Wednesday, 18 August 2010

Blast from the Past: The Green Death

This is another outstanding story from the history of the programme, delivering sincere political messages to the viewer, whilst still having a fun and dynamic story to accompany it. Everyone really pulls together to make this story work, and the result on screen is staggeringly good, especially considering the very limited budget and short amount of time that the production team. Bring on the maggots…

The most impressive scenes within this tale are where Professor Jones talks about the possibilities of future energy resources and how we are damaging our planet, a concept which was unusual at the original time of broadcast, but is an everyday concern in our modern society. This is a story out of its time, tackling issues which have only become widely known about in recent years.

Robert Sloman’s script is of a very high standard, combining horror with humour, and morals with maggots. The story is fully brought to life by Jon Pertwee’s action-craving Doctor (with a martial arts scene every five minutes), where he and Katy Manning have a great spark together and clearly enjoy their roles. Pertwee is clearly having the time of his life when he disguises himself as a washerwoman (you have to see it to appreciate it – good old Doris the cleaner!)

The only factor which lets down this story is the special effects, which were overambitious for the time when it was made. The Colour Separation Overlay (CSO) effects allow the production team to film the actors against a blue screen, whilst the set behind them can be just a still picture or even a scale model of the location. However, this technique was a new concept in the early seventies, and the bright lighting of the maggots’ lair creates large obtrusive outlines around the actors, which ruins the believability of the scene.

These dodgy effects are more than made up for by the quality of the story though, combined with the sharp direction and energetic cast. It is these aspects which make a real classic episode of Doctor Who, and ‘The Green Death’ certainly falls into that category. Despite the deep political messages and sentimental departure of Katy Manning as Jo Grant, this story will always be remembered as “the one with the giant maggots”!

Tomorrow: The Robots of Death


Vortex said...

I recently brought this story on DVD and it is easily one of the best in the series' history. It has the mix of horror, humor and heart.

The effects are slightly dodgy, but isn't that the case for most classic stories?

Pertwee is obviously enjoying playing the old milkman too!

Great review, excellent story. 10/10.

Blink said...

Thanks for the comment Vortex - much appreciated! :)