Doctor Who – The Mutants

And so the catching up continues, with this six-parter from April/May 1972, with Jon Pertwee as the Doctor, and Katy Manning as Jo Grant. Despite having officially exiled the Doctor to Earth, from time to time the Time Lords liked to send him on missions, and this is one of those. The Doctor’s job is to deliver a message sphere to somebody. They don’t give him any hints, of course. That would be too easy. Instead, they direct the TARDIS to a planet which Earth “colonised”[1] centuries earlier. Earth’s government has decided that it can no longer afford to run an empire, so the Solonians are going to be given their independence. The local military leader isn’t keen on this, which leads to lots of brutality, a wee bit of assassination, and all manner of trouble.

The big bit of trouble is that some of the locals are beginning to mutate into a strange new form – all claws and exoskeleton.

Then there’s a scientist hiding in the caverns, who claims to know more about what’s going on.

And there’s the recipient of the message from the Time Lords.

And finally, the realisation that the planet’s very long orbit means it has very long seasons, and some very interesting life cycles…

Yes, it all gets sorted out, the nasty military leader gets zapped, and the Doctor and Jo are taken back to Earth…

The whole thing is a clear commentary on the Apartheid policy of the then government of South Africa (lots of stuff about the natives not being capable of looking after themselves, segregation on the orbiting space station, you know the kind of thing), which adds a certain something, but I’m not sure what…

Anyway, on to the special features. Apart from the usual, etc, etc, there is:

  • Mutt Mad – one of the usual cast and crew looking back on the production thingies
  • Race Against Time – Noel Clarke, who you will remember as Mickey in the 21st century version of the show, narrates a documentary on the lack of non-white actors in Doctor Who in particular, and British TV in general. Lots of talking heads, and old clips of quite evidently white actors being made up to look distinctly non-white, with varying degrees of believability. Good, thought-provoking work.
  • Dressing Doctor Who – In the early 1970s, James Acheson was a costume designer for the BBC. These days, he’s an Oscar-winning costume designer for movies. And he’s a lot of fun, with lots of stories and a lot of laughs.
  • A slightly naff bit from Blue Peter – A quick clip of Peter Purves looking at some monsters which were about to be put in an exhibition. Could easily have been omitted…

[1] Invaded