The Time Lords send the Doctor on a mission to the far future,
where the planet Solos is claiming independence from Earth's
empire. The human ruler of Solos, the Marshal, is determined
to retain control at any cost. Meanwhile, increasing numbers
of the native population are mutating into monsters...
I doubt that The Mutants will rank highly among many
fans' favourite stories, but, viewing it once again, it's
better than I remember it being.
Bob Baker and Dave Martin have written more inspired scripts
than this. There are an awful lot of clichés here, from the
stereotypical deranged despot that is the Marshal (Paul Whitsun-Jones)
and the archetypical honourable but deluded native, Varan
(James Mellor), to the standard outspoken freedom fighter,
Ky (Garrick Hagon). To his credit, though, Garrick Hagon manages
to make his one-note character seem somehow sympathetic.
Sondergaard (John Hollis) is a more difficult character to
categorise. On one hand, he is the stereotypical wise old
hermit so beloved of producer Barry Letts. But on the other
hand, he is one of the few ethical scientists ever to be depicted
in Who on television. The institutional colonialism
and racism of the Earth Empire are also nicely offset by the
thoroughly honest and decent guards Stubbs (Christopher Coll)
and Cotton (Rick James), although Rick James' performance
is truly diabolical.
Actually, very few of the performances are particularly inspiring,
with the notable exception of the aforementioned Hagon. Unfortunately,
the best actor in the entire production - Geoffrey Palmer,
who plays the Administrator - gets bumped off in the opening
Christopher Barry has directed far better stories than this.
Six-parters tend to be slow at the best of times, and this
is one of the slower examples.
the mutant costumes are rather good, although when the Solonians
mutate, their clothing seems to mutate as well. There is some
dodgy - either fuzzy or badly aligned - chromakey, but then
we have come to expect that from this era. Earthquakes are
simulated by pointing a camera at a reflective surface, which
is then wobbled by a stagehand. Unfortunately, Barry keeps
the camera pointed at the reflective surface even when it
is static, which makes the picture appear distorted.
was Tristram Cary's incidental music such a good idea. Like
Malcolm Clarke's infamous score for The Sea Devils,
Cary's contribution is a Musique Concrète affair involving
a series of electronic beeps and burbles. Whereas Cary's music
for Christopher Barry's The Daleks (which, coincidentally,
was originally entitled The Mutants) was creepy and
unsettling, this effort ranges from distracting to downright
all its faults, The Mutants manages to combine some
decent SF ideas - radiation, mutation and alien natural history
- with some worthy moral messages - about imperialism, racism
and environmental damage - albeit messages that are driven
home in a less than subtle fashion. Following on nicely from
the previous season's Colony in Space, which depicted
humanity's expansion among the stars, The Mutants takes
place during the dying days of Earth's empire. Frontier
in Space, which followed a year later, would revisit the
Empire at the height of its power. In fact, the Third Doctor's
trips into the future during Barry Letts' reign as producer
have helped to create a consistent historical backdrop that
is still being built upon by Who novelists today.
there are plenty of reasons for enduring this story's more
cringe-worthy aspects. Not least of which is the (I assume
deliberate) homage to Monty Python at the beginning
of the tale!
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