Doctor Who’s Green Death Maggots
My favorite Doctor is definitely David Tennant. But I also love classic Dr. Who, and The Green Death is one of the best episodes. Well, the best for an entomologist, anyway. So I bring you:
Giant Fanged Death Maggots that Spit Glowing Green Snot.
Winning, indeed! These episodes are from the 10th season of Dr. Who, in 1973. Plot synopsis:
UNIT (United Nations Intelligence Taskforce) is called in after a miner from the Welsh village of Llanfairfach is found dead, his skin glowing bright green. Jo joins forces with a local environmental group, led by Professor Clifford Jones, while the Doctor investigates the nearby plant of a company called Global Chemicals.
They discover that the mine workings are full of giant maggots and green slime – both lethal to touch – that have been produced by chemical waste pumped from the Global plant.
While the parts of this story ark that I love are the green glowy maggots, there are also interesting story elements that reflect the time in which this was made. Hippies! Overpopulation! Evil Corporations! Environmental pollution! Computers making humans redundant! Regrettable fashion choices!
I mean, a corduroy bell-bottom pantsuit to save the world from slime-spitting doom maggots….hmm. I also love that the Doctor’s companion runs out to catch a giant deadly maggot with a wicker cat carrier, a fluffy white coat remarkably like this one worn by Lady Gaga, and red wellies. But I digress.
The “environmental group” Professor Jones heads up is actually a commune made up of hippie scientists; their plan is to live on the land and save mankind from overpopulation by creating a sustainable food source made from mushrooms. The professor supposedly is funding this with his Pulitzer Prize Award money, which is a bit surprising, since the professor also looks rather like David Cassidy. I guess he started researching really, really early in life. Anyway, giant killer maggots and deadly green slime are NOT the sort of green economy they had in mind.
It’s the maggots that make these episodes so very wonderful. The props department really did an outstanding job with the maggots, as you can see from these screen captures. The giant death maggots are a great match for the sort of slippery, plastic-ish appearance of real maggots. This apparently was because the death maggots were constructed from slippery plastic condoms.
In other scenes, green screen (GREEN screen, get it?) was used to superimpose images of real maggots feeding behind the actors. This is how they created my favorite scene, where the Doctor poles a barge through a sea of glowing green death maggots. (This was also included in the novelization with awesome illustrations!)
The maggots are pretty much indestructible–they survive aerial bombing, fire, point blank shooting, and pesticides. This video clip gives you a brief intro to the maggots in action, and also contains the quite excellent line:
“I’m up on the slag heap with the Professor, he’s hurt, and we’re surrounded by maggots. Please hurry.”
Second best line:
“I never thought I’d fire in anger at a dratted caterpillar.”
I thought about going into why the glowing green death maggots:
- Wouldn’t really have sharp pointy teeth;
- Wouldn’t really exist in that size;
- Wouldn’t hatch into a dragonfly-like creature;
But why not just enjoy the cheese unencumbered by discussions of taxonomic phylogeny and tracheal diffusion rates? Other highlights of the series include the Doctor dressing up as a cleaning lady and a milkman to infiltrate Global Chemicals.
This series has some of the most emotional rage of the early Doctors, since Jo, the companion, falls in love and decides to follow the hippie professor off into the Amazon to look for fungus that will solve world hunger. Oh, and by the way? The professor’s dream of feeding everyone with a protein supplement made from fungus? THAT TOTALLY HAPPENED.