Target Novel Review
Doctor Who and the Green Death
Written by Malcolm Hulke
Reviewed by DJ Forrest
First published 1975
When I was a kid, Jon Pertwee had been my Doctor, and Jo Grant his companion. He was rarely seen with the TARDIS, he used a sonic screwdriver a few times, and he drove around in a yellow car called Bessie. So with this all ingrained in my memory, it was no surprise that when I selected The Green Death for my lunch time read at work, I could picture the story well from the television series.
The story itself plays out like any other story. You have the alien creature mutated from the regular toxic chemical waste pumped into a disused coal mine. You have the protagonists, those who live a simple life of no meat and Ban the Bomb and living off the land – fungus all the way! You’ve got UNIT and the Brig, the Doctor and Jo, then you have the antagonists, Panorama Chemicals, a local refinery with a man – Dr Stevens, who takes his orders from the Boss upstairs.
I only remember the tail end of this story on the television. It had been the time when Jo Grant had followed Professor Clifford Jones to the church, then sped off to the Amazon rainforest with him, leaving the Doctor to head off into the blue box and travel alone, tearfully!
When I began reading the story, I had a feeling I’d seen a familiar story in the NuWho series, with Christopher Eccleston. It involved Simon Pegg as the Editor and the Mighty Jagrafess screaming the orders from the ceiling. This has a familiar feel. All the staff are brainwashed. Must obey the BOSS. The boss being a megalomaniac computer keen on taking over the world and creating a new world order. Where have we heard that before???
Of course, as with many megalomaniacs, things fail to go completely in their direction and the good old Time Lord with his hippy friends seize the day.
One of the irksome things about this book, and if I’m honest, any book that tells the story of the television serial is, that it’s far from a story, more a commentary of the events.
I understand that there are different styles of writing, and it would be difficult I would imagine to capture the story exactly as a storyteller would, but perhaps if that were the case, perhaps, not telling the story in this way would have been better. (IMO).
One of the other differences that I’ve noticed in the old Classic novels are the illustrations, which really help the story along, even though to be fair, you’ve a pretty fair idea of what the creatures look like from the description in the story. What I enjoy about the illustrations is the detail, and how they always remind me of the old Enid Blyton drawings in the Famous Five novels. They’re dated if anything, but that’s the true nostalgic feel of the novel.
It’s a fairly short story when it’s all said and done. It took me the length of a week to read it – half an hour lunchbreak for 5 days. If you’re a fan of Target Novels you might feel differently to me about how the story is written. I’m a NuWho fan, for me the journey was interesting, in that, the Doctor didn’t rely too much on the sonic screwdriver but used the little grey matter and he wasn’t using the TARDIS as much. I’m unsure where Bessie came from though. I’m sure that she wasn’t part of the transport system on Gallifrey! But, as the TARDIS is bigger on the inside, I guess she came with the ship.