BBC HomeExplore the BBC

18 April 2014
Accessibility help
Text only

BBC Homepage

Entertainment Cult

Contact Us

Like this page?
Send it to a friend!

 
The Green Death

Production Code: TTT

First Transmitted

1 - 19/05/1973 17:50

2 - 26/05/1973 17:50

3 - 02/06/1973 17:50

4 - 09/06/1973 17:50

5 - 16/06/1973 17:50

6 - 23/06/1973 17:50

Plot

UNIT is called in after a miner from the Welsh village of Llanfairfach is found dead, his skin glowing bright green. Jo joins forces with a local environmental group, led by Professor Clifford Jones, while the Doctor investigates the nearby plant of a company called Global Chemicals.

They discover that the mine workings are full of giant maggots and green slime - both lethal to touch - that have been produced by chemical waste pumped from the Global plant.

Stevens, the director of Global, has been taken over by the BOSS - Bimorphic Organisational Systems Supervisor - a computer with a will of its own.

The BOSS plans to seize power by linking itself to every other major computer in the world, but the Doctor uses a blue crystal - a souvenir from a brief visit to the planet Metebelis 3 - to break its hold over Stevens, who then programs it to self-destruct.

The maggots, on the point of pupating into giant insects, are destroyed with a type of fungus. Jo falls in love with Professor Jones and decides to leave UNIT in order to accompany him on an expedition up the Amazon - and to marry him. The Doctor gives her the blue crystal as an early wedding present.

Episode Endings

Jo and a miner named Bert descend into the mine to help another miner who has got into difficulties. The Doctor and the Brigadier arrive at the surface and ask Dave, a third miner, to stop the cage's descent. Dave discovers that the brake won't work - the cage is out of control!

The Doctor meets up with Jo in the mine workings and she shows him a vast lake of green slime and giant maggots that lies ahead. They try to turn back but the tunnel collapses. From the rubble emerge several giant maggots, which advance on them.

Jo has decided to stay up late to read in the environmentalists' cottage. She is unaware that a giant maggot, hatched from an egg that the Doctor brought back from the mine, is making its way across the floor towards her.

The Doctor, having infiltrated Global Chemicals to investigate further, makes his way to a computer room. There the computer - the BOSS - introduces itself.

The Doctor has used the crystal from Metebelis 3 to free Captain Yates from the BOSS's hypnotic influence. Yates returns to the Global Chemicals factory and likewise uses the crystal to clear the mind of an employee named Mr James, who reveals that the BOSS intends to take over at four o'clock that afternoon. Suddenly James suffers an acute pain and falls dead to the ground. Stevens, who has entered the room unseen by Yates, coldly observes that no one can be depended upon.

A party is thrown to celebrate Jo's engagement to Professor Jones. The Doctor downs a glass of wine and leaves quietly, seen only by Jo. Outside it is growing dark and, with the sound of the party fading into the distance, the Doctor gets into Bessie and drives off.

Roots

Chamberlain's Munich speech ('I have in my hand a piece of paper... Wealth in our time!').

Don Quixote ('Are you going to join Professor Jones in his noble fight against the windmills?').

Shane ('A girl's gotta do what a girl's gotta do!').

Doomwatch.

Emmerdale Farm.

Star Trek ('Return of the Archons', 'The Ultimate computer').

Timeslip ('The time of the Ice Box').

Bug movies of the 1950s.

Quatermass II.

BOSS misquotes Oscar Wilde and hums Wagner.

Dialogue Triumphs

The Doctor : "Metebelis 3, Jo? Or where else would you like to go? You choose for yourself."

Jo Grant : "But I've only got ten minutes."

The Doctor : "Jo, you've got all the time in the world... and all the space. I'm offering them to you."

Jo Grant : "But Doctor, don't you understand? I've got to go. This Professor Jones, he's fighting for everything that's important. Well, everything that you've fought for. In a funny way, he reminds me of a sort of... younger you."

The Doctor : "I don't know whether to feel flattered or insulted. It's all right, Jo. I understand."

Jo Grant : "Thanks Doctor. Thank you."

The Doctor : "Jo? Tell the Brigadier that I'll follow him down."

Jo Grant : "Right."

The Doctor : "Later."

Jo Grant : "Right... Bye."

The Doctor : "Goodbye..." [Jo exits.] "So... the fledgling flies the coop..."

Boss's Voice : "You disappoint me, Doctor. I should have thought you'd have guessed. I am the BOSS. I'm all around you. Exactly. I am the computer."

The Doctor : "Stevens, listen to me. You've seen where this efficiency of yours leads. Wholesale pollution of the countryside. Devilish creatures spawned by the filthy by-products of your technology. Men... men walking around like brainless vegetables. Death. Disease. Destruction."

Jo Grant : "You don't mind, do you?"

The Doctor : "Mind? He might even be able to turn you into a scientist."

Jo Grant : "Don't go too far away, will you. And if you do, come back and see us sometimes."

Boss : [Taunts Stevens] "Living dangerously? That's how you get your kicks like the good little Nietzschean you are."

Dialogue Disasters

Jo Grant : "I'm up on the slag heap with the professor."

Double Entendre

"Come on, get it up!"

Continuity

The Doctor finally makes it to Metebelis 3 and returns with what is described as a blue sapphire (see Planet of the Spiders).

The Brigadier (who was once stationed at Aldgate) attempts to quote from article 17 of the Enabling Act, but is shouted down by the Ecology minister who helped to draw up the act, and quotes from article 18, paragraph 3 (cf The Time Monster).

QV

Party Politics

Dating the UNIT Stories

UNIT Call-Signs

Venus

Location

Llanfairfach, Wales, February 1972 [A calendar is visible on the Global Chemicals security gate, which is for a 29 day month, with the first and last days being a Tuesday. The only relevant leap year February that this can refer to is February 1972. Unless it is an old calendar.]

Links

Trivia

The Doctor finally gets to visit Metebelis 3, which he first indicated an intention to do in Carnival of Monsters.

The Doctor disguises himself as a Welsh milkman and a cleaning woman.

Tony Adams, better known for his role as Adam Chance in Crossroads, plays Elgin.

The Brigadier takes a phone call from the Prime Minister, who is named as 'Jeremy' - a joke by the production team intended to suggest that the Liberal Party, then led by Jeremy Thorpe, could win the next General Election.

Some of the giant maggots were created from inflated condoms.

For Episodes Two, Five and Six, the title sequence film over which the closing credits were superimposed was played backwards and upside-down (a result of the film being played backwards through the projector in order to save time during recording).

Goofs

In episode one, when Dai Evans in on the telephone in the mine, an arm appears to the bottom right, giving him his cue to speak.

In episode five, the Doctor escapes from Global during the day. When Yates is caught it's dark, but the next scene, on the slag heap, is in daylight again.

Episode four's end credits list 'Yate's Guard'.

The dodgy CSO in episode three results in the cart bottom vanishing.

Professor Jones' veggie followers appear to be wearing sheepskin coats.

Why is the mine still being checked if it's been closed down as an uneconomic pit (cf. the sealing of mines in 1992)?

Why is there a camera in a pipeline?

The function (and lines) of Elgin are taken up by James half way through the story.

Fashion Victim

Jo's trouser suit makes her look like a member of Mud.

The Doctor wears a vulgar red waistcoat, [and probably smells of Hai Karate aftershave].

Cast & Crew

Cast

The Doctor - Jon Pertwee

Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart - Nicholas Courtney

Captain Mike Yates - Richard Franklin

Jo Grant - Katy Manning

Sergeant Benton - John Levene

Bert - Roy Evans

Boss's Voice - John Dearth

Cleaner - Jean Burgess

Clifford Jones - Stewart Bevan

Dai Evans - Mostyn Evans

Dave - Talfryn Thomas

Elgin - Tony Adams

Fell - John Rolfe

Guard - Terry Walsh

Hinks - Ben Howard

Hughes - John Scott Martin

James - Roy Skelton

Milkman - Ray Handy

Minister of Ecology - Richard Beale

Nancy - Mitzi McKenzie

Stevens - Jerome Willis

Yate's Guard - Brian Justice [sic]

Crew

Director - Michael E Briant

Assistant Floor Manager - Karilyn Collier

Costumes - Barbara Kidd

Designer - John Burrowes

Fight Arranger - Terry Walsh

Film Cameraman - Bill Matthews (2)

Film Cameraman - Ken Lowe

Film Editor - Alastair Mackay

Incidental Music - Dudley Simpson

Make-Up - Ann Rayment

Producer - Barry Letts

Production Assistant - John Harris

Production Assistant - Michael McDermott

Script Editor - Terrance Dicks

Special Sounds - Dick Mills

Studio Lighting - Mike Jefferies

Studio Sound - Richard Chubb

Title Music - Ron Grainer and the BBC Radiophonic Workshop, arranged by Delia Derbyshire

Visual Effects - Ron Oates

Visual Effects - Colin Mapson

Visual Effects - Richard Conway

Writer - Robert Sloman

Writer - Barry Letts Barry Letts received no credit on screen in view of the fact that he was producer of the series.

Bottom Line - from The Discontinuity Guide

'Old Jones the Milk says they're going to blow up the mine.' Still remembered as 'that Doctor Who story with the maggots', The Green Death patronises the Welsh (lots of characters say 'Boyo' at every given opportunity), but Jo Grant is at last given the ability to walk in a straight line and talk at the same time. A smashing story, and UNIT's final gasp of greatness.

Analysis - from Doctor Who, the Television Companion

Doctor Who goes green. The Green Death is a prime example of producer Barry Letts's favoured approach of presenting stories that not only entertain but also enlighten with a strong moral message. The underlying theme here is concern for the ecology; an issue that remains as topical today as when the story was originally transmitted.

But first, the Doctor finally manages to get to Metebelis 3, and what he finds there is not what Keith Miller expected, as he explained in DWFC Monthly Number 17, dated August/September 1973: 'At last the Doctor landed on Metebelis 3, and what a place! I thought it would be a blue heaven but it seemed to be the exact opposite. It was quite terrifying to see that tentacle lash around the Doctor's body and hear that unearthly scream pierce the silence.'

The main part of the action, however, takes places in Wales, and the conflict between Global Chemicals and Professor Jones's Wholeweal community - referred to locally as the Nuthutch - is nicely set up. It must be said though that writers Barry Letts and Robert Sloman do have a tendency to resort to stereotypes in their characterisation. This was evident with Dr Ruth Ingram and Stuart Hyde in their previous story, The Time Monster, but is even more so here with the clichéd hippies at the Nuthutch and the frankly rather patronising 'boyo' type Welshmen. The revelation that the menace behind Global Chemicals is a megalomaniacal computer is not exactly original, either, a similar idea having been presented in The War Machines back in season three. On the whole, though, the scripts are well written and dramatic, providing some good material for the regulars - it is particularly pleasing to see Mike Yates working in an undercover capacity - and plenty of action and excitement.

On the production side, The Green Death suffers from an over-reliance on CSO - particularly in the scenes where it is used to substitute patently false photographic backgrounds for location shots that there was no time to film. It works best in the more traditional effects sequence of the Doctor and Jo pushing a coal truck through an underground lake of slime and maggots, although even here a tell-tale fringing problem is all too apparent. Fortunately the story's other effects, including the front-axial projection used to create the pulsing green markings on those infected by the slime and the giant fly into which one of the maggots transforms, are very much better.

On the acting front, things are not so good. Aside from Professor Jones and Nancy, none of the Wholeweal community makes much of an impression. Stevens is a suitably icy villain, but everyone else at Global Chemicals wanders around as though in a trance - which in plot terms of course many of them are. The chopping and changing of characters does not help: Elgin and Hinks one episode, then Fell, then finally James (who should have been Elgin but was substituted due to illness on actor Tony Adams' part).

The Green Death is still primarily recalled as 'the one with the maggots', and there are certainly some excellent and highly memorable scenes featuring these well-realised creatures. Perhaps the best, as cited by Keith Topping in DWB No. 123, dated February 1994, occurred at 'the climax to Episode Three as Jo Grant sits alone in the Nuthutch, with her back to the maggot closing in on her. It's disturbing..., it's chillingly phallic... and it also reinforces the central concepts of Doctor Who's space-monster fixations. A woman in peril, ecologically-engineered menace (mankind's greed for profit and technological advancement juxtaposed with a threat to innocence) and the horror of unseen danger. Classic episode ending devices when used separately but, when combined, having the serendipity of being almost the definitive Doctor Who moment.'

The other particularly notable aspect of this story is that it was the last to feature Katy Manning as Jo Grant. Jo had by this point become very much an integral part of the third Doctor's era, and her presence had certainly livened things up. There is a genuine sense of sadness in her final scenes with the Doctor, and a feeling of melancholy rarely matched in the series. This was well summed up by Miller: 'Climbing aboard Bessie, the Doctor takes one last look back, alone with his thoughts of times gone by. Starting the engine, he slowly drives off into the distance, once more... alone. And so the end of another companionship for the Doctor, and a very sad ending (which I liked) to a truly fantastic series. That final shot... [conveyed] the feeling of loneliness which the Doctor had experienced so many times before. Now, if you'll excuse me, I think I've got something in my eye...'

< Planet of the DaleksThird DoctorThe Time Warrior >

This episode guide is made up of the text of The Discontinuity Guide by Paul Cornell, Martin Day and Keith Topping, and Doctor Who: The Television Companion by David J. Howe and Stephen James Walker.

The Discontinuity Guide © Paul Cornell, Martin Day and Keith Topping 1995.
Doctor Who: The Television Companion © David J Howe and Stephen James Walker 1998, 2003.



About the BBC | Help | Terms of Use | Privacy & Cookies Policy