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4 January 2014

Will Brooks’ 50 Year Diary - watching Doctor Who one episode a day from the very start... 

Day 369: The Green Death, Episode One

Dear diary,

Something odd happened when I settled down to watch yesterday's episode. I'd spent the day bubbling with anticipation, and was excited to finally sit down and start Jo Grant's final story… until I remembered that I'd not yet finished Planet of the Daleks, and would have to wait until today to reach this one. I've spoken a lot recently of my growing sense of nostalgia towards the series, and I've suddenly found myself somewhat nostalgic for the early Pertwee years! It's funny - by the time the Doctor started to venture out into space more and leave UNIT behind, I was ready to get him away from Earth. Now I couldn't wait to get back there - I was with Jo, there was only one planet that I wanted to see.

This is one of the longest stretches without a UNIT story since Pertwee took over the part of the Doctor (and - although the future Brig turns up in one of them - adding almost a fortnight's worth of recovered 1960s episodes into the mix last month means it's even longer since I last saw the team), and I was really ready to get back to them. I was somewhat disappointed that we didn't get to see Jo and the Doctor returning home, though. After all the nice setting up during the last story that she was beginning to get a bit homesick, I was hoping that we'd see them arrive and follow that line of thought a little further.

Instead, we pick up some time later (and it really is left vague. It could be days, weeks, or even months since the events on Spiridon), and Jo has taken on a sudden passion for preserving the planet. In some ways, it feels perfectly natural that Jo should have such an interest in stopping pollution and saving the planet, but that she should feel this strongly about it all of a sudden… it feels a bit like it's come out of nowhere. We even reach a point where she tells the Brig that she'll resign from UNIT if that's the only way she can head to South Wales and support Professor Jones - where did she strike up such a fire from?

Still, it gives a great excuse for comedy when the Brig informs her that he's trying to send her to exactly that location, and that he'll give her a lift down if she cares that strongly about it! It's nice to see the two of them paired off like this, and it highlights just how far the Brig has come since his early days in UNIT - can you imagine the Season Seven Brigadier tolerating Jo's 'a girl's gotta do what a girl's gotta do… sir!'?

Once we've arrived at the Nut-hutch, the set up for Jo's departure is in full swing. I'd worried that after a romantic interest in the last story, any that would come in here may feel a bit too forced, or as though it's treading over old ground (though it is, at least, a reason to assume a large gap between the two stories), but it actually feels completely natural. Early on, Jo admits that the Professor reminds her of a younger Doctor, and then their first meeting (in which she bumbles around, destroying an experiment by leaving the door open and then clattering into things) is wonderfully reminiscent of her first meeting with the Doctor right back at the start of Season Eight. It's too neat to simply be a coincidence, so it's another little benefit for those of us watching through the programme in order.

We've also got the seeds of the Doctor's departure a year from now being seeded in, too. I'd completely forgotten that he takes a trip to Metebilis III in this story (When it was first mentioned in Carnival of Monsters, I was surprised because I thought this was the first we heard of the planet… and then promptly forgot all about this little excursion!), but it's great fun to see. In many ways it's simply obvious filler material, so bringing it back as the cause of the Doctor's 'death' suddenly gives it a weight that it wouldn't have had at the time. I've never seen Planet of the Spiders, but from what few clips I have seen, I don't think it looks anything like this planet, but I look forward to comparing the two when the time comes.

The only real disappointment… no Benton or Yates? Do they turn up later on in the story? it's lovely to have the Brig back, and it's great to be down on Earth again in the 'traditional' Pertwee format (and don't those opening scenes at the mine just feel so much like a Pertwee story?), but I was rather hoping for a proper UNIT reunion for Jo's big send off…


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