The Green Death

Region 1
Special Edition

Region 2
Special Edition
VHS Video
(Doctor Who Story No. 69, starring Jon Pertwee)
  • written by Robert Sloman
  • produced by Barry Letts
  • directed by Michael Briant
  • music by Dudley Simpson
  • 6 episodes @ 25 minutes each
Story: Keen to join Professor Cliff Jones' ecological, self-sustaining research group, Jo Grant travels to South Wales. The Doctor and U.N.I.T. soon follow to investigate the deaths of several miners who developed a green glow, and to mediate growing tensions between ecologists, out-of-work miners, and the corporate world of Global Chemicals and its factories.

This well-researched adventure was ahead of its time, and remains a fan-favourite today.

Original DVD Extras include:

  • Audio commentary by actress Katy Manning (Jo Grant), producer Barry Letts, and script editor Terrance Dicks.
  • interviews of writer Robert Sloman (7 min.) and actor Stewart Bevan (Professor Clifford Jones) (8 min.)
  • Visual Effects featurette (12 min.), with an interview of visual effects designer Colin Mapson and a special "Making a Maggot" segment.
  • "Global Conspiracy!" (11 min.) - a mockumentary by writer/actor Mark Gatiss, also starring Roy Evans (twin brother of Bert the miner),
    Tony Adams (Mark Elgin), Stewart Bevan (Cliff Jones), and Jerome Willis (Jocelyn Stevens).
  • Pop-up Production Note Subtitles
  • Photo Gallery sound effects montage (8 min.)
  • "Who's Who" actor biographies (text only, may appear on original edition Region 1 discs only)

Special Edition DVD extras add:

  • additional commentary on episodes 3-6 by Manning, Mapson, Richard Franklin (Mike Yates), and Mitzi McKenzie (Nancy).
  • "The One with the Maggots" making-of featurette (27 min.) including Dicks, Manning, Bevan, and director Michael Briant.
  • "Wales Today" archival footage (2 min.)
  • revised Pop-up Production note subtitles
  • "Doctor Forever: The Unquiet Dead" (23 min.) on the New Millennium resurrection of Doctor Who.
  • "What Katy Did Next" (5 min.)
  • The Sarah Jane Adventures: "Death of the Doctor" parts 1 & 2, guest starring Katy Manning as Jo Grant.
    • with optional commentary by writer Russell T. Davies and Katy Manning (Jo).
  • another Easter egg

In-Depth Analysis Review

by Martin Izsak

WARNING: This review contains "SPOILERS", and is intended for those who have already seen the program. To avoid the spoilers, read the Buyers Guide version instead.

Season Ten finally comes back to earning its generally favourable reputation by offering another classic exquisite gem of a story for its finale. Solidly anchored in an ecological theme and wading deep enough into its symbolism to make it work as a traditional UNIT vs. the monsters story as well, "The Green Death" comes out on top of the season, with "Carnival of Monsters" (story no. 66) as a very close second. It remains pleasantly surprising and moving throughout the years, partly by hiding humbly in the shadow of the over-hyped dregs of the season, partly by keeping a quick paced, heavily social plot that is difficult to memorize and get bored of.

This is Robert Sloman's best Doctor Who script, even better than the much-loved "The Daemons" (story no. 59), I would say. He still follows his standard episode one formula though, keeping the Doctor preoccupied and disinterested toward the business at hand, going off on a tangent completely his own. This time it's a trip to Metebelis III that is finally successful - a sequence that helps to define the alienness of the Doctor and his interests, and demonstrates the essentials of the TARDIS with exterior visuals and all the right sound effects. The interior is not seen, but isn't really called for, and the story can easily get by without it. The split of interests even goes three ways as Jo and the Brigadier prepare to pursue different tangents as well, before they discover they have a common destination of South Wales anyway. Then suddenly, the chase is on for the Doctor, using both the TARDIS and Bessie to get to the scene of the story's main action just in time for the cliffhanger.

But episode one also manages to display extremely good exposition of the main theme of the story, as scenes of Jo and Professor Clifford Jones are expertly juxtaposed against the opposing viewpoint at Global chemicals between Director Stevens and the Brigadier. Top marks.

"I'm having a whale of a time!"

Jon Pertwee's Doctor manages to avoid most of his usual downfalls, probably not spending more than a total of ten minutes in the prisoner dynamic throughout the entire story, and even then managing to thoroughly enjoy himself. With such a thematically based story, he does get into Doomsayer mode now and then, but these are relatively short bursts, usually resulting in him changing tactics quickly to something that gets better results. The high level of ecological research that went into the story also helps keep it focused on imparting and playing with relevant information, rather than doomsaying. There's no Man of Sleep for Pertwee's Doctor in this one either; luckily Professor Jones took that role away from him near the end of the story, along with the scenes of Jo blubbering that go with it.

This frees Pertwee up to do more of what he's good at: Venusian aikido, fun disguises, deeper emotional scenes, and above all lots of exploration, investigation and problem solving. Episode Six is particularly good at keeping him in problem solving mode, where he neatly wraps up most of the mysteries and conflicts that had been brought up by the story and its themes. The final computerized world take-over crisis seems a bit artificial, deadline and all, as though created solely to give the ending a bit more bang, but at least the Doctor's role in solving this one remains on spiritually and philosophically sound ground, keeping his final heroics logical, believable, and satisfying.

Acting is of a generally high calibre by everyone all throughout the story, and the fact that the characters are all written to be normal, believable human beings certainly helps. Jo is only the third of four companions to be "married off" in the long history of the show, and even if this kind of exit has gained the reputation of a cliché, it works this time around. Perhaps having a real couple on the cast playing the Cupidly-smitten helped generate the right on-screen chemistry. But as far as Jo's usefulness as a companion goes, her earlier Season Ten progress is undermined as she is unfortunately written to be a ninny again. She still makes many important contributions to her friends, but more often than not by accident rather than design. Katy Manning turns in a good performance anyway. The only acting complaint I have is for John Dearth during the demise of his BOSS computer character, which gets a bit too hammy, and Jerome Willis playing Stevens catches a bit of the contagion. The whole sixties psychedelia of the ending could do with a bit more qualitative restraint there, but the general effect is very cool. Nicholas Courtney is enjoyable as always as the Brigadier, who is thankfully written to be a little more on the ball than he was back in "The Three Doctors" (story no. 65).

Juxtaposed against the previous two space story flops of the season, "The Green Death" brings home the appeal of UNIT stories: they have a large cast that you can depend on to be enjoyable, and have their stories set in places that are full of social complexity that is easy to believe in and realise on screen on a tight budget. Space/future-based stories have a steeper challenge in trying to create these elements from scratch; half the challenge is the writer's burden in crafting real characters and a plot that is easy to follow but not so easy to predict, but the other half for the production crew is what Doctor Who is all about. That's why I like it so much better than Star Trek. Star Trek learns how to do its regular characters and their ship and a typical planet exterior really well, after which they take very few real artistic risks production-wise. Dr. Who is always stretching itself beyond its means, taking one artistic risk after another, which makes these reviews so enjoyable and such an education in the art of film & video.

So "The Green Death" may have a lot of de facto bonuses going for it which it capitalizes on, but it does not fail to stretch itself anyway to do justice to its maggot monsters, its Metebelis III sequence, and its realization of mechanized monetary appetite, brainwashing and restoration included. CSO is a staple device for much of this, and there is some flawless execution for most of UNIT's outdoor dialogue scenes. Curiously though, the mine scenes leave a bright halo around people through too bright a choice of background key colour, while outdoor sequences such as Bessie's jaunts leave a dark shadow around people through too dark a choice of background key colour. A little more colour co-ordination in pre-production might have brought things up a notch, but this is generally a minor consideration.

Dudley Simpson seems to be slacking off where composition is concerned, as none of his music seems to reach over the fence to become memorable or deep. The story has many emotional keypoints, well-acted and well-directed to the point where a little musical underscore would be the professional icing on the cake and make everything complete. To his credit, Simpson does not spoil any of these with the wrong instrument or mood, but even when he does deign to write some music for them, there's really nothing to his cues that you can hang your hat on. For example, Jon Pertwee muses on the foreshadowing of Jo abandoning him as he steps into his TARDIS and leaves his lab, a wonderful scene begging for a lonely "departure theme" or something, and Simpson senses the mood and starts to build it up musically.... but then stops all the development before even getting a handful of notes out or introducing a chord change to anchor the mood to. Director Michael Briant gets some guitar music like he asks for, but it too remains too low key and non-descript for my tastes. Simpson has developed a substantial palette of themes in previous stories that he could be drawing on as well, if inspiration for new material is in short supply, but he seems to be unable to tap into that either. The music is disappointing this time around, and perhaps a warning in allowing one composer a complete monopoly on an entire season of a challenging risk-taking program. In this respect, I have to bow to the original Star Trek's methods of reusing stock tracks whenever and wherever it suited the mood - they ended up with a very fun and recognizably unique repertoire that I enjoy more each time I hear it.

All in all, "The Green Death" is one of the very best of the Jon Pertwee Era, right up there with most of season seven in the stratosphere of high quality.

International Titles:

Deutsch: (Die grüne Mine)

Magyar: (A zöld bánya)

vagy "A zöld halál"

Français: (La mine verte)

ou (La mort verte)

Русский: (Зелёный рудник)

или "Зелёная смерть"

Season Ten Rankings:

Best Story:

  1. The Green Death
  2. Carnival of Monsters
  3. The Three Doctors
  4. Frontier in Space
  5. Planet of the Daleks

Best Writer:

  1. Robert Sloman
  2. Robert Holmes
  3. Bob Baker & Dave Martin
  4. Malcolm Hulke
  5. Terry Nation

Best Director:

  1. Michael Briant
  2. Barry Letts
  3. Lennie Mayne
  4. David Maloney
  5. Paul Bernard

Best Music (all Dudley Simpson anyway):

  1. Carnival of Monsters
  2. The Three Doctors
  3. The Green Death
  4. Frontier in Space
  5. Planet of the Daleks

Best Video Effects:

  1. Carnival of Monsters
  2. The Three Doctors
  3. The Green Death
  4. Planet of the Daleks
  5. Frontier in Space

"The Green Death" is now available on DVD and VHS video:
Original 1-disc release:
DVD NTSC Region 1
for the North American market:
in the U.S.
in Canada
DVD PAL Region 2
for the U.K.
VHS Video
NTSC A in the U.S.
NTSC B in the U.S.
NTSC in Canada
PAL for the U.K.

New Special Edition 2-disc re-release:
DVD NTSC Region 1
for the North American market:
in the U.S.
in Canada
NEW for Aug. 13, 2013.
DVD PAL Region 2
for the U.K.
NEW for Aug. 5, 2013.

Special Edition DVD extras add:

  • additional commentary on episodes 3-6
  • "The One with the Maggots" making-of featurette (27 min.)
  • "Wales Today" archival footage (2 min.)
  • "Doctor Forever: The Unquiet Dead" (23 min.)
  • "What Katy Did Next" (5 min.)
  • The Sarah Jane Adventures: "Death of the Doctor" parts 1 & 2.
    • with optional commentary by Davies and Manning.
  • another Easter egg
  • revised Pop-up Production note subtitles

Comments on this article are welcome. You may contact the author from this page:

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Read the In-depth Analysis Review for the next story: "The Time Warrior"

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