Doctor Who: The Green Death

The Doctor Who episode from the Jon Pertwee era, “The Green Death,” witnesses the departure of Jo Grant. It explores matters of environmentalism and big business in a way that will be a theme again in “Invasion of the Dinosaurs” in the subsequent season.

The episode highlights early on the challenge of bringing about social change, as it depicts professor Jones’ concern for workers exploited for the profit of companies on the one hand, and workers who insist that they do not have the luxury of complaining because they need the jobs on the other.

The corporation Global Chemicals, it turns out, is seeking to maximize profits by producing cheap petrol with minimal waste. But it turns out that they are dumping the waste down an old mine, where it is causing mutations and deaths.

An additional twist is introduced as the corporation turns out to be run by a computer, “B.O.S.S.,” which got Stevens, the director, to merge his mind with the computer in order to make it less efficient, just like human minds are, so as to make it ultimately more effective.

The computer and the Doctor get into a discussion of whether human beings are also machines, and whether we are “more than the sum of our parts.” Whatever one’s view of the personhood or otherwise of B.O.S.S., the computer is megalomaniacal, claiming to be infallible, and dangerous as it seeks to maximize profit at the expense of human life. When corporations which are not run by arguably soulless computers make comparable decisions, what does that suggest?

The episode ends with a melancholic Doctor driving away, since Jo has decided to marry Cliff Jones.

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