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Home > Doctor Who > 31 Monsters #28: The Krynoid

31 Monsters #28: The Krynoid

October 28th, 2009

One of my favorite episodes of the original Doctor Who is the 1976 story “The Seeds of Doom.” It came during what is the considered by many as the high point of the British TV series’ 26-year run: Tom Baker’s second year as the Doctor. In addition to Baker’s barmy, magnetic portrayal of the time-travelling alien, it featured Elisabeth Sladen as sidekick Sarah Jane Smith. Sladen is so well-loved by Who fans that 31 years after her last appearance as a series regular she was awarded her own spin-off, The Sarah Jane Adventures.

“The Seeds of Doom” also took place during what is referred to as the show’s “Gothic horror” phase. A fair number of Tom Baker’s early episodes emulated classic monster stories, complete with spooky castles, Egyptian mummies and sewer-dwelling madmen.

However, “The Seeds of Doom” looked to early sci-fi for its inspiration. It drew heavily from the 1938 short story “Who Goes There?” and its 1951 film adaptation The Thing from Another World, both of which featured an Antarctic research station terrorized by an alien creature.┬áIn the movie, the monster was a humanoid plant, but in the original it was a shape-shifting organism with the ability to infect and transform humans.

For Doctor Who, the Krynoid was a bit of both. An interstellar seed pod buried deep in the Antarctic permafrost, it germinated when it came in contact with animal flesh. An infected host began to exhibit an increasingly plant-like appearance, eventually becoming a walking mound of vegetation.

The Doctor claimed that on worlds where the Krynoid became established, all animal life was destroyed. In its final form, it grew to titanic size and then erupted in thousands of new pods. What’s more, its malign intelligence had the power to psychically control other plants and use them to strangle and smother animalkind.

All of this was right up the alley of the story’s chief villain, millionaire Harrison Chase. Now, an effete, plant-happy collector may not have seemed like much of a threat, but Chase was arguably one of the maddest of Doctor Who madmen. Like his beloved Krynoid–which he had transported to his mansion/greenhouse in England–he hated all animal life. He happily used his staff botanist as a Krynoid host, and later tried to feed both the Doctor and Sarah to a compost shredder. And like every great maniac, he had a musical bent, performing his self-composed “Hymn of the Plants” on a Hammond organ. Yes, a Hammond organ…he was just that evil.

Many escapes and rescues later, Sarah and the Doctor were forced to flee Chase’s estate and its wayward foliage before the Royal Air Force made a napalm air strike against the mansion-sized Krynoid. The television terror may have ended, but a generation of English children never again trusted a salad.

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