Doctor Doctor Who Guide

Reviews


List:
02 Sep 2003The Green Death, by Paul Clarke
02 Sep 2003The Green Death, by Jake Tucker
29 Oct 2005The Green Death, by Adam Kintopf
29 Oct 2005The Green Death, by Rob Stickler
29 Oct 2005The Green Death, by Josh Owens
24 Mar 2006The Green Death, by Shane Anderson

It's a while since I last watched 'The Green Death', but I remember thinking that it wasn't very good. Consequently, watching it again proved to be a pleasant surprise (especially after the execrable 'Planet of the Daleks'), since I thoroughly enjoyed it. 

The basic plot of 'The Green Death' concerns the dangers of pollution, and in some ways harkens back to the glory days of Season Seven, with the earthbound menaces of 'Doctor Who and the Silurians' and 'Inferno'. Global Chemicals is a big, ruthless corporation promising a cheaper supply of petrol by using a new chemical process, but which is causing particularly dangerous pollution as a by-product. Opposing them are the members of Professor Jones' Wholeweal community, basically eco-activists who are on the verge of being hippies. Caught in the middle of this are the local miners, three of whom get killed off by the pollution in the mine, and UNIT, who are ordered to provide security for Global Chemicals despite the Brigadier's entirely justified distrust of Stevens. This is a reasonably sound premise in itself, but it succeeds beyond that due to some intelligent characterisation and decent acting. It would have been very easy to just portray the employees of Global Chemicals as faceless corporate drones, but instead Sloman and Letts give them some character; Elgin rebels against Stevens when he learns that his superior is refusing to lend cutting equipment to UNIT because he doesn't want the mine to be investigated further. All Elgin cares about is that lives are at stake, and he holds this in greater importance than the profits of his company. Fell likewise overcomes his programming to save the Doctor and Jo when they are trapped in the pipe, for much the same reasons. Even one of the guards shows a human side, asking "Doris" the cleaning lady how her husband is. We also have the Wholeweal community members, who could easily have been portrayed as stereotypical hippies or indeed some kind of lunatic fringe, but who are instead shown to be a community of intelligent scientists; Professor Jones of course, is even a Nobel prize winner. 

'The Green Death' also benefits from two effective villains. When I reviewed 'The War Machines', I mentioned that I dislike megalomaniac computers as villains. Whilst this is still true, I find that BOSS works quite well, primarily because he's charismatic and thus quite unlike most evil computers in science fiction, including WOTAN. He is bombastic, chatty and rather amusing, especially when he hums Wagnerian ditties as Stevens prepares the final stages of his plan to take over the world (or at least parts of it). I do find it slightly annoying that the Doctor is able to confuse him with a simple logical conundrum, which is an unfortunately clichĂ©d stock method for foxing naughty computers, and which BOSS should in any case realize is a transparent trick if he's really been programmed to be irrational. What I also like about BOSS is his interaction with Stevens, whom he does genuinely seem to consider a friend, and whom he constantly teases and taunts. The irony of course is that Stevens has less of a sense of humour that his transistorized accomplice. Stevens himself is superbly portrayed by Jerome Willis, who imbues the character with an air of icy menace, but who also shows the character's human side. Ruthless and dedicated though he is, Stevens seems to genuinely believe that what he is doing is right, until his very last scene, and like BOSS he seems to value his friendship with the computer. Consequently, their final scene works very well, as Stevens is convinced that what he is doing is wrong and destroys BOSS. However, this is not simply played as Stevens destroying a machine, it is rather a case of him killing his best friend, and it is for this reason that Stevens remains behind to die with it. BOSS's pitiful cries of "It hurts" and Stevens's tears as they die together make it a poignant moment, even if their plan was rather Machiavellian. 

The main iconic image from 'The Green Death' that everyone remembers is of course the maggots. The interesting thing about the maggots is that they do not directly form part of BOSS's plans and he and Stevens are as keen to get rid of them as everybody else, since their very existence proves that the accusations leveled against Global Chemicals's new process are absolutely true. Consequently, the maggots are in a sense token monsters, since the danger of the pollution could have been shown solely by the deadly green slime that gives the story the name. However, the maggots work because they emphasize this point and in effect act as a more monstrous embodiment of pollution than the slime alone, which probably had more of an impact on a traditional Saturday teatime Doctor Who audience. For the most part, the maggots work well in close-up, when the stuffed-condom maggots are used, with their gaping mouths. Unfortunately however, this is not the only way in which they are depicted, and the other ways in which they are realized are rather variable. Long shots of static maggot mock-ups don't hide the fact that they don't wriggle, but even less successful is the use of CSO to superimpose various actors against a shot of normal sized live maggots in green food colouring. Even worse is the giant fly in Episode Six, which criminally manages to be far less convincing than the one seen almost a decade earlier in 'Planet of Giants'. I usually don't complain about dodgy effects, but it irks me when they get progressively *worse* over time, and I remain convinced that better camera work and editing could have reduced the need for CSO maggots. My other criticism is that the maggots' resistance to, well, anything, stretches things a bit by Episode Five; I don't care how big they are, chitin is neither bullet-proof or fire proof!

As I'm on the subject, I'll just mention the overall production. Generally 'The Green Death' is rather well directed, and great use is made of location filming. The sets all work well, especially the mines, which are quite convincing. Particularly note worthy is the sequence in Episode One, when the action cuts repeatedly back and forth between the Brigadier in Stevens's office, and Professor Jones and Jo in the Nuthutch (with occasionally switches to the Doctor on Metebelis 3). This is highly effective in establishing the basic plot, as both parties discuss Global Chemicals' new process, Stevens praising it, and the Professor criticizing it. And since I've brought it up, Metebelis 3 looks suitably alien, due to it being (as far as I can tell) shot on film, and lit with blue lighting. However, I personally consider this story to suffer more from bad CSO than any other Doctor Who story. It isn't just the amount used, but rather the fact that it stands out more than usual. I'm not sure why this is, but it looks terrible, enhancing the infamous "wobbly line" effect, and making bits of whatever is being imposed vanish, most notably the edges of the advancing maggot at the end of Episode Three. 

At this point, I feel I must mention the Welsh. It's frankly astonishing that the BBC managed to get away with this as much as they did, for never have a seen such ludicrous stereotyping. To appreciate how astonishing this is, image any other ethnic group instead of the Welsh being this badly stereotyped, and cringe. They are nearly all miners, they all say Boyo and Blodwyn, and the milkman is called "Jones-the-milk". Even on a visit to Maesteg, in the heart of Mid-Glamorgan, I've never witnessed such things! Mind you, Talfryn Thomas as Dai Evans puts in rather a good performance; he actually gives the impression that lives are at stake at the start of Episode Two, as he and the Doctor struggle to stop the plummeting lift. 

The regulars are generally very good here. Pertwee is at the top his form throughout, especially when the Doctor is dealing with Jo's impending departure. He also makes the Metebelis 3 scenes work well, and I personally find them highly amusing; after repeated mentions of the planet, as soon as he arrives he is attacked by a tentacle, and then beset by snakes and giant birds, before legging it back to the TARDIS as various objects clatter off the door behind him including spears. It's quite silly, but it's also funny, and Pertwee makes it work. His heartfelt "I'll talk to anyone" when he gets back and answers the 'phone nicely emphasizes his relief to be back. He also uses his knack for righteous anger very well when dealing with both Stevens and BOSS, without slipping into the pious pomposity of 'Planet of the Daleks'. Having said that, points are deducted for his ridiculous drag-act, particularly his stupid female voice impression. The Brigadier, previously reduced to the status of an imbecile, here makes something of a comeback. His smooth, diplomatic attitude when dealing Stevens recalls the commanding figure of Season Seven, and he even manages to keep his dignity when silenced by the Prime Minister. In addition, he gets on well with the Wholeweal community, proving as he used to do that he's not just some kind of clichĂ©d military idiot but an intelligent man who is quite willing to listen to other people's points of view with an open mind even if he is duty-bound by his job. Even Yates isn't bad here; I still dislike Richard Franklin's portrayal immensely, but his role as a spy at least gives the character something useful to do and his usual inappropriate cheekiness is mercifully restrained. Although during the scene in which the disguised Doctor writes "Get rid of him" on the window, Yates continues to gawp idiotically until the guard almost spots the message and the Doctor, a trivial but thoroughly irritating matter. 

Finally, there is of course Jo. She's come a long way from the dumb blonde of 'Terror of the Autons', and by this point is a great character in her own right. The seeds of her departure are sown right from the start, as she shuns a trip to Metebelis 3 in favour of a visit to Professor Jones, champion of a cause that she is currently interested in, and as she does so the Doctor sadly reflects "the fledgling flies the coop". Her growing attachment to Professor Jones, and his reciprocated feelings, are gradually built up, making it obvious that she is going to be staying with him not only to the audience, but also to the Doctor; his childish hijacking of the Professor at the end of Episode Three so that he and Jo can't be alone together shows just how much the Doctor is affected by the realization of her imminent departure. After this immature lapse however, he sadly comes to accept it, and watches them grow closer until the end of the story, as she and the Professor get engaged. His final scene with Jo, as he gives her the Metebelis crystal, is very poignant, and had far more of an effect on me for watching the series in order that it ever did watching the story at random. The Doctor's quiet departure in Bessie is a moving end to a strong final story for Jo.

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It has always been suggested that the DoctorÂ’s term with UNIT did not take place during the period it was broadcast, but slightly into the future. This makes sense when one realizes how many of the Third DoctorÂ’s exploits mirror todayÂ’s problems. Day of the Daleks confronts the issue of terrorism, while The Curse of Peladon tackles the complexities of international relations. These topics are extremely relevant to the world of 2003 even though they were broadcast in 1973. The Green Death also has much meaning for todayÂ’s world. The struggle between corporate greed and the environment is one that is being fought today, with the outcome looking not so good for the earth.

The Green Death is a cautionary tale dealing with the excess of capitalism. When miners begin to die from strange green sores, UNIT is called in to investigate. The sores are linked to waste being dumped by the Global Chemical Corporation. The waste has also caused common maggots to mutate into two-foot long giants. The Doctor discovers that a diabolical machine known as the BOSS is controlling the operation of Global Chemicals. With the help of a young Welsh biologist, UNIT and the Doctor hope to overcome BOSS and the swarm of giant larvae. 

This story boasts a fine script by Robert Sloman and producer Barry Letts. LettsÂ’ desire to make Doctor Who topical is particularly evident here. The direction by Michael Briant is top notch; suspense and atmosphere abound in this story. The sparse design work of John Burrowes creates an industrial surrounding that is reminiscent of previous Third Doctor stories such as Spearhead from Space and Inferno. 

The regulars Jon Pertwee, Nicholas Courtney, and Katy Manning all give wonderful performances. This story marked ManningÂ’s departure from the series. The DoctorÂ’s reaction to JoÂ’s departure is one of the finest moments from PertweeÂ’s tenure as the Doctor. It remains one of the most touching moments from the seriesÂ’ history. The supporting cast also shines. Jerome Willis is quite menacing as Stevens, the brainwashed chief of Global Chemicals. Stewart Bevan is charming and intelligent as Professor Clifford Jones, the bohemian biologist who steals the heart of Jo Grant. The cast and crew of The Green Death are key factors that make this story the classic it is.

The DoctorÂ’s non-human foes are also notable. The giant maggots may seem silly to some, but to this reviewer they are some of Doctor WhoÂ’s creepiest creatures. Like the Autons of previous adventures, the maggotsÂ’ simplistic design makes them less sloppy looking and therefore more terrifying. They really do look like disgusting, swollen maggots. 

While the Doctor has had his share of mechanical foes, BOSS stands out from the crowd. BOSS is a rare mechanical monster because its menace comes from it being too human-like. The false humanity programmed into BOSS causes the super computer to become even more dangerous. While it makes BOSS hum tunes it also makes the computer greedy and devious. BOSS itself is a parable about the limitations of the computer. 

As holes in the ozone grow and corporate responsibility dwindles, The Green Death has a message more important than ever. The message is so skillfully delivered that it demonstrates that the “silly” children’s television show Doctor Who can be relevant to today. Because of this relevance and the quality of the story itself, The Green Death is one of the Doctor’s greatest adventures.

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‘The Green DeathÂ’ is the famous story with the maggots, of course. In fact, I always used to laugh at pictures on the VHS box – this story has giant maggots, and they decide to use a still of the Doctor talking on the *telephone*? 

Well, the giant maggots are just fantastic – for all the differing opinions, I find them as realistic as practically any monster in Who history – but the story as a whole is a classic mixed bag of good and bad. The narrative itself isn’t anything more than a run-of-the-mill 1970s parable of ecological horror, about on a par with 1972’s ‘Frogs’ in terms of sophistication. The Doctor’s trip to Metebelis 3 in episode one is a silly, overlong piece of padding (albeit a briefly scary one, when that shocking tentacle hits the Doctor). The direction is meant to be clever (cutting from one character to another as they speak the same line, e.g.), but it actually seems rather corny and forced. And the giant dragonfly belongs in a children’s play.

But for every bad thing, there’s also something good. Lovely performances are turned in by Talfryn Thomas, Roy Evans, Tony Adams and Nicholas Courtney. (Is there a more iconic image of the Pertwee years than the Doctor and the Brigadier riding shoulder to shoulder in Bessie?) Jerome Willis is low-key as Stevens, but he really opens up when he takes his revenge on his BOSS in the strangely poignant climax. Speaking of which, the BOSS is a common or garden-variety HAL-esque mad computer, but its reliance on withering taunts (and its obvious amusement at its own jokes) distinguish it from other pretenders. And ‘Nuthutch’ is an inspired name for the Wholeweal Community HQ – we get the sense Jones has pluckily taken a variant of ‘nut hatch’ to thumb his nose at his movement’s detractors.

But the most interesting thing about ‘The Green Death’ isn’t maggots, or pollution, or sinister corporate conspiracies, or glowing green corpses. Instead, it’s the kind of sad psychodrama that hangs around the edges of the story – that of the Third Doctor saying goodbye to Jo Grant. Many fans have criticized the suggestion of romantic love in the new Doctor Who series (and in the Paul McGann movie before it) - but some have argued that other Doctors have loved other companions before, however tacitly. And ‘The Green Death’s’ presentation of the Doctor and Jo is a convincing example.

Indulge me for a moment. From the beginning of the story, we see the Doctor looking at Jo in a light other than the traditional adventurer/companion one. He asks her to come with him to Metebelis 3, and he does so with an air of it being a ‘getawayÂ’ for them both. When she refuses, he says in that case heÂ’ll take her wherever she wishes to go – an unusual break in character for this self-absorbed Time Lord. When she argues with him, he comes as close to flirting as he ever does, mimicking her and getting her to laugh. 

Ultimately, she tells him that she chooses instead to join Professor Jones, whom she describes as “a sort of younger you” (this description turns out to be fairly apt, considering the impatience and neglect with which Jones treats her throughout the story). The Doctor accepts this, but not terribly gracefully – he snaps at the Brigadier when asked for help (“I wouldn’t advise you to try!”), and we can’t help feeling he’s out to prove something when picking a fight with Global Chemicals security in episode two (“I’m quite spry for my age”). Actually, a subtext about age and aging runs throughout the story (Jones not being recognized because of his youth, and “the fledgling flies the coop” are other examples) – very unusual for Doctor Who.

Of course, none of this is overstated, but it does skim along just beneath the surface, and the quiet, subtle way in which the matter is resolved makes it all the more affecting. As for the actors, Katy Manning overdoes the klutziness a bit in episode one, but as the story goes on she settles in, and Pertwee is in magnificent form (I love his genuinely aghast “Good grief!” when he sees the maggots). But perhaps the performance that makes it all work is Stewart Bevan’s as Jones himself. As I mentioned, he treats Jo in rather callous (and Doctorish) ways throughout this story, and yet Bevan’s choice to play him as a smart but goofy Welsh kid is a good one, and ultimately endears the character to us. How easy it would have been for him to fail here – for which viewer would choose anyone over the Doctor? But Bevan is so playful in the role, and his affection for Jo seems so genuine, that in the end we are happy with her choice. You could say that Clifford Jones the character is conceived as a combination of the best parts of the Doctor and Jo, and Bevan pulls it off very well indeed.

All in all, a strange story, probably worth more than the sum of its parts.

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The Green Death is certainly one of the Doctor Who stories most strongly remembered by the general public. The maggots are a deeply ingrained image in the public psyche, though whether that is a positive association for Doctor Who as a brand is a matter for debate. The story is also highly regarded amongst fans and was a popular choice for release on DVD. The title outsells the rest of the ‘classic’ Doctor Who range by virtue of its crossing the fan/collector barrier and appealing to the broader market. Outselling such heavyweights as ‘Talons of Weng Chiang’ and ‘Ghostlight’.

Why is it such a popular story? It is a strong representation of early seventies Who, having all the essential ingredients present; Pertwee, Manning, UNIT, beasties and Bessie. The one element of the era that is missing is the Master; Roger Delgado tragically died days before the last episode of this story was broadcast. The script is tightly plotted and leaves little room for the serial to drag. The characterisation of the regulars is strong, and the roles of Cliff Jones, Stevens and, of course, BOSS stand out as well defined parts amongst a dramatis personae of bland stereotypes and comedy welsh accents (with the exception of Talfryn Thomas' real accent).

Robert Sloman certainly had his finger on the pulse when he concocted this eco thriller which plays on the paranoia and suspicion of large multinational companies and their unscrupulous practices. Such paranoia might have seemed a new idea in 1973 but is still all too depressingly familiar to we ethical consumers of the 21st century. The flip side of that is that the Green Death is just as relevant today as it was thirty years ago; a fact that bolsters its continued popularity. Doctor Who tackling relevant issues? ItÂ’s not a new idea. That the story also manages to make proper use of a six episode format is another feather in its overcrowded cap.

The production values are good, the show looks smart and the effects are great – right up until the dismal CSO of episode X. The overambitious showdown between the Doctor and Benton and a bazillion biohazard maggots is like a steel gauntlet pulled straight from the freezer crushing my heart into a sticky red paste. The failure of this sequence is all the more sad due to the success of the effects and the design throughout the rest of the serial. The Nuthatch, the Mine, Global Chemicals and especially the BOSS control room (cannibalised from Gerry Anderson cast offs) are convincing sets and the location work is excellent. The stock footage of mine machinery blends in well and lends credibility to the show. The maggots themselves are a simple design but very effective. The first few sightings of them are genuinely creepy.

Katy Manning has something to do other than look pretty in this story. She falls in love (though it’s difficult to believe the marriage was long-lived), she develops a social conscience and she gets to treat the Doctor badly. All whilst modelling some great hippy-chic outfits thought Jo Grants idea of evening wear might send a shiver down the servos of Trin-e and Zu-Zana. Pertwee is magnificent; clearly relishing the opportunities to dress up and use different accents. Not to mention the way he plays the Doctors reaction to Jo’s development. The look on his face when he finds Jo and Cliff in a clinch is fantastic. His final scenes – especially when he downs his drink and leaves during the toast – are beautifully performed. Jo Grant is right off his Christmas list. The UNIT crew are present and correct and get some decent screen time, probably for the last time until 1989’s ‘Battlefield’.

Jerome Willis gives a good turn as the unflappable front man for Global Chemicals machinations. His ultimate sacrifice does undermine his evil Captain Peacock a little though. Stuart Bevan is great, though Cliff Jones is a bit of a ponce. The scenes between him and Katy Manning work very well – though they should certainly have had a good rapport seeing as they were a couple at the time. John Dearth as the maniacal, humming, singing and if it had legs dancing computer BOSS is a treat. The confrontation between BOSS and the Doctor is particularly striking and well played on both sides. The insane, arrogant computer is as truly frightening as it is oxymoronic.

In many ways The Green Death is the last great Pertwee story. It was around here at the end of season ten with Katy Manning leaving and Roger Delgado passed away, Barry Letts and Terrance Dicks talking about moving on that Jon Pertwee decided it was time to let someone else have all the fun. 

Why is the Green Death so popular? It is a great success as a piece of science-fiction drama, and everyone involved in the production is playing at the peak of their ability. The only black mark on the whole scorecard is some bad CSO. ItÂ’s spectacularly bad CSO but even so compare that to some other stories; stories that dream of just having bad CSO.

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For me, The Green Death is not only one of the best UNIT stories, but one of the best Doctor Who stories ever. It has so many elements in it that contribute to its richly-deserved status as a classic.

Having said that, I'll start by talking you through the story's detractions. The camera-work during the "boating through the maggots" sequence is a little shoddy, with the principal characters and foreground so obviously cut into other shots that the sequence becomes completely unbelievable. Similar problems are encountered when the Doctor and Sgt. Benson attack the maggots. However, Doctor Who was never about superb effects, but about the story.

And so that's where I shall move on to. It is, unfortunately, one of those Doctor Who stories, like The Tomb of the Cybermen and The Caves of Androzani, that has a blatantly obvious moral. Now, don't get me wrong. One of the best things about Doctor Who is its moral undertones. It tries, and often succeeds, to teach us important lessons and principles. But it really grates with me when the moral undertones become,... well, moral overtones, so obvious are they. There are also some important story issues. For example, when the maggot in the Nuthutch is found dead- next to Professor Jones' special fungus, which it has been eating- the Doctor fails to make the connection between the fungus being fatal to the maggots, and the fungus being the basis of a vaccine against the maggots. It's an almost unforgivable scripting error in the sometimes almost omniscient Doctor.

But, I must now go on to my reasons for liking it so much. The minor characters are fleshed out so well that they become really entertaining in their own right. A particular favourite of mine is the BOSS. To hear it humming along merrily is lovely;it is really heartening that the scriptwriters and actors take the time to give the extras real personalities of their own. Stevens is also a refreshing new take on the "unwitting-pawn-controlled-by-a-higher-intelligence" theme. To have a character who can both be completely dominated by the computer, and also remind him to get back on track when he is busy eulogising is refreshing, and his sacrifice at the end is moving: not least because the Doctor accepts that it is something that Stevens has to do to cleanse his conscience. His nod of thank you to Stevens brings out the best in Pertwee's Doctor.

The Doctor also feels somewhat rejuvenated in The Green Death. He is now leaping from cranes, running away from armed guards in sealed compounds, and scrambling through mineshafts. This "action man" feel to the Doctor helps to keep the story ticking along, and also makes him stand out from Professor Jones. If the Doctor was just a thinking Doctor, he would be the same as Professor Jones; but his extra energy gives him an edge over Professor Jones, as well as making his sadness at Jo's departure more profound, because of this juxtaposition.

So, over all, an excellent yarn. Complex characters and an all-action Doctor more than make up for some minor filming quibbles. First class.

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The Green Death' is a genuine Doctor Who classic. Aliens tend to invade Earth far too often to be believed in the Doctor Who universe (why would so many different races want to invade our one little planet?), but 'The Green Death' thankfully avoids this cliche by telling the story of the fairly mundane and earthbound problem of pollution, and then makes it interesting by adding the Doctor Who staple ingredient of monsters in the form of the giant maggots. The anti-capitalist sermonizing is heavy-handed, but the story manages to transcend that and remain a solid and entertaining chapter in the Doctor's adventures. 

The plot is sound, though I'm not sure we ever learn exactly who built BOSS (he does mention his creators without going into much detail). Global Chemicals, a presumably multinational corporation headquartered in Wales, has developed a new process for producing greater quantities of gasoline from crude oil. While more efficient, this process also creates a dangerous by-product in the form of a toxic green sludge which can't be broken down or destroyed, so it must be stored. Global's solution is to pump the sludge down into a recently disused coal mine, where it will supposedly remain buried. Out of sight, out of mind. It's never that simple of course, and in true Doctor Who fashion, there are monstrous results. The sludge mutates maggots, causing them to grow to giant proportions and evidently grow fangs and learn to jump. The sludge also begins to kill people on contact, hence the "green death™ of the title. All of this happens before the story proper begins, and then UNIT is drawn into events, initially to provide security for Global Chemicals but also to investigate the death of the miner. The bulk of the televised story is spent exploring the mystery of the mines, and then spent trying to deal with the threat from the maggots, and deal with Global Chemicals and BOSS. The story works well over six episodes, revealing first one layer of the mystery and then another. We get plenty of good material and character moments for the Doctor, the Brigadier, Benton and Yates. The trip to Metebelis 3 that has been attempted all season is finally taken by the Doctor, with both useful and funny results. Oh, and Jo Grant falls in love in a remarkably short amount of time and leaves to get married at the end of the story. 

I often discuss the characters first when I'm reviewing, but in this case I'd like to address the philosophy behind the tale, since unlike most other Doctor Who stories, here the moral not only takes center stage, but is the reason behind the story's creation. Like most sane people in the world I'm certainly pro-environment, but I get very tired of corporation-bashers who insist that large, international corporate entities do nothing but pollute the planet, use up resources and trample the little guy. It's a blatant and lazy stereotype, and we are presented with just such an unbalanced picture in this story. The approach taken is a cowardly one though, since real issues are ducked by presenting us an evil polluting corporation run not by humans, but by a megalomaniac computer, the BOSS. The only employees we see are a few upper echelon executives and about a dozen security guards, and sooner or later they all come under the mental subjugation of BOSS, leaving little room to cast the moral blame for Global Chemical's pollution at their feet. The good ones like Elgin and Fell are eventually brainwashed when they rebel against profit at all costs, and Stevens, who is the main antagonist for UNIT and the chief legman for BOSS, even he repents when his mind is cleared by the Doctor. The story seems to indict the corporate system and the capitalism that drives it as irredeemable, and sends the message that even good people like Elgin can't help but be destroyed by it. Which is of course, utter nonsense. 

One of the problems with that point of view is its one-sidedness. It's not universally true by any stretch of the imagination. Now I had initially hoped that having both moral and immoral executives in Global Chemicals was an attempt at balance, but it doesn't seem to be. We are presented with another myth: the 'back to nature = golden age' myth, embodied by our unbelievably well-educated and Nobel prize winning hippies at the Wholeweal community. The contrast between the well-groomed, well-spoken, affluent corporate executives who are nonetheless either immoral or caught up in the immoral system, and the educated but happy dropouts working for the betterment of mankind couldn't be more pronounced. It's also far removed from reality since the hippy movement was generally selfish, and based on abandoning society rather than bettering it. The reason I say that this group of hippies destroys any attempt at balance is that while there are moral and immoral characters at Global, there are no correspondingly equal immoral Wholewealers. They're all idealistic and on the right track. While lovely characters, they're just too good to be true. 

So we have evil corporation vs. good societal dropouts. This is the story setup, and it comes from a philosophical point of view I profoundly disagree with, and yet I've given the story high praise at the beginning of this review. I've gone so far as to call it a classic, and I hold to that. Despite the philosophy behind much of the story, the idea that we must take care of our environment is as true today as it was in 1973. That alone isn't enough to elevate The Green Death to the status of a classic, but add to that the fact that the story itself is solid, with plenty of scope for all the regulars, and a good amount of drama, and that goes a long way to making this story stand out from many of its peers. The plot is multi-layered. It sets up the mystery of what killed the miner, then solves that by showing us the pollutants in the mine and the maggots, which raises the question of where those came from. That question is answered, but then we are left with the question of who it is that has been talking to Stevens and compelling him to 'process' people. That question is then answered, and still we are left with the mystery of just what the computer plans and how it can be stopped. Add to that the subplot about Jo growing up and striking out on her own, and how the Doctor reacts to her imminent departure, and you have a story full of progression, questions, and twists, with some excellent character drama that fits well into the Doctor Who format. The Green Death is well-written and structured, and for that the author and production team deserve credit. 

The story makes good use of all the characters, with the UNIT regulars all receiving good roles. The Brigadier is the most prominent, and he gets the usual mixed characterization that you find at this point in the series. He's straightforward and sceptical when dealing with Stevens, yet seemingly unable to start his investigation of the mine without the Doctor. It may well be that experience has taught him that he won't find the answers on his own, but the Brigadier of 'The Invasion' and 'Spearhead from Space' is proactive, and very much his own man. The way he often dithers while waiting on the Doctor weakens his character considerably. Still, in this story Lethbridge-Stewart stands up to Stevens and a cabinet minister with dignity and diplomacy, and takes his dressing-down from the Prime Minister without looking like an idiot. He also benefits from a chance to let his hair down so to speak and get out of uniform for much of the story. The dinner at Wholeweal where he's enjoying his meal and cigar and laughing at the dinner table is a great character moment to be sure. We rarely get to see the Brigadier off-duty and enjoying himself, but it's nice to see a different side to him. And despite being duty-bound to obey orders, he inserts Mike Yates into Global Chemicals for a little corporate espionage, which is an eminently sensible action to take. This is a reasonably good story for the Brigadier. The Time Monster and The Three Doctors are perhaps his low points, and here he's on his way back up towards respectability. 

Benton doesn't play much of a role in events, but he's his usual affable self here. From his always-polite approach to Jo, to his good humor while flinging fungus to the maggots, to his rather brave leap over the maggots to rescue Cliff and Jo, he's always likeable. Captain Yates gets to remind us of UNITs occasional use of undercover surveillance by infiltrating Global Chemicals as an ersatz member of the ministry. He's very animated and cheerful here, and shows himself to be fairly capable as well. He gathers enough information to direct the Doctor to the executive elevator, and has enough courage to go back into Global for more information even when his cover is blown. 

This is of course Jo Grant's final story, and her departure is handled well in the sense that it doesn't come from nowhere during the last five minutes of the final episode. If you look back over Katy Manning's three years on the show, her character certainly grew and changed over time to be far more capable, so Jo's desire to strike out on her own is believable and well-handled. What isn't as believable is the rapid attachment to and engagement to Cliff Jones. This story can hardly take more than a few days, and yet the two of them decide to get married in such a short time? I suppose it can happen, but still... probably got divorced about that fast too. Time issues aside, her pulling away from the Doctor is well handled by both Manning and Jon Pertwee, who put in great performances in all respects. 

The Doctor is at his best here, and Pertwee seems to me to be at his most enthusiastic. He is so full of energy and life in this story, and is very enjoyable to watch. Whether gleefully organizing the diversion protest march while he breaks onto the grounds of Global Chemicals, to angrily demanding that the sealing of the mine be stopped, to his shocked _expression as he realizes that he's walked in on Cliff and Jo's romantic encounter, Pertwee gets to show a wide range of acting skills here. Of particular note is his jovial and exuberant banter with BOSS and Stevens when the useless attempt is made to brainwash him. He claims to be having a 'whale of a time' and Pertwee's acting conveys that well. His turn as both the milkman and the cleaning lady are fun as well. On the whole, this is one of his better performances. 

As an aside, I note there are complaints about the depiction of the Welsh in this story. As an American, I don't really know a lot about the apparent stereotypes that are being portrayed, so I can't really address those. Perhaps the Welsh get similar treatment to Southerners in American entertainment, who are often portrayed in popular entertainment as simpletons with exaggerated accents. In any case, from my point of view the Welsh characters in this story seem to be solid, admirable people for the short time we get to see them. The miners all seem down to earth and concerned about their fellows, and none strike me as particularly exaggerated. From my point of view, the milkman is the only one who stands out from his fellows with his accent and speech patterns. 

Special effects are pretty poor in some spots, but reasonably good everywhere else. It's hard to find fault with most Doctor Who, a low-budget show that did so well with what they had. Generally a solid effort all around, even if the CSO isn't always successful. 

A note about the DVD: as always, the picture and sound are much improved over my old VHS copy. The commentary that I've listened to so far with Barry Letts, Terrance Dicks and Katy Manning is fun and lively. Mr. Letts is surely one of the most pleasant people who ever worked on the show, and Katy Manning is quite bubbly. It's a pity Jon Pertwee isn't still with us to participate (you know he would have). The extras are interesting, particularly the special effects feature. However, the standout extra has to be the 'Global Conspiracy' feature, with a hilarious 'documentary' about the effect of the Global Chemicals debacle on the town. It's funny and it's also a far more creative way to reassemble some of the cast members than an interview would have been. 

To sum everything up: good solid story and plot, good character moments all around for the regular cast, but with a half-baked philosophy behind it. Not flawless, but yes, a classic Doctor Who adventure that has a little of everything. Well worth watching.

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