Number : Season 9, episode 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 parts.
Plot : The Doctor is sent on an 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 4th story of season 9 and the Doctor’s third – still Earthbound but sent on a mission for the Timelords to deliver a message – after 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 the sent to the planet Solos in the 30th century where an oppressive human empire – dubbed “The Overlords” by the oppressed Solonians of planet Solon.
The Overlords want to turn Solos into an Earth style breathable atmosphere, by bombarding it with ionisation rockets. However, the resident Solonians are beginning to metamorphasize into mutant-type cockroach creatures. The Overlords hunt these “Mutts” 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 humans cast centre-stage as the villains – “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 these mutant-type creatures is the Doctor’s main challenge throughout this episode (aside from the Overlord problem) and 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 shadows but as so Who cleverly does – it turns this on its head and the Mutants turn out to be the victims of a much worse monster; the human’s Overlords – themselves.
“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 underpin this investigation into the Mutant problem. Hollis and Pertwee bounce off each other well, in their short time – as companions on Solos.
In an era where racism was 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 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 his 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 appearing by 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 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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