Doctor Who: The Green Death
(6 episodes, s10e21-e26, 1973)
The Doctor and Jo battle corporate fat cats and green slime.
Starting with a closed mine, the workers are waiting for news, but jeer the official who brings them news of money for expansion. As the protest continues, a worker displays a green glow on his skin, and he dies as he sounds the alarm. Back at UNIT, the Doctor is working on the TARDIS as Jo eats breakfast and reads about the mine and Professor Clifford Jones, who has concerns about the corporation and its manipulation of worker health for profit.
In the exchange between our heroes, it seems that Jo is a bit off, but that she and the Doctor are more in sync than they have been. This exchange gets heated as the Brigadier tries to assign the Doctor to the mining case. The Doctor refuses because he wants to take Jo to Metebilis III, but Jo is far more interested in waging an environmentalist battle. The Brigadier and Jo head for the mine, and it’s obvious that the Doctor and Jo are diverging on their philosophical courses. As the Doctor heads to Metebilis III almost in rebellion against Jo’s interests, he is attacked just after landing.
Jo meets Professor Jones, and the man is a bit of an ass who gradually warms to his visitor. His research involves a new high protein fungus, and he’s upset because thousands of gallons of waste, almost like a liquid plastic sludge, are being pumped into the mine. The Brigadier, meanwhile, meets with the corporate executive at Global Chemicals, Mr. Stevens, and offers extra security in light of the protests. He also intends to investigate the mine as soon as the Doctor arrives. The Doctor returns from his trip amid a flurry of attacks and immediately sets out for the mines.
Mr. Stevens orders that no one should go into the mine, but his directive is made through a strange mental haze. In violation of that order, Jo accompanies a miner named Bert down inside the mine to help another infected man, and as the Doctor and the Brigadier arrive to investigate, the cage descends out of control. Bert takes a humorous opportunity to toss Jo around the cage, the Doctor saves them by jamming the mechanism, and Jo and Bert climb down the rest of the way. The miners can free the cage, but they are missing some equipment to to cut the cable. Even though Global Chemicals has the equipment, they claim not to, although a staffer named Mr. Elgin knows differently.
The mental haze from before takes a twist: Mr. Stevens is controlled by a strange disembodied voice which commands his to “process” Mr. Fell, one of the dissenting staff, and that staff member comes back as a near automaton. Resistance is apparently futile.
The Doctor’s investigation reveals that the lift was sabotaged, and he works with Professor Jones to sneak into Global Chemicals and steal the cutting equipment. He is detected by the voice, and intercepted by security guards who are dispatched with Venusian aikido. He is soon trapped by Stevens who, strangely, dismisses the incident after showing the Doctor the empty storage container where the cutting equipment should be. The Brigadier arrives with some cutting equipment that he rounded up by luck, the cable is cut, and the Doctor and a miner enter the shaft.
Bert and Jo explore the mine and find some of the green slime. Bert touches it and is incapacitated, so Jo goes on alone to find help as the Doctor finds Bert and the slime. The Doctor follows Jo, and they both encounter a group of maggots in a large pool of slime who attack as a cave-in begins. They use a mine cart to ford the slime, and climb a crevice to the surface inside the factory. Elgin saves the Doctor and Jo from drowning in the pipe as it fills with sludge, and Fell experiences a conflict between his conscience and the programming, which drives him to commit suicide.
The Brigadier tries to leverage a little government muscle to break open the mystery, but the Prime Minister shuts him down. Later on, the Doctor, Jo, the Brigadier, and Jones are relaxing with a high protein fungus dinner, but the mood is spoiled by word that Bert has died from his exposure. The egg that they retrieved from the shaft hatches, and a maggot creeps up to Jo. Mr. Hinks, the assistant to Stevens, is sent to retrieve the egg, but is attacked by the maggot instead. He quickly dies.
At this point, it’s obvious that Jo and Jones are falling in love. But what of Sgt Benton? Did it not work out with them? Whatever happened, it’s immaterial as she’s totally twitterpated with Jones and his trip to the Amazon, and totally uninterested in the large blue Crystal of Convenience – it later displays a +3 attribute for rolls against brainwashing – that the Doctor brought back from Metebilis III.
The analysis of the slime shows that it works as a virus that changes the victims, and UNIT has orders to seal the mine and limit the spread of the infection. This causes the maggots to escape to the surface, and since bullets and spray don’t work, the Doctor realizes that only a counter-virus will work. Back at Global Chemicals, the Brigadier has sent Captain Yates undercover to find evidence of wrongdoing within the company. That is a great move by the Brigadier, and it demonstrates just how much more dynamic he is in this story than in previous serials.
The Doctor is warned not to return to the corporate offices, so he is forced to don several successive costumes – a move that is very reminiscent of the Second Doctor in The Underwater Menace, The Enemy of the World, and The War Games, just to name a few – to move freely about the compound. Captain Yates provides the Doctor some intel, which the Time Lord follows to the top floor of the factory. The top floor reveals the mystery with a supercomputer called the BOSS, or Biomorphic Organizational Systems Supervisor. It appears that, once again, someone really wanted to spell SHIELD. The Doctor overwhelms the machine with the Liar’s Paradox, but is captured by Stevens who tries to brainwash the Doctor and fails.
On the lovebird front, Jo upsets Jones by accidentally ruining the slides for the slime analysis, so she sets off the find another sample. Her accident turns out to be a critical step toward the cure. He sets off after her and saves her from the grenade barrage that destroys the field of maggots, but he sustains a head injury.
Captain Yates is captured trying to rescue the Doctor. The Doctor escapes, but Yates is brainwashed by the BOSS. The Doctor and Sgt Benton save Jo and Jones, but Jones has been infected by the slime. The Doctor returns to the professor’s lab where he is ambushed by Yates, but the Doctor uses the crystal from Metebelis III to break the brainwashing. The Doctor sends him back in under the guise of still being brainwashed to thrown Stevens off the trail, but that doesn’t work as well as they had hoped. Benton returns to the lab with an empty maggot chrysalis, and they discover another maggot that ate the fungus and died. The Doctor then realizes that the fungus is a cure. They scatter samples all over the area and kill the maggots, but they are stalked by a giant dragonfly, the adult form of the creature. The Doctor defeats it with his overcoat.
Okay, those maggots are downright freaky, with their mouth filled with razor sharp teeth like a langolier.
Captain Yates escapes from the factory and passes word to the Brigadier and the Doctor that the computer is planning something at 4pm that afternoon. The Doctor discovers the cure with Jo’s help and administers it to Jones, and then goes to confront BOSS before the supercomputer links with the other supercomputers around the world. The Doctor reverses Stevens’s brainwashing with the crystal, and Stevens triggers the self-destruct, stopping BOSS permanently.
The voice actor for BOSS, John Dearth, obviously had a lot of fun in the sixth episode with his singing, and the Stevens/BOSS hybrid was a beautiful bit of acting. I was amazed by how well it was performed.
With the crisis stopped, Jo gets engaged to Jones and decides to join the professor on his travels. The professor’s research gets a major UN grant thanks to Jo’s uncle. The Doctor gives Jo the Metebelis crystal as a wedding gift and silently sneaks out with only Jo noticing.
Her days of traveling about time and space are done, and he drives off into the sunset, obviously heartbroken. That ending alone ratcheted up the score for this serial because of the sheer power in so little dialogue.
I’m going to miss Jo Jo.
Rating: 4/5 – “Would you care for a jelly baby?”
UP NEXT – Tenth Series Summary
The Timestamps Project is an adventure through the televised universe of Doctor Who, story by story, from the beginning of the franchise. For more reviews like this one, please visit the project’s page at Creative Criticality.