Doctor Who #356: The Green Death Part 5

"What's best for Global Chemicals is best for the world, is best for you." "Such as a little touch of brainwashing?" "Freedom from fear, freedom from pain..." "Freedom from freedom?"
TECHNICAL SPECS: First aired Jun.16 1973.

IN THIS ONE... The Doctor talks to the BOSS, Professor Jones gets bit, Mike Yates is hypnotized, and the Metebelis crystal comes in handy.

REVIEW: The things wrong with this episode are pretty much all technical, so let's get them out of the way. It looks like they didn't get everything they needed at the gravel pit, so the scene where they bomb the maggots and subsequent rescue of Jo and Jones are a messy mash-up of studio (with bouncy floorboards under the dirt), CSO (with yellow or blue outlines showing), location filming (nice explosions mostly), and model shots (the toy Bessie is really ridiculous). Another problem is one related to the actors. Elgin, the Global Chemical employee on the side of right earlier caught and brainwashed is replaced here by another man, Mr. James, apparently because they lost the original actor's services. It's no big thing, but a real flaw in the story's structure. Not so technical is Richard Franklin's performance as Yates, "comically" pratfalling and later, for no real reason, hiding behind a lab bench before trying to kill the Doctor. At least he provides a use for the Metebelis crystal, which appears to have psychic properties that can transfix onlookers (the Brig is zonked the same way Jo was in The Curse of Peladon, with the Doctor reacting the same way) and break their conditioning. Nice to see the short side-trip from Part 1 was part of the plot all along.

One place the special effects DON'T disappoint is in the BOSS' lair. The mad computer itself is a giant CSO circle on which the production superimposes an oscilloscope, and it looks great, as do the effects for the brainwashing headset. The Doctor's verbal sparring with the BOSS provides without a doubt the best scenes in the episode. The machine is infinitely arrogant, and certainly more human than its template Stevens, so the Doctor mocks it, goads it, taunts it, and amusingly too. He throws the Liar's Paradox at it, like Captain Kirk would have, and for a while it seems to work, but the BOSS' human colleagues intervene. We know from Frontier in Space that it's not so easy getting into the Doctor's mind, and he complains about being bored during the brainwashing procedure. He even manages to get under the BOSS' "skin" to manipulate it. Some nice dialog until the inevitable escape via milk truck.

For Jo, things aren't so rosy. She wanders into a bombing site and is responsible for Jones getting hurt. It's on her head if her love interest bites the dirt. But as we know, another of her blunders can also save his life, if only they can decipher that magic word, "serendipity" (as a kid, it sent me racing to the dictionary, and there's nothing wrong with that). Sadly, no confrontation with Benton, not even a shared look. Ah well.

THEORIES: So where did Global Chemical get its tech? I mean, it's a chemical company, but they've made unprecedented advances in artificial intelligence. Then they've used that A.I. to perfect a chemical process that gets the most energy out of oil, but somehow, that process creates an outrageous atavistic mutation in insects that makes them impervious to bullets and explosives, AND poisons humans so that they glow phosphorescently. That's broad spectrum mad science right there. But this is South Wales and not too far from Cardiff. So am I the only one who's thinking of the Rift and what might have floated in from SOMEwhere? G.C. seems to have gotten a hold of lots of different alien technology they don't really understand. Where's Torchwood when you need them?

REWATCHABILITY: Medium-High - Technical snafus aren't enough to dampen my enthusiasm for the Doctor's electric confrontation with a neat computer villain, or the episode's other set pieces.


snell said...

66 ieThe oscilloscope...that's noty showing the crack in the universe, is it? (no, at least not in that shot...but that still might explain some of the more outlandish things happening...)

Siskoid said...



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