The Green Death will forever be known as The One With The Maggots and as the story that saw Jo Grant depart the series, never to return until her cameo in Death of the Doctor in The Sarah Jane Adventures. Yes the whole “green” angle of the story is perhaps a bit heavy handed looking back at it now but probably didn’t seem so back in the day. And what better way to warn against the dangers of pollution than by having it give rise to giant maggots, even if they do ultimately result in giant dragonflies, which really should have been wasps. A dragonfly isn’t exactly what you’d call intimidating, at least it isn’t to me, even if it is a big one, whereas a huge great big wasp, that’s cause for alarm and would have given a whole extra level of danger to the scene of Bessie being dive-bombed.
The fly is one of the least convincing effects ever so even before I started work on the edit I knew I was going to have to find a way to cut it out, so that the maggots snuff it when eating the fungus… and that’s it for their story contribution. And the story is a bit of a car crash of “pollution creates monsters” and “crazed supercomputer” and it doesn’t seem to know which is the real threat.
Still, I really like The Green Death, even if it is a little heavy-handed on the environmental side of things, but it isn’t without its flaws and not all of them are the production values. For instance, the opening Jo Grant scenes, especially the first one with her breakfast apple… that’s Katy Manning being Katy Manning and not Jo Grant, she’s not doing any acting at all and it`s quite a way into episode one before she remembers she’s meant to be playing a character and not herself. Okay so it’s her last show and her concentration was probably a bit off but even so… There’s sixteen minutes of footage from part one in the edit, including a slightly amended set of opening titles and a much quicker visit to Metebelis Three. When the Doctor turns up at Global Chemicals and the Brig comments that we can finally get on, we really can!
Most of part two is spent alternating between Jo and Bert in the mine and the Dr & the Brig buggering about trying to get cutting equipment so Jon can get down into the mine to rescue Jo and so, as you can imagine, in this version he gets down there a helluva lot quicker! Putting obstacles in your lead character’s way – like Stevens being deliberately obstructive – is the standard tactic for delaying the resolution of your story, particularly when you’ve got six episodes to fill, but all we’re really interested in is getting to the maggots, the supercomputer can wait. And, after just ten minutes of part two, we do just that!
If parts one and two got cut back a lot then part three bucks the trend by surviving more or less intact. Part two was all about getting into the mine and part three was nearly all about getting out of it. But this is where the Doctor picks up a polystyrene egg, so about the only thing you can cut back on is the less than convincing effects sequences of the Doctor and Jo punting through the mine in the cart. Part three is also where we get our first glimpse of BOSS, when he orders Stevens to “kill” Fell, the bloke from The Moonbase and The War Machines.
Having edited the first three eps, I then turned my attention to the final three, the ones where the problems start piling up. This was the point where I first considered doing this edit as a two-parter, something I haven’t done since, I think, The Invasion. Up until the maggot advancing on Jo, it’s all gone quite well really but this is where things start to go slightly off the rails. For a start, we’ve got Mike Yates going undercover, Pertwee in drag, Elgin replaced by Roy Skelton and that bloody dragonfly!
To take them one at a time, what the hell did Barry Letts see in Richard Franklin? Not only is he camp as a row of tents and the least butch army captain ever [cue Monty Python reference – “Squad! Camp it! UP!”] he’s a rotten bloody actor, so limiting his screen time is a priority. Nice person in real life, met him once in Edinburgh, but rotten actor. Next, Pertwee in drag…
We haven’t seen the Doctor dragging up since The Highlanders and The Underwater Menace, and it’s a misplaced, and mistimed, element of comedy in a story that’s taking a serious subject seriously, not tongue in cheek. Okay, so we’ve had the wonderful Talfryn Thomas [were he and Ken Dodd separated at birth, do you think?] and the rest of the Stereotypical Comedy Taffy characters doing their best Ivor The Engine to liven things up in the early stages but now we’re getting down to the serious stuff of Bye Bye Jo so it strikes me as not only out of character but out of place.
Elgin being replaced by “Mr James” we know was a necessity due to the Crossroads bloke getting the lurgy but it still works, since a compilation edit like this gives the impression that poor old Elgin is going to meet the same fate as poor old Fell. When it came to Stevens’ nobbling of BOSS, in the original the music stops early so we get a rather strange silent close up so I’ve tightened things up so the climax of the music cue leads straight into the explosion. And Terry Walsh once again shows why he’s a stuntman and not an actor.
That just left the dragonfly. In the end it wasn’t possible to get rid of it completely without leaving the maggots roaming around the Welsh contryside unchecked – the empty maggot shell is what leads to the “here kitty, kitty” scene where Benton gives them their din-dins. Without that sequence the maggots are still around so I had to settle for leaving in just a single shot of the dragonfly as Bessie drives past. It no longer attacks the car, it just puts in that brief appearance and that’s it. Let’s just assume that UNIT deal with it in the TV Comic strip “Dragonfly of Doom!” and move on…
A straight compilation of these last three episodes, with no cuts, runs one hour and eleven minutes. The first thing I did was to edit part six first, with all the material after the dragonfly tackled first and then the immediate lead-in to it. So instead of beginning, middle and end it was edited end, middle and beginning. After that it was parts four and five, which didn’t really cause any major problems. With all those cuts I managed to get these three episodes down from over an hour to just under it. And no matter how many times you watch it, there’s still something incredibly poignant about that ending…