THE DOCTOR WHO RATINGS GUIDE: BY FANS, FOR FANS

The Green Death
Target novelisation
Doctor Who and the Green Death

Author Malcolm Hulke Cover image
Published 1974
ISBN 0 426 10647 4
First Edition Cover Peter Brookes

Back cover blurb: The Green Death begins slowly. In a small Welsh mining village a man emerges from the disused colliery covered in a green fungus. Minutes later he is dead. UNIT, Jo Grant and DOCTOR WHO in tow, arrive on the scene to investigate, but strangely reluctant to assist their enquiries is Dr Stevens, director of the local refinery Panorama Chemicals. Are they in time to destroy the mysterious power which threatens them all before the whole village, and even the world, is wiped out by a deadly swarm of green maggots?


Reviews

Doctor Who Discovers Miners. And some maggots... by Tim Roll-Pickering 17/12/03

Doctor Who and the Green Death is the only novelisation by Malcolm Hulke based on a television story that he did not contribute to but the subject matter is close to his own ideas, offering the basis for a critique of the power of multi-national corporations. On television the story suffers from having three separate story strands which are unconnected but here Hulke choses to downplay Jo's relationship with Cliff Jones and focus most heavily on the pollution. Global Chemicals is renamed Panorama Chemicals for the story and there are some minor changes such as Mr James being replaced by Elgin (as originally intended before the actor was taken ill mid-recording) but predominantly the book follows the same course as the television story, even though far more attention has been devoted to the first three episodes, with the second three being rushed through presumably due to the limited page count. Consequently some events are reported later such as the Doctor resisting BOSS' attempts to hypnotise him or Jo and Cliff being rescued from the slag heap. Whilst this does slightly disjoint the narrative, it does at least mean that much of the emphasis of the novel is on how people's lives have been affecting by the closing of the mine and the arrival of Panoram Chemicals. As ever Hulke is successful is fleshing out the characters so that we discover how they think, whether it's the Doctor sabotaging Jo's date with Cliff, Jo wondering whether or not Time Lords get married and have babies, Hinks enjoying his comic collection or a maggot breaking out of its shell and roaming loose.

Although much of the description is strong, there are times when it is taken to excesses, most obviously in the descriptions of how a coal mine operates. At times this feels over educational and the nearest to a substitute for the subsequently planned but never released book Doctor Who Discovers Miners. However this fortunately eases once attention shifts from the mine and onto attempts to tackle the maggots and discover the truth about Panorama Chemicals.

One of the best scenes on television is the Doctor's visit to Metebelis Three, where he comes under attack soon. Here in the book the shock is made more stark, with the Doctor consulting a 300,000 year old description of the planet as a paradise, but upon his arrival he discover how virtually all life is viciously hostile and he only just manages to survive. Had this been attempted on television the result would probably have been a studio based planet of rubber trees, but here in the printed form we get a real sense of the alieness of Metebelis Three.

The story's climax is much the same but here Hulke builds up to it by showing us Stevens' thoughts about how he yearns to be free and how he finds it difficult to struggle with BOSS' influence, making his eventual breaking free seem more natural than the Doctor waving the blue crystal as though it is a magic wand. The ending of the story is truncated and we just get the Doctor shedding a tear as he boards Bessie, rather than his highly memorable solo drive into the sunset. As with the television story no attempt is made to explain why the Doctor remains with UNIT despite now having his freedom to roam in time and space.

Many of the problems of this novelisation come across as external target policies restricting Hulke, such as the page count forcing a cutting down on some scenes. Nevertheless it is a strong novelisation and makes the reader wish that Hulke could have gone on to tackle many more stories other than his own. 7/10


A Review by Andrew Feryok 1/7/05

Brigadier: This is exactly your cup of tea. This fellow is bright green, aparently, and dead!" (The Green Death - Episode 1)
I have made a point never to read any Target novels of stories I have not yet seen on TV since I do not want to spoil the plot when I finally get to watch it. When I recently purchased, viewed, and enjoyed The Green Death on DVD, I decided to read Malcolm Hulke's Target adaptation of Robert Sloman's original script.

I would have to say that I almost enjoyed this book as much as I enjoyed the TV episode. Instead of trying to add new scenes to the story, Hulke instead edits them so that the story is more tightly told. Although this does mean that we lose such things as the Doctor's venusian akido, instead, Hulke can focus in more detail on the particularly relevant areas of the story.

Hulke's expression of the characters is pretty well done, although a little annoying. The only character who felt fake in the book was Jo herself whose feminism is cranked up far beyond what we saw on screen so that she is childishly belittling anyone who says anything that isn't politically correct. I was surprised to see that Professor Jones is my favorite character in the book when he was the character I liked least in the original TV episode! He is arrogant, chauvanistic, and at some times completely unconcerned with whatever is going on around him while he is absorbed in his latest study. But he is written with a certain amount of charm that redeems him nonetheless and you cannot help but like him. The Doctor, on the other hand, hardly features at all as the story is stolen by Jo, the Brigadier, Prof. Jones, and Dr. Stevens. The Doctor is written just as arrogant and chauvanistic as Prof. Jones, but he lacks the redeeming charm that Jones has and as a result, seems extremely harsh and unheroic. The Brigadier was saved on screen with his natural fatherly affection for Jo and charm, but as written comes across as extremely stupid. I can now see why people complain so much about this period of UNIT. The Brigadier is bullied by just about everyone, including his own men!

As for the rest of the characters, Dr. Stevens, Dr. Bell, Elgin, and Hinks are all fleshed out much more than they ever were in the TV episode. Hulke really gets into thier heads and we learn thier motivations and how BOSS has twisted them through his mind control. The miners are also really well done. Hulke gets into their heads as well and makes us aware of their 'underground' culture, their motivations for working in the mines, and their sense of community spanning down the ages.

My favorite aspect of the book is, of course, the maggots! They are wonderfully written by Hulke and he milks the suspense from their scenes for all they are worth. My particularly favorite scene was the part of the story when the maggot hatches from the egg at the Nut Hutch and goes to kill Jo. It is told completely from the POV of the maggot and it's single minded search for food. We follow it first as it stalks a mouse and devours it and then proceeds to go after Jo and her exposed leg. It does not sound like much when I summarize it here, nor does it look very compeling on screen. But when written by Hulke, the scene has you on the edge of your seat as the maggot begins roaming the house for human flesh and you really feel scared for Jo!

I was also surprised to see that Hulke expanded the Metebelis Three scenes so that they are not as rushed and confusing as they were on screen. Hulke depicts a blue world with totally hostile flora and fauna. The Doctor is not only attacked by a giant blue bird, but acid-spitting flowers, charging blue unicorns, living trees, and deadly mud full of blue poisonous snakes!

The ending of the story is extremely rushed. From what I had heard through other reviews, it sounded like the ending was going to be really dramatic in Hulke's target book. In fact, the ending to this story is even more rushed than the TV version and is almost an afterthought. There is no tearful sunset drive (he is simply said to have driven away) and there is very little tearful farewells between the Doctor and Jo, although the Doctor does cry on his way out of the house.

Overall, I would give this story an 8/10. It's certainly not as good as Doctor Who and The Cybermen or Doctor Who and the Daleks, but it is a solid and exciting story that kept me turning the pages until the very end. I can't wait to read some of Malcolm Hulke's other adaptations. Perhaps Doctor Who and the Cave Monsters...

PS: I was surprised to see that Target provided illustrations for this story! I always like it when the Target novels have these and wished the BBC Books had used these as well.