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Featuring the third incarnation of the Doctor--Jon Pertwee's patriarchal renaissance man--The Green Death is a solid addition to the Doctor Who canon. Originally broadcast in May 1973, it may now have dated a little, with its vegetarian hippies and "boyo" Welshmen, but it has all the elements of classic Who, the Doctor encountering green-glowing dead bodies, a shadowy mastermind, a global conspiracy, brainwashing, a megalomaniacal supercomputer and, of course, giant maggots.
This story, the final sequence of Pertwee's penultimate season, reached the TV ratings Top 10, and fittingly, met high production standards. The environmental message, while facilitating Who's ongoing individual-freedom motif, also proved prophetic in its warnings of globalisation and pollution. The special effects, though admittedly dated now, were good for their time and budget--the stop-motion photography of the maggots and the front-axial projection used for the pulsating green skin are particularly effective. The well-crafted script manages to combine monsters, punch-ups and cliffhanger endings with cerebral concepts, human drama and erudite references to Beethoven and Oscar Wilde--the single tear of the reformed villain as he destroys his paymaster is just one of the subtle touches distinguishing this work. The Green Death's six filler-free episodes belong to the Golden Age of Doctor Who, and their denouement is one of the most poignant in the series' long history.
On the DVD: the Beeb, as always, have gone to town on the picture, with the images and colours scrubbing up nicely for their age. Sadly there are none of the usual nostalgia-inducing contemporaneous news features, but there is an amusing mockumentary starring The League of Gentlemen's Mark Gatiss. The interviews with writer Robert Sloman and actor Stewart Bevan will also give fans some extra insights--particularly Bevan's revelation that the actors were discouraged from rehearsing the final scene so as to give it genuine emotional intensity. --Paul Eisinger
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