on the grounds of Athelhampton House in Athelhampton, Dorset, from October 30th to November 3rd; this served as Chase's estate. Unusually, Camfield elected to record the location scenes using Outside Broadcast video rather than film, to facilitate the special effects needed to realise the expanding Krynoid. Model filming then took place on November 6th at the Ealing Television Film Studios, for footage of the Krynoid and of Chase's house. Further model filming, involving the Antarctic base, occurred at the Puppet Theatre at BBC Television Centre.
Studio recording on The Seeds Of Doom followed the usual biweekly Monday/Tuesday pattern adopted through the thirteenth production block. The first of these, encompassing November 17th and 18th, was assigned to BBC Television Centre Studio 4, and involved the completion of most of episodes one and two, respectively. Unfortunately, after taping concluded on the Monday, Kenneth Gilbert -- playing Dunbar -- discovered that he had contracted chicken pox from his daughter, and would have to be absent from the set until the last of the three recording sessions. More misfortune occurred the following night, when Michael McStay (Moberley) was injured in a traffic accident after leaving the studio.
Taping resumed on December 1st and 2nd, again in TC4. The first day saw the recording of the majority of part three, as well as part four material in the special projects lab. The next day concentrated on the fourth episode, in addition to scenes in the general lab and the cottage bedroom for part five, and in Dunbar's office for each of the final two installments. Unusually, additional OB recording was then undertaken on December 7th and 8th. The principal venue was the grounds of Buckland Sand and Silica Company Ltd in Buckland, Surrey, dressed to serve as the Antarctic exteriors. While performing the closing scene outside the TARDIS, the prop -- which had been in use since Doctor Who began in 1963 -- collapsed on Elisabeth Sladen. Also on the 7th, the limousine chaffeur's attack on the Doctor and Sarah Jane in part three was taped on a country road near Betchworth, Surrey.
The final studio block took place on December 15th and 16th, this time in TC8. Both Gilbert and McStay were able to rejoin the production, with the latter wearing a false beard to hide scars he had received in the car crash. December 15th was largely devoted to episode five, as well as some of Dunbar's scenes from the first four installments. The 16th began with recording at the main entrance of BBC Television Centre itself, posing as the headquarters of the World Ecology Bureau. Moving back inside to TC8, part six was completed, as was material in the compost crusher room for episode four, and episode five scenes in Dunbar's office and the general lab. Work on The Seeds Of Doom then wrapped up on December 19th, when special effects shots of the giant Krynoid were captured in TC4.
As the thirteen production block concluded, Elisabeth Sladen informed Hinchcliffe of her intent to leave Doctor Who. Having spent three years on the programme, she was finding herself turning down increasingly attractive work, including a film. However, Sladen did agree to remain for the first two serials of the next season. The broadcast of Season Thirteen, meanwhile, concluded on March 6th, 1976 with The Seeds Of Doom part six. Once again, Doctor Who came under fire from Mary Whitehouse of the National Viewers' and Listeners' Association, who criticised the adventure's violent content and its inclusion of a Molotov cocktail.
The Seeds Of Doom was Robert Banks Stewart's final Doctor Who serial, although he would contribute ideas toward The Talons Of Weng-Chiang, the closing story of Season Fourteen. Stewart continued working in television as a writer, script editor and producer, helping to develop programmes like Shoestring, Bergerac and The Darling Buds Of May. He passed away on January 14th, 2016 following a battle with cancer.
Serial 4L also marked the end of Douglas Camfield's longtime association with Doctor Who. Camfield did submit a story idea called “The Lost Legion” to Doctor Who soon after work wrapped on The Seeds Of Doom, but this did not make it into production. He continued to direct episodes of shows like The Onedin Line, Shoestring and The Sweeney. Sadly, the heart ailment from which Camfield had long suffered -- forcing his absence from Doctor Who in the early Seventies -- finally took its toll on the director. He died in his sleep on January 27th, 1984.
|Updated 15th January 2016|
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