When a men is found dead in a mineshaft & his corpse turned green, UNIT -
United Nations Intelligence Task Force, the section of the UN dealing with the
unexplicable & unexplained - is called in to investigate. So, UNIT's
leader, the Brigadeer (Nicholas Courtney) & his scientific advisor, Doctor
Who (Jon Pertwee), in reality a time travelling alien from planet Gallifrey,
start their investigations at Global Chemicals, the corporation responsible for
the mine - where it dumps its waste from its new & highly polluting oil
refining process. Fellow UNIT agent & the Doctor's assistant Jo Grant (Katy
Manning) meanwhile hooks up with professor Jones (Stewart Bevan - then Katy
Manning's real-life boyfriend), an ecologist & researcher in alternative
energy & food sources.
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However, at her end of the investigations, Jo soon ends up caught in the
very same mineshaft the miner died with another miner, who, after touching some
green slime, shows the very same symptoms as the dead men (including, in the
long run, being dead). & as the head of Global Chemicals Stevens (Jerome
Willis) shows remarkably little interest in saving Jo, & even mobilizes his
friends in high positions like the minister of commerce & the prime
minister to obstruct UNIT's work, the Doctor goes down the shaft himself, where
he & Jo encounter a colony of 2 feet large green maggots, obviously a
result of the pollution caused by Global Chemicals.
However, Global Chemicals still does everything to supress the evidence the
Doctor has garnered, even if that means killing the Doctor & Jo by dropping
oil onto them, & only thanks to GC-employee Elgin (Tony Adams) the 2 of
them are saved in the nick of time - & it soon turns out that most of GC's
management staff has been brainwashed by some evil power.
Soon though, GC & UNIT agree to blow up the maggot-infested mineshaft to
blow the maggots to Kingdom Come, & only the Doctor & professor Jones
oppose that plan - as it turns out heir reservations were justified, for the
deadly maggots, deprived of their original habitat, soon start crawling to the
surface, further spreading terror & death, & proving to be surprisingly
resistant to conventional weapons.
The preventive measures our heroes undertake are soon threefold: professor
Jones confines himself to his laboratory to find a chemical to kill the
maggots, while Jo goes out to catch a maggot for research purposes, & the
Doctor - aided by captain Yates (Richard Franklin), UNIT's undercover man at GC
- tries to find out more about the inner workings at GC.
But while Jo on her mission soon gets into an Air Force bombing area - meant
to eliminate the maggots - & the Doctor does find the true brains of GC - a
megalomaniac computer bent on efficiency & slowly taking complete
possession of Stevens' brain - but ends up a prisoner of the corporation, only
Jones, with the help of Jo's clumsiness, finds a means against the maggots, a
fungus he had developed that is lethal to them - but it soon is doubtful if he
would live to tell his tale as he, in an attempt to save Jo, gets infected by
the maggots' virus himself & soon proves to be too weak to give an account
of his discovery other than a faint hint.
With Captain Yates' helop however, the Doctor can escape GC, decipher Jones'
hint, find the weapon against the maggots, kill them - including one that has
already evolved to insectg form - find a cure for Jones, & finally face
GC's evil computer - fittingly called BOSS - once more when it's trying to
commence phase 2 of its plan - taking over the world, of course - with the help
of Stevens as its human body. However, the Doctor manages to break the spell
Stevens is under & in return, Stevens initiates the computer's self
destruct sequence (doesn't every computer have one), ultimately sacrificing his
The Doctor has saved the world again, but the ending might prove a bitter
one since Jo has decided to leave him, her father-figure, for Jones, the man
she has fallen in love with.
Generally speaking, during Barry Letts' reign as Doctor Who's
producer (1970 to 1974, almost all episodes with Jon Pertwee in the lead) the
series consisted of solid sci-fi stories mostly of the earth-invasion variety,
with the Doctor being a professor Quatermass-type
character, which would occasionally hit a socio-critical note not normally
found in a kids' sci-fi-TV series (which was what Doctor Who
originally was conceived as), but dealign with it in an entertaining way.
The Green Death is not only no exception, but a perfect example for
this: It does raise issues of ecology, globalization & of how the 2 are
linked together decades before these topics became staple of the news-mags, but
it does so by telling a sci-fi-horror-earth-invasion-tale about giant maggots
that would work equally fine without any of that subtext as well.