The Green Death
The Green Death was the fifth and final story of the Doctor Who tenth season. The story is notable in that it marked the departure of companion, Jo Grant, played by Katy Manning. It also bore witness to a series of traumatic events for Captain Mike Yates and made him doubt his faith in humanity, which deeply upset him. His inability to deal with his doubts later led him to a path of rebellion.
In the Glamorgan county Llanfairfach, a colliery remains inactive after the post-industrial closure of its mining operations, A miner has visited one of the underground roadways for inspection. He is scared by a green substance which has infected him during his stay beneath the surface and he darts for the lift. Meanwhile, a Range Rover arrives at to a crowd of deposed workers formerly employed at the mining facility. A man steps out and addresses several miners. His company is introducing a new process that will greatly expedite their production of oil after the National Coal Board had to close down the pit because of coal’s dwindling industrial promises. The workers cheer vigorously, but are met with the sickened remarks from a band of protesters. One of them is a prolific troublemaker in these parts- Professor Clifford Jones, who believes the men are being exploited for their manpower. The workers are far from rapport toward his unpleasant words and start jeering at him to shut up. Instead, all voices are unanimously silenced by the sound of a warning whistle bellowing without stop. The miners know this means there is trouble at the pit, rushing off where an emergency awaits. The same mining worker has emerged from the shafts, collapsed dead with his hand wrenched firmly on the valve to blow the whistle. His flesh has been contaminated by a phosphorescent green substance.
The Welsh mining village of Llanfairfach is of little interest to the Third Doctor, who would rather take a challenging visit to the blue planet of Metebelis III than a trip to South Wales. However, Jo Grant reads a startling newspaper article about a corporate facility that is gearing up to cause a huge amount of pollution. She is keen to go to the village to meet the acclaimed environmentalist and Nobel Prize winner Professor Clifford Jones.
Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart arrives and tries to assign a murder investigation mission to the Doctor and Jo, but the Doctor firmly tells him no repeatedly, as he wants to be off to Metebilis III. Jo pleads her case with the Brigadier over the events she wants to deal with firsthand, but Jo is not impressed with the Brigadier’s siding with the corporate giant. She passionately protests that she would even quit UNIT if it interfered with her ability to go there firsthand. Luckily, Lethbridge-Stewart’s mission was to visit the facility- he is intrigued enough by the death of a bright green miner to drive her down. The miner was found in a disused mine, and the main source of employment in the village is now the Global Chemicals petroleum factory. Its boss, Stevens, promises prosperity for all, but Professor Jones and the other environmentalists at his “Nuthutch” are unconvinced. In light of the protests, Stevens accepts the Brigadier’s offer of additional security at his factory.
Stevens, however, is told by a voice that “nobody must go down the mine”, and zones out, muttering these words to himself when he speaks to his employee Hinks. When Hinks leaves his office, Stevens unsheathes a pair of large headphones and plugs them into a machine. An unusual sound begins whirring into his head.
Jo discovers the Nuthutch, home of the workshop where Professor Jones is engaged in eco-friendly exploits, but is taken aback by a strange fellow who welcomes his guest with eccentricities, micromanagement, and a patronizing attitude toward her. Annoyed with this person, she gives him a what-for, causing the man to lighten up and calm Jo down so she stops bumping into things inside an already crowded room. He shows Jo a new type of fungi that Nancy has been developing, Saliota Orbis. It is supposed to be a safe alternative to protein-rich meats. Jo figures out this man is really Professor Jones, and gets on well with him.
Professor Jones detracts the operations Global Chemicals is running, noting that “it’s still using up the oil and doubling the atmospheric pollution.” He suggests cleaner alternatives that harness the energy the sun provides them with, such as wind power and water power. Jones explains the Nuthutch has natural heating tapped from the river, through a heat pump working on electricity generated by a windmill. Jo learns the logic behind his use of alternative technology: no waste or pollution.
Jones goes on to hypothesize that Steven’s oil manufacturing process “must be based on Bateson’s polymerization, and that means thousands of gallons of waste. Aye, a thick sludge you can’t break down in any way, like a liquid plastic. And what properties that would have, heaven alone knows.” The professor wants to know what they’re doing with that waste, thinking it was possibly connected to Hughes’ death. Jo figures Global Chemicals could be pumping the waste down the old mine workings, and suggests the two of them should go explore it. Jones doesn’t seem to get the picture, and Jo insists they visit the mine now. Unfortunately, Jones’s abrasiveness gets the better of her when he calls her a child and says he has work to do. She storms out of his workshop, slamming the door on her way out.
Unbeknownst to the Doctor and Lethbridge-Stewart, Jo decides to venture down to the mine by herself, accompanied by a friendly miner called Bert. The Brigadier still arrives to investigate the death, suspicious about Elgin’s testimonial regarding their outstandingly clean and efficient oil production. He begins to grow weary after patching several calls to UNIT headquarters with no reply. The Doctor has weathered a violent excursion on Metebilis III and returns in his TARDIS with a torn jacket and dirt on his face. He finally answers the call after being derelict and rushes to Global Chemicals in Bessie, suited up in new clothes.
Once the Brigadier has explained the situation to his colleague, the Doctor orders that no one should go down the mine until he has personally inspected it. However, Jo has already gone down with Bert to aid another miner with her first aid skills. The man who went down before them was Dai Evans, wanting figure out what killed another miner that died pulling the emergency whistle for the shaft and was found glowing green. Now, he is starting to glow in the same way and has called for help.
The Brigadier and Doctor notice the mine shaft lowering mechanisms spinning from outside and bolt into the facility to stop the descent, upset that it’s Jo who has gone down before him. Even when the Doctor demands that Dave, the shaft operator, raises Jo and Bert back up, Dave can’t get the breaks to work. One of the Global Chemicals employees cuts the lift cable and they plummet towards the bottom of the mineshaft…
The Doctor reaches Llanfairfach, with a blue crystal to show for his visit to Metebelis III, and jams the lift in the nick of time. Jo and Bert are not harmed, but they are stranded in the mine. There, they find Dai Evans, one of the other miners, glowing bright green and terribly ill. It seems there is some serious pollution at work in the mine and they head off to find a way out. For anybody to get down to the mine to help them, cutting equipment is needed to cut the cables jamming the lift. Global Chemicals say they don’t have any such equipment, but a staff member, Elgin, knows this is not true. When Jones hears about Jo’s predicament, he comes to the mine to help.
The Doctor sneaks into Global Chemicals to steal the equipment but he is caught. One guard sees him as a bit old for a threat, but the Doctor jests, “I’m quite spry for my age, actually.” It doesn’t take him much effort to knock the guns out of his hands and properly throw several guards to the ground with his Venusian aikido, not fazed by their use of a baton. He takes the upper hand until four more arrive, this time armed with rifles, and fence him in. Fortunately, Stevens chooses to overlook the incident. By chance, the Brigadier finds somebody with cutting equipment in a garage, allowing the Doctor and a few mine workers to go down into the mine shaft. Things get worse when Bert finds a slick of green slime and touches it. He too seems to contract “the green death”. By the time the Doctor finds Dai, the miner is dead, and the Time Lord becomes very worried for Jo’s safety. Increasingly ill, Bert waits behind while Jo looks for a way out alone. The Doctor catches up with Bert, and finds Jo near a vast lake of green slime filled with giant maggots. When they try to go back, the tunnel caves in and more maggots emerge from the rubble.
The Doctor and Jo are trapped between a cave-in and the pool of maggots. They escape by wheeling a mine cart through the maggots, but they are still trapped in the mine. Back at Global Chemicals, Stevens is behaving very curiously. He is using strange headphones to listen to calming messages and when one of his employees, Ralph Fell, looks helpful to the environmentalists, he is somehow reconditioned with the same headphones and shortly afterward kills himself. Elgin saves the Doctor and Jo from drowning in the green slime when he helps them out of a shaft that links the mine and the factory complex — proving the link between the two. The Brigadier’s plan to investigate Global Chemicals further is cut short when he is ordered by the Prime Minister himself to let Stevens get on with it. Stevens evidently enjoys Cabinet support for his factory and its new plastic production process. The Doctor, Jo and the Brigadier end the day with a nourishing meal of fungus at the Nuthutch, but the frivolity is cut short when they hear Bert too has died. As the Doctor leaves, a maggot egg he brought back from the mine hatches, and the maggot inside creeps up on Jo, the girl none the wiser.
The maggot kills a Global Chemicals employee, who had come to destroy the egg, and escapes before any analysis can be made of it, leaving the Doctor and Jones to analyse the trail of green slime it left behind. The Brigadier receives orders to seal the mine with explosives and clear the area using UNIT troops. The Doctor realizes that this will only make the situation worse, but his plea to Stevens to allow an investigation is ignored. As the Doctor expected, the maggots simply burrow through and are now a threat above ground. Not to be intimidated by Stevens, the Brigadier sends Captain Yates into Global Chemicals, undercover as a Ministry official. The Doctor dons some improbable disguises, including a milkman and a cleaning lady, to get through the gates and move freely. Meanwhile, Jo has alienated Cliff, with whom she is falling in love, by ruining one of his slides. Determined to make amends, she heads to the sealed mine in search of a maggot to run some tests on. Having liaised with Yates, the Doctor learns that Stevens takes his instructions from the top floor of the complex, and heads there to find out who is in charge. The BOSS, or Biomorphic Organisational Systems Supervisor, turns out to be a supercomputer with its own megalomaniacal personality.
The Doctor speaks with BOSS, and finds out that it runs the company, controls Stevens and other key staff members, and is responsible for the polluting chemical process. The Doctor employs the liar paradox, a conundrum which will keep BOSS busy trying to find a solution, while he escapes. Unfortunately, he runs into Stevens and some guards before he can do so. He rejects the brain-washing technique that Stevens subjects him to – but Mike Yates is more susceptible and is converted into one of the computer’s slaves. After the Doctor escapes, Mike is sent to the Nutchutch to kill the Doctor. His conditioning is deep and only broken by the Doctor’s use of the blue crystal he brought from Metebelis 3. Meanwhile, Jones has worked out that the fungus Jo spilt on the slides is actually a curative and then sets off to stop her, but they are both caught in an RAF bombing raid intended to kill the maggots. Cliff is also infected with a maggot and begins to turn green — before he was able to share his knowledge of the cure. In a delirious state, he utters the word ‘serendipity’. Yates re-enters Global Chemicals, pretending to still be under BOSS’s control, but he is caught by Stevens, who tells him he just can’t depend on anyone.
Sergeant Benton brings an empty maggot chrysalis to the Nuthatch, revealing that the maggots are about to change into something else. The Doctor discovers that another maggot had died after eating Cliff’s fungus, meaning that it is deadly to them. The Doctor and Benton drive around the slag heaps and the mine, liberally scattering the fungus which kills all the maggots, and disposing of a deadly giant fly which attacks them. Returning to the Nuthatch, the Doctor discovers Cliff’s cure, and uses it to restore him to full health. The Doctor then returns to Global Chemicals to confront BOSS. The computer plans to link up with others and effect a corporate takeover of the human race. However, Stevens, whose conditioning is partially broken by the Doctor using the crystal, tells him to get out while he triggers an explosion which destroys himself, the computer, and the company headquarters.
The menace defeated, UNIT troops and environmentalists gather at the Nuthutch for a celebration made all the more special when Jo and Cliff announce they are getting married and then plan to travel the Amazon looking for a rare fungus, and that the United Nations (after Jo contacted her uncle) have decided to fund Wholeweal’s research: jobs will return to Llanfairfach after all. The Doctor offers his blessing to the couple and gives Jo the blue crystal as a present asking them to save him some wedding cake. However, as the party starts to get into full swing the Doctor quietly slips away, noticed only by Jo who understands why.
The Doctor, upset by the departure of his good friend, gets into Bessie and after one final look back at the cottage, sadly drives away. Jo and Cliff kiss, enjoying a tender embrace, while the heartbroken Doctor drives off into the sunset.