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DVD Review

DVD cover

Doctor Who
The Green Death (Special Edition)


Starring: Jon Pertwee
Distributor: BBC DVD
RRP: £20.42
Certificate: PG
Release Date: 05 August 2013

Preparing to travel to the planet of Metebelis Three, Jo takes leave of the Doctor to investigate the mysterious death of a Welsh miner, a death so unusual that it has caught the attention of UNIT. The mining operation is being opposed by Professor Clifford Jones and his companions at the Wholeweal Retreat, known locally as the Nuthutch. The Doctor discovers that the glowing green colour that had infused the corpse is the result of a giant maggot bite. Global Chemicals has been pumping waste chemical into the mines, creating an ecological disaster. They find that the corporation has been taken over by the sentient computer BOSS, who intends to link with all other computers in the world and dominate the human race...

The Green Death: Special Edition (1973) is a six episode story from the Doctor's tenth season. The show was written by Robert Sloman and Barry Letts, directed by Michael Briant. The DVD edition has a digitally remastered picture and sound.

There has always been a strong liberal ecological bias in the writing of Doctor Who, but it was never in such evidence as it was with The Green Death. The story would not have looked out of place as an episode of Doomwatch (1970 - 1972), a show which exclusively ran stories about the risks mankind ran when its technology outran it ability to control such advances.

Members of the cast come and go and this would be Katy Manning’s (Jo Grant) last trip with the Doctor (Jon Pertwee). Older stories have always suffered from the poor budgets which were assigned to the show and Green Death suffers in this respect. Whilst it is amusing to discover that some of the maggots were constructed from condoms, it unfortunately shows. Nor did the overuse of colour overlay help the story.

So technology has let the story down, but aside from this there is a lot more to enjoy, not least the stereotypical portrayal of the main protagonist camps. Professor Jones’s people are all long haired hippie sentimentality, though to be fair to them the ideas brought up by them are only now being realised with wind and tidal power. Global Chemicals is pretty much what you would expect from a commercial enterprise, wealth creation with no reference to morality. The show may be old but the central ideas are just as meaningful today as they were in the early seventies.

Even though the Doctor has now gained control over the TARDIS, he remains the scientific advisor to UNIT, this allowed the show to engage in more reasonably priced, Earth bound stories. The show's script is a class act, giving Manning an emotional and meaningful departure and providing a well thought out story, which still remains relevant and entertaining.

If the improved picture and sound is not enough for you to part with your hard earned cash then maybe a slew of new extras will persuade you. The story is presented on a two disc DVD set. The first disc holds all six episodes as well as two commentaries, one from Katy Manning, Barry Letts and Terence Dicks. The second has Richard Franklin (Captain Yates) and Mitzi McKenzie (Nancy); they are joined in the last episode by Katy Manning and Russell T. Davies. The first disc also includes subtitles and the ever useful info text.

Disc two contains the majority of the extras. The One With the Maggots (26 min, 24 sec) is a new making of documentary wherein the surviving cast and crew look back at making the show. Global Conspiracy (10 min, 54 sec) is a mock investigation into the happenings around the mine with Mark Gatiss as the reporter. It’s silly, but well worth a look as its been made with a lot of love for the story and some of the original cast return as their characters.

Visual Effects (11 min, 41 sec) with Colin Mapson, the man who made the maggots, who talks about their construction and use. He gives a lot of technical information about all aspects of the visual effects. He even goes through a detailed demonstration of how to make a maggot, which looks more impressive than it did in the show. Robert Sloman Interview (6 min, 53 sec) has the primary writer, discussing the morality behind the show; in fact he spends as much time worrying about the future of the planet as he does talking about the show. Stewart Bevan Interview (7 min, 43 sec) talks about his involvement with Katy - he was her boyfriend at the time - and the show in general.

Wales Today (2 min, 30 sec) has two elements. The first is some mute film of the show and the second has Pertwee returning to open a visitor’s centre. Doctor Forever – The Unquiet Dead (23 min, 09 sec) charts the return of Doctor Who to television with Russell T. Davies and co-lover of Who, Jane Tranter BBC Controller of Drama. What Katy Did Next (5 min, 40 sec) takes a look at the show, Serendipity, which Katy Manning fronted following her departure.

Still not convinced? Then how about both episode of The Sarah Jane Adventures – Death of the Doctor (26 min, 25 sec x2) featuring Katy Manning as Jo Grant. The two episodes come with commentary from Manning and Davies. The disc has the usual PDF materials, subtitles, a photo gallery and the Coming Soon (55 sec) for The Ice Warriors.

The Green Death may not have been a classic story, but it has held up extremely well, add to that the generous set of extras and the Beeb has done this old show proud.


Charles Packer

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