The Doctor has been pardoned by the Time Lords and is once again free to roam in time and space! In his most colourful season yet her faces a horror from his own mythology and meets up with his previous selves, the deadly Drashigs inside a miniscope, the Daleks pitting the Earth and Draconia at war, an army of frozen Daleks on Spiridon and giant maggots attacking from a mine in Wales!
The regulars -
The Three Doctors written by Bob Baker and Dave Martin and directed by Lennie Mayne
The Mighty Nose: Oh marvellous, another Pertwee adventure. I have nothing against the Pertwee years…indeed when I last did a marathon I watched all of the stories in order and of all the Doctor’s I would probably say he had the most consistently good era overall but now I am craving a bit of variety and add to that that this is hardly my favourite Pertwee story and I am suffering from UNIT fatigue. Continuing on from The Time Monster the UNIT scenes are almost painful in the first episode, totally unconvincing in throughout the weirdness of what is going on both the Doctor and Jo are so serious its all so earnest. Its not until Troughton pops out of nowhere that Pertwee finally gets a handle on the story and I love his furious reaction to his predecessors constant upstaging! All his life he has known of Omega and admired him as his people’s greatest hero (Really? He’s never mention him before…) Pertwee and Troughton’s tension and different ways of working means that their share the most magical chemistry. Imagine a whole season with the pair of them travelling together, Troughton constantly stealing the limelight? How many times in this story does the Doctor condescendingly tell Jo to ‘Do as I say.’ His ‘Take it!’ to Omega in the last episode is extremely powerful. He hopes that he wont meet himself again even if he has to agree that he was sweet. He thinks terrible about tricking Omega into his death, the only freedom he will ever know. In a surprise twist the Time Lords give the Doctor back his freedom and he’s now back in the time travelling game! Given the quality of the last three adventures lets hope some outer space larks will spice things up a bit.
Oh My Giddy Aunt: So my first exposure to Troughton, despite three seasons worth of stories, is in colour! Who cares? As soon as he turns up Troughton boosts this story to something very watchable, there is something about his giddy irreverence that I could just watch all day. I do find that in the three stories he appeared in after The War Games Troughton is often written as a parody of comic excesses but he is such a strong actor that he always provides a good time. He doesn’t like the newly done up TARDIS. He is very sweet with Jo and you could imagine the pair of them whisking off and having adventures. I love the way Troughton runs away from the fizzing blob of antimatter and pops his cute little head out of the TARDIS to see if it has gone. He takes great umbrage to being told he is the other Doctor’s assistant (‘His what?’). I love it in the last two episodes where he keeps going on about his recorder, trying to rile Omega and test his self control, that’s the wily old second Doctor I remember. He is incorrigibly frivolous.
Dippy Agent: Oddly enough after her ridiculous turn in The Time Monster Jo returns to the show as a highly intelligent young lady. Either the Doctor has been quizzing her over the summer or she has taken an Open University course. Okay so she still makes the tea and asks the viewers questions for them but she explains all about faster the light to the Brigadier and seems to be the only person talking sense in Omega’s palace. I loved her quiet squeaking about thinking she is dead, very cute. This is the beginning of the end for her character, throughout season ten Jo would start to grow up and gain her independence. She is distraught at the though of losing the Doctor at the end, flinging herself into Sergeant Benton’s arms.
Pompous Military Idiot: What has happened to the poor old Brig? I know people say there is a degeneration of his character but as far as I can see there is only two stories where he is portrayed as a comedy sitcom character, The Time Monster and The Three Doctors. He is still marvellous in Day of the Daleks and he returns to his gentler, more thoughtful persona in The Green Death but these two back-to-back stories really do see the character fall into something of a ten-episode rut. It looks like he is only good for stirring tea at the beginning! I did like his quick ‘Oh’ when Dr Tyler mentions that the Yanks and the ‘other lot’ have seen the x rays. What really grinds me is his resistance to the fantastical after everything he has seen. Sergeant Benton calmly accepts the idea of an old Doctor popping forward from the past and being transported to the universe of anti matter but the Brigadier like the comedy buffoon that he is thinks the Doctor has degenerated and that the whole of UNIT HQ has materialised in Cromer! Not only that but when he first walks into the TARDIS he thinks that is what the Doctor has been spending UNIT funds and resources on! He almost makes up for all of his pig headed ineptness when he salutes the two Doctor’s goodbye and gently says ‘Come on, Jo’ to force her to go (he has only ever called her Miss Grant before). He thinks they are both wonderful chaps. One Doctor is more than enough for him.
Sparkling Dialogue: ‘I am he and he is me’ ‘And we are altogether coo-coo-ca-choo?’
‘That’s why its been left to me and me and me.’
‘Mind you might say over antimatter…’
‘I was out for a stroll with my friend here when this horrible great jelly…!’
‘You’re talking about one of the most powerful blokes in the cosmos…nobble him?’
‘Not a bit of it old chap…we just want to avoid a long tiring walk was all!’
The Good Stuff: The fact that the Doctor calls in The Time Lords sells the danger of the situation far better than the actual events that are taking place. I screamed when Troughton turned up to lend the proceedings a healthy dose of insanity (and its lovely to finally see him in colour). I don’t care how forgetful or emaciated he is, it is wonderful to Hartnell again. The ‘Me!’ ‘Me!’ is hilarious; it’s all in the performances. The bits of the laboratory in the quarry is a lovely touch – I especially love the huge chunk of wall and the lab door! It’s an anomaly within an impossibility, a stable world in the universe of anti matter on the other side of a black hole (its all a scientific conjuring trick, you know). How on Earth did the writers think they could do justice to the whole of UNIT HQ being sucked into a Black Hole? I really like practically every thing we see from Omega. His back-story is fascinating, he was the solar engineer that found the power source and gave the Time Lords mastery over Time. Stephen Thorne’s impressively theatrical performance sells the importance of the character and the mask is pretty terrifying. The Singularity Chamber might look a bit naff but both actors walk towards it with absolute conviction and reverence. I love the slow motion, spookily lit scenes of the Doctor fighting the dark side of Omega’s mind but really they belong in a much better story than this one. Omega’s poignant, pointless existence is very well played, a prisoner of his own power. The scene where the two Doctor’s lift up his mask is thrilling because their reactions are so convincing. He exists only because he himself wills it so, he can only exist here in the universe of anti matter. Suddenly in the last five minutes the story becomes really serious and it is about saying goodbye to the Doctor(s) who have agreed to stay with Omega in order to free their friends and the Earth. There’s a Big Bang and the black hole becomes a supernova!
The Bad Stuff: What on Earth do ‘Ooh-argh’ Mr and Mrs ‘ollis contribute to this story aside from the last gag? The face in the X-Ray is hardly the subtlest of moments. The electronic effects hit an all time low with the fizzing colourful blob! The cosiness and lack of drama in the UNIT scenes can be boiled down to one moment where Benton walks in and say ‘Oh and there’s been an explosion in the garage.’ The Gell Guards…yes, I see them as a powerful representation of puberty, the way they pop out of no where like acne…hahaha…or perhaps they are the worst monster costume we have ever seen on Doctor Who! Impractical, unconvincing and totally farcical, the way they wobble about is hilarious (they even make comedy ‘burble burble’ noises!). The Time Lords as seen in The Three Doctors are dressed like drag queens and Gallifrey looks alarmingly like a kids pantomime set, all tacky multi coloured plastic and horrible swirly paint on the walls. Dudley Simpson’s music is not at its best here and we are still being subjected to that awful spunky ‘Bessie drives’ theme. Omega’s palace is less of an Aladdin’s cave and more of a Blue Peter Santa’s grotto (Omega must really have a pitiful imagination if that is all he can cream up!). The universe of anti matter turns out to be a dull looking quarry. All those characters piled onto Bessie like that look like a Goodies Doctor Who sketch.
Result: The Three Doctors really annoys me because there is a pretty good script here with some tasty ideas and witty dialogue between the Doctors but it is completely undercut by poor resources and some lazy direction. The scenes before Troughton turns up in episode one are practically unwatchable with everybody except Nicholas Courtney taking the madness of the Gell Guard threat seriously. You would have thought that all the resources of the season would have gone into making this anniversary story look as polished as possible but the truth of the matter is every other story in season ten looks better than this. Omega is a terrifying creation and his backstory is thrilling but his world is dressed up in gaudy pantomime trappings, which destroys his credibility. Poor Nick Courtney is handed some of his worst characterisation in this story and he really struggles to make it convincing. Hurrah for Patrick Troughton who manages to salvage something from this travesty, whenever he is on screen it goes from cheap old nonsense to magic: 5/10
Carnival of Monsters written by Robert Holmes and directed by Barry Letts
This story in a nutshell: In a nutshell? Are you kidding me?
The Mighty Nose: If Pertwee was going for the charm offensive this was be his greatest story. Remember when Terrance Dicks said that Holmes liked to give the actors what they wanted, well he peppers this script with enough moments of charm to make you think ‘there was another Doctor Who?’ It’s a great chance to see how much fun Pertwee and Manning had together and at this point their chemistry is electrifying. Is this the first time we hear that he is trying to get to Metebelies Three the famous blue planet of the Acteon group? Its so the Doctor to refuse to admit that he has gotten their first flight wrong even in the face of the chickens! He never judges by appearances and he never admits that he is wrong because that would be impossible! The Doctor has clearly become quite versed in the ways of the upper class gentleman and he made me roar with laughter at his ‘Hello! Topping day, what?’ and ’99 skidoo!’ and when Major Daly asks him if he wants a drink he goes for a large Scotch! The old fellow has some pluck and boxes by Queensbury rules, having taken lessons from John L Sullivan himself. After being chased around by the Drashigs he is starting to feel the centuries. Pertwee’s days as a showman are beautifully brought to life as he makes his ‘roll up roll up!’ speech. Imagine Hartnell making such a fuss to the Time Lords that they ban the Miniscopes as a crime against sentient creatures. The Doctor should give his lateral thinking speech to all bureaucratic institutions. ‘Doctor, you’re brilliant!’ cries Jo ‘I am?’ he replies. You better stop referring to him as the creature as he will likely become exceedingly hostile! They all admire his audacity standing up to the tribunal of Inter Minor but Pletrac refuses to listen to him since he is clearly a menace to public health! Marvellous audacity, look at his manner and his clothes – he must be in the carnival business! He’s certainly got style. The Doctor clearly loves a pretty girl and bows profusely before Shirna. I always chuckle at the scene where the Vorg tries out the carnival lingo on the Doctor and he stares at him a picture of confusion and says ‘I’m afraid I do not understand your language!’
Dippy Agent: I’m not sure if it because Katy Manning developed into the role or because they wanted to show that she developed as a person under the Doctor’s guidance but Jo feels far more confident this season. I have just watched The Claws of Axos where she was little more than something pretty to look at in the background but here she is right in the thick of the action; opinionated, resourceful and clearly enjoying every second of it. Poor Jo is frustrated by her stubbornness but at least got to make her chicken noise! Being a super secret agent like her friend Tara King, Jo obviously has a set of skeleton keys on her. She loves being with the Doctor because he makes her feel so young. I love her reaction to the Doctor trying to get her to wake up - ‘Not yet I’m only half cooked.’ Jo’s reaction to the peepshow concept feels very real, disgusted that people should be watching them for kicks. Jo is smart enough to tell the Doctor to stay hidden and let herself be locked up and then has a go at trying to get Claire to remember the loop she has been stuck in.
Sparkling Dialogue: ‘Our purpose is to amuse, simply to amuse. Nothing serious, nothing political!’
‘Human beings are slightly more intelligent than whelks!’
‘They’re great favourites with the children!’
‘Eaten? They ate a spaceship?’
‘Merciful and compassionate?’ ‘One has…twinges.’
‘Are you feeling a bit umpty?’
‘One has no wish to be devoured by alien monstrosities! Even in the cause of political progress!’
Put your finger on there’ ‘Here (SCREAMS!)?’ ‘Good that must be the live one.’
The Good Stuff: I really like the visual quirkiness of Kalik walking amongst the clouds. How unique Doctor Who is the crazy juxtaposition of the grey-faced planet in outer space and the sailing ship bobbing on the ocean? I have had acid trips that have felt less alarming than Vorg and Shirna’s costumes! I think its wonderful that they got to play about on a real boat, I love larking about on water and these scenes give the 1920’s scenes a real sense of authenticity. The performances are all sublime in this story but Leslie Dwyer and Tenniel Evans in particular have been superbly chosen, playing larger than life characters that it is extremely easy to warm to. The first episode has lots of delicious mysteries; an extinct monster, alien metal, a lost ship and a time loop – that Robert Holmes sure knows how to pique your interest. The chemistry between Peter Halliday, Michael Wisher and Terrance Lodge during their bureaucratic squabbles is gorgeous. You’ve got devious Kalik, cheeky Orum and jobs worth Pletrac. Amazing how just hearing the Charleston transports you back to the 20’s. The first cliffhanger comes completely out of the blue and is unforgettable. You’ve got to love the cheek of Vorg pulling the TARDIS out of the Scope! Shirna’s little tap dance and Kalik’s deadpan reactions (‘Bravo’) are laugh out loud funny. How cool is it to have the Doctor and Jo dodging bullets on the ship, we’ve never seen anything like this before. Like walking around inside a wristwatch, when you see the full extent of the Scope’s innards you can see how much effort has gone into it. Again Holmes is creating worlds out of words with talk of Inter Minor having defence pacts with all the neighbouring planets. I cheer every time that great spear comes from no where and the Doctor and Jo are watched on by a giant eye, we really haven’t had anything quite this quirky before. The growing TARDIS is a lurman secret weapon! Its easy to write the Drashigs off as puppets but they are actually extremely well shot to scare, I really love their fabulous gnashing teeth and saliva and their horrid slimy crawling gets me every time! Come episode three and the Doctor and Jo are on the run from the Drashigs in the swamps and I am mesmerised (and how funny is Vorg’s cheeky helping hand?). The Drashigs burst through into the Scopes innards with savage ferociousness and then tear through into the sailing ship on the Doctor and Jo’s scent – it is impossible to predict where this story is going! I love Major Daly’s pluck, grabbing for a Tommy gun and blasting the crap out of the creature that pops its head up for some sea air! All three cliff-hangers are incredible and they all push the story in a new direction.
The Bad Stuff: The opening scenes of badly dressed extras manhandling the cheap looking Scope is all the ammunition non fans need because Simon made me turn it off once at that point. The Plesiosaurus is pretty rubbery and a precursor to the monstrosities on display next years. The make up for the Tribunal is dodgy in spots.
The Shallow Bit: Ian Marter looks gorgeous in uniform!
Result: What a way to celebrate the Doctor’s return to travels in time and space! Carnival of Monsters has an incredible premise, the Doctor and Jo caught in the workings of a machine with miniaturised environments and runs with it. Barry Letts’ gives his best ever direction in this story, enjoying the visual splendour that the writing affords and driving some sublime performances from his extraordinary guest cast. After three less than stellar examples this story reminds us of what Doctor Who is really about, big ideas, huge laughs and thrills and spills. The Pertwee/Manning relationship is at its height and effortlessly watchable and the Doctor and Jo both get great chunks of the action. It might have the odd duff effect here and there but this is about as magical as Doctor Who comes: 9/10
Frontier in Space written by Malcolm Hulke and directed by Paul Bernard
TO BE REVIEWED...
Planet of the Daleks written by Terry Nation and directed by David Maloney
The Mighty Nose: Has the Doctor ever been on his soapbox more than he is in this story? Its almost as if he has been practising a number of commanding, thought provoking speeches in front of a mirror and just couldn’t wait to get them all out wherever they visited next. Fortunately the Time Lords realised this and sent him to Spiridon where he could spread his anti-war/pacifist/heroism/bravery message! Pertwee drones out the moral in episode six, I’m surprised he didn’t stare right at the camera and address the kids directly! Its nice that he admits how much he enjoys killing a Dalek even though he deplores violence; it makes him a flawed hero. There is a couple of moments where I stifled laughter…when Codal and the Doctor are trying to pool the contents of their pockets to try and escape he pulls out a silk cloth and declares ‘Fancy hankie!’ Also we get to experience Pertwee of Arabia, screaming ‘Aieeee!’ and waving his flaming torch about.
Groovy Chick: Very impressive to see Katy Manning take centre stage in episode one, she is clearly far more comfortable in the part than she was in The Claws of Axos and the script offers an independent Jo who will venture onto an alien world alone to help the Doctor. She hardly interacts with another character until episode four! When she is reunited with the Doctor its really rather touching especially since both thought the other was dead. Her incoherent babble as she tries to explain her adventures is really cute. Latep is so agonisingly wet only drippy Jo could ever fall for him. I do like it when Jo turns on the Doctor and insists that she is going to risk her life to help, she has been slowly gaining this independence for many stories. Planet of the Daleks features Jo’s second proposal in the show and the third is coming up! She tells the Doctor she wants to go home.
Dreadful Dialogue: ‘If I have to die I want it to be for more than providing nourishment for a flesh eating tentacle’ and other such macho nonsense that wouldn’t look out of place in an Eric Saward script.
The Good Stuff: I love how we pan around the jungle in black and white (almost a literal homage to The Daleks) and the sudden shock of the gunk spitting on the scanner. Pretty much everything about the fungus plants is superb, an original Terry Nation creation, and they rather wonderfully cover the TARDIS door in hardened foam. The lighting in the jungle is really moody in the early episodes (and the sound FX help to sell the idea that the jungle is abundant in wildlife) but it really should have been shot on film ala Planet of Evil (also Maloney directed). There is much scoffing of the end of episode one but has anybody stopped to think that maybe he is less concerned that there are Daleks on the planet and more concerned that they are invisible? The pace is so languid that when the Daleks show up it livens up considerably. They blow the bollocks out of the Thal ship and the Doctor’s reaction makes this good drama. Most of episode three is very dynamic, especially in comparison to the rest of the story. The molten ice is another old school style plot device but it handled very well, the ice tunnels (shot on film) look very authentic and it’s a refreshing change of location. The torrent of slimy horrid ice is rather effective. Fantastic lighting throws a Dalek shadow on the city wall to signal their pursuit. The Doctor’s plan to float away from the Dalek City is absolutely absurd but it looks great, especially when they are pursued by the anti-gravitational Dalek. I know Terry Nation loves it but is this the first story where we he uses biological warfare? There is some really epic storytelling at work, matched only by the previous excursions into stories of this length (Masterplan, The Invasion, The War Games). Frontier in Space sets the universe alight with warfare between Earth and Draconia and then dispatch their 10,000 strong army to pick off the survivors and invade. The Dalek Supreme music is fun and bouncy and far better than the Simpson dribble that plays through the rest of the story. It would be easy to criticise the toy Daleks but what else could they do? When the Doctor jumps down amongst them, dozily bashing together, it really helps to sell the visual. Conceptually the ice volcano smothering the Daleks is awesome.
Never let it be said that I have no sense of humour – Planet of the Daleks is a far better comedy vehicle for the Daleks than The Chase. Much of my entertainment in the latter episodes was in watching these inept Daleks having rings run around them. It all starts with the drunk Dalek who crashes into the wall and moves on to the Dalek who glides along the corridor as though he is going for a stroll. ‘Prisoners located!’ one screams and all their eyestalks shoot upwards like a Hitler salute! One Dalek proudly holds out a post it note on the end of his sucker but how does he read it? Jo spins a Dalek as though she is doing the hokey pokey! When the bacterium is released two of the teenage Daleks have an absolute hissy fit about being grounded. ‘You are late!’ screams one as though he has been stood up for a date. One Dalek shoots off the set like a bullet out of a gun as though the operator has been told its lunch break time. You have to feel so sorry for the section leader Dalek who babbles out his excuses as to why he is so lame at his job before being shot dead. Typical men, the Daleks barge and bang against the doors when trying to budge it. This stuff should be hideously embarrassing but honestly, it’s the most enjoyable material of the last three episodes!
The Bad Stuff: Ugh, the Doctor has tacky MDF furniture in the console room! How cold would you have to be to get layers of frost on your face? Episode one is very sixties; a lot of atmosphere but little content and whilst David Maloney tries his damdest to make it work it still feels a little empty. Is this the first appearance of the Prentis Hancock frown? Why does he always play the bullies? His scenes are so exhausting because he is merely a plot function (to get in the way) rather than a character. I would have liked to have seen Hancock played Tarron against type. Invisible aliens, again? No wonder they liked inviting Nation back – he’s so cheap! The Thal spaceship is the ultimate wobbly set…this time deliberately so. I really hate that old school storytelling that pre-empts the drama (there is an especially bad example here where the Thals tell the Doctor ‘Thank God you weren’t sprayed by the fungus plants!’ and we cut to a scene of Jo who has been sprayed). The second wave of Thals arrive in the cheapest spaceship landing ever, a light and some wind…we don’t even see it! Episode three looked far more atmospheric in black and white despite the superb efforts of the restoration team. Marat is the Doctor Who equivalent of a Star trek red shirt, he just turns up to be murdered. Honest to God Jo would suffer brain damage had she been hit on the head by such a huge chunk of rock! Luckily it bounces. The idea of the Plain of Stones as night time storage heaters is very nice but its execution, polystyrene rocks and hilarious glowing eyes, is dreadful. This is Bernard Horsefall’s weakest performance in Doctor Who but that’s all down to the script that makes Tarron far blander than Gulliver or Goth. I can handle some pretty ropey studio to film cuts with only a mild suspension of belief but the shift from the verdant plastic jungle to the slate grey quarry ice pools is utterly unconvincing. The cliffhanger to episode six, the Dalek spotting the boots under the furs, shows the writer has completely run out of tension building devices and needs to wrap the story up. The Dalek’s bottle cap spaceship explains why we never saw the Thal ship descend. Latep is such a vacuous bloke, he has no character at all besides fancying Jo and the second she turns him down he walks away, his function completed. The Dalek Supreme’s halfhearted ‘The Daleks are never defeated!’ sounds as though even he can’t bring himself to believe it.
The Shallow Bit: I love Jo’s season ten look, she has flowing golden locks like a young Goldie Hawn. Why can’t I be stuck in a cell with Codal, what a blond beauty! Pertwee looks so suave in his gorgeous purple velvet jacket. When he adorns a giant purple fur he looks like a horrific drag act! The Dalek Supreme with his glowing eye lens is very glam – he is such a bossy Diva.
Result: You can see how an eight year old might think this was the most exciting thing ever (well eight year olds an Terrance Dicks!) but placed in season ten which had far more sophisticated plotting and themes it sticks out like a nostalgic throwback to the sixties. The best thing you can say about the story is that it’s competent, the writing and direction are both distinctly average despite some nice touches in both cases sprinkled about. As an anti war message its far too smothering and as an action adventure it is way too static. Oddly the recently coloured episode three proves to be the best of the lot, a genuinely dynamic rescue through the Dalek City but it means that the remaining three episodes feel like an anti climax. Its not the best use of the Doctor and Jo either despite the latter getting the bulk of the action in episode one because they spend so much of the story apart considering they would be torn away from each other in the next story. Its quite fun on a kitsch level and as mentioned if you can adjust your mind into the frame of an eight year old you might get something more engaging from this: 5/10
The Green Death written by Robert Sloman and directed by Michael Briant
This story in a nutshell: Evil corporation Global Chemicals pours waste down the mine and turn cute little maggots into giant monsters!
Good Grief: A superb showing for the third Doctor, showcasing Pertwee as an actor who can pull off comedy, drama and emotive material with equal panache. I love the early sequences in UNIT HQ with the Doctor and Jo talking to each but neither listening ‘to a word I say!’ because their chemistry together positively sparkles. Bright green and dead is apparently exactly his cup of tea! He really gives it his all to tempt Jo into the TARDIS and is quietly devastated when she refuses. Its astonishing that Jo who he wanted to get rid of when she first bumbled into his laboratory all those years ago should capture a place in his heart in a way that his previous assistants haven’t. I guess she helped him through his exile in the same way Rose helped the ninth Doctor through the trauma of the Time War. Come to think of it Rose is the next companion he has such a shocking reaction to losing. There is a real feeling now that because the Doctor has a functioning TARDIS he can refuse the Brigadier’s petty assignments at least at first but feels duty bound to turn up later once his point is made (‘I wouldn’t like to have to order you Doctor’ ‘I wouldn’t advise you to try…’). Once he finally decides to leap into action he does so in style, jabbing a crowbar into the works and sparks dancing around him. He shakes Cliff’s hand and tells him that he is impressed with his work. Kicks the shit out of three security guards without even breaking a sweat! The look on his face when he walks in on Jo and Cliff smooching speaks volumes and he tries to impress her with the blue crystal he brought back but she barely registers and so he drags Cliff away deliberately. A political hothead and scientific charlatan? The scenes of the Doctor confronting Stevens and Mike show Pertwee at his serious best, the man who brought some meaty drama into Doctor Who. The Doctor looks gorgeous in his red waistcoat; it is a very stylish look for him. Pertwee’s welsh milkman is comic genius and you can tell he loves the chance to drag it up as the cleaning lady (his waving of the duster made me splutter my tea!). The difficult thing is to stop him from talking. ‘It is no use begging for mercy Doctor!’ ‘Oh I’m not, I’m just doing a few sums to stop me getting bored.’ I love how in two stories in a row he gets a bouffant fluffer, here courtesy of BOSS and in The Time Warrior courtesy of Linx. He’s the milkman vandal from hell, smashing crates and bottles left and right as he careers down the road! His reaction to Cliff proposing to Jo is really awkward, finally somebody has succeeded in taking her away from him. Their goodbye scene is desperately sweet, both actors clearly holding back the tears. He’s never felt this heartbroken about somebody leaving before so he downs his champers and leaves quietly to avoid any fuss (and the look Jo gives the closing door is devastating). There is a real sense of a lonely old man losing the love of his life, driving off into the sunset.
Groovy Chick: Chomping on an apple, reading her paper and decked out in a gorgeous trouser suit you really can see that Jo has grown up. She stands up to the Brigadier and determinedly heads of to Wales to fight for a cause she believes in. Professor Jones reminds her of a younger Doctor. Jo’s initial scenes with Cliff carefully mirror those of her introduction to the Doctor, she’s dizzy and accident prone and utterly adorable. Jo is genuinely thrilled about Cliff’s treasure map and the thought of travelling up the Amazon, it’s as close to the thrill of travelling with the Doctor without actually stepping foot of the Earth. Both the Doctor and Cliff try to comfort Jo when she is distressed at the news of Bert’s death but Cliff wins out. His gentle fireside intimacy would charm any girl! He gently touches her and they end up kissing, you can watch their relationship evolving beautifully. ‘I know I’m cloth headed’ ‘That’s alright love not your fault’ Trust Jo’s blundering solving the whole issue of the infection! I love how the story manages to portray her as cloth headed as ever but still resourceful and very brave. She wants to go with Cliff more than anything in the world and readily accepts his marriage proposal. She’s using her Uncle again, this time to get unlimited funding for the nuthutch.
The UNIT gang: ‘Cheap petrol and plenty of it!’ is exactly how the Brigadier would react to the idea of Global Chemicals! He seems almost paternally proud of Jo when she mutinously heads off to Wales to follow her beliefs. In a story that really domesticates the Pertwee era it is wonderful to see the Brigadier in civvies and driving around in a sports car. The Brig proudly tells Cliff that Jo works for him and she can take care of herself, his feelings for her are clearly beyond professional and they really leak out in these scenes. He is brilliantly out politicked by Stevens, the Prime Minister chewing his ear out! The Brig makes a charming dinnertime companion, stolidly determined that what he is eating is beef and raising his eyebrows at Cliff’s Amazonian plans. Mike turning up as the Man from the Ministry comes as a real surprise and its great that the Brigadier is thinking on his feet once again. I couldn’t help but laugh at the Doctor bibble bibbling his chin after he accidentally hypnotises him! Mike is a trained soldier but is turned against his superior officer. Once they have broken through his control he is very brave to go back to Global Chemicals. Benton’s unbelievably funny ‘here kitty kitty kitty…come and get your lovely dindins!’ made me howl with laughter (the Doctor’s ‘Sergeant Benton!’). When Jo and Cliff announce their engagement Mike looks devastated for a second before congratulating them and the Brigadier quietly says ‘never mind Mike, lets have a drink’). Benton and the Brig kiss Jo and they all celebrate their engagement in style, drinking and dancing. You really get a sense of family with the five of them throughout.
Sparkling Dialogue: ‘The best? I think you’ll find Mr Yates that this is the worst days work the world has seen for many, many years.’
‘I never thought I would fire in anger at a dratted caterpillar!’
‘If I were to tell you that the next thing I say is the truth but the last thing I say is a lie, would you believe me?’
‘Freedom from fear! Freedom from pain!’ ‘Freedom from freedom!’
The Good Stuff: I love the Metebelies 3 sequences, bleached in sapphire light, as the Doctor is assault with every prop, piece of stock footage and monster in the cupboard! The domestic scenes of Jo exploring the Nut Hutch with cheesy sax music piped in the hallway are exactly the sort of domestic scenes we should have had throughout early 70’s Who. This is the most moral driven story we have had and the scenes intercut between Cliff and Stevens (‘No waste, no pollution’) really drive home the idea of how we bury our head in the sand as to the waste products of our luxuries. Alternative technologies, solar power, windmill, Jones’ romantic vision is very attractive. Stevens is somehow both officious and charismatic, a hard act to pull off in Doctor Who (and wearing those headphones!). Some people might have found them stereotyped but the mining characters are brought to life by some of finest Welsh actors in the 70’s. The hippy demonstration is great (although it does make me laugh now the Doctor can nip over that fence in a crane and not be seen but as soon as he walks across a field he trips a foot sensor!). The maggots are given fantastic build up in the infection, the green light in the mine and the smell of something rotting, it’s a good thing that the pay off is so good. The shots of the giant maggots swimming in the green goo and filling the mineshaft are some of the most memorable of the era (and certainly worthy of a ‘good grief!’ from the Doctor). Their hissing, snarling teeth make for a great cliffhanger. I love how Stevens bests the Brigadier politically and then shares a cigar and whiskey with him, now that’s style! A computer talking about suicide as self-destruction is really scary. The camera parts a beaded curtain and closes in on a gorgeous dinner scene (with lovely flute playing) featuring the Doctor, Jo and the Brig at their finest. Isn’t it wonderful how the maggot notices Jo and stands to attention? It’s another super cliffhanger. The BOSS is the finest mad computer we ever had on Doctor Who; kicking the crap out of the Master Brain, the P7E, Mentalis and all the others…he’s witty, funny, deeply insane and sings when he gets excited! There is a brilliantly scripted telephone conversation between the Brig and Yates where he manages to answer all of his questions without giving the game away. They let off some pretty impressive explosives; flame blossoming out of the coal! Mike pulling the gun on his friends and the Doctor saving him with the crystal introduces two elements that would be very important next year. I really like the strained relationship between Stevens and BOSS, the former is simply an instrument but one with a conscience that is slowly asserting itself (what I love is how the BOSS quietly mocks him for feeling). Come the last episode they really have perfected the Green Death effect and the rash on Cliff’s neck looks really nasty. How funny is BOSS’ connect song?
The Bad Stuff: As an example of the effect of chromakey, this is probably the worst ever going up in the lift fakery ever committed to film. For similar effects disaster see the Doctor and Jo punting through the maggots! The Welsh milkman is a walking cliché. The cleaning lady gives the cringe worthy performance of the era (‘Oh no!’). How funny are the maggots popping out of the coal? Did they run out location filming time because there are some really awful location backdrops? Episode five is where the padding really shows, but that’s charming padding. Mr James turns up from nowhere and only sticks around for one scene before dying! Where has Mr Elgin gone? Has he got chicken pox?
The Shallow Bit: Cliff is not only a really attractive hippy scientist but he’s also really sensitive too! Do such men really exist?
Result: Jo’s swansong is a very memorable story, The Green Death closes season ten in superb style. Her romance with Cliff is believably written and acted and the closing scenes of this story are achingly poignant in a way we aren’t used to in classic Who. Its one story that slows its pace right down to make room for fine character work, realistic details and a very worthwhile moral. The Hinchcliffe era would never stand for a story as slack as this one but it wouldn’t have character work this strong or an atmosphere this infectious and glowing either. The maggots are awesome and provide some wonderfully icky moments and I adore John Dearth’s effortlessly cool BOSS. However as good as the environmental message is what I remember this for mostly is the tear jerking scenes as the Doctor loses Jo, he will break you heart before the show is over: 8/10