Sue: I like this one already. We’re on location and it’s got a Land Rover in it.
The Green Death takes place at a colliery in South Wales, and there’s definitely trouble at t’pit.
Sue: I feel like we’ve stumbled into a Ken Loach drama by mistake.
As Stevens, the director of Global Chemicals, perfects his Neville Chamberlain impersonation, a miner emerges from the pit. Not only is he dead, he’s very, very green.
Nicol: That miner looks like he’s been to a Klaxons gig.
Me: If you say so, Nicol. I don’t know what that means. Oh, and you’re late, as usual.
Meanwhile Jo Grant is threatening to run away to Wales so she can help someone called Professor Jones.
Sue: Jo is going to leave, isn’t she? She’s going to leave the series in the first episode.
Nicol: Mother! She’s just going to have her own adventure. She isn’t going to leave the series.
Sue: It feels like she’s getting ready to leave.
Nicol sighs. I say nothing.
While Jo and the Brigadier head for Llanfairfach, the Doctor buggers off to Metebelis 3. And that’s when Sue jumps out of her skin. I think it’s the first time the classic series has ever given her a genuine fright. And all it took was a rubber tentacle.
Sue: What the hell was that?
When Jo arrives at the Wholeweal community (affectionately known as the Nuthutch), she embarrasses herself in front of the professor she wanted to impress.
Nicol: How can she not know what the professor looks like? I thought she said she was a big fan of his? And she was only reading a newspaper story about him five minutes ago. That’s a bit silly.
Sue: Funny, though.
Meanwhile the Doctor is having a torrid time of it on Metebelis 3.
Sue: Why did the Doctor want to come here in the first place? It’s a nightmare! Maybe he’s landed on Metebelis 2 by mistake? You know what he’s like.
The Doctor is attacked by some giant chicken legs.
Nicol: It’s turned into Honey, I Shrunk the Kids.
Back on Earth, Professor Jones is talking about alternative energy sources, wind turbines, heat-pumps and sustainability. In short, this is right up Sue and Nicol’s street.
Sue: This is years ahead of its time. A lot of the technology he’s talking about here is still cutting-edge today.
Nicol: Is this why you wanted me to watch this episode?
Me: Yes, you’re our renewable energy adviser this week.
Nicol is currently working for a company that specialises in green energy, and I thought she could bring her professional perspective to the table.
Nicol: He’s a hypocrite, this professor. He says he wants to save the planet, but the lights are still on in the hall when no one’s using it. He’s decorated the place with carnival lights, too, which can’t be very energy efficient.
Sue: He left a record player on when no one was listening to it, too.
The Doctor finally escapes from the living hell that is Metebelis 3, and returns to UNIT HQ just in time to answer the phone. “I’ll speak to anyone!” he cries.
Sue: (Laughing) He won’t be going back there in a hurry!
Meanwhile Stevens is conferring with a mysterious off-screen voice.
Sue: Is it a new Master?
Sue: Do we get a new Master? Have they recast the part?
Stevens places some expensive-looking headphones over his ears.
Nicol: That’s a nice pair of Dr Dre Monster Beats he’s got there.
Meanwhile a miner named Dai is about to live up to his name.
Sue: This is vaguely familiar. Then again, everything nasty or bad in science fiction tends to be green, so I can’t be 100 per cent sure.
Jo teams up with a miner named Burt, however, thanks to a saboteur, they’re sent hurtling to their deaths as Talfryn Thomas looks on.
Sue: That was pretty good. Let’s watch another one.
Me: It’s Valentine’s Day. Wouldn’t you prefer a romantic comedy instead?
Sue: Sod that. Put some Doctor Who on.
The Doctor arrives at the mine just in time to discover Jo’s plight.
Sue: Reverse the lift’s polarity!
The Doctor jams a metal bar into its workings instead.
Sue: That would have taken his arm off in real life.
As Global Chemicals’ PR man becomes increasingly suspicious of the company he keeps, the penny finally drops for Sue too.
Me: Finally! I was beginning to worry that you weren’t going to recognise him. It’s Tony Adams. He played Adam Chance.
Sue: He was a smooth ****er, wasn’t he?
Me: That reminds me – do you have anything to say about Professor Jones? Is he dishy or not?
Sue: Dishy. Definitely dishy. He has a David Cassidy thing going on. But isn’t he a bit young to be a professor?
Me: Brian Cox is a professor, and he’s pretty young.
Nicol: He’s quite old, actually. He’s in his early 40s.
Me: Thanks for that, Nicol.
As the voice of Stevens’ boss continues to make its presence felt, Sue thinks she’s watching a sequel to The Invasion.
Sue: Is it the guy who ordered Packer around in that Patrick Troughton story?
Me: No, it isn’t him.
Sue: Is it the Master, then?
Me: You’re doing that on purpose now, aren’t you?
Stevens and the Brigadier argue the toss over who has the most jurisdiction when it comes to Global Chemicals.
Sue: You could easily remake this story today. You wouldn’t have to change the script very much, either. It’s perfect for our time: government corruption, backhanders, pollution. It’s like Edge of Darkness or something.
The Doctor and Professor Jones decide their only chance of rescuing Jo lies with Global Chemicals agreeing to loan them their equipment. So when the company gives them the cold shoulder, the scientists take matters into their own hands and Professor Jones turns up at the gates with a marching band in tow. The security forces are immediately scrambled.
Sue: They’re over-reacting a bit. They’re only street performers. They’d probably get on your tits after a while, but they aren’t exactly al-Qaeda.
The Doctor uses the distraction to sneak into Global Chemicals, although it isn’t long before he’s up to his neck in security guards.
Nicol: That isn’t Jon Pertwee.
Me: Yeah, thanks for pointing that out, Nic. I may be in my early 40s but I can still see, you know.
Sue: Use your finger! You wouldn’t need a stuntman if you used your finger.
As Jo and Burt make their way through the mine, Burt is stupid enough to touch the green slime that’s oozing out of the walls.
Sue: Is there a subtitle track we could use? I didn’t understand a single word Burt just said.
Me: I can’t believe he actually finished a sentence without saying ‘boyo’ at the end of it.
And then we enter a short spell where Sue becomes totally engrossed in the story. Nails are bitten and everything.
Sue: This is quite good, isn’t it?
Me: This story had a massive impact on me when I was a boy. It was the concept of contamination that really freaked me out – the fact you could catch the green death by touching someone – I still feel a bit funny when I think about it now.
When Jo encounters a hoard of maggots covered in green slime, Sue thinks she’s seen it all before.
Sue: It’s a challenge on I’m A Celebrity… Get Me Out of Here! Are they witchetty grubs?
I’m too busy hiding behind a cushion to correct her.
Sue: Great stuff.
Just as we settled down to watch this episode, Captain Jack startled us with an unearthly howl. And then, as he staggered around the living room with a look on his face that said, “Fix me, you idiots”, we knew we’d have to postpone our scheduled visit to Llanfairfach for a trip to the emergency vets instead.
The good news: Jack’s bladder wasn’t full. The bad news: he could be addicted to Diamazepan.
Anyway, the next evening, with Jack fast asleep on Sue’s lap (thanks to a ridiculously expensive cocktail of drugs), we began the episode again, and this time, when the Doctor and Jo find themselves surrounded by maggots, the Doctor offers some very sound advice.
Sue: “Nil desperandum”? Isn’t that Sunderland’s official motto?
Me: Yes. I can’t imagine why.
The Doctor and Jo climb into a mine cart and row their way to safety.
Sue: Hmm… This isn’t the special effects department’s finest hour.
Me: It was bloody terrifying in the novelisation. I didn’t sleep for weeks.
Sue: I know, all your tossing and turning kept me awake all night.
Me: Oh, very funny.
Sue loves Jerome Willis.
Sue: He’s a very good actor. I like it when the villains are down-to-earth and believable. This is much more interesting than alien jungles and invisible Daleks. It’s weird seeing the Brigadier out of uniform, though. He looks like a used car salesmen.
When Stevens’ Monster Beat headphones are wheeled out again, Sue becomes even more convinced she’s watching a sequel to The Invasion.
Sue: Are the Cybermen involved in this? Those headphones look very Cybermany to me.
When another Global Chemicals employee tries to resist his conditioning, he’s programmed for self-destruction instead.
Sue: Suicide on children’s television. Nice.
Me: This is so grim, even the villain isn’t sure about what he’s just done.
Sue: The birdsong makes it even worse.
Back at the Nuthutch, a dinner party is in full swing. No, not that kind of swing. But it’s close. Professor Jones tells his guests about a fungus from South America and Jo becomes very excited indeed.
Me: Yeah, I bet he’d like to take her up the Amazon.
And then, in the midst of all this frivolity, we learn that Burt the miner is dead. Boyo.
Sue: This is very bleak all of a sudden.
But the bad news doesn’t dampen Jo’s desire to go hunting for mushrooms (we’ve all been there), and the Doctor looks like he’s been fatally wounded when he walks in on his companion just as she’s preparing to snog the Professor’s face off.
Sue: He is so jealous.
The Doctor tries to impress Jo with the blue crystal he stole from Metebelis 3.
Sue: He’s trying to compete, but it isn’t working. He’s gutted. It isn’t sexual jealousy, though. He wants to protect her. He doesn’t want to shag her, but he doesn’t want anybody else to shag her, either.
The Doctor proves this by gently leading Cliff away, which leaves Jo at the mercy of a giant maggot.
Sue: A feminist film theorist would have a field day with this.
Nicol: It looks like a Slinky. Just throw it down some stairs.
Yes, Nicol’s back for more, and she isn’t a fan of the maggots. So I remind her what happened to Gary and she gives it a rest.
Yes, UNIT have been tasked with keeping the locals away from the mine. And then, completely out of the blue, there’s a reference to a cat knocking on death’s door.
Sue: (Gobsmacked) Unbelievable.
Me: You’re seeing patterns in things that aren’t there, love. Don’t worry.
Sue: Oh no. Not Mike Yates!
Yates is pretending to be a government minister, but instead of preventing the mine from being blown up, he allows the demolition to go ahead instead.
Sue: Right, so Yates has infiltrated the bad guys so successfully, he’s become a bad guy himself. Excellent work, Yates. Having said that, this scene where the Doctor and Yates stare each other out is brilliant.
Stevens is bollocked by his invisible boss.
Me: It’s not every day you hear a reference to Nietzsche on children’s television.
Sue: I’m just happy the Brig is back in uniform. I feel safer already.
As Jo assists Professor Jones’ experiments to find a cure for the green death, Sue can see the writing on the wall.
Sue: Jo isn’t going to make it out of this story. They are setting it up for her to leave with this guy. This is definitely her last story.
When a cleaner at Global Chemicals stumbles across a tank full of slime and maggots, she runs away screaming.
Sue: (As the cleaner) I’m not mopping that up!
Our heroes don’t seem to know what these giant maggots will eventually turn into.
Sue: They’ll turn into giant flies, you idiots! I thought they were supposed to be the clever ones?
As the maggots dig their way to the surface, Sue couldn’t care less how Jon Pertwee pronounces the word chitinous. In fact, I haven’t seen her enjoy Doctor Who this much in ages.
Sue: Even Yates is good in this.
The Doctor breaks into Global Chemicals again.
Sue: What’s the big deal with the replacement milkman? Am I missing something?
Me: Only that the milkman is Jon ****ing Pertwee!
Sue: Is it really? I’m impressed.
As the Doctor infiltrates Global Chemicals (and is attacked by his own fake moustache in the process), Jo continues to assist Professor Jones in his search for a cure. But instead of expressing gratitude, the professor is rude, nasty, and a little bit threatening.
Sue: Right, back away slowly, Jo. He’s just shown you his true colours. You’ll be an abused spouse before you know it. Get out of there while you still can.
Global Chemicals have found a replacement cleaner.
Me: That’s Jon Pertwee, love.
Sue: Are you sure? She looks like my mam.
I’m acutely embarrassed by this scene, but Sue and Nicol are lapping it up.
Nicol: It’s turned into The League of Gentlemen.
Me: Yes, Mrs Levinson.
Jo leaves the professor to his casual sexism, and she takes it upon herself to secure a live specimen for him to play with, even if it means charming her way through a UNIT cordon.
Sue: Is she flirting with Benton now?
Me: She’s looking for a giant maggot.
Sue: Is that what they’re calling it now?
As Jo blithely stumbles into danger, Professor Jones finds the cure he’s been searching for.
Sue: Jo’s cursed. If only she’d stand still for two minutes, everything would turn out fine.
The Brigadier has ordered an RAF bombing run and Jo is in the firing line.
Me: I love the smell of fried maggots in the morning.
When the Doctor reaches Global Chemicals’ control centre, he’s taunted by the booming voice of BOSS.
Sue: Is it the Master?
No, it’s a sentient computer.
Sue: Oh. That’s a bit disappointing.
Jack’s just had a very big wee. I just wanted to share that with you. With any luck, this will be the last time I’ll ever have to give you an update on the toilet habits of our cats. But don’t bank on it.
Sue: UNIT really love their helicopters, don’t they?
UNIT’s bombs rain down on Wales.
Sue: Why are they filming these scenes with chroma? Why didn’t they shoot them at the same time as all the others?
For the next 10 minutes or so, Sue watches the episode in silence. She seems to be enjoying herself. And she isn’t the only one.
Sue: Pertwee’s having fun this week. I bet this was one of his favourite stories.
The Doctor escapes in a milk float (“The fastest in the West”) and then it’s back to the Brigadier standing in front of more CSO.
Sue: They must have screwed up on location – it’s the only thing that makes any sense. Either that or the plot wasn’t making any sense and they had to film some extra bits. Either way, it’s a shame. The direction was great up to now.
Benton rescues Jo while the Doctor keeps the maggots at bay with his sonic screwdriver.
Sue: They’re a bit lame if you can jump over them.
Me: Yes, but the maggots aren’t the real threat. Just you wait until they start flying. You won’t be able to jump over them, then.
Sue: Good point.
Yates is brainwashed by BOSS into assassinating the Doctor but the Time Lord breaks his conditioning with the blue crystal he found on Metebelis 3. He also manages to accidentally hypnotise the Brigadier, which Sue finds amusing, if thoroughly pointless.
Sue: Everyone’s having a jolly good time, but that was a filler episode. They just didn’t need it. That was a classic Episode Five.
A maggot consumes some of Nancy’s homemade fungus cake and promptly drops down dead.
Sue: (Singing) “Love is like a butterfly…”
Me: Yes, a giant evil butterfly.
Sue: It looks like a giant prawn, actually.
Me: Now that would be silly.
BOSS threatens to turn Yates into one of his slave elite.
Sue: It’s the first time Yates has been an elite anything.
Meanwhile Benton and the Doctor feed Nancy’s poisonous cooking to the maggots.
Sue: Run them over! It would be more fun. A nice steam-roller would do the trick.
And then the moment I’ve been waiting for arrives: my one and only surviving memory of watching this story at the tender age of three and a half.
Sue: Oh dear. That isn’t great.
Me: The giant fly was perfectly fine when I was three. In fact, I think it traumatised me.
Yates escapes from Global Chemicals through an open window.
Sue: Imagine casting Frank Spencer as James Bond. It’s hard to take Yates seriously as an action hero.
The Doctor and Benton are attacked by the giant fly.
Sue: Oh dear. This isn’t very good. There’s nothing wrong with the idea, but they should have known they wouldn’t be able to execute it. And why don’t they just drive away? Why are they sitting there waiting for it to attack them? Jesus Christ, Benton!
Having said that, she’s impressed when the Doctor brings down the insect with his cape (thanks to some clever editing and a very gruesome sound effect).
Me: If only Jo knew what serendipity meant, we could have saved ourselves a lot of trouble.
Sue: Would you have known what serendipity meant, clever clogs?
Me: Of course I would. I read the novelisation. Several times, in fact.
Nancy volunteers to cure the professor while the Doctor deals with the BOSS.
Sue: I bet this isn’t the first time Cher’s extracted something ‘medicinal’ from a mushroom.
As BOSS sings Beethoven’s Fifth, Sue can’t praise John Dearth highly enough.
Sue: It’s a fabulous performance. I like the way the computer has a personality. This must have played into people’s fears about technology at the time. This could have been really boring, but it isn’t.
Just when it looks as if BOSS will become the boss of everything, Stevens has a sudden change of heart.
Sue: It reminds me of the bit where they turn HAL off in 2001.
Stevens sacrifices himself, but not before a single tear rolls down his cheek as he considers what he’s done.
Sue: That was an excellent performance.
Me: Quite brilliant.
After a extremely satisfying explosion, we return to the Nuthutch where Professor Jones proposes to Jo in a manner so cack-handed, it makes my marriage proposal to Sue look like something out of Romeo and Juliet. (If you must know, mine went something like this: “If the world is going to end, Sue, we may as well get married.”)
Sue: I don’t like his attitude. There’s a dark side to Cliff. He’s cocky and impatient. Maybe Jo will knock that out of him. I hope she does. And if it doesn’t work out, it’s not as if she’s stuck on an alien planet or anything. She’ll be fine.
An impromptu party is arranged to celebrate the happy news.
Me: Look at Yates. He’s gutted.
Sue: Yeah. I didn’t know he had the hots for Cliff.
But Yates is positively ecstatic compared to the Doctor.
Sue: This is very sad. It was obvious that she was going to leave in the first episode, but I like the way they set it up. She’s all grown up now. It’s time for her to leave the nest.
My notes become illegible at this point; the ink has been smudged with tiny droplets of water. I can’t imagine how that happened. Anyway, the Doctor decides to leave the party early.
Sue: Come on, Doctor, smile.
But he doesn’t. Not quite.
Sue: Oh dear.
Sue: That was great. It was an episode too long, and some of the effects were a bit of a joke, but apart from that I enjoyed it. It was very adult in places. I can’t imagine what the programme will be like without Jo, though. How do you follow that?