BBC Video // 1973 // 153 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Appellate Judge James A. Stewart // August 28th, 2013
"But Doctor, it's exactly your cup of tea. The fellow's bright green, apparently, and dead." -- Brigadier Alistair Lethbridge-Stewart
I'd imagine Cote de Pablo got a gold watch for eight years of service when she left NCIS. Katy Manning, though, got a giant maggot, which she says she still has stored away somewhere, when she left Doctor Who.
Manning also got a trip to Wales for her last serial, The Green Death. The six-parter from 1973 was shot near Cardiff, which today is the home to several BBC science-fiction series, including Being Human, Torchwood, and, of course, the new Doctor Who.
In her last adventure as Jo Grant, Manning elopes with a scientist played by Stewart Bevan, her then-real life beau. Doctor Who: The Green Death (Special Edition), as usual, packs a lot of special features in with the story, including three commentaries that feature Manning.
The Doctor's fixing up his TARDIS for a trip to Metebelis Three, where he'll pick up a crystal with a really blue light (during a stop at the local Kmart, I suppose). That blue crystal will come in handy when reversing the effects of some nasty hypnosis, but first the Doctor (Jon Pertwee, Carry on Columbus) and Jo (Katy Manning, The Haunting of Harry Payne) must go down into a coal mine to tangle with giant maggots, who are leaving green putrified corpses lying around. When the Doctor turns his attention to a supercomputer with a fondness for Nietzsche, Jo turns her attentions to a scientist who's concocting a mushroom-based meat substitute.
The story shifts around kind of awkwardly, but producer Barry Letts, script editor Terrence Dicks, and co-star Katy Manning are especially proud of it, since it's for the reasons that a plot on today's Doctor Who might have a few gaps you'd mind: The Green Death is about character, rather than those maggots and that monster machine.
Jo Grant has been working for UNIT, which hunts down menacing alien monsters. However, she's itching to do something about something. When she and the Doctor head for Wales to investigate a coal mine death, Jo falls for a scientist who's protesting the mine's pollution. UNIT and the Brigadier, of course, are more interested in supporting industry -- until the Brigadier's bosses tell him that the mine has host nation status, at least. As the story progresses, Jo's looking for a change. It doesn't hurt that she considers her love interest a lot like the Doctor, only human and a few hundred years younger. Jon Pertwee is suitably irritable when Jo mentions the age difference, but generally warm toward his departing partner.
It's still classic Doctor Who, so there's not a lot of mushy dialogue. Instead, Katy Manning's growing affection for scientist Clifford Jones progresses through her facial expressions, her eyes growing gradually wider in his presence. Stewart Bevan's Jones seems rather preoccupied with his mushroom at first, but gradually warms to the Doctor's assistant. When Jones faces the titular Green Death, they're brought together.
Even though the series went on location, Doctor Who: The Green Death uses a lot of really dreadful chromakey. The maggots, for example, are mostly real maggots blown up to giant size, and there's a particularly unconvincing giant fly late in the story.
You'll have to check out the first commentary, with Manning, Barry Letts, and Terrance Dicks. Manning makes some MST3K-style comments about cheap props and other odd bits. There's also discussion of Quorn, the meat substitute that really was developed after the episode was made. A second commentary is included on the last four episodes, with visual effects man Colin Mapson and actress Mitzi McKenzie mostly, but with some input from regular Richard Franklin and Manning. Pop-up text illuminates viewers on a variety of topics, from Frank Sinatra's "Nancy (with the Laughing Face)" to Don Quixote.
Jo's story gets an update in one of the extras, a 2010 two-parter from The Sarah Jane Adventures in which Jo Jones returns to meet Sarah Jane Smith, her companions, and Matt Smith's version of the Doctor. The story is mostly about updating viewers on Jo's life and features Sarah Jane talking about other former companions, including the now-married Ian and Barbara Chesterton (the two teachers who started out with the Doctor in 1963). It, too, has a commentary, with Manning joined by Sarah Jane creator and writer Russell T. Davies; there's some reminiscing about the now-departed Elisabeth Sladen.
Other features include "The One with the Maggots," a making-of; "Global Conspiracy?," a mockumentary hosted by Mark Gatiss; a visual effects segment which shows how to make your own giant maggot at home; interviews with writer Robert Sloman and actor Stewart Bevan; a Wales Today segment on Jon Pertwee's return to Wales to open a camping resort which replaced the mine where the episode was filmed; Doctor Forever: The Unquiet Dead, in which Russell T. Davies talks about regenerating the series in Wales; clips from Serendipity, a lifestyle interview show that Manning did after Doctor Who; and a photo gallery.
Whether you like The Green Death will depend on whether you already like the team of Jon Pertwee and Katy Manning. Newcomers to the classic series will have a lot of intriguing plots elsewhere to choose from.
If you're a fan of Jon Pertwee's tenure on Doctor Who, you'll want to pick up Doctor Who: The Green Death (Special Edition) to say goodbye to Jo Grant (and hello again in 2010). With tons of self-deprecating, humorous commentary, you may start to wish Katy Manning had done a lot more ad-libbing on the series. The effects are at their worst, but Jo's personal storyline and the features make it worth buying. If you're a maggot hobbyist, it's a special treat.
Not guilty. Where else can you learn how to make a giant maggot?
Review content copyright © 2013 James A. Stewart; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
Studio: BBC Video
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono (English)
* English (SDH)
Running Time: 153 Minutes
Release Year: 1973
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Photo Gallery
* PDF Content