“The Man-Eater of Surrey Green” Review

This is 1970s Doctor Who in 1965. After a run of 10 good or outstanding episodes, the first dud of season 4.

It’s a distinctly sci-fi episode, featuring the only time The Avengers come across an alien life form (unless I’ve overlooked something). The life-form is a plant… (Doctor Who fans will be perhaps be thinking of The Seeds of Doom, by Robert Banks Stewart who also wrote… not this episode, but The Master Minds a few episodes back). UNIT – no, sorry, War Office soldiers – turn up. Athene Seyler plays an eccentric botanist (a much better performance that in Build a Better Mousetrap).

There’s a big deal made out of some of our horticulturalists wearing hearing aids… but it’s not that the plant controls people using sound, because Doctor Sheldon succumbs to the influence when her hearing aid comes out, despite being hard of hearing. And Steed and Mrs Peel can block the signal by wearing hearing aids (because ‘it’s transistorised’ or something….)

Like Seeds of Doom, a house is laid siege by a plant. Unlike Seeds of Doom there are no dodgy model shots of the exterior (thankfully) but all the same, there are thrashing tentacles. This is another episode where the story concept goes beyond what even the highly impressive production team on season 4 were capable of realising satisfactorily.

We do get to see health and safety roundly flouted as three people ride in Emma’s two-seater – Steed perches on the boot.

Given the obligatory fight cannot really be with a vegetable, Steed and Mrs Peel are pitted against one another. This isn’t the first time we’ve seen this sort of thing – on a couple of occasions when Steed and Cathy independently decided to do a bit of B&E in the same place at the same time with the inevitable result that Cathy has laid Steed out before they’ve had time to identify one another. This is a bit more prolonged.

Steed’s typical ruthlessness is on display when he tries (successfully, as it happens) to feed an unconscious Emma, marinaded in herbicide, to the plant. “I’m a herbicidal maniac.” Er, well, yes.

Ultimately it’s completely the wrong sort of story for The Avengers. All the flaws of Earth-bound 70s Who with no Doctor.

Tag scene: on hay bales on a tractor.

About Simon Wood

Lecturer in medical education, lapsed mathematician, Doctor Who fan and garden railway builder. See simonwood.info for more...

5 thoughts on ““The Man-Eater of Surrey Green” Review

    1. You mean – it was flawless? (Apart from the bad special effects, of course. Oh, and the convenient mind-control plot devices so they could hire humans instead of aliens for which explanations were deflected with a bit of hand wavium. Oh, and the floods of dull-witted military types. Oh, and the gadget or lash-up that repelled the aliens or quelled the invasion despite the mechanism by which it did this being rather opaque. Oh, and – well, I’d better stop.)

  1. I’m just watching this episode right now on COZI TV and started laughing when Mrs. Peel informs Steed that the plant that crashed into the space capsule is “from Mars… or possibly the Moon” because apparently scientists have found “great swathes of vegetation up there” or some-such nonsense. I had forgotten that line; it’s been a while since I’ve watched The Avengers and was happy to find it on COZI.

    I put this episode down as “so bad, it’s fun to watch”. I find it more fun than the similarly-themed Tom Baker Dr. Who episode, except for that one line when Sarah Jane saves the Doctor from being ground up in the trash compacter-composter and he yells, “It would have been such a waste!” regarding his impending demise. The Avengers’ episode has the virtue of not taking itself too seriously while the Doctor Who episode presents itself with a much straighter face.

    Mrs. Peel, making a joke about not being not worried about the plant eating her because, “Well, it’s only a MAN-eater.” Then the look Steed shoots her. Priceless.

    1. I always think The Avengers is fun to watch, but it’s more fun when it’s good. I do agree this is better than Seeds of Doom although I will admit to quite enjoying that too 😉

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