Wednesday, July 19, 2006

My Review of Doctor Who's: "The Green Death"

Written by Robert Sloman
Directed by Michael Briant

Jo: “You don't mind, do you?”
The Doctor (re Clifford): “Mind? He might even be able to turn you into a scientist.”

Much as I’m a sci-fi fan, I’m not generally taken with the idea of threats being of the bug or maggot variety so I have to admit that I had some reservations about the season finale to the series’ tenth season. After all, we got an opener that featured all three Doctors, so I think on my part; I was looking for something just as ‘big’.

To be fair, this serial is rather big. It’s another six parter like the previous season’s finale and it also marks the beginning of the end for the UNIT era, something which is definitely made abundantly clear in the next three seasons.

Speaking of three seasons, that’s just as long as we’ve had Jo Grant and this is her final appearance on the show. Unlike other companions, both past and future, Jo was one who never resurfaced after this story, thereby giving it more impact than you’d expect to have.

The opening part of the episode shows a nice evolution of her and the Doctor’s relationship. At first he was unsure of her presence and now over time, he’s become quite fond of her. I have to admit that Jo is one of my favourite companions as well and this serial does her justice.

There’s the plot of a corrupt business Global Chemicals, which is involved in a series of deaths at a disused mine in South Wales and when the likes of Clifford Jones isn’t protesting about it, UNIT are also very interested in discovering what exactly the company has to hide.

It’s not exactly easy for UNIT to get any straight answers given that the seriously creepy Stevens makes it his mission to derail things as possible. Even The Doctor doesn’t fair that well either, what with his ethics immediately making him a source of much irritation for Stevens.

The first half of this story does have a fair bit of meandering but nothing that really causes consternation for viewers. We get to see miners seriously affected by the diseased mine and the maggots themselves are actually more effective than expected.

The Doctor’s influence is obviously something that plays strongly on Jo as she decides to go down the mine herself to investigate. In her defence, the Brigadier was being a tad unhelpful but only because he wanted to use his own means for getting answers from Global Chemicals.

Needless to say that Jo’s snooping does result in her and Bert being placed in direct danger. Still it’s a good thing that The Doctor was also investigating the mine at the same time as well or else Jo would be as diseased as poor Bert ended up becoming.

Of course there are other significant thorns than Steven. He’s basically just a minion and while he does take pleasure in either hypnotising or killing various co-workers who get in his way, it’s only too obvious that he’s being controlled himself what with the constant spaced out look he has as well.

The thing in question pulling all the strings is a computer called BOSS or Biomorphic Organisational Systems Supervisor. Now I don’t have a problem with homicidal computers, provided my own laptop doesn’t get any ideas of it own so for me, the BOSS is an excellent villain.

It’s what got Stevens to endanger so many lives and it only seems right that The Doctor himself would fall victim to it during this story as well. Of course, The Doctor is clever in outwitting BOSS and there’s a wonderful scene where the Time Lord castigates the evil machine on it’s abuse of humans and so forth.

The other strand of this episode is Mike Yates. I know he isn’t as well loved by some viewers as the Brigadier or Benton but I’ve always had a soft spot for the character and even though he only appears in the second half of the story, he’s actually better served than either of his UNIT comrades.

First off he’s there undercover to get as much information about Global Chemicals to UNIT as he possibly can but secondly, it’s the events of this serial that spell a potentially darker side for the character that was touched upon in the next season.

While he’s able to have jokes at The Doctor’s expense, he’s actually taken over by the BOSS computer and tries to shoot The Doctor at one point. When he snaps out of it and goes back to Global Chemicals, he winds up getting chained up by Stevens’ men for his trouble.

The other part of the story aside from The Doctor eventually taking down both BOSS and Global Chemicals is the romance between Jo and Clifford Jones. Because unlike the Doctor/Rose relationship of the 21st Century, The Doctor and Jo were always strictly platonic, even though later serials showed that he really cared for her.

Hooking up with Clifford says a lot about Jo too when you think about. The parallels between both Clifford and The Doctor aren’t exactly subtle and do seem to be mentioned more than once too just to emphasis it. I guess in a way, Jo ending up with Clifford is almost like a weird precursor for Rose winding up with a human version of The Doctor thirty five years later.

Still at least there’s some good chemistry from Jo and it’s nice to see her exit eliciting strong emotions from The Doctor. When he sneaks away from her engagement party, it’s very telling moment for him and from the way that Jo visibly reacts to it as well but after three years on the series, this did serve as a good ending for actress Katy Manning.

Also in “The Green Death”

One of the subplots for this episode was The Doctor getting a blue crystal from Metebelis 3. He gave it to Jo as a wedding gift.

The Doctor: “Protein's the thing for breakfast, Jo.”
Jo: “Eggs and Bacon - yeurgh!”
The Doctor: “Yeah, that's where we're going to next.”
Jo: “Where are we going?”
The Doctor: “Metebelis Three. The TARDIS can't miss this time. I've actually wired the coordinates into the programmer.”

That scene did have me in hysterics. I also loved that the Brig got into eating Clifford’s fungus food, even if it did serve as something to kill the maggots.

The Brigadier (to The Doctor): “It's exactly your cup of tea: the fellow's bright green and dead.”

The Doctor: “I've been wanting to meet you for a long time. Your paper on DNA synthesis was quite remarkable for your age.”
Clifford Jones: “A promising youngster, huh?”
The Doctor: “No, no, no, I mean for the age that you live in. Now, you were about to make a suggestion, I believe, Professor?”
Clifford Jones: “Why don't we just go back to Global Chemicals and take the equipment, by force if necessary?”

The actor playing Clifford – Stewart Bevan was Katy Manning’s actual boyfriend at the time. This show does have a history of one set romances as do many others.

The Brigadier: “Are you threatening me, Mr. Stevens?”
Stevens: “Yes, I think perhaps I am. Or perhaps I'm just counselling a little prudence.”
The Brigadier: “If necessary, I can bring influence to bear at Cabinet level.”
Stevens: “Oh, you have friends in high places, have you? Well so have I!”

The Doctor: “You say one word!”
Mike Yates: “I like your handbag.”
The Doctor: “Do you? Well watch out, I don't slosh you with it!”

There’s something rather inconsistent with the end credits in some of the episodes of this story for some reason.

Stevens: “What's best for Global Chemicals is best for the world, is best for you!”
The Doctor: “Such as a little touch of brainwashing?”
Stevens: “Freedom from fear, freedom from pain…”
The Doctor: “Freedom from freedom!”

Jo: “Don't go too far away, will you? And if you do, come back and see us sometime.”
The Doctor: “Yes.”

This was released on DVD in 2004 with a commentary from Katy Manning, Barry Letts and Terrence Dicks. There’s also a wonderful featurette with Mark Gatiss worth checking out as well.

For a story about bugs, “The Green Death” was definitely devoid of irritation. I don’t know if it would’ve been the kind of story I would’ve ended the tenth season with but in retrospect it does have all the right ingredients and gets more enjoyable on repeated viewing.
Rating: 9 out of 10.

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