One of the better Jon Pertwee stories and a great six-parter, The Green Death has a bit of everything. There's some spot-on humor, a menace that's actually creepy and scary, some solid sci-fi action, and the departure of a companion that's actually bitter-sweet. What's more, this six episode story doesn't drag in the middle or feel padded the way a lot of them do. This new Special Edition of the show offers a lot of great extras as well as a better image.
Having returned from Skaro after their last adventure, The Doctor is busy working on the TARDIS. He's determined to finally get to Metebelis Three, the Blue Planet, that he's been talking about for a while. He finally thinks he's gotten things sorted out, but when he invites Jo Grant (Katy Manning) for a ride she turns him down.
Jo has been watching a news show that's been highlighting the work that Dr. Jones (Manning's real-life boyfriend at the time, Stewart Bevan) has been doing protesting against the Global Chemicals oil plant while researching alternative sources of food. Jo wants to travel to
As events would have it, there's been a mysterious death in the Global Chemical coal mine, could it have something to do with Global's new oil refining process that yield's more gas with no pollutants? The Brigadier goes down to investigate and takes Jo with him, while the Doctor jumps in his TARDIS and heads off to the Blue Plant, which isn't quite as relaxing as he was hoping.
While this wasn't the very best Pertwee adventure, it ranks high on the list. The maggots are an effective and rather horrific foe for The Doctor to face, and they are much scarier than a guy in a rubber suit. Yes, some of the Chroma Key special effects look pretty wretched, especially when seen today, but just the idea of Jo and The Doctor paddling a make shift boat across a lake to toxic waste filled with giant maggots is chilling. The villain behind everything is a nice SF baddie, and while that type of antagonist has been done before (and often better) it still works well in the context of the show.
This is also the last series with Jo Grant as The Doctor's companion. There had been several times when it felt like Jo was going to stop traveling with the Time Lord (in the previous story, Planet of the Daleks, it seemed like they were going to write her out too) but this time she does and it's a melancholy ending to the adventure. Unlike the usual departure of companions in the classic series, The Doctor seems sad and the last shot in the final episode is rather poignant. After slipping away from Jo's engagement party with a glum look on his face, The Doctor drives his car Bessie off into the sunset. It's one of my all-time favorite scenes from the original series. Usually the Doctor would wave goodbye with a shrug, or it would be turned into a joke (such as when Sarah Jane Smith left) but this is much more appropriate. After spending seasons with a companion viewers grow attached to them and morn their departure too.
Speaking of humor, there's a good amount in this story too, something that wasn't usually emphasized in Pertwee stories. The depiction of Metebelis Three, a planet that The Doctor had been describing as a tranquil paradise, is hilarious, especially when you think of how many resources (and how much money) they spent in getting those few shots. The scenes of The Doctor trying to get Professor Jones away from Jo are very enjoyable too.
This release is a two-disc affair. The six-episode story is on disc one while the second one is reserved for the bulk of the special features.
This show comes with the original mono soundtrack that fits the show just fine. The dynamic range is nothing to write home about, but the dialog is generally crisp and clear and there is no background noise, tape hiss, distortion or dropouts. There are optional subtitles in English.
I was pleased with the full frame color image. The Restoration Team did their usual top-notch job, though it is not leaps and bounds better than the original release back from 2003, there is some improvement. I have seen the 2003 release and while I didn't do a side-by-side comparison, this version seems to be a bit more refined. The episodes look nice with solid colors, tight lines, and nice detail.
This two-disc SE has the extras from the original release and adds a few great items that makes this worth a purchase. First there is the commentary track with Terrance Dicks (script editor), Barry Letts (producer and co-writer), and Katy Manning (Jo Grant). There's also a bonus commentary track on episodes 3-5 with Richard Franklin (Capt. Yates), Mitzi McKenzie (Nancy) and Colin Mapson (visual effects designer) as well as Katy Manning and Russell T Davies teaming up for a track on episode 6. Great stuff.
Video extras include the aptly titled making-of special, The One with the Maggots, a nearly half-hour look at the creation of this show with various members of the cast and crew. Global Conspiracy is a pretty horrible spoof on the story where a reporter travels to the location where this adventure was recorded and talks to locals about the giant maggot infestation that occurred years ago. It's a cute concept, but that's pretty much the only joke and since it runs 11 minutes in length it quickly gets boring. Much more interesting are the interviews with Robert Sloman and Colin Mapson who worked on the special effects. There's also a clip from the news program Wales Today where Jon Pertwee returns to
In addition there is a pop-up informational text option which is very informative as always. It does give some dry statistics, like how many people viewed each episode, but there are also some interesting notes such as script changes that were made and background information on the supporting characters. The extras are rounded off with storyboard comparison, a trailer for the story, a photo gallery, and the listing from the Radio Times in .pdf format.
This series is a wonderful mix of humor, adventure, and even a touch of melancholy. The story moves at a quick pace and never gets bogged down the way most six-part stories do. Fans of the show who have the original release will have to decide if the superb extras are worth the price of admission but if you don't have this adventure yet picking this up is a no-brainer. Highly Recommended.