The Green Death

Doctor Who – The Green Death SE (1973) (DVD)

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In the most recent Doctor Who review I posted, I wrote that I wasn’t a fan of ‘double-dip’ releases. And so the very next Doctor Who DVD I purchase is yet another example of buying a special edition reissue of a title that I already have in my collection: nothing if not inconsistent, me.

In my defence, I have good cause. “The Green Death” might not have the unique selling point of “Spearhead from Space” of being the only classic-era serial that’s possible to release on genuine high-resolution Blu-ray, but it does have a more personal USP as far as I’m concerned as this is the first Doctor Who story that I actually clearly remember watching as a kid. I also vividly recall “The Sea Devils”, but I suspect that’s from a subsequent repeat airing rather than its original 1972 broadcast. I’m sure I had watched episodes before but they’re just now jumbled fragments in my brain. Not so “The Green Death” however, with its vivid imagery (the eponymous emerald-hued fatalities and of course the infamous giant maggots) searing itself into my young mind in a way that proved unforgettable for a lifetime. It’s probably a large part of the reason why Jon Pertwee will always be “my” Doctor regardless of any factual merits of the case. In many ways, the clarity and general fondness I have for this story almost made me fearful to re-watch it again in case it didn’t live up to my expectations and golden memories.

Happily it truly doesn’t disappoint even 40 years later. It’s a fantastically well-paced story that doesn’t flag for a moment and only briefly relies on time-filling runarounds and Venusian Akido fight scenes. It’s a strangely, surreal and inimitable Doctor Who mix of monsters, existential horror, conspiracies, ecology, love and friendship – and even some laugh out loud broad comedy such as the sight of Jon Pertwee in drag successfully (!) passing himself off in disguise as a char lady, or Sgt Benton (John Levene) passing out deadly poison to the giant maggots with an ad-libbed “Here, kitty kitty kitty.” Many of the classic serials – even the six-parters like this – would struggle to fill out a modern hyperkinetic 40-minute episode, but “The Green Death” is an exception that feels as though compressing it into any shorter a running time would be a criminal offence. Read the rest of this entry »