Monday, 22 July 2013

The Green Death

Jo and Professor Jones.
We say a fond farewell to Katy Manning and Jo Grant in this story. We return to a far more familiar style of tale for the Pertwee era in an Earth-based story that could have been penned by Malcolm Hulke for its political message, but was in fact written by Barry Letts and Robert Sloman. It has a strong environmental message, before the green movement had really started to make waves. In fact we see the environmentalists shown as basically a bunch of fringe-dwellers led by the charismatic Professor Cliff Jones (Stewart Bevan).
Stevens and the 'BOSS'.
The plot is an interesting mix of styles I feel. It’s quite different in many ways from the previous two season-finales in ‘The Daemons’ and ‘The Time Monster’. There’s a blend of comedy in this one and I think it’s just about Jon Pertwee’s best performance as the Doctor. It’s little wonder – he gets to pretend to be a milkman and the cleaning lady in a wonderful comic-turn which had previously been denied the actor, who entered Doctor Who with a career primarily as a comedian.
The main protagonist is the ‘BOSS’, a megalomaniac computer voiced by John Dearth. It’s a lovely performance from a man who didn’t actually get to appear on screen, full of colour and clear enjoyment. His chief puppet is ‘Stevens’, the chief of Global Chemicals, played by Jerome Willis. There’s just one thing – where has this computer come from? Who built it? In some ways it’s a copy of WOTAN from the first Doctor Who story ‘The War Machines’, albeit done much better. The BOSS plans to take over the world when the other main computers are all linked to him. However, again, it is never explained where the computer came from and why it became so crazy and power mad.
Yates and Stevens.
The direction is solid, especially for the actors’ performances. I wonder though if they ran out of time on the location shoot, because there are a number of shots that should have been shot outdoors that have instead been done on CSO. It doesn’t work at all well unfortunately, and that’s disappointing because much of the story is really good and really well done. The glowing green marks on people infected by the ooze or maggots for instance. The maggots themselves are pretty well done in most cases. But, like ‘Carnival of Monsters’, CSO is relied on just a little too much. Also some of the model shots of the maggots on the hill don’t match the exterior shooting at all. At the end of the day, they had time and money constraints, but it holds back the story from being as good as it could have been.
Jon Pertwee the cleaning lady!
The characters are great, and the Brigadier, Benton and Yates all have good parts. Poor Richard Franklin, doesn't appear until episode three or four, and this was his only story in season 10! But he gets to look funky in a suit and wear his hair unlike a military type. Katy Manning gets a great send off, perhaps this is the one time I can believe in the ‘falling in love and getting married’ reason for leaving the show. With Letts and Sloman, Katy had a writing duo who know her character very very well, so the issues of ‘Planet of the Daleks’ do not resurface here. It does however make the whole situation with Jo and Latep in the previous story seem even more out of place.
Set in a wonderful little Welsh mining town, the characters and lilting accents colour the story very well, with some wonderful performances from the supporting cast. The Nut-Hutch, the home of Professor Jones and the whole-wheat community is also well done. Very sad to see Jo go, it’s definitely the end of an era. The final scene where the Doctor drives off, teary-eyed, is one of the most touching moments in the show’s history to this point, and I suspect, to this day it remains so.


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