Sue: Oh, I like this one already. It’s filmed on location and it’s got a Land Rover in it.
The Green Death begins at a colliery in South Wales, and there’s trouble down pit.
Sue: This is very topical, isn’t it? 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. He is dead and very, very green.
We are joined by Nicol, who is late, as usual.
Nicol: That miner looks like he’s just been to a Klaxons’ gig.
Me: If you say so, Nicol. I don’t even know what that means.
At UNIT HQ, the Doctor is playing with his space-time coordinate programmer. When Jo threatens to run away to Wales to help somebody named Professor Jones, Sue jumps the gun.
Sue: Jo is going to leave, isn’t she? She’s going to leave the series in the first episode of this story.
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.
As Jo and the Brigadier head for Llanfairfach, the Doctor arrives on Metebelis 3. And then Sue jumps out of her skin.
It’s the first time that the classic series has given her a genuine fright, and its all thanks to a giant rubber tentacle.
Sue: What the hell was that?
When Jo arrives at the Wholeweal community (affectionately known as the Nuthutch), she immediately embarrasses herself in front of the same professor she dearly wanted to impress.
Nicol: How can she not know what the professor looks like? She said she was a big fan of his, and she was 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 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.
And then, just to rub some salt into the wound, the Doctor is attacked by some giant chicken legs.
Nicol: It’s turned into Honey, I Shrunk the Kids, now.
Back on Earth, Professor Jones is talking about alternative energy sources, wind turbines, heat-pumps and sustainability. This is right up Sue and Nicol’s street.
Sue: This is well ahead of its time. A lot of the technology he is talking about here is still cutting-edge today.
Nicol: Is this why you wanted me to watch this episode?
Me: Yes, you are our renewable energy adviser this week.
Nicol currently works for a company that specialises in green energy, and wind power in particular, and I thought she could bring a professional perspective to the table.
Nicol: He’s a bit of a hypocrite, this professor. He keeps harping on about saving the planet and yet the lights are still on in the hallway when nobody is using it. And he’s decorated the place with carnival lights, 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 he arrives back at UNIT HQ just in time to answer the phone. “I”ll speak to anyone!” he cries, which results in Sue and Nicol laughing like drains.
Sue: I bet he won’t go back there in a hurry!
In his office, Stevens is conferring with a mysterious off-screen voice.
Sue: Is it a new Master?
Sue: Do we get a new Master in this one? Have they recast the part?
Even Nicol thinks her mother is reaching.
And then Stevens places a pair of expensive looking headphones over his ears.
Nicol: That’s a nice pair of Dr Dre Monster Beats he’s got there.
Meanwhile, down the pit, a miner named Dai is about to live up to his name.
Sue: You know, this is vaguely familiar. Then again, everything nasty or bad in science fiction is green, so I can’t be 100 per cent sure.
Jo and a miner named Burt decide to help Dai but, thanks to a saboteur, they are sent hurtling to their deaths as Talfryn Thomas looks on in horror.
Sue: That was pretty good. Let’s watch another one.
Me: It’s Valentine’s Day. Wouldn’t you prefer a nice 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: Just reverse the lift’s polarity!
The Doctor jams a metal bar into the workings of the lift instead.
Sue: That should have taken his arm off.
As Elgin, Global Chemicals’ PR man, becomes increasingly suspicious of the company he now works for, the penny finally drops for Sue as well.
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 at this point? 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: Well, 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 believes that she’s watching a sequel to The Invasion.
Sue: Is it the same 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 this on purpose, aren’t you?
As Stevens and the Brigadier argue the toss over who has the most jurisdiction, Sue is drawn to the scene’s political content.
Sue: You could easily remake this story today. You wouldn’t have to change the script very much. It’s perfect for our time: government corruption, backhanders, pollution. It’s like Edge of Darkness or something.
The Doctor and Professor Jones decide that their only chance of rescuing Jo lies with Global Chemicals agreeing to loan them some equipment. When the company gives them the cold shoulder, the scientists decide to take matters into their own hands. Professor Jones turns up at the company’s gates with a marching band in tow, and the security forces are immediately scrambled.
Sue: They are over-reacting a bit. It’s just some street performers. They would get on your tits after a while but they aren’t exactly al-Qaeda.
The Doctor uses the distraction to enter the grounds, but once inside, he quickly find himself fighting off more security guards.
Nicol: That’s not 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: Just use your finger! You wouldn’t need a stuntman if you just used your finger.
As Jo and Burt make their way through the mine, Burt is stupid enough to touch some of the green slime oozing from the walls. He starts to panic.
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 managed to finish a sentence without sticking Boyo at the end of it.
Nicol: Maybe he was ad-libbing?
And then we enter a short spell where Sue becomes totally engrossed in the story. Nails are bitten.
Sue: This is quite good, isn’t it?
Me: This story had a massive impact on me when I was young. It was the concept of contamination that really freaked me out – the fact you could catch the green death by simply touching someone who had it – I still feel funny when I think about it now.
When Jo encounters a hoard of maggots covered in green slime, Sue is fairly certain that she’s seen this 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.
The next morning, Sue casually mentioned the experiment on our way to work. She never does that.
Sue: So, more Green Death tonight, yes?
Sue: It’s good, isn’t it?
I nod uncomfortably and change the subject. I still find it a bit weird talking about Doctor Who with the wife in real life situations like that, despite everything I’m putting her though. It just doesn’t feel right. I haven’t had any breakfast and yet all she wants to talk about is giant maggots. There’s a time and place for everything, you know.
Later that night, just as we were about to watch Episode Three, Captain Jack made a terrible noise. It was a howl from the pit of his stomach, and it sounded nothing like his “I want some ham, you bastard!” cry. He looked a little unsteady on his feet and he gave me that look that says, “Fix me, you idiot”. So Sue and I freaked out. Again.
Jack went into his cat box without a fight – he never does that – and 40 minutes later, we were back at the emergency vets.
Sue: In parallel universe, we are sitting by a swimming pool in Los Angeles.
The good news: his bladder wasn’t full. The bad news: he might be addicted to diamazepan. We took him home with us and Sue set up a very complicated security system, which involved her strapping her iPad to the stairs at an angle that covered Jack’s favourite litter tray. She then downloaded an app that records time-lapse video and she’s rigged it to go off regular 10-second intervals. At least we’ll get some sleep tonight.
Stevens would be proud.
When the Doctor and Jo find themselves surrounded by maggots, the Doctor offers his companion some 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 they row their way to safety.
Sue: Hmmmm. This isn’t the special effects department’s finest hour.
Me: It was bloody terrifying in the novelisation. Believe me, I didn’t sleep for weeks.
Sue: I know, you kept me awake with all your tossing and turning.
Me: Oh, very funny.
Sue is full of admiration for 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 brought out again, Sue becomes even more convinced that she is watching a sequel to The Invasion.
Sue: Hang on, are the Cybermen involved in this? Those headphones look very Cyberman-y to me.
Fell, an employee of Global Chemicals, begins to resist his conditioning, so he is 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 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 discover that Burt the miner is dead. Boyo.
Sue: This is bleak.
But this 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 as she is preparing to snog Professor Jones’ face off.
Sue: He is so jealous.
The Doctor tries to impress Jo with the blue crystal he took from Metebelis 3.
Sue: He’s trying to compete, now. And it isn’t working. He’s gutted. It isn’t sexual jealousy, though. He just wants to protect her. He doesn’t want to shag her, but he doesn’t want anyone else shagging 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 could have a field day with this.
Nicol: It looks like a Slinky. Just throw it down the stairs.
Yes, Nicol is back for more and she isn’t impressed by the maggots. I remind her what happened to Gary and she decides to shut up.
UNIT have been tasked with keeping the locals away from the mine. And then, completely out of the blue, there is a reference to a pet cat at death’s door.
Sue turns to me, open-mouthed.
Me: You’re just seeing patterns in things that aren’t there. Don’t worry.
Meanwhile, back at the Nuthutch, Jo is being patronised by two men at once, which makes Sue’s blood boil. But that’s nothing compared to the disdain she shows when a certain someone turns up.
Sue: Oh no. Not Mike Yates!
Yates is pretending to be a government minister, but instead of preventing UNIT from blowing up the mine, he ignores the Doctor’s pleas and he allows the demolition to go ahead.
Sue: Right, so Yates has infiltrated the bad guys so successfully, he has actually become a bad guy himself. Excellent work, Yates. Having said that, this scene where the Doctor and Yates try to stare each other out is great.
Alone in his office, Stevens is given a dressing down by his invisible boss.
Me: It’s not every day that you get a reference to Nietzsche on children’s television.
Sue: I’m just happy that 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, is she? They are setting it up for her to leave with this guy. I’m telling you, this is her last story.
Meanwhile, a cleaner at Global Chemicals stumbles across a tank full of slime and maggots. She runs away screaming.
Sue: I’m not mopping that up!
Back at the Nuthutch, our heroes consider what form the giant maggots will eventually take.
Sue: They will 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 is amused by the Brigadier’s reference to a “dratted caterpillar”, and she couldn’t give a toss about the way 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 decides to break 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 (where he is attacked by his own fake moustache), Jo continues to assist Professor Jones in his search for a cure to the green death. But instead of 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.
When another cleaner turns up, I make sure that Sue knows the score.
Me: That’s Jon Pertwee, love.
Sue: Are you quite sure? It looks like my mam.
I am acutely embarrassed by this scene but Nicol and Sue are lapping it up.
Nicol: It’s turned into The League of Gentlemen.
Me: Yes, Mrs Levinson.
Jo decides to leave the professor to his casual sexism, and she heads off to find a live specimen for him to play with. In order to get into the danger zone, she has to charm her way through UNIT’s 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 traipses off into danger, Professor Jones finds the cure that he’s been looking for.
Sue: That’s Jo’s curse, that is. 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.
Meanwhile, the Doctor has reached Global Chemicals’ control centre. A booming voice taunts him.
Sue: It is the Master?
No, it’s a sentient computer.
Sue: Oh. That’s a bit disappointing.
Jack has just had a very big wee. We 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 cat. I hope.
Sue: UNIT love their helicopters, don’t they?
But something is bothering Sue as UNIT’s bombs start raining down.
Sue: Why are they filming some of these scenes with CSO? Why didn’t they just shoot these scenes at the same time as all the others?
For the next 10 minutes or so, Sue simply watches the episode. She appears to be enjoying herself. And she’s not the only one.
Sue: Pertwee looks like he’s having a lot of fun this week. I bet this was one of his favourite stories.
The Doctor manages to escape 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 something 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 has been great up until now.
Benton rescues Jo as the Doctor keeps the maggots at bay with his sonic screwdriver.
Sue: It’s bit lame that you can just jump over them.
Me: Yes, but the maggots aren’t the real threat. Just you wait until they can fly. You won’t be able to jump over them, then.
Sue: Good point.
Yates is brainwashed by the BOSS into assassinating the Doctor but the Time Lord manages to break his conditioning with the help of the blue crystal he found on Metebelis 3. He manages to accidentally hypnotise the Brigadier in the process, which Sue finds amusing but thoroughly pointless.
Sue: Everyone is 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 decides to eat some of Nancy’s homemade fungus cake and it promptly drops down dead.
Sue: (Singing) “Love is like a butterfly…”
Me: Yes, a giant evil butterfly.
Sue: It actually looks like a giant prawn.
Me: Now that would be silly.
The Doctor sends Yates back to Global Chemicals and BOSS threatens to turn him into one of his slave elite.
Sue: It will be the first time Yates has been an elite anything.
Meanwhile, Benton and the Doctor use Bessie to feed Nancy’s poisonous cooking to the maggots.
Sue: Just run them over! That would be much more fun. A steam-roller would do the job nicely.
And then the moment finally arrives – my one and only surviving memory of watching this story on its first transmission at the tender age of three and a half.
Sue: Oh dear. That’s not great.
Me: The giant fly looked perfectly fine when I was three. In fact, I think it traumatised me.
Yates escapes from Global Chemicals through an open window.
Sue: It’s like casting Frank Spencer as James Bond. It’s hard to take Yates seriously as an action hero.
Benton and the Doctor 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 just sitting there waiting for the fly to attack them? Jesus Christ, Benton!
Having said that, Sue is impressed when the Doctor brings the insect down with his cape, mainly thanks to some clever editing and a very gruesome sound effect.
Back at the Nuthutch, the Doctor finally puts two and two together.
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?
Me: Of course I would! I read the novelisation several times over, remember.
Nancy volunteers to treat the professor while the Doctor sorts out the BOSS.
Sue: I bet this isn’t the first time that Cher has extracted something medicinal from a mushroom.
As BOSS sings Beethoven’s Fifth, Sue has nothing but praise for John Dearth.
Sue: It really is a great performance, especially when you consider that you can’t see the actor. I like the way the computer has a personality. It’s a very entertaining villain and it must have played into people’s fears of technology at the time. It 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 change of heart and he turns on the machine.
Sue: This reminds me of the bit where they turn HAL off in 2001.
Stevens decides to sacrifice himself and a single tear falls from his eye as he considers what he’s done.
Sue: That was an excellent performance.
Me: Quite brilliant.
After a very 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 ****ing Juliet. And if you must know, mine went something like this: “Well, if the world is going to end, we may as well get married, I guess”. Don’t laugh, it was 1999.
Sue: I don’t like his attitude. There’s a dark side to Cliff. He’s too cocky and impatient. Maybe Jo will knock that out of him. I hope so. 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 couple’s happy news.
Me: Look at Yates. He’s gutted.
Sue: I didn’t know he had the hots for Cliff.
But Yates is positively ecstatic when compared to the Doctor.
Sue: This is really sad. It was obvious that she was going to leave from the very 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. Some of the ink has been smudged by tiny droplets of water. I can’t imagine how that happened.
The Doctor decides to leave the party early.
Sue: Smile. Come on, Doctor, smile.
But he doesn’t. Not quite.
Sue: Oh dear.
Sue: That was great. It was one episode too long and some of the effects were a bit of a joke, but apart from that, I really enjoyed that one. It was very adult in places. I can’t imagine what the programme will be like without Jo, though. How do you follow that?