The Green Life

Posted in Audio by - April 25, 2019
The Green Life

Released April 2019

SOME SPOILERS FOLLOW

Few Doctor Who stories are quite as iconic as ‘The Green Death,’ a story that makes perfect use of the Third Doctor’s Earthbound format to discuss the very relevant topics of environmentalism and corporate power and that also sees the dramatic departure of beloved companion Jo Grant. Given the lingering questions following that story’s conclusion and the fact that those topics have become only more prominent in the years since 1973, it’s no surprise that Torchwood has made a return visit to Llanfairfach a priority with David Llewellyn’s ‘The Green Life,’ wonderfully blending its trademark grittiness with the inherent optimism of its parent franchise as Jo finds herself questioning the burgeoning healthy-eating revolution of the town.

Beyond the return of so many elements of the classic serial, the undoubted highlight of ‘The Green Life’ is the brilliant and enthusiastic interplay between Katy Manning and John Barrowman as the more hopeful Jo works with the more cynical Jack to uncover the truth behind the thriving local economy. Manning has, of course, also appeared within the modern iteration of the franchise in The Sarah Jane Adventures, and while it is still a bit odd to hear Jack rather bluntly discuss how Rose came to leave the Doctor’s company as if Jo has access to the same database about the Doctor’s human companions that Torchwood has, it’s nonetheless thrilling to so clearly see the contrast between these two with Jack still reeling that the Doctor deliberately chose to leave him behind. He can’t quite believe that anyone would willingly leave the TARDIS and the opportunities it presents, and the maturation that the elder Jo shows as she discusses her past and present with no regret is a firm reminder of the many ways that the Doctor can impact a life while at the same time being impacted himself. The two may clash on more than one occasion, but the mutual respect they clearly have for each other nicely supports their need to work together to survive the increasing dangers and threats of death around them.

Naturally, the legacy of Global Chemicals and its toxic waste is hardly forgotten as ‘The Green Life’ wisely shows that the problem of the giant maggots and their metamorphosed state was not eradicated as Jack had previously believed. Without the same visual component of their initial appearance, however, the maggots here are a more nuanced threat with their evolution and increased intelligence taking centre stage and brilliantly tying into the re-emergence of BOSS that likewise survived the destruction that brought down so much of the area. With pointed commentary that the public at large turns a blind eye to a company as long as it turns profits, the general state of society is quite brazenly chastised when what has become of the path Dr Jones set in motion with his fungus is revealed and selective breeding, animal welfare, the repercussions of public shifts in nutrition desires, and the actions of major industry to widely appeal to the masses are all questioned. As is usual, the worst is hidden in plain sight, and that so few individuals take the initiative to ask and explore is a poignant criticism of humanity that proves just how little things have changed in the ensuing decades since the Llanfairfach was first visited.

As usual, Torchwood excels with its atmosphere through strong direction and sound design, and ‘The Green Life’ firmly proves just how happily Doctor Who and Torchwood can co-exist, especially with such a relevant storyline that also happens to reach back to one of the most enduring serials of a beloved era. While doing so necessarily means that the dramatic action taken at the end of ‘The Green Death’ is not as dramatic as likely intended, the range of emotions and satisfying twists resulting from the return of so many familiar elements provides a welcome jolt of nostalgia while also progressing the narrative to provide a resonant and enjoyable coda that offers a glimmer of hope for the town and humanity going forward.

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