Since 1963, Doctor Who, a BBC television serial, has entertained multitudes of people across the world. I recall even as a small child, watching The Doctor in his interplanetary and time travels. I always thought the program, while hokey in some ways, was enlightening and entertaining in others. As of recently, BBC Television has unearthed some historical programs from the series and is releasing them to the public. The latest of these is The Seeds of Death Special Edition featuring The Patrick Troughton years from 1966–1969.
Fans of the new Doctor Who series will appreciate the backdrop and historical nature of the programs included on this DVD; for others, it may be a bit too dated to thoroughly enjoy unless they are a student of film or a fan of old science fiction. For those in this category, if for no other reason than its historical value, this will be a must own edition to their DVD collection.
In the viewing of this two DVD set, it should be noted, television series of the early to late 1960s didn’t have what would be considered today the best special effects. There is nothing exceptional here: not the acting, the special effects, editing, sound, etc… What is exceptional is the story and concepts, as presented through the history of Doctor Who, which spans some fifty years. What is also exceptional is the special features DVD, which goes into the history of this particular series of episodes. It focuses in part on the Martians and their two groups of citizens, divided into a lower and higher caste of people based on economic status.
While the special effects creating these creatures are not spectacular, the focus on what makes up these characters emotionally (their desires, wishes, intentions, and so forth), is one of the things that makes Doctor Who a science fiction work. As mentioned in the commentaries on the DVD’s, it seems as if most everything a basic film student is taught in film school is abandoned here. Yet despite that willingness to go against even the norms of film making for the time, there is a humanistic, emotional understanding of the characters, one that translates to helping drive home the themes and points of the show.
In the world of Doctor Who, there is a time space travel machine called the T-mat. The T-mat transports individuals almost instantly, something like the transporter on Star Trek. In this season the T-mat has been hijacked by the Martians, and the Doctor and his team must get it back before the Marians use it to destroy the earth. The series aspect allows the story to be developed along with some social commentary along the way. As is the case in many Doctor Who storylines, they actually do a pretty good job at all aspects of story development, especially in creating scary creatures. There are some surprises along the way as well as some thought provoking moments.
This series features primarily Patrick Troughton, the second Doctor in the incarnation of the Doctor Who actors who have played the part over the years. The character, in regards to the stories in this series, is quite well developed and we can see that in various concepts of the video, from the relations the Doctor has with others in the cast to his relationship and understanding of the Martians. While Troughton may not have been the best in the line of Doctors in my opinion, he was a likeable character who did quite well in the part.
Much of that was due to the way the program was often times scripted, using the talents of the actors in the particular scenes they were playing. Patrick Troughton, the second in the series of Doctor Who characters, did as well as any of the Doctors at presenting fear; it is a concept that enabled him to be one or the more memorable Doctors, even if he isn’t the favorite of the Doctors.
Doctor Who, since its origins, has found ways to interject the spiritual along with science into its themes, even back in the mid 1960’s. Of special interest in this series are the treatment and understanding of foreign culture as well as the concept of how people (or aliens, in this case) are treated. The concepts of fear and death are also addressed. Often at play is popular perception; however, while popular perception is at times important, especially if rooted in reality, there is always more than what one can quickly observe. Quick judgments often lead to inappropriate or even dangerous situations.
Just as Jesus and his followers give caution to judgment, the assessment of one’s actions is always encouraged and is what is important. Sometimes, we discover that those least likely to be judged appropriately may, in reality, be something or someone much better than we expected. Of course there is always danger and we have to have a leader who will lead in life, live by example, and show the reality of our surroundings. It is important to have a leader, like The Doctor, who will understand the reality of the situation they and others who follow them face.
Just as Doctor Who doesn’t guarantee an easy time in following him, neither does Jesus guarantee an easy time or perfection when his followers follow him; in fact, there are certainly at times difficulties we face. Some we will make it out of, others we may not, but having a deliverer there, like either Jesus or Doctor Who, can improve our chances. There may be fear all around us, but there are those who can and do overcome fear and difficulty, even with the monsters that would do us in.
I’ll be honest: these aren’t my favorite years of Doctor Who. While there is something special about the quirkiness of the shows, that doesn’t mean they are easy to watch. The special features however, including the episode commentaries and the making of features, are quite special and a must for fans of the series. While I don’t think there is anything special enough here to generate new fans, there is ample material to please old and lasting fans of the show, even the fans of the most recent years, younger fans.
The only recommendation I would have had is, in a series focusing on the late Patrick Troughton, there should have been far more in the features that focused on him. Unfortunately, there is surprisingly little. While I honestly don’t know if I would purchase the DVD’s at the price they are listed, I suspect there will be many who will, and enjoying it, think it is worth it. For those who do, enjoy, for those who just don’t know, but take the chance, good luck and hope you enjoy it, but don’t say you weren’t fairly warned.