Chapter 15. Doctor Who and the Green Death (1975)

Synopsis: Deep beneath the hills of a Welsh town, pollutants from a chemical factory have caused the deaths of local miners. Worse, the chemicals have transformed maggots into deadly monsters. Fighting the chemical company is an idealistic young professor, who’s unimpressed by a clumsy fool of a girl from UNIT who wants to join his cause. Meanwhile, the Doctor finally lands the TARDIS on Metebelis Three…

Chapter Titles

  • 1. ‘Wealth in our time!’
  • 2. The Doctor Plans a Holiday
  • 3. Land of My Fathers
  • 4. Into the Mine
  • 5. Escape!
  • 6. The Sluice Pipe
  • 7. The Egg
  • 8. The Maggots
  • 9. The Swarm
  • 10. The Green Death
  • 11. The Chrysalis
  • 12. One World, One People, One BOSS!

Background: Malcolm Hulke adapts scripts from the 1974 serial by Robert Sloman and (uncredited) Barry Letts. 

Notes: The Global Chemicals of the TV show is now Panorama Chemicals. Elgin gets a first name (Mark) and a job title (public relations), and he doesn’t disappear as in the TV version, so his TV replacement, Mr James, doesn’t appear. Hulke has a lot of fun with Metebelis Three, constructing a bit of a legend around it involving a lone Time Lord and then giving us an insane escapade involving unicorns and giant eagles. The Doctor keeps the Professor’s gang amused with stories of his journey to Metebelis Three, rather than that wonderfully incomprehensible nonsense about the perigosto stick from the telly. Jo speculates why the Doctor never married, or even if there are Lady Time Lords, while stating on the very last page that the Doctor is 725 years old. In the TV story, the actual term ‘Green Death’ is never mentioned; in the book it appears in descriptions and dialogue eleven times.

Cover & Illustrations: The first edition cover, by Peter Brookes, shows a giant green fly raining acid down onto the Doctor and Bessie while in inset, Jo recoils from a huge maggot. On the back cover, there’s another two-panel illustration, depicting Ted Hughes discovering the deadly green goo in the mine. There’s a similar illustration of that scene inside, one of six by Alan Willow, the best of which shows the Doctor and Jo in a mine-cart surrounded by maggots. I had Alun Hood’s 1979 reprint cover, which has a beautiful dragonfly stretching its wings across the bleak murky landscape of the mine, surrounded by maggots. This is the final Target book to have illustrations.

Final Analysis: The opening chapter explains why the coal mines are being closed (and how the miners feel about this), how Elgin views the locals (being university educated, he considers himself superior to them) and what Stevens thinks of everyone else. And Professor Jones and Dai Evans discuss the forces of production in relation to the mining industry and the people of Llanfairfach – before they’re interrupted by the first tragic event. Even in the climax, the Doctor worries about whether any of BOSS’s ‘slaves or semi-slaves died’ in the aftermath. It’s not too heavy-handed, but it leaves us no uncertainty as to where Hulke’s politics might lean.

How strange that Jo Grant’s final story follows her first in publication order. And is followed by the Third Doctor’s last.

One thought on “Chapter 15. Doctor Who and the Green Death (1975)

  1. I have this copy! I remember reading and being enthralled by Metebelis 3.
    Its a vivid read. BOSS is actually quite scary in the book and the tale rattles along.
    There’s even illustrations on the back cover too!

    Liked by 1 person

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