Readers of the last two episode reviews will notice a recurring theme – that they are six part adventures set during the Pertwee era that all involve some sort of adventure on another world. Today’s review continues that trend – recognising that there are quite a few of these adventures from Pertwee’s time as the Doctor that I find perfectly enjoyable, but aren’t necessarily standout classics in the same way that some of the later reviews are.
The Mutants sees the BBC producers dust off a mechanism last used in Colony in Space – the Timelords explicitly send the Doctor and Jo on a quest, in this instance to deliver a message that can only be opened by the person it is intended for, and they arrive on the planet Solos, which is seeking independence from the empire of Earth – witness again how the BBC didn’t shy from social commentary on real life events, in this instance the granting of independence to former British colonial territories. The Marshal of the planet is determined that the planet should not be returned, but rather should be terraformed, regardless of the cost to the native Solonians. He is equally determined to wipe out the titular Mutants (called Mutts) – a mutated race that have appeared on the planet.
The Doctor comes into contact with the person for whom the message is intended – a native Solonian named Ky, and discovers that the planet’s year lasts the equivalent of 2000 earth years, with seasonal changes occuring every 500 years. The Mutts are in fact mutated Solonians, and the mutation is a natural change that they go through, which has been disturbed by their colonisation by the Earth Empire. It therefore falls to the Doctor and Jo, aided by research scientist Sondergaard, to help Ky to reveal the villainous intent of the Marshal to the Earth authorities, and persuade them to allow Solos’ independence.
Quite a lot happens across the six episodes, which makes a ten minute review difficult! But it shows why I rather enjoyed discovering this era of the show’s history. Over six parts you grow to know and enjoy the characters and the subplots, and are absolutely delighted when the Marshall gets his final comeuppance. The story also illustrates that Pertwee didn’t need the Master present for a good story – it runs along at a goodly rate, carried by the momentum of continuous peril, discovery and reaction to adversity.
In fact, of the three Pertwee reviews I have just undertaken, I would say The Mutants is a better introduction to this kind of story compared to Frontier in Space or Colony in Space. I was pleasantly surprised when I watched the DVD as to just how enjoyable the story was – while recognising that fans who felt six-episode stories dragged or hated the Pertwee era might struggle to enjoy it as much as I did!