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Recap / Doctor Who S10 E5 "The Green Death"

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This is an actual screenshot of a Doctor Who serial that contains a Green Aesop. Seriously.

"Stevens, listen to me. You've seen where this efficiency of yours leads. Wholesale pollution of the countryside. Devilish creatures spawned by the filthy by-products of your technology. Men... men walking around like brainless vegetables. Death. Disease. Destruction."
The Doctor gets all eco-warrior

The one where the Doctor goes crossdressing, and we say goodbye to Jo Grant.

Written by Robert Sloman and Barry Letts (uncredited). This six-episode serial first aired from May 19 to June 23, 1973.

A Welsh miner is found dead, his skin glowing bright green. UNIT is naturally called in to the village of Llanfairfach to investigate. A local environmental group, led by Professor Clifford Jones, has been investigating the work of nearby Global Chemicals. The Doctor can't bring himself to care and goes on a nice holiday to the planet Metebelis III instead. Jo and the Brigadier pay visit to Llanfairfach. They discover that the mine workings are full of giant maggots and green goo, both by-products of Global Chemicals' plant. People at the company also have a tendency to get hypnotised and start rambling about "the Boss".

Metebelis III turns out to be the planet of Everything Trying to Kill You, so the Doctor hastily rejoins the plot back on Earth, carrying a shiny crystal as a souvenir. He rescues Jo, who fell down a mineshaft, and discovers that the place is crawling with giant alien maggots.

Clifford, who's a charismatic long-haired Deadpan Snarker and lives in a hippie commune, also happens to be a genius biologist who's working on a revolutionary new fungus that could globally replace meat. He and Jo get along very well (after some initial mutual snarking). The Doctor is also a big fan of his papers, and soon enough, the whole gang is happily drinking fine wine and eating fungus. But with a whole lot of maggots still out there, UNIT decides to infiltrate Global Chemicals: Mike Yates as an office drone, and the Doctor as a Welsh milkman and a harmless old cleaning lady.

The plant is run by Stevens, who has been taken over by the intelligent computer BOSS (Bimorphic Organisational Systems Supervisor), which plans to seize power by linking to every other major computer in the world. BOSS was originally built by Stevens, became self-aware, and soon realised that human creativity is based on human error. He ordered Stevens to program human error into his system. Enjoying his new creative powers, and merrily humming Beethoven, BOSS toys with the Doctor a bit but can't even make a dent in his Time Lord psyche. The Doctor uses a large blue crystal he picked up on Metebelis III to break BOSS' hold on Stevens, and Stevens — in a grand Heroic Sacrifice — programs BOSS to self-destruct. Meanwhile, the maggots, which are beginning to pupate into giant flies, are destroyed with Clifford's fungus.

In the midst of all this, Jo has fallen in love with Clifford, and decides to leave the Doctor to go get married and explore the Amazon rainforest (in that order). She pulls some strings with her uncle to get Clifford all the funding he'll ever need. As the whole group celebrates, the Doctor puts everyone to shame by giving Jo an early wedding present: the Metebelis Crystal, and asks them to save some wedding cake for him. Jo asks if he minds that she's leaving. He does, of course, but he hides how much it hurts behind pride - yes, she's leaving him, but she's leaving him to do supremely nerdy things and how could he disapprove of that? It's what he does, after all. He notes that her trip down the Amazon may actually turn her into a scientist after all. But as the party starts to get into full swing the Doctor chugs a glass of wine and quietly slips away, noticed only by Jo who sends him an understanding look.

The Doctor takes one final look back at the cottage, before he, saddened by the departure of his good friend but proud of where she's going and what she'll do, drives into the sunset. As the Novelisation states: "-and a tear rolled down the Doctor's 900 year old cheek..."

The planet of Metebelis III will become important again soon enough. And Jo will meet the Doctor again, although much, much later.

An excellent tongue-in-cheek Mockumentary sequel short film, "Global Conspiracy", was created by Mark Gatiss in 2004 for the serial's home video releases and stars most of the original cast and a Sequel Episode, "The Green Life," featuring Jo Grant investigating modern Llanfairfach with Captain Jack Harkness was released as part of the Torchwood range by Big Finish in 2019.


  • Absent-Minded Professor: Clifford.
  • A.I.-cronym: BOSS, from Bi(o)morphic Organisational Systems Supervisor, referring to his original intended purpose of factory management.
  • A.I. Is a Crapshoot: A variation; BOSS noticed that humans achieve their goals better through being illogical, so had itself linked to Steven's brain to learn how to be illogical. The result is a megalomaniacal computer.
  • Alone in a Crowd: The Doctor when the rest of the characters celebrate Jo and Clifford's engagement.
  • Author Tract
  • BBC Quarry: But this time, it actually is a quarry! One is also used for the scenes set on Metebelis III in the first episode, though it's less obvious there, as the sequences are shot at night and with a blue filter on the camera.
  • Big Bad: BOSS.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Jo and her new boyfriend announce that they're getting married, the UNIT gang celebrate and the Doctor sadly walks off to Bessie and rides off into the twilight. That's one of the most powerful endings of the series, hands down.
  • Blatant Lies: Stevens to Elgin. "Don't worry- I won't hurt you."
  • Brief Accent Imitation: The Doctor puts on a working-class Welsh accent while trying to sneak into the Global Chemicals building disguised as a milkman.
  • Call-Back: When Jo meets Clifford, she inadvertently ruins his experiment. Just like how she met the Doctor.
  • Card Carrying Evil: BOSS cheerfully admits to being a megalomaniac that wants to Take Over the World.
  • Chekhov's Gun: There are two: the sapphire from Metebelis III, and the hybrid fungus that Clifford Jones was raising as a meat substitute. The sapphire is used to release Yates, then Mr. James, and finally Stevens from BOSS' control (and later becomes even more important in "Planet of the Spiders"). The dried spores of the fungus cures Clifford Jones of his own infection from the Green Death later on, while clumps of the fungus kill the maggots.
  • Condensation Clue: When they both independently infiltrate the chemical plant, the Doctor needs to signal Yates without giving either of them away. Disguised as a cleaning lady, the Doctor soaps up a window, covertly writes a message in the cleanser, then wipes it away after Yates has seen it.
  • Corporate Conspiracy: Global Chemicals not only dumps toxic waste into a Welsh mine (inadvertently creating giant maggots), but they're also dabbling in electronics, building a Master Computer named BOSS that promptly goes mad and takes control of the corporation in a plan to Take Over the World.
  • Delivery Guy Infiltration: The Doctor infiltrates Global Chemicals disguised as a milkman.
  • Disguised in Drag: The Doctor dresses as a washerwoman. It's just convincing enough to fool an unobservant guard who isn't looking at him and to pass a message on to Captain Yates ... who promptly begins to rib him about it.
    The Doctor: (having finally met up, in disguise and carrying a bucket, with Mike Yates) If you say one word...
    Mike Yates: I like your handbag.
  • Disney Villain Death: Poor Fell.
  • Doesn't Trust Those Guys: The Doctor tells a joke that ends with the line "Never Trust A Venusian Shanghorn." It's the only part of the joke we get to hear.
  • Don't Touch It, You Idiot!: The Doctor has to resort to this several times to keep people from touching the green slime that causes a deadly infection.
  • Doppelgänger Dating: Clifford is basically the Doctor, only younger and less asexual. His Meet Cute with Jo (she wanders into his lab and gets yelled at for ruining an experiment) is even a reprise of her first meeting with the Doctor.
  • Dreadful Dragonfly: The maggots' adult form resembles a dragonfly large and strong enough to do damage to a motor vehicle.
  • Driving a Desk: Although the maggots are very well-made, this story also features some of the worst greenscreen in television historyinvoked.
  • Erudite Stoner: Most of the people at Cliff's research facility, but especially Nancy. Shown in a completely positive light without any hint of sarcasm.
  • Everything Is Online: BOSS plans to take over the world by controlling all the world's computers. In the 1970s (or was it the '80s?).
  • Find the Cure!: Much of the plot is devoted to searching for a cure the eponymous Green Death.
  • Five Rounds Rapid: The Brig still hasn't learned his lesson, here ordering ten rounds rapid to be fired against the maggots. Naturally, they are Immune to Bullets.
  • Foreshadowing: Jo's departure is foreshadowed in the first episode when after she leaves for Wales, the Doctor remarks "So the fledgling flies the coop".
  • Fourth-Date Marriage: Jo agrees to marry Cliff despite only having known him an unspecified number of days.
  • Fun with Acronyms: The Biomorphic Organisational Systems Supervisor. "My designers also found it amusing. I find it suitable."
  • Genre Savvy: BOSS notes that some Richard Wagner is appropriateinvoked if you're planning to Take Over the World.
  • Gilligan Cut: When he first meets the Brigadier, Stevens makes several boasts about how clean, safe, and environmentally friendly Global Chemicals' processes are. Each of these boasts is followed by a cut to Cliff and Jo in the Nuthutch, with Cliff explaining why each of Stevens' claims at best omits important details, and at worst is a complete pack of lies.
  • Gone Horribly Right: BOSS was programmed with the objectives of maintaining productive order and ensuring profit for Global Chemicals. It just interpreted those objectives in an extremely broad and amoral manner.
  • Green Aesop
  • Harmless Lady Disguise: The Doctor infiltrates Global Chemicals disguised as a cleaning lady.
  • Hypno Fool: The Doctor uses his Metebilis crystal on Mike to break BOSS's mind control by using a counter-hypnosis. Too bad the Brigadier was staring at it while the Doctor was doing so. He goes into a thick trance, stiff as a board.
    Doctor: Oh, good grief! Wake up, Lethbridge-Stewart! (gibbers the Brig's chin) Wake up!
  • If I Do Not Return: The Doctor tells the Brigadier that if he's not out of Global Chemical in time, UNIT can charge in—not to rescue him because he'll be dead, but to destroy BOSS.
  • "I Know You're in There Somewhere" Fight: The page quote is part of one.
  • Immune to Bullets/Nigh-Invulnerability: The maggots... bullets, bombs, and even insecticide don't even faze them.
  • Improbable Antidote: The cure for the eponymous death turns out to be the dried spores of the fungus Professor Jones is working on as a solution to world hunger.
  • Janitor Impersonation Infiltration: The Doctor disguises himself as a cleaning woman.
  • Just a Machine: BOSS is a nasty piece of work, but nevertheless, the Doctor's refusal to view him as an actual person looks bigoted (though he's also seeking to deliberately annoy BOSS).
  • Lampshade Hanging: By this point, the Doctor is less than impressed by the revelation that the real villain is a crazy computer.
  • Leitmotif: BOSS has a militaristic and tyrannical-sounding incidental music sting that plays whenever he's plotting something megalomanical or his handiwork is seen in action.
  • Liar's Paradox: The Doctor manages to stump an insane computer called BOSS with the question "If I were to tell you that the next thing I say would be true, but the last thing I said was a lie, would you believe me?" However after some looping, BOSS decides the question was irrelevant.
  • Logic Bomb: Subverted. The Doctor tries to use the Liar's Paradox on BOSS, but BOSS completely fails to blow up, stop working, or devote all its circuits to solving the problem. It's just mildly annoyed for a while.
  • The Mad Hatter: BOSS cheerfully admits to being a megalomaniac.
  • The Man Behind the Man: Up until BOSS is revealed to be a computer controlling the entire building, he is treated like this by the story. Stevens only communicates with him by office intercom and we're never given any indication he's anything but a corrupt human executive - "the boss," just as everyone keeps calling him. Then when the Doctor gets to the top floor where "the boss'" office supposedly is, only to find loads of computer equipment... we get the Wham Line.
  • Master Computer: BOSS is one of these.
  • Meaningful Name: Fell. Guess what happens to him.
  • Mood Whiplash: It ends with everyone congratulating Jo and Cliff, including the Doctor... who then quietly leaves the party and drives off on his own.
    • Also, the shocking scene of Fell leaping to his death is immediately followed by... a party at the Nut Hatch.
  • Mother Nature, Father Science: We get Mother Nature (the hippie commune) and Father Science (Global Chemicals) BUT the commune is made up of research scientists trying, among other things, to breed high protein fungus to act as a meat replacement. And the chemical factory is spawning maggots and in the thrall of an intentionally irrational computer who refers to its employees by cutesy nicknames and gets so distracted by picking out a soundtrack for its eventual victory that it spends most of the climactic battle singing.
  • Names to Run Away from Really Fast: Don't name your intelligent supercomputer "BOSS"; it'll give it ideas.
  • Nice Job Fixing It, Villain
    • The Doctor would never have stumbled across the BOSS's plan if he hadn't dumped those chemicals in the mine, drawing UNIT's attention.
    • An armed guard is stopping the Doctor from entering Global Chemicals. BOSS then activates the brainwashing signal, causing the guard and the rest of the staff to blank out, enabling the Doctor to enter unhindered.
  • Noodle Incident: There been several explanations outside the TV series about what the Perigosto Stick the Doctor mentions is. You can't trust a Venusian Shanghorn with one, you see.
  • Not Himself: Those under the control of the BOSS.
  • Not Listening to Me, Are You?: When Jo realises Cliff is not listening to her, she asks him if he would like a nice cup of arsenic, to which he absently says yes.
  • Not That Kind of Doctor: Professor Jones.
  • Obvious Stunt Double: Pay attention to when the Doctor drags the guard out of the way - he's replaced by an absolutely terrible dummy.
  • Off-the-Shelf FX: The maggots were made out of condoms. Seriouslynote .
  • O.O.C. Is Serious Business: A subtle one - Elgin notices something is up with Ralph Fell because he calls him by his last name. Apparently they're usually on a first name basis.
  • Orphaned Punchline: The Doctor tells a joke that ends with the line "Never trust a Venusian shanghorn with your perigosto stick."
  • Poor Communication Kills: If only Professor Jones used an easier word than serendipity, Jo would have understood him and known that the fungus was the cure for the maggots' bite.
  • Power Crystal: The Metelbelis Crystal, which will come into play later...
  • Prime Directive: Unfortunately for BOSS this is maximizing the profit and efficiency of Global Chemicals, regardless of what anyone else thinks.
  • Punny Name: The last name of Ralph, the worker conditioned to self-destruct by jumping to his death, is "Fell". How did Ralph die? Ralph Fell.
  • Ripped from the Headlines: The story came about when Barry Letts had read an article about the dangers of pollution in the magazine The Ecologist, and he and Terrance Dicks felt Doctor Who offered them an opportunity to tell a positive message about protecting the environment.
    • Wholeweal was inspired partly by Greenpeace and partly by the Biotechnic Research And Development (BRAD) community which had been established in Wales.
  • Rousseau Was Right: Professor Jones honestly thinks that they can ask Global Chemicals to let them borrow cutting equipment to fix the Llanfairfach mine elevator. The same Global Chemicals he and the rest of the denizens of Wholeweal have been protesting and verbally chastising every other day.
  • Sickly Green Glow: Every victim of the "Green Death".
  • Single Tear: Poor Stevens cries a single stream of tears after shutting off BOSS and awaiting his imminent death, coupled with a My God, What Have I Done? reaction.
  • Strawman Political: Played both straight and averted in Global Chemicals. While Stevens is a megalomaniac who is just fine with completely destroying the environment and unleashing a biological horror upon Wales if it'll raise Global Chemicals' stock price a tuppence a share, and BOSS is worse, most of people under Stevens, including the VPs, are decent hardworking people who want to do the right thing and basically have to be brainwashed by BOSS to go along with the program.
    • In one scene set in the Cabinet Office in 10 Downing Street, the British Prime Minister (named only as "Jeremy") orders the Doctor by telephone to stop interfering in Global Chemicals' Business, or he will have imprisoned under the "Emergency Powers Act".note 
  • Take That!: Writer Robert Sloman claimed that the slightly stereotypical portrayal of the Welsh were there because of his bad experience of playing rugby against Welsh teams when he lived in the West Country.
  • Temporary Substitute: Tony Adams, the actor playing Elgin fell ill between recording sessions, so in episode 5 a Mr James appears instead. Which leads to a bizarre situation of a character being set up to betray the bad guys - then someone else turns up out of nowhere to do it instead.
    • What makes this weirder is that they could have easily explained his replacement, but didn't. Elgin was subjected to a mind control technique, which had caused another character it was used on to commit suicide earlier in the story. So they could have justified Elgin's replacement by having it explained that he took his life, or by shooting a suicide scene with a stunt man.
  • Tempting Fate: Lampshaded. The Brigadier thinks blowing up the mine has solved the maggot problem. He says, "I don't understand you lot. Seems to me the problem's solved. We'll see no more of those creepie-crawlies, you mark my words." Everyone looks at him like he's gone daft.
  • Today, X. Tomorrow, the World!
    Doctor: Today Llanfairfach, tomorrow the world, eh?
    BOSS: How well you understand me, Doctor.
  • Token Good Teammate: Elgin is a Corrupt Corporate Executive who is down with dumping gallons of toxic waste into a mine but only as long as said mine is abandoned. He draws the line at intentionally trapping innocent people in said mine and attempting to drown them in the stuff, though, and eventually angrily confronts Stevens over going too far. Unfortunately, he gets brainwashed by BOSS.
  • Too Dumb to Live: Oh, Bert, why did you have to stick your fingers in the toxic goo to examine it?
  • Toxic, Inc.: Global Chemicals is an oil refinery with a new process that produces 25% more usable fuel from each barrel of crude oil. The new process however produces more toxic waste as a by-product (where the extra mass comes from is not discussed). The BOSS doesn’t care a bit about the extra pollution.
  • Tuckerization: Stevens, was named after Jocelyn Stevens, formerly Robert Sloman's superior in the newspaper industry.
  • Wham Line:
    • The Doctor meets up with a semi-unexpected individual now working for Global Chemicals:
      Stevens: Doctor, may I introduce you to Mr. Yates?
    • The revelation of who "the boss" is when the Doctor finally reaches the top floor. "I am the BOSS. I am all around you. I am the computer." *Cliffhanger Screech*
  • What Happened to the Mouse?:
    • Elgin vanishes from the story after getting brainwashed. This is due to actor Tony Adams suffering an illness and needing to be taken to the emergency room. His role later in the serial was filled by Suspiciously Similar Substitute James.
    • The "Global Conspiracy" Mockumentary lampshades this with an older Elgin clarifying that he had appendix problems and thus, was absent from the second half of the adventure.
    • Stevens' chauffeur Hinks, who got bitten by a maggot and infected with the Green Death. Although it's possible he survived long enough to be given the cure, he's never mentioned again. (The novelisation states he died before the cure was found.)
  • Wig, Dress, Accent: The Doctor does a passable impression of a Welsh milkman and, a few minutes later, a Welsh cleaning lady.
  • You Have Outlived Your Usefulness: When Fell starts to throw off his brainwashing, BOSS has him programmed to commit suicide.
  • You Talk Too Much!
    BOSS: Well, Doctor, have you nothing to say?
    Doctor: Why should I want to talk to a machine?
    BOSS: Oh really, Doctor. As far as I can gather from your computer record at UNIT, the difficult thing is to stop you talking.

Tropes in Global Conspiracy:


Video Example(s):


I like your handbag

The Doctor disguises himself as a cleaning lady in order to infiltrate Global Chemicals and investigate their involvement with a supernatural green slime. When Mike finds out about the Doctor's method, he's quite amused.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (6 votes)

Example of:

Main / DisguisedInDrag

Media sources: