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Saturday, August 23, 2014

Doctor Who Rewind - The Green Death

Giant maggots! In Wales! Down a mine! If course, why not?

The final story of the tenth season see's the iconic maggots, now imbedded in the nations subconscious, crawl into a hands down horror filled classic of DW.

Not only that but we also have to contend with this being the final story of Jo Grant, who really has been one of the Doctors coolest companions.

Right from the off we know something is amiss with Miss Grant as we have a poignant scene with her and the Doctor in which he wants to go to the famed Metebelis Three, to get a blue sapphire, while she wants to go to Wales, after she reads an article in the newspaper about the mysterious death of a miner named Hughes in the abandoned coal mine in Llanfairfach in South Wales: The miner, doing a monthly inspection of the bottom of the mine shaft, emerged dead and glowing bright green. Although the Doctor tries his best to persuade her to go with him she is adamant that she needs to go to Wales to investigate the work of acclaimed local environmentalist and Nobel Prize winner Professor Clifford Jones. The Doctor quietly reflects, "So the fledgling flees the coop."

In Wales, Global Chemicals oil plant, right next to an abandoned mine, is up to no good. Stevens, the head of the plant claims it can produce 25% more petrol with minimal waste. But Prof cliff Jones and his environmentally aware fiends are sure there is a lot more waste.

Jo and the brigadier head to Wales while the Doctor makes a lively trip to Metebelis three where there is some manic footage of him running from nasty creatures which we only get the slightest glimpse of. His expressions during this sequence are inspired and certainly fit the horror of the planet. He does however manage to swipe a small blue sapphire and scarper back to the TARDIS, which is being pelted with stones and rocks.

Jo and Prof Jones, hit it off right from the start, and we can see that Jo is besotted by him with his dreams of venturing up the Amazon and so forth. Though he is also consumed by his work, experiments on mould and fungus. Jo heads off to the mine and manages to hitch a lift on the lift down when the other miners try to go down to save a colleague who is trapped.

Stevens, and his cronies from Global chemicals (GC) are being controlled by an unseen force, of which we only hear a disembodied voice and a wave form on a screen in his office. Stevens is able to brainwash anyone who questions his questionable actions by using a pair of ordinary consumer grade headphones, a cool trick.

The Doctor and the Brigadier eventually make it down to the mine and find another miner consumed by the green infection, the Doctor carries on to find Jo, and they both stumble across the hideous sight of giant maggots crawling and sliming around all over the place. They make their way out up top (the Doctor managing to bag himself a giant maggot egg) in the process.

That night the egg hatches in Jones's laboratory, and tries to attack Jo. Fortunately one of Stevens men is there spying around and the maggot attacks him instead, before making its escape.

Meanwhile the Brigadier has been authorised by his commanding officer to blow up the entire mine and seal it off. The Doctor can do nothing to stop this happening and isn't happy.

The explosion only makes things worse, and the maggots start finding their way up to the surface through the slag heap.

At GC Capt Mike Yates is sent in undercover to try and get to the bottom of who is behind it all. In a comical scene, the Doctor goes in disguised as a milk man and gets through security. He then dons a cleaning lady get up, along with a high pitched voice, much to Yates's surprise. Mike has found out that there is a super computer giving Stevens orders. It's called, Bimorphic Organisational Systems Supervisor or BOSS, a supercomputer with its own megalomaniac personality. It is responsible for the mass pollution of the mines leading to the giant mutated maggots.

The Doctor goes up to see Stevens and rejects his brainwashing advances. Yates however is brainwashed and is sent to kill Jones.

The Doctor escapes and reaches Jones just as Yates bursts in and tries to shoot the brigadier and Jones. The Doctor brings him out of the trance.

The Doctor and Jones then begin work on an agent to kill the maggots. While the brigadier tries his own methods of blowing them up. Which doesn't quite work. Meanwhile the Doctor goes back to sort Stevens and BOSS out. He gives the computer an unsolvable riddle to solve, and it literally blows it's top, taking Stevens with it.

Jones stumbles across a solution when Jo accidentally spills some of his Fungus on his attempts to find a cure. But by that time she has already gone to try and bag herself a live maggot, which she thinks he will need. He races off to try and find her on the slag heaps.

Jones finds Grant and they seek shelter inside a cave, but a maggot is also in there and infects him. Eventually the Doctor rescues them both and takes them back.

Jones falls ill and the Doctor races to try and make sense of his experiments to try and find a cure. Eventually it's Jo, who, recalling the accident with the fungus, leads him to the answer.

Using the fungus solution, the maggots are wiped out, and Prof Jones is cured. Much to he relief of Jo who has fallen in love with him.

Prof Jones asks Jo to go up the Amazon with him and too marry her, which she agrees. In a tearful bittersweet ending, Jo and the Doctor part, he leaving the party to celebrate her impending wedding, and heading off with Bessie across a twilight landscape. It really is beautifully done. And anyone who tells you there is no emotional impact on classic Doctor Who should be made to watch this.

So, The Green Death is not only a scary story with truly horrid monsters, it's a love story, a story about the abuse of the environment, and about the power computers could have over man. There's a lot going on here.

The use of real maggots is inspired and also the model giant ones are realistic enough to convince you to get out of their way. Also, the lighting effects on the green skin infection look fantastic, even by today's standards.

Again, the characters are strong in this story with fantastic performances from everyone. Particularly, Stewart Bevan as Prof Jones, who incidentally was just beginning a real life relationship with Katy Manning (Jo Grant). A case of fiction copying fact. So the emotional impact of that ending where the Doctor and Jo part, was felt more so, as Manning and Pertwee had such a strong connection throughout her run. He acted as a father like figure to her. Introducing her to the world of TV acting.

I think, this story had been one of, if not my favourite Pertwee's. It has such a lot going for it. And on top of that it spelled the end of an era. Doctor Who was in the process of changing again. New characters were going to come in. And Pertwee's time in the show was beginning to wind down. But not without one last series.

Some good extras on the DVD too. Including Jo's return a few years ago on The Sara Jane Adventures with Liz Sladen. The two compare notes on their time in the TARDIS and get to meet the latest Doctor, Matt Smith. Well worth a watch.

Next time on Doctor Who Rewind, Mr Potato Head meets the Doctor, and feisty new lady enters his life.


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