Number : Season 9, serial 4 of 5.
Which One : The Overlords and the Mutants.
Cast : The Doctor : Jon Pertwee
Jo : Katy Manning
The Marshall : Paul Whitsun-Jones
Jaeger : George Pravda
Stubbs : Christopher Coll
Cotton : Rick James
Varan : James Mellor
Varan’s Son : Jonathan Sherwood
Ky : Garrick Hagon
Professor Sondergaard : John Hollis
Administrator : Geoffrey Palmer
Investigator : Peter Howell
Old Man : Sidney Johnson
Mutt : John Scott Martin
Written By : Bob Baker & Dave Martin
Produced By : Barry Letts
First UK Broadcast : 8 April–13 May 1972.
Length : 6 x 25 minute episodes.
Plot : The Doctor is sent on (yet another) special-mission, by the Timelords. To deliver a message and gets mixed up in a political battle – between the (oppressive human) Overlords and the (oppressed) Solonian tribes – of Solos.
Whats good : Interesting morality tale, with apartheid subtext. Strong cast. The mutation sub-plot. Dr Sondergaard.
Whats bad : It’s 2 episodes – too long. Geoffrey Palmer is under-utilised. The Marshall.
Review With Spoilers : The Mutants is the fourth story of season 9 – and the Doctor’s third ‘mission for the Timelords’. Despite still being exiled on Earth. The Doctor is required to deliver a message; after previous missions, undertaken in Colony In Space and Curse Of Peladon.
The Doctor is sent a special canister, which will only open in the presence of a specific individual. The Tardis is then auto-piloted to the planet Solos; in the 30th century. It is here, that the Doctor discovers an oppressive human empire; dubbed “The Overlords” -by the oppressed Solonians.
The Overlords – want to turn Solos, into an ‘Earth-style’ breathable atmosphere planet. By bombarding it, with ‘ionisation’ rockets. However, the resident Solonians are beginning to metamorphasize into mutant-type cockroach creatures. The Overlords hunt these “Mutts” (as they nick-name them) down – and exterminate them.
For the most part, The Mutants – is an effective morality tale. About the oppression and abuse of a primitive race; with the human antagonsits cast, centre-stage – as the villainous – “Overlords” (as the Solonians nickname them).
The segregation and apartheid subtext – is cleverly present throughout. Not least, in the matter-transporters on Solos; being seperated; into ‘Overlord’ and ‘Solonian’ cubicles.
The reason for the Solonian’s change, into ‘mutant-type’ creatures. Is the Doctor’s main-challenge throughout this story (aside from the Overlord problem). This conundrum is playfully-handled, in terms of keeping the viewer on tenderhooks; as to what the actual reason is. Some kind of natural change? Or something brought about by the Overlord’s interference?
Initially, the Mutants are just the resident ‘monster of the week’ – hiding in the shadow. However, as Doctor Who so cleverly does is – it turns this on its head and the Mutants turn out – to be the victims of a much worse monster; the Overlords.
“This present mutation is one of a series of adaptive changes, Sir! Solos is moving out of spring into summer, and that is why the Solonians are changing!” The Doctor
An effective addition of Empire Strikes Back‘s Lobot – John Hollis; in the 3rd act – as Dr Sondergaard, helps the Doctor undertake the investigation – into the Mutant problem. Hollis and Pertwee bounce off each other nicely, in their short time; as companions – on Solos.
In an era, where racism was still prevalent. It is also good to see Who define a more multi-cultural future, in The Mutants; with a black actor (Rick James). In more a prominent role. Even if his character, does sport the dubious name – of “Cotton”.
Less effective, is Paul Whitson-Jones’ portrayal; of the Marshall. Who on paper, has the best character in this episode but comes across a little flat – in portrayal of an insane power-mad Dictator.
If anything, the Marshall should have been played with the same glorious OTT’ness, that Bruce Purchase brought to the Pirate Captain – in The Pirate Planet.
Also popping up in this, is George Pravda as Jaeger; who appeared as Castellan Spandrell in The Deadly Assassin. Geoffrey Palmer is (bizarrely) underused, as the Administrator who is killed shortly after becoming entangled – in a Marshall/Solonian assassination plot.
In summary, The Mutants is an effective Who morality tale, which cleverly puts the humans – at the centre of an evil empire. It is far too long at 6-parts and would have been a much punchier and better realised – 4-parter.
Nevertheless, it remains an interesting spectacle – and unique ‘conceptual’ serial, in the Pertwee series. Helped in part, by some strong supporting-character turns.
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