Sunday, November 11, 2012

Doctor Who #355: The Green Death Part 4

"I never thought I'd fire in anger at a dratted caterpillar, but..."
TECHNICAL SPECS: First aired Jun.9 1973.

IN THIS ONE... UNIT blows the mine and the maggots swarm up. The Doctor and Mike Yates infiltrate Global Chemicals, one of them in drag.

REVIEW: UNIT returns in full force, and soon Sgt. Benton is getting shouted at. We've missed it. As a UNIT story, of course they have to try and blow up the monsters, and it just makes the giant maggots run to the surface. And being a UNIT story, OF COURSE the maggots prove to be impervious to bullets. And all known pesticides. It's part of the drinking game. Go with it. You might also want to drink when you see bad CSO, such as the scale problems on the hatched maggot inside the Nuthutch. Captain Yates makes his first appearance of the season as a ministerial official who has come to oversee the situation, in a twist from the usual UNIT story set-up. If a petty bureaucrat is going to show up in the middle of the story each time, it's not a bad idea to make sure it's YOUR petty bureaucrat. Not that Yates is particularly useful, his only real skill talking in code so Global Chemical henchmen can't realize he's telling the Brig that he hasn't been useful.

Pertwee has a lot of fun playing the covert aspects of the episode too, getting to play a couple of characters and voices, including a doddering old milkman and a mumbling washerwoman. It's the first time the Doctor drags it up, but not the last, kids. Keep an eye out for this proud British tradition. It's all quite fun and just narrowly avoids turning into Scooby-Doo, though Richard Franklin as Yates almost pushes it that far with his facial expressions. In situ, the Doctor is able to wring more information from Yates, enough to get us rolling towards the third act, when the Doctor meets the power behind the thrown, a computer who likes Nietzsche and may well prove to be the villain with the most personality in this serial despite not having a face. More on the BOSS tomorrow. I hasten to add that it's not all fun and games by pointing out how cold the Doctor is about Hinks' doom. Will he die? "The others did," the Doctor says, clinically. Brrr.

And Jo? Well, she's determined not to be the tea girl ever again, and when her relationship to Cliff Jones turns into those early days of holding test tubes in Terror of the Autons, she makes a run for the dangers of the maggot pit to try and get a specimen. The production has fun with irony here, since the tipping point is her accidentally dropping Cliff's fungus on his maggot slides, which makes him angry and dismissive, that sends her away. But as it turns out, the fungus cures the Green Death, so he shouldn't have been angry, nor need she have run off. And yet, good on her. Don't let no man tell you to get him some coffee and be quiet! To me, though, the more affecting moment is her lying to Benton to get information, and abusing his trust. It's more than just disobeying orders. It's betraying a friend, one that's always been sweet to her in the past. And it shows on Jo's face. It's a small moment, but a point of no return, tinged with regret. It's where she tells us she's leaving the program.

REWATCHABILITY: Medium-High - There's a danger of things getting a bit camp (in Doctor Who?! Impossible!), but it's all about the characters at this point, and I love them to bits. Well, maybe not Yates.

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