The Seeds Of Doom
Starring: Tom Baker (The Fourth Doctor), Elisabeth Sladen (Sarah Jane Smith).
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.
Before penning The Seeds Of Doom, Robert Banks Stewart had written Terror Of The Zygons, originally intended as the final story of Season Twelve and then shifted to the opening serial of Season Thirteen. After completing this serial, he was approached to write a second Doctor Who adventure, drawing from such sources as the horror serial The Quatermass Experiment and the John Wyndham novel The Day Of The Triffids; both featured the idea of flora attacking mankind, and the former also depicted a man being infected by alien matter which began turning him into a plant.
There is some disagreement as to whether or not The Seeds Of Doom began life as a four- or six-episode serial. Stewart himself maintains that it was always intended to be six parts long, but other sources suggest this was not the case. The sources indicate that a four-part Seeds was scheduled to follow a two-parter by Eric Pringle, called The Angurth, commissioned in late summer 1975. When this fell through, producer Philip Hinchcliffe sought permission to shorten Season Thirteen to twenty-four episodes, but Head of Drama Serials Bill Slater vetoed the proposal. Instead, script editor Robert Holmes and the director assigned to the story, Douglas Camfield (whose last Doctor Who work had also been Zygons), hurriedly reworked the opening of the story to include a two-part prologue set in Antarctica.
Whatever the case, The Seeds Of Doom was commissioned as a six-parter on September 30th, 1975. This would be the final serial of the 1970s to feature UNIT, which Hinchcliffe and Holmes had slowly phased out throughout the previous two seasons. Indeed, UNIT's involvement even in this story was so insignificant that it was deemed unnecessary to involve any of the UNIT regulars, and so the one-off characters of Major Beresford and Sergeant Henderson were conceived instead.
The making of The Seeds Of Doom was hit by numerous mishaps, illnesses and injuries. The original designer was John Bear, but after doing work on the Antarctic base camp sets and models for the first two episodes, he fell ill and was replaced by Roger Murray-Leach. Kenneth Gilbert (Dunbar) contracted chicken pox from his daughter during the first set of recording days, necessitating his absence until the third pair of studio days. During studio recording, the TARDIS exterior prop -- still the original from Doctor Who's debut season in 1963 -- collapsed on Elisabeth Sladen; the decision was made to construct a new version for the fourteenth season. A bout of the flu also affected many of the cast and crew.
Location recording started on October 30th, at Athelhampton House in Dorset. Instead of using film for these sequences, Camfield opted instead for OB (Outside Broadcast) video, to facilitate the addition of the Krynoid monster to some scenes. The studio sessions began on November 17th. The Krynoid costume used for the intermediate stage when the creature was still vaguely humanoid was a redressed Axon Monster outfit from the Season Eight serial The Claws Of Axos, painted green. Unusually, additional exterior filming occurred between the second and third pair of recording days, on December 7th and 8th at Buckland, Surrey. The serial and the thirteenth production block as a whole finished up on December 16th. This marked the beginning of the first extensive break for the Doctor Who production team since September 1974 when the twelfth recording block got under way. Part six of The Seeds Of Doom aired on March 6th, 1976, drawing a stunning 11.5 million viewers, placing it 15th overall for the week. This continued the resurgence of the programme since the start of the Tom Baker era.
At the season's conclusion, Elisabeth Sladen announced that she would leave Doctor Who after the second serial of the next season. Sladen was finding herself turning down other promising work because of her commitment to the series, and had decided it was time to move on. The Seeds Of Doom was also Robert Banks Stewart's last credited Doctor Who serial, although a story outline written for the subsequent season would form the basis for Robert Holmes' The Talons Of Weng-Chiang. Stewart continued working in television as a writer, script editor and producer, helping to develop programmes like Bergerac and The Darling Buds Of May.
Serial 4L also marked the end of Douglas Camfield's longtime association with Doctor Who. Camfield did submit a story idea about the Foreign Legion, which would also constitute Sarah Jane's farewell story, but this did not make it into production. Camfield continued to direct episodes of shows like The Onedin Line and The Sweeney. Sadly, Camfield suffered from a longtime heart ailment (a condition which had forced his absence from Doctor Who during the early Seventies) and died in his sleep on January 27th, 1984.