“The Mutants” is an adventure of the ninth season of “Doctor Who” classic series, which aired in 1972. It follows “The Sea Devils” and it’s a six parts adventure written by Bob Baker and Dave Martin and directed by Christopher Barry.
The Third Doctor (Jon Pertwee) receives from the Time Lords a strange box that will open only in the hands of the recipient. Together with Jo Grant (Katy Manning), he’s transported on the Tardis to a space station orbiting the planet Solos. There, the travelers find themselves in the middle of a conflict between the representatives of the Earth Empire and the natives of Solos, made more complex by the fact that among the natives there are more and more mutants.
For a long time, the planet Solos’s natural resources have been exploited by the Earth empire , which for some time has been in a period of decline. The Administrator announces that Solos will be granted independence but is killed during his speech. The culprit is one of the natives but the instigator is the Marshal, who doesn’t want to lose his power and decided to build his own little empire.
This double DVD has a limited amount of extras but three of them are more than 20 minutes long. There are typical contents such as production subtitles, a gallery of pictures from this adventure, the Radio Times Billings and a promo of the “Doctor Who” DVDs soon to be published.
There are various comments in the adventure alternative audio track by protagonist Katy Manning, actor Garrick Hagon, director Christopher Barry, script editor Terrance Dicks, co-author Bob Baker, special sounds supervisor Brian Hodgson and designer Jeremy Bear moderated by Nicholas Pegg.
Mad Mutt. A documentary about 20 minutes long on the production of this adventure.
Race Against Time. A documentary nearly 38 minutes long narrated by Noel Clarke about the representation of non-white actors in “Doctor Who” and in general in British TV. An interesting window not only in the television of the past decades but also in society, seen from the point of view of the ethno-racial problem.
Dressing Doctor Who. The costume designer James Acheson remembers the years when he worked in “Doctor Who”, before working for film productions also very important for which he won three Oscars for best costume design. An interesting documentary about 27 minutes long about the way costumes were created in the classic series, with many time and budget constraints.
Blue Peter. Peter Purves examines some “Doctor Who” monsters before the opening of an exhibition of visual effects.
“The Mutants” is one of the adventures of the period in which the Doctor was exiled to Earth. Sometimes the Time Lords sent him somewhere to solve some problem on their belhalf taking control of the Tardis. In this case, they send him to deliver a box that will open only in the hands of the recipient.
The Doctor is provided no information about his mission so when the Tardis brings him and Jo to a space station, he must find the person to delivered the box to and understand the situation. Soon, he realizes he ended up in a complex political situation.
The story is heavily inspired by colonialism with some references to South African apartheid, which at the time was a hot topic. The planet Solos has been an Earth’s colony for a long time but is about to gain independence. The situation is complicated because among the natives of Solos many mutations are appearing and this causes a lot of tension.
In all of this there’s the story of the Marshal, one of the most important Earth’s officers. He made a career in the colonial service and abandoning Solos could mark its end. For this reason, he decides to take power and establish his small empire on the planet.
The big problem is that the Marshal is a character over the top, a trivial megalomaniac interested in maintaining his power. The result is that “The Mutants” has a pantomime villain and the result is a weakening of the story. His actions should bring a sense of threat to the natives of Solos, the Doctor and Jo but his buffoon look in my opinion makes him not credible.
The other characters in my opinion are a mixex bag with varying levels of quality and it’s difficult to understand whether certain performances are the actors fault or a script that didn’t develop them properly. Overall, I think that the plot development is much more interesting than the characters.
The story is very complex because there’s a part of the plot based on political and social elements with different factions among both the Earthlings and the natives of Solos but there’s another one about the mutants. The Doctor must address the mystery of the mutations and in the course of this adventure slowly discover the secrets of the natives of the planet Solos.
It’s a story that has enough complexity to be developed in six episodes. Mind it, the pace is sometimes slow but it’s in the normal range of the classic “Doctor Who” series. Due to its length, there’s some padding with characters who are constantly moving from Solos to the space base and the other way around but the story is solid and interesting.
For its political and social content, “The Mutants” is a really ambitious adventure, unfortunately I think it’s developed in a disappointing way, especially in some characters. It’s a shame because the potential was great and the special effects are mostly of high quality for the standards of the classic “Doctor Who” series.
“The Mutants” has strengths and weaknesses but all in all I think it’s a good adventure. There are a few extras but most of them are long so there’s a second DVD and I think they’re interesting extras. Therefore, this is a good DVD edition and for this reason I recommend buying it to “Doctor Who” fans.