The Green Death, now available as a two-disc Special Edition DVD, is the tenth season finale of the classic British science fiction series Doctor Who. Originally aired in six parts in the spring of 1973, it is notable as the final serial in which Jo Grant (Katy Manning) serves as The Doctor’s (Jon Pertwee) companion.
As The Green Death begins, Jo and Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart (Nicholas Courtney) set out to investigate the mysterious death of a miner, one whose body has turned green. Jo initially assumes the cause is environmental, despite a local chemical company’s insistence that their process is safe and produces little waste. She has the support of Professor Clifford Jones (Stewart Bevan), whom she is quite enamored with.
Of course, as The Doctor discovers when he finally arrives from Metebelis Three, a planet he has been longing to visit for the past few serials, the situation is a lot more complicated than a little pollution leaking into the ground. The employees of the chemical company, along with UNIT’s Captain Yates (Richard Franklin), have been brainwashed by BOSS, a super computer intent on controlling the Earth. And the waste isn’t just killing people, but producing giant maggots, which turn into giant flies. Gross!
The Green Death is relevant as an environmental story, a topic as relevant today as it was in the 1970s. Sometimes there are hidden and unintended consequences, though there aren’t usually aliens involved. This Doctor Who serial takes something familiar and bends it to the show’s unique spin, producing a realistic-seeming, entertaining, and important story.
It also is part of the proud science fiction tradition of a computer trying to control people. From Star Trek to The Terminator to The Matrix, this scenario has been explored a number of different in ways. Doctor Who lends itself well to this type of tale, and this is a welcome adventure in the genre.
A few things in the script happen a bit too conveniently, such as The Doctor’s souvenir from Metebelis Three turning out to be exactly what is needed to save some people. However, there are also some wonderful connections to other serials, with the Metebelis storyline tying nicely into continuing arcs. While Doctor Who used to be (and sometimes still is) largely procedural, serial elements are always appreciated.
Jo’s departure from Doctor Who is handled pretty well, even if it all happens a bit fast. Unlike some companions, she gets an ending fans should enjoy, both serving the character, and feeling like a progression based on what happens within the six episodes, as well as her earlier tale. Quite satisfactory.
As most fans of Doctor Who DVD releases know, these Special Editions from the BBC always deliver on the amount of bonus features. Among the typical offerings included are PDF materials, an audio commentary with familiar voices actress Katy Manning, script editor Terrance Dicks, and producer Barry Letts, and a photo gallery. But there is so much more present, as well.
One of the best inclusions is an eleven minute mockumentary sequel, in which an investigative report is done on the chemical company featured in The Green Death. A number of guest stars from the episodes participate, and this kind of tie-in seems not only appropriate, but far ahead of its time, as it would fit nicely with the “web-based extras” many shows offer today. A more serious “Making of” is included, too, along with featurettes on visual effects, Wales, interviews with guest star Stewart Bevan and writer Robert Sloman, and a bit with Russel T Davies about Doctor Who‘s modern rebirth. Plus, there’s a second audio commentary track featuring people involved in Doctor Who not spoken to the first time around, and more.
It’s also worth mentioning that although Manning’s Jo did not return to Doctor Who officially, she did pop up in the modern spin-off series, The Sarah Jane Chronicles. Two episodes from that show that aired in 2010 with Manning and Matt Smith as The Doctor are also on this DVD set.
In short, it’s another home run for the BBC and Doctor Who fans everywhere, a wonderful story with a ton of bonus features. Doctor Who The Green Death Special Edition is available now.