Directed by Keith Barnfather / Reviewed by Antonio Rozich
Keith Barnfather’s Sil and the Devil Seeds of Arodor is a sci-fi movie based on the famous TV series, Doctor Who. In case you don’t know anything about Doctor Who, just a brief intro – the series follows the adventures of a Time Lord called “the Doctor”. He’s an extraterrestrial being who pretty much resembles humans and he explores the universe in a time-traveling spacecraft.
Since Doctor Who already gained a cult following back in the 80s (the original show started in the 60s) when the show initially started, it got many spin-offs. Sil and the Devil Seeds of Arodor is the most recent one. What’s different about this spin-off is that it’s the only one created by an independent filmmaker — at least to my knowledge. Barnfather made the decision to split the 105-minute film into four parts, which makes sense because this kind of structure resembles typical TV shows with 30-minute episodes.
In addition to this, the four-part structure gives us the almost traditional and even mandatory Doctor Who cliffhangers.
This movie sticks to the signature aesthetics of the original piece – it truly feels like it’s from the 80’s. All those shiny chrome and deep blue shades depict the old-school idea of what the future should look like. Costume design and makeup are perfectly appropriate and they will certainly make you nostalgic if you dig old sci-fi movies or just the old Timelord. The only thing that gives away the fact that Sil and the Devil Seeds of Arodor is from 2019 is the use of CGI and special effects. Even though these effects are low budget, they are still contemporary and create a quirky atmosphere when combined with old-fashioned costumes. In a way, the movie looks like a theater play set in outer space. Coupled with the quirky humor unique to Dr. Who from the 80’s all the way to today, you got yourself a unique spin-off worth watching.
The main character in this spin-off is Sil, a fictional alien who looks like a reptile with a human face. He’s held in a detention cell on the Moon because his company is accused of trafficking drugs on the Earth. Sil will have to face a death sentence in case he’s found guilty and this movie follows Sil’s hearing and final order.
The dialogues between Sil and other characters are witty and they are addressing various political and moral issues. The actions, reactions, motives, and strategies used in the proceeding against Sil not only make sense in the universe of the series, but they are pretty realistic and depict real-life proceedings well. If you consider criminal trials intellectually stimulating, you may find the atmosphere in this movie quite convincing.
Even though Sil and the Devil Seeds of Arodor doesn’t offer any obvious references to current political affairs, the main story is about big corporations believing themselves to be untouchable and beyond reproach until some catastrophe occurs. Sil, who’s a CEO of such a gigantic corporation, uses all sorts of dirty strategies to escape responsibility and plead not guilty. Because of this, Sil’s personality is a great depiction of ill-natured world leaders and company owners. The same goes for Sil’s employees, who abandoned him as soon as he got into trouble – they represent opportunism, greed, and lack of moral principles.
Even though the production of this movie has some shortcomings due to the low budget, the story is rather clever and it makes up for technical issues and somewhat mediocre acting. In a way, it actually makes the whole Dr. Who feel stronger.
Remembering the old episodes (especially with Tom Baker) and then the more contemporary starring David Tennant, I was always intrigued by how good and entertaining the show was, despite the mediocre set (naturally, the acting was on the point.)
But that’s what makes Dr. Who appealing and why Sil and the Devil Seeds of Arodor works as well. It isn’t easy to take something and create a spin-off that does the original justice. But Keith Barnfather certainly found a way to do it with his film.