5 December 2018: It Takes You Away review added.
26 November 2018: The Witchfinders review added.
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THE GREEN DEATH
"At least we can analyse this slime."
The Green Death seems to be generally considered one of the great Pertwee classics. But we're not so sure.
Firstly, all the eco stuff. Granted, there was less concern about the environment then than there is now, but frankly, the idea that pollution is a Bad Thing was hardly cutting edge even then. Yes, it's very very important and worthy, etc etc, but isn't it all just a little bit... obvious?
Then there's UNIT, reduced (with the exception of Mike Yates) to cartoon soldiers with Colonel Blimp as their commanding officer. These men used to be an impressive fighting force - scenes with their bodies scattered across the landscape are some of the most horrifying in Who - and the Brigadier was a sinister and powerful figure. Now UNIT are light relief and the Brigadier is a buffoon whose chief task seems to be disbelieving the Doctor and rushing in where pacifists fear to tread. As for Benton shouting "here, kitty kitty" at the maggots, we're still in therapy. What a waste.
And the whole BOSS theme is truly ghastly. Apart from being completely unlikely (exactly how was it planning to take over the world, anyway?), it's ripped off wholesale. We've seen this concept a million times before, with the most notable sources being 2001 and Who itself (The War Machines). The Doctor even uses a logical conundrum to trip the computer up just as the First Doctor did. Argh.
But what Green Death is most famous for, of course, is the fact that it's Jo's farewell. There's all that lump-in-the-throat fledgling flying the coop stuff, and that touching scene where Jo turns to her lover as the Doctor slinks sadly into the night. Aaaaaah. But should we really be choked up? Let's look a little closer.
There's no doubt that Jo and the Doctor get on well - it's the most obviously affectionate relationship between a companion and a Doctor in all of Who. But the basis of the relationship is in fact pretty suss. The bottom line is that it works because Jo allows the Doctor to patronise her, push her around and generally treat her like a six year old. Why she puts up with it is unclear, although our guess is a lack of self-confidence and a strong father fixation.
The one-way nature of the relationship is even clearer in this than usual. The Doctor wants Jo to go to Metebilis III with him, but she wants to go to Wales instead. The trip is clearly important to Jo ("Don't you understand? I've got to go!"), so does the Doctor give in and let her have her way for once? Does he heck as like. He buggers off to Metebilis III anyway in a sulk. (Where, incidentally, there's a nice sequence of him getting into trouble that underlines that he's as dependent on having a companion as the companion is on him.) It's clear that the Doctor's fondness for Jo is heavily dependent on her going along with what he says, and when she contradicts him he abandons her without a second thought. It harks back pretty chillingly to the previous adventure in which the Doctor seems pretty unruffled when he thinks that Jo is dead.
The suggestion that Jo is a fledgling who has flown the nest is pretty ironic considering that she hooks up with a man who treats her in exactly the same way the Doctor does. It's disappointing: in some ways Jo does develop as a result of her time with the Doctor (she's a lot more confident about strolling around alien planets than she was at the beginning, for example), but in terms of her relationships with men, she hasn't changed at all. In fact, the writers go out of their way to make this clear, drawing thwacking great parallels between the way she was when she first met the Doctor and the way she is with Cliff. She's just swapped one father figure for another, with the bonus that she's allowed to sleep with this one.
There's a lot of stuff here that makes it clear she's simply being transferred from one man to the other: when the miner dies, for example, the Doctor comes over to pat Jo's shoulder, but Cliff is already holding her hand.
We can't say we're too misty-eyed about the prospects of her new relationship, either. Considering that Cliff treats her like a backward toddler and she responds by acting out like a rebellious teenager, it's not looking too good.
It didn't have to be this way. Jo shows in The Curse of Peladon that she's more than capable of thinking and acting for herself. But this is clearly too much for most of the writers, who insist on dragging her back to her stupid, giggling baseline.
We have to admit, though, that for a patronising, controlling Doctor she's the ideal companion. She might have put feminism back a couple of centuries, but the scenes that show her closeness to the Doctor are genuinely touching. Despite our cynicism, we were wiping away the odd tear.
As for the rest of it, it's a mixed bag. Maggots: good. Welsh miners: bad. Mind control: boring. CSO: appalling. Overall, a lot less impressive than its reputation, but redeemed despite our reservations about the Doctor and Jo's relationship by the genuine emotion of their parting.
MORAL: Green slime. Itís never good news.
NOT THE UNIT DRESSING-UP BOX AGAIN
Why do they always give UNIT personnel such horrible civvies? We like the Brig's convertible Mercedes, but God, that flat cap and car coat...
MAY INDUCE NAUSEA
We suppose the repartee between Jo and Cliff is meant to be adorable, but we just find it sickening.
WHO SAID THAT?
"The ambient temperature suits me fine, thank you" is a Jo line?
SINCE YOU PUT IT THAT WAY
The Doctor asks the miner to stop the cage and he refuses. The Doctor asks again, without advancing any other reasons, and the miner immediately complies. Huh?
IT'S AGAINST THE LAW, YOU KNOW
Why is the Brigadier so feeble about commandeering the cutting equipment from Global Chemicals?
I'M JUST A GIRL
Jo is embarrassingly pathetic in the mine, particularly after her determination to get down there.
OH WELL, WHATEVER
The Doctor tells the miners not to touch Dai Evans's body, then a few seconds later a miner gives the order to take the body up to the surface and the Doctor blithely lets them get on with it.
THUNDERBIRDS ARE GO
Why do people whose minds have been taken over always speak as if their mouths are being operated by strings?
DATING FROM THE POLYSTYRENE ERA
The geology of Wales is clearly similar to that of Spiridon, going by the rocks the Doctor and Jo squeak their way past in the emergency shaft.
Why do Cliff and Jo touch the dying guy from Global Chemicals when they know what happened to the miners?
YOU'RE SUCH A KILLJOY
The Brigadier wants to blow something up and the Doctor implores him not to. Again.
STOP. PLEASE. WE'LL DO ANYTHING
The Doctor in drag is a horrifying sight. No wonder kids were hiding behind the sofa.
THAT'S THE LAST TIME WE BUY AN ALARM OVER THE INTERNET
How come the intruder alert system only seems to work when it's convenient for the plot?
ALL TOGETHER NOW
Oh, no! Not the mind probe!
AND THEN YOU'LL BE SORRY
We wouldn't mind Jo's insisting on going down the mine and on getting a maggot so much if it weren't for the fact that both times it's a completely fruitless endeavour that ends up with her having to be rescued. Do the writers have to make her quite so useless?
THAT'S JUST WHAT THEY'D EXPECT US TO DO
The Doctor insists on going into Global Chemicals alone. Why? Surely they'd stand a better chance of succeeding in the time available if they all had a go? And anyway, why all the faffing about with Stevens? Why don't UNIT just overpower Stevens and pull the computer's plug out of the wall? Come to that, why don't they just turn off the mains?
IT WAS OUR FAG BREAK
The Doctor tells the Brigadier that if he's not out by four minutes to four to come in. At two minutes to, the Doctor races out of the building to find the UNIT bunch all relaxing and admiring the scenery.
IT'S THE THOUGHT THAT COUNTS
Not exactly a carefully-selected wedding present, is it? What's Jo supposed to do with it? And anyway, isn't it a bit churlish not going to the wedding?