Tamper With The Forces of Creation (The Green Death)
|Oh Cliff, you take me to the most romantic places.|
It’s May 19, 1973. Wizzard is at number one with “See My Baby Jive,” which stays at number one for four weeks until Suzi Quatro’s “Can The Can” unseats it for a week, followed by 10cc’s “Rubber Bullets.” Also in the charts are The Sweet, Gary Glitter, David Bowie, T. Rex, Lou Reed, Alice Cooper, and, um… Perry Como. I’m exaggerating a little bit, as Stevie Wonder and Fleetwood Mac also chart. Since we haven’t talked about them in a while and it’s worth checking in occasionally, David Bowie’s Aladdin Sane is at the top, with Alice Cooper’s Billion Dollar Babies and Pink Floyd’s The Dark Side of the Moon all charting. Along with two Beatles compilations and 40 Fantastic Hits From The 50’s And 60’s. So a bit of a nostalgia trip creeping in there.
In real news, Skylab launches, followed immediately by Skylab 2, which whizzes off to the stars to fix the first one. Lord Lambton resigns from Parliament after The News of the World busts him on his fondness for prostitutes. The Greek military junta puts an end to the whole monarchy business, Secretariat wins the Triple Crown, and the Ezeiza massacre takes place in Argentina, with snipers shooting supporters of Peron. And finally, Peter Dinsdale commits his first fatal act of arson, killing a six year old boy in Kingston upon Hull.
While on television, it’s the end of Season Ten of Doctor Who, which means it’s time for Robert Sloman and Barry Letts to lay another Curate’s egg. But unlike certain other Curate’s eggs, this one hatches giant maggots that kill you by turning you bright green. Readers may be noticing a certain pattern of disdain for the writing of Mr. Sloman, and to a lesser extent Mr. Letts. (Though I’ve not seen a clear account of what their process is, my assumption, especially given that Letts demonstrates skill in other aspects of the program, is that Letts comes up with some story ideas and leaves them for Sloman to turn into a script, with most of the resulting defects entering at that stage. But there’s a whiff of dangerous revisionism here – much of the appeal of that apportioning of blame comes down to the fact that Barry Letts is a decades-long friend of the series with numerous positive contributions, whereas Robert Sloman goes away after Planet of the Spiders. Leaving the blame with the guy who doesn’t keep showing up is convenient.) And while The Green Death is without a doubt his best script yet, and rightly deserves much of the praise heaped upon it, what all of this misses is that it is also by miles his worst script yet.
This may seem a contradiction in terms, but it’s one that gets at the heart of the issues with the Sloman/Letts scripts. They are full of some of the best scenes and ideas in the Pertwee era, and also full of some of the most atrocious plotting, torturous dialogue, and, in the case of The Green Death, appalling politics of the Pertwee era.…