Monday, December 3, 2012

The Green Death

Dear Gary—

“So the fledgling flies the coop.” The Green Death is Jo Grant’s last appearance in Doctor Who. Jo was the perfect companion for Jon Pertwee’s Doctor. The Brigadier introduced her as a test tube passer and devotee; Jo quickly moved past that limited role and became a true companion. “You need me to look after you,” she tells him in the Mutants; and that is her strong point—she is a care giver, a mother hen, a nurturer. For an earth bound Doctor this was ideal.
However the Doctor is no longer earth bound: “I can now take the TARDIS wherever and whenever I like; I’ve got absolute control over her.”

Unlike companions of old, Jo Grant does not have wanderlust; neither is she rootless. Jo’s first experience in the TARDIS back in Colony in Space she tells the Doctor, “I want to go back to Earth.” Now that he has the TARDIS in proper working order he offers her “all the time in the world and all the space,” but she is more interested in aiding the cause of a Nobel Prize winning environmentalist she has never met, Professor Clifford Jones.
It is appropriate, therefore, that The Green Death is another UNIT story taking place on Earth despite the TARDIS being back in action. The Doctor does take a brief spin to Metebelis Three on his own while Jo and the Brigadier motor off to South Wales; however the Doctor eventually returns, a little battered and beaten, to help investigate the mysterious goings on at the Global Chemicals plant and the nearby abandoned mine.

The Green Death is a complex tale simply told.
“Doctor, it’s exactly your cup of tea; this fellow’s bright green, apparently . . . and dead.”

Simply put; and yet the trail of green death leads the Doctor, Jo, and the Brigadier through a well-crafted web of plot points.
The Doctor wants to explore the universe; the Brigadier wants to investigate the mysterious dead green miner; Jo wants to protest with her Professor. The Doctor wants an unwilling Jo to accompany him; the Brigadier wants a reluctant Doctor to accompany him; Jo is engrossed in a world of her own and is already mentally separating herself from the Doctor and from UNIT.

All three are led to the maggots.
“Well I never thought I’d fire in anger at a dratted caterpillar.”

The Brigadier wants to blow them up. Jo wants to capture one for her preoccupied Professor. The Doctor wants to get to the bottom of them.
The Brigadier still has not found a foe that yields to bullets. Jo just gets herself cornered in a cave surrounded by maggots with her useless Professor. The Doctor introduces himself to the BOSS (Bimorphic Organisational Systems Supervisor).

“I am the BOSS. I’m all around you. Exactly. I am the computer.”
A megalomaniac computer whose prime directive is “efficiency, productivity and profit for Global Chemicals of course.”

“You’re still nothing but a gigantic adding machine like every other computer,” the Doctor tells the comically insane BOSS.
The BOSS, overseeing this complex of plot threads while humming Wagner to itself.

“Wholesale pollution of the countryside. Devilish creatures spawned by the filthy by-products of your technology. Men . . . men walking around like brainless vegetables. Death. Disease. Destruction.” A simple summing up.
The Green Death is a morality tale against the evils of big business; against technology dependence; against mindless destruction of the environment. The Green Death is an adventure story. The Green Death is a romance. The Green Death is about a deadly green virus. The Green Death is about giant maggots. The Green Death is about a megalomaniac computer. The Green Death is a complex tale simply told.

And in the end The Green Death is a fitting fond farewell for Jo Grant. The romance is rather by the numbers as Jo stumbles and bumbles her way into the affections of Professor Jones, but the scenes at the Nuthatch nicely ground the story in the everyday moments of life, just as Jo is completely grounded on Mother Earth.
Jo adores the Doctor, but Metebelis Three does not call to her. She therefore transfers her affections to the closest thing to the Doctor she can find on her own planet. “In a funny way he reminds me of a sort of . . . younger you,” she tells the Doctor.

 I have to say, Gary, that I am not as impressed with the Professor as Jo is, but of all the twits she has flirted with throughout the series I guess he is as good a twit as any for her to settle down with. He won’t take her to Metebelis Three, but he will take her to the Amazon so I guess she has that.
Goodbye Jo Grant, soon to be Jo Jones. The Doctor gives her the blue crystal from Metebelis Three for a wedding present, and she looks wistfully after him as he departs, but her heart remains in her own familiar world.

It is a touching scene at the end when Jo and her Professor celebrate their engagement with their UNIT and Nuthatch friends as the Doctor quietly slips away to ride off solo into the sunset.
I have to say, though, that I am looking forward to the new chapter opening up as TARDIS travel has been restored to Doctor Who.

And so I will take my fond farewell, Gary . . .

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