The patronizing use of Welsh stereotypes in ‘The Green Death’ is evidence of the employment of centuries-old imperial condecenscion. However, Welshness alone does not straightforwardly equal idiocy in this story. Rather, it is the conjunction of Welshness with membership of the proletariat which produces characters who don’t really have a clue what’s going and need everything explained to them.
Clifford Jones and ‘Nancy’ (note how she doesn’t need a surname) are allowed to be efficient and useful only because their Welshness (which entails them using cute provincialisms galore) is offset by their educated, middle-class boffinity and right-onitude. Meanwhile, Jo marvels openly at her own foolishness in caring so much about the death of a “funny little Welshman” (who kept her alive). The difference between these Welsh characters – i.e. between the ones who qualify as people and those who don’t – is down to class.
The workers in this story are belittled, peripheral figures. They are profoundly out of touch and their Welshness is but a conduit by which they can be further quaintified. They miss the big picture, even when the hippy scientists try to explain everything to them. They side with Stevens when he tries to bribe them with promises of the trickle-down effect… indeed, the validity of Stevens’s claims that profits for Global will also mean prosperity for the workers is never challenged, only qualified by the criticism that pollution will be a side-effect. There is hardly a hint of class struggle here, besides the opening scene… and even here the struggle is portrayed as over. The mine is closed, the miners all but absent. Their status seems unclear… some of them seem to still have access to the mine despite its apparent closure. The mine itself seems not to be owned by the government but by Global Chemicals.
Now, in its haphazard and accidental way, some of this is actually prescient. The UNIT stories were supposed to be ‘five minutes into the future’ (we’re not getting into UNIT dating controversies – I couldn’t care less) and, of course, by the late-90s, British mining – together with so much manufacturing industry – had been deliberately destroyed by the Tories. Huge numbers of traditional working class jobs had been annihilated. Working class communities were wrecked in the process. In many ways, the sight of a crowd of workers, made redundant, closed out of their sold-off and shut-down workplace, listening to speeches about how coal is dead, being fraudulently told that their future lies in the trickle-down effect of private profit, is a sight that predicts the result of Thatcherism (which, of course, had already begun under Heath, albeit in a less aggressive form).
Thing is, viewed in the context of the times in which it was made, this is as puzzlingly skewiff as it is prescient. ‘Anachronistic’ is the only way to properly describe it.
You see… miners were powerful in 1973, having struck in 1972 for the first time since the 20s – and won! Miners all over the country came out over piffling proposed pay rises, proposed by the Tory government in the midst of declining living standards and working conditions.…