Friday, April 27, 2012


"Niiiiiiiiiiiiightmare fuel!"
"Perhaps it's all for the best."
"The Best? I think you'll find, Mr. Yates, that this is the worst day's work the world has seen for many, many years."

1) Oh. My. God. Is this thing preachy. Writer Robert Sloman seems so much more interested in talking about alternative fuels and the evils of corporate pollution and All The Things That Was In The Air Circa 1969 (never mind that it's some four years later) that the actual story frequently falls by the wayside...when it's not revealing itself to be much of a story at all. Like other 'issue' serials like The Sun Makers (Taxes are wrong!), the message gets in the way of what we want to watch Doctor Who for in the first place.

2) As someone who hates Jo Grant, you'd think I'd be happy to see the back of her...if only so much of this six episode serial is taken up by the romcom bullcrap that is Jo and her romance with Professor Clifford Jones, played by Katy Manning's then-boyfriend Stuart Bevan. From their awful 'meet cute' to the artificial 'complications to the stunningly bad endangerment sequence for the Professor in the last two episodes, this is a legendarily awful outgoing character arc in a series known for its awful outgoing character arcs. And a large part of why it's awful is because it takes up so much of the serial itself--take out the romance, and you've got a four, maybe even a three part story. For that matter....

"Here, Jo--I got you this crappy plastic crystal thing as
your wedding present."
3) Even taking out the Jo/Cliff romance, this serial is stretched out. As with all the six-parters I've rewatched so far, there are episodes that boil down to one thing that really doesn't contribute much to the story as a whole. Hell, episode two is literally all about The Doctor and The Brig searching for cutting equipment. If John Nathan-Turner did one thing right (he did a couple, to be fair), it was his abolishing of the six part structure when he became the producer several years later.

4) In critiquing past Barry Letts produced serials, I've been critical of their use of rural stereotypes. Maybe it's because this story is more obsessed with corporate stereotypes (which we'll discuss in a moment), but the rural types in this serial are much more successfully. They're more fully fleshed out, and a couple of them are actually pretty damn smart. And I especially appreciate how they may not approve of 'The Nut Hatch'--Professor Jones' commune--but they do accept them.

There are times like these when you wish your so-called
hero would just expire...but then we'd be left with the
annoying, squeaky doll-baby....
5) As with most Who serials, the special effects are a hit-and-miss thing. The long shot of the giant, disease-infected maggots (the 'Green Death' of the title) that are obviously tinted rice being knocked off a mound of dirt are pretty hilarious in their ineptness...but the more detailed models, apparently made from condoms and fox skulls, are really disquieting, especially when they snarl.

6) ...but that giant, ummm, dragonfly that one of these maggots morphs into is really, really silly looking. The damn thing looks like a pipe cleaner insect, and the fact that said insect chases The Brig and Sargent Benton around for the bulk of an's dire.

7) Of course, supposedly the major villain of this story is B.O.S.S., of whom I am not entirely happy with. While I really like the voice reading given B.O.S.S. by John Dearth, which has a lot of humor and nuance, the fact is this is another computer-gaining-sentient-evil. Not only is computers-gaining-sentient-evil a trope that was tired even back in 1973 (hell, I covered a more primitive version of B.O.S.S. in The War Machines), but the presence of this figure just doesn't contribute a damn thing. You don't need evil computers to foul up the environment!

8) And while we're on the subject--after five episodes of B.O.S.S. acting all chummy and corporate-y, we get this extremely rushed 'I wanna be Colossus: the Forbin Project' plot that gets literally shoved into episode six. It once again emphasizes how thin this story is, and is nothing more than a scrabbling to tie up all those loose ends with a lot of running around and explosions.

9) Look, I can buy the Pertwee Doctor getting all pally with Professor Jones. What I don't buy is how quickly and easily The Brig comes over to the side of The Hippie Tree Huggers (or in this case, Fungus Growers). It seems to me that this is Robert Sloman's sensibilities bleeding through to the point where already established characters are acting contrary to how they've been established as acting.

10) I suppose I should say a few words about the whole Metabelis 3 thing that takes up a large part of episode one, becomes a key gewgaw to defeating B.O.S.S. and is brought back to help finish another interminable serial, Planet of The Spiders. It...well, it is what it is, a plot device....although I think the whole Metabelis 3 sequence seems another attempt to stretch things out to unreasonable ends, especially given how the whole things seems built up just so we can get a lame punchline.

Overall...I know a lot of people hold this serial in high regard, but this is a bloated and sanctimonious serial that seems more interested in pushing its agenda on us rather than telling a good Doctor Who serial. Even dumping one of my least favorite companions does little to make me appreciate it.

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