DVD Review: Doctor Who, “The Green Death” (1973)

Doctor Who "The Green Death"

Back when I was in grade school, the local PBS station ran Doctor Who (the Tom Baker years). When it came time for him to hand the Time Lord title off to someone else, they began to air other Who episodes, like the Peter Davison years and some of John Pertwee stories. At the time I couldn’t get into another other actor playing the Doctor. I never kept up with the show, catching only pieces of episodes every now and again. My brother, on the other hand, continued to watch steadily. I remember it was a Sunday afternoon when I found him in the living room watching The Green Death. I only saw a few moments of this Green Death episode; enough to know there were giant maggots living in a mine.

Due to my love for giant insect and spider movies, this episode always stayed in the back of mind even though I had never seen it in full. And here I am finally reviewing it. Yes, I leapt at the chance to do so once I heard the BBC was putting out an upgraded version of it.

Plot-wise, it feels like a homage to any giant insect movie ever made, focusing on this new oil company called Global Chemicals. The problem is that the waste they’ve been producing is being pumped into an abandoned mine and has been altering the local bug life, turning them into 2-foot long killer maggots. The waste itself is also responsible for many human deaths. Anyone who comes into contact with it ends up dying a green glowing death.

While U.N.I.T. goes off to find out why miners are glowing green, the Doctor is no longer confined to Earth, has fixed his TARDIS and plans to visit Metebelis 3. He does but without his companion Jo, as she chose to go off and assist this activist/environmentalist, Professor Stevens, who opposes this new oil company.

As the Doctor eventually gets pulled into this new adventure we learn that the giant maggots are not the only thing he’ll contend with. There’s a one-of kind artificial intelligence that is in control of Global Chemicals and it couldn’t care less what their waste is doing to the local insect life. It intends to implement the usual world domination these kind of renegade AI’s seem to gravitate towards. This episode is also notable for being the last appearance of Katy Manning as Jo Grant. No, it’s not a tragic departure but a happy one—for her anyway.

The 1.33:1 aspect ratio is crisp and clear and the Dolby Digital Stereo audio was excellent as well. Subtitles exist but only in English. All the extras are on Disc #2 and there are a plethora of them:

The main highlight is the documentary, ‘The One With The Maggots’ (26:24) that covers the production, locations, story and even the making of the maggots themselves. Something I never knew was that Kat Manning and the actor who played the Professor (Stewart Bevan) were actually a couple before he made his appearance on the show. ‘Global Conspiracy?’ (10:53) is a nice epilogue of sorts that tells the story of reporter, Terry Scanlow, revisiting the events of The Green Death, telling us all in a faux news doc where Global Chemicals is now, and that the giant maggot problem is really far from over. The slant here is a little bit on the comedic side. ‘Visual Effects’ (11:39) is pretty much what it sounds like. As an added bonus you get to see one of the maggots actually getting made.

The ‘Robert Sloman Interview’ (6:51) and the ‘Stewart Bevan Interview’ (7:42) cover how writer Sloman and Berry Letts came up with the story and Bevan’s recounts his time on the show.

‘Wales Today’ (2:32) appears to be a short news feature from the 80s where John Pertwee comes back and revisits the area where the abandoned mine was and is shocked to find that’s all been “renovated.”

‘Doctor Forever—The Unquiet Dead’ (23:10) is a 2013 doc that talks with Russell T. Davies and Jane Trantor, former BBC employee, on how they came to get Doctor Who back on the air in 2005.

‘What Katy Did Next’ (5:42) appears to be a segment from some type of 1973 news show that Katy Manning hosted. It’s called, Serendipity With Katy Manning where she talks about fashion and in this segment the topics seem to be jewelry and sculpture.

This collection also comes with a 2-part The Sarah Jane Adventures episode titled, “Death Of The Doctor.” I’ve never seen this Doctor Who spin-off mainly because it was targeted more towards kids than Who was. There’s also a commentary included with Katy Manning, who guest stars in the episode, and Russell T. Davies, who wrote the episode.

Rounding out this set is a Photo Gallery (9:46) and PDF Materials (Radio Times Listings). In the 2013 doc, ‘The One With The Maggots,’ they note that The Green Death was an episode that if you saw it when you were a kid you never forgot it. That’s true. I never forgot and having seen all of it now I can easily say it’s one of my favorites.

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