Oct. 29th, 2018

purplecat: The Third Doctor (Who:Three)
The Green Death is one of those stories that suceeds, one rather feels, in spite of itself. On paper it is a bit of a disparate mess of elements that don't quite fit together, it suffers from the standard six parter's malaise of not really having enough material to fill its length (there is a lot of wandering around the mine), and its special effects have not benefitted from the translation to HD. However it has a great deal of charm, and is carried to no small extent by Katy Manning's energetic performance as Jo Grant in this her last story. There is plenty of event and a fair bit of mystery in the plot, so much so, that Tame Layman compared it favourably (at least at the plot level) to The Woman who Fell to Earth.

It is a little bit gloriously 1970s. The matter-of-factness of there being a community of hippy cutting-edge scientists just down the road from Global Chemicals, with their pyschedelic whimsy of big signs denoting spaces "The Room for Living". Not to mention the Brigadier's clear preference for the company of hippy scientists to the businessmen at Global Chemicals.

It has been noted that Jo Grant's final season is one of the few explicit attempts by the classic show to provide a companion with some character development. Even at the start of The Green Death, it is clear that Jo is ready to move on, identifying battles she wants to fight irrespective of the Doctor's own priorities. It is a shame that the rest of the story mostly isn't one of her finest hours, emphasising as it does her portrayal as well-meaning but scatter-brained and a bit clumsy. Katy Manning manages to make it all work, but this is a story in which Jo is often side-lined and generally the cause of rather than the solution to problems. The romance between her and Cliff Jones is charming enough but, in making him clearly a lot like the Doctor, one rather wishes the production team had not chosen to have him exhibit the Doctor's condescenscion towards Jo along with his brilliance and drive.

The story has two almost entirely separate causes of peril. The eponymous Green Death and its maggots is almost unrelated to the mad computer, a side-effect of the computer's plans but of no actual interest to it. You can see the conceptual thread that joins it all together, the drive for profit and ultimate efficiency has caused both the elimination of the human from the decision-making process and the reckless generation of pollution whose side-effects are little understood, but somehow the two halves never really seem to come together in the story. Perhaps this is because the mad computer plot gets a bit sidelined into the ideas of computers programming people, not to mention the idea that BOSS is somehow linked to Stevens' brain in order to become event more efficient by introducing an element of human inefficiency into the mix. This, incidentally, was an aspect of BOSS of which I was unaware (or at least had forgotten, since I had read the novelisation at some point) when I discussed AI in Doctor Who with [personal profile] sir_guinglain for his DWM Bookazine article a while back and it has some interesting links to current thoughts about the role of emotions and their implementation in computational systems. The idea that BOSS is somehow part human, allows him/it to be given rather more character and personality than is allowed to most AIs in the classic series, which is nice but a bit distracting from the central message.

I can see why The Green Death is often spoken of highly, but rarely makes it into recommendation lists. There is a lot to like here but it is all nice bits and pieces that fails to make a strong coherent whole.

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