Monday, September 28, 2009

TTT6 - The Green Death 6

Already at the cusp of perfection, The Green Death ups the ante even more in its final ten minutes by delivering possibly the most well acted and well written scene in the series' history - both old and new series. Everyone - and I mean everyone. Even Benton and Nanci dancing at the party has a believability unlike any other - is top notch in Jo's final scene. From Mike Yates's slight dejection on learning he'll be losing Jo (but, come on, Mike, you know you really never stood a chance...), to the Brigadier consoling him (for the second time in three years, the Brig and Mike share a drink at season's end), it's all a joy to watch.

The three big players, though, are Stewart Bevan, Katy Manning, and Jon Pertwee. Bevan's spontaneous reaction to Jo's accepting his marriage proposal is possibly the best thing in this scene. It is the most natural and raw, and absolutely appropriate, emotional outburst this series has ever seen, and without it, the final moments of The Green Death would be slightly less than perfect than they already are. Bevan has been a tour-de-force throughout this whole story. If the only way Jo was to leave The Doctor was to find a young, dynamic, human version of The Doctor, then the production team needed a top notch, charismatic performance from a high calibre actor, and they knocked it out of the park with Stewart Bevan. His is one of my favourite Doctor Who guest performances of all time.

Then there's Jo and The Doctor. As I've mentioned before, Jo Grant was the first real solo companion The Doctor ever had. People have often stated that The Doctor's relationship with Jo was that of an uncle to a niece. For the most part during Jo's three years on the show, this generalization has been true. The way that Pertwee and Manning play their final scene together, though, it's clear that this relationship has changed. While certainly not a sexual relationship, Jo's leaving clearly has a devastating effect on The Doctor, who finds the notion of Jo leaving almost unbearable. This is no longer an uncle-niece relationship, it's no longer that of Doctor and assistant. It's not that of two lovers, either. It is something more.

Jo's reaction is key here, too. She asks The Doctor is he minds that she stays with Cliff. She's not asking because she's leaving The Doctor as an assistant or as a friend, but she's asking if he minds that she is forming a relationship with a younger, human version of The Doctor - a relationship that she and The Doctor could never have. This is, essentially, the same thing that happens at the end of Journey's End in 2008 in a scene that almost echoes this one. In that episode, The Doctor leaves a human version of himself with Rose so that she can have the best of both worlds - her own Doctor, but one who she can grow old with together.

All the hubbub around the romantic relationship between The Doctor and Grace in the 1996 TV movie and the numerous dalliances into The Doctor's romantic life in the new series have their definite roots sewn in those final few moments of The Green Death. Unfortunately, though, this was most likely not the intention of the production teams from 1973 through to the end of the run of the classic series. Such a relationship had never existed between The Doctor and his companion before, and, thanks to the efforts of Mary Whitehouse, Tom Baker, John Nathan-Turner, and, indeed, the entire viewing public in the UK (and that, most vociferously, of the United States), it would never happen again.

Thus, it's with a definite tinge of sadness that I watch The Doctor down his wine, quietly leave the scene, and, with one look back at his friends celebrating Jo and Cliff's impending nuptials, drive off into the sunset. The sadness is on account of not only how The Doctor is feeling after losing Jo, but because, after centuries of travel and with centuries more to comes, he was experiencing something that we had never seen him go through before and what we would never see happen to him again. The Green Death is sad, happy, and brilliant, and one of the shining jewels in Doctor Who's crown. Were it not for the overall excellence of Season Seven, it would undoubtedly be my choice for the greatest Jon Pertwee serial ever.


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