Hulke, Malcolm - Doctor Who: The Green Death (London, Target, 1975, 141 pp)
The Doctor Who series, emerging as it did during the 1960s, always tended towards the progressive side of Science Fiction, but in the case of this episode and the subsequent novelisation it appears the hidden leftie moles at the BBC were really let loose. To wit- tension breaks out at UNIT, the UN affiliated military organisation the Doctor works for, when they are ordered to protect a petrochemical facility in Wales that has been coming under fire from local ecologists. Since economic rationalism has forced the closure of the town’s mines the local populace (made up of stereotypical salt of the earth Welshmen) are initially keen to support a new chemical facility, but suspicions grow after one of their number is struck down by a green fungus. Whilst the Brigadier (UNIT’s leader) is initially all too keen to take on the greenie commune dwellers the Doctor’s assistant Jo joins their crusade against the arch polluters.
What starts out as a relatively straightforward NIMBY hippies versus the Establishment type scenario soon takes on a number of bizarre twists including bullet proof mutant maggots chomping on humans and a mind controlling computer called BOSS "processing" people into corporate automatons. As things get heavy and the earth is threatening by the twin perils of a pollution related "green plague" and a computer led dictatorship even the straight laced Brigadier begins to question the role of multinationals and the need to blindly follow orders.
Novelisations as a general rule fail to live up to their source material, but in this case Hulke, working for the first and only time on an episode not of his making, did a sterling job. The characters and the plot are given new dimensions yet the feel of the original remains. The only real complaint would be the fact that a few key points were changed to keep various parties happy. Originally the Brigadier was ordered by the Prime Minister to lay off the evil polluters in order not affect foreign investment whilst in the novel it is merely BOSS the meglomaniac computer doing an impersonation. Similarly the name of the chemical facility was changed from Global to Panorama following complaints from a real existing chemicals company of the same name.
Despite these quibbles the vociferousness of the original plot is largely intact and one can easily imagine management at the Beeb bristling at such a blatant tirade against the corporate mindset with its none too subtle message that industrial by-products will bring forth new and terrifying dangers. Simplistic anti-corporate propaganda this series and book may be, but if only most anti-corporate propaganda was as enjoyable and witty as this. The chroma-key green slime and paper mache meets bin liner giant insects on the original show and the hilarious illustrations of giant maggots in the book don’t fail to score bonus points with the kids either.
"Jo couldn’t resist butting in. ‘Do you always use the word "man" when you mean "human being?’ The young man laughed ‘Oh very good! After that you’ll never believe that I support Women’s Liberation will you? But please try and pardon a slip of the tongue.’
‘Thank you’ said Jo ‘Now please continue.’ ‘Here at Wholeweal we’re trying to find out how to live a different way. We want to be human beings again- not slaves of machines and industry and finance.’ ‘Do you want a world without machines at all?’ asked Jo. ‘That would be stupid’ said the young man ‘What matters is the type of machines we use.’ ‘What’s your solution?’ ‘Solar energy’ he said emphatically ‘The sun is producing great quantities of energy and we could use it. Instead we burn oil one way or another and pollute the air we breathe. And we could use the movement of the wind and the tides and the rivers. Are you warm enough?'
Jo was surprised at the question. ‘Yes thank you.’ ‘Heat from the river’ he explained ‘We have a water wheel in the river at the back of the house. That drives an electrical generator and the electricity keeps the house warm. Alternative technology you use. No waste. No pollution. Now Panorama Chemicals hope to produce 25% more petrol and diesel from a given quantity of crude oil. Do you realise how they are going to do that?’ Jo shook her head ‘Not properly.’ ‘The process must be based on Bateson’s polymerisation. And that means thousands of gallons of waste. A thick sludge you can’t break down, it’s like liquid plastic.’ He paused ‘I think it’s connected with the death of Ted Hughes.’ ‘The green man?’ asked Jo ‘You mean they’ve been pumping this sludge down into the old mine here?’ He nodded ‘Could be.’ ‘That’s terrible’ said Jo. She looked around the makeshift laboratory ‘What exactly are you doing in here?’
‘Another side of our work’ said the young man. ‘Very soon the world is going to need something to replace meat. A high protein fungus could be the answer.’ He turned to her ‘Wholeweal isn’t a place for dropouts you know.’ ‘I didn’t imagine it was’ she said quickly."
Doctor Who website -
(Excellent guide to the various series)
Doctor Who novelisation guide -
(Reviews of the various books)