The 1972 Doctor Who adventure The Mutants
is being released on DVD in
R1 this week, and while it's always fun to get another Pertwee story,
is terribly average. A six part saga, this
story would have played better as a four parter as there are a few too
dialog heavy scenes and a tighter script would have increased the
somewhat. The script is a little over
ambitious too, with political allegories (dealing with racism and
are a bit dated and a convoluted story that has some glaring plot holes
are never quite explained. Even with
these flaws though, The Mutants is a
solid adventure and turns out to be a Doctor Who story that's worth
While working on an experiment on Earth, the Time Lords send
The Doctor (Jon Pertwee) a message box, a sealed container that can
opened by the intended recipient. (Why not just transport it to the
recipient? Seems that would be much
easier.) Trusting that the TARDIS has
been programmed to the correct time and place, The Doctor and Jo jump
take off having no idea where they're going.
They land on Skybase One, a station orbiting the planet
Solos in the 30th Century.
Solos is a colony of the Earth Empire, who have mined the planet
rich mineral resources, which are almost depleted.
In the process the planet's atmosphere has
become toxic to Earthmen, or Overlords as the Solorians call their
occupiers. Another side effect is the
plague, a presumed disease that turns the local inhabitants into
Mutts as the Overlords refer to them.
These Mutts are hunted and killed on sight.
Skybase One and Solos are run by the Administrator (Geoffrey
Palmer). His second in command is The
Marshal (Paul Whitsun-Jones) the leader of the military troops
Skybase. The Marshal has also convinced
some of the local tribes, lead by Varan (James Mellor) to support the
occupation and fight their fellow Solorians.
The resistance is lead by a young charismatic Ky (Garrick Hagon)
hopes to one day free Solos from the Overlords tyranny.
The Docotr and Jo arrive just as a meeting between all the
major players is going to take place.
The Administrator has let the Marshal know that Earth can no
afford to keep troops on Solos. He's
planning on giving the Solorians their independence and send all the
troops home. That will pretty much end the
career, so he comes up with another plan.
During the speech where that will grant them their freedom, the
arranges for the Administrator to be killed and frames Ky.
The young leader flees from Skybase, but in the process brushes
the message box that The Doctor has, which causes it to open (if only
briefly). Plucky Jo is taken as a
hostage at first but soon decides that she wants to help Ky escape
cute could never be a murderer!) and finds herself hunted on the
surface without an oxygen mask.
Meanwhile The Doctor wants to find Jo as well as give Ky the
mysterious box, but the Marshal, who has taken command of Skybase One
plans. He wants The Doctor to help his
lead scientist transform the atmosphere of Solos into something that is
breathable by humans, even though that will kill the local inhabitants. So it's up to the doctor to stop the crazed
Marshal, give the box to Ky, and prevent a genocide of the Solorians,
looking for Jo.
This story would have worked much better as a four part
adventure, as they reused the same plot devices too many times to
story out. As it is, the plot is fairly
typical of a story from this era with Jo Grant, getting lost, found,
again, found again, and held hostage a couple of times.
There are a lot of talky scenes too, where
various characters will make speeches, both long and short, about
occupation, and racism. This gets old
The acting wasn't the best of any Who adventure either. Paul
Whitsun-Jones played the Marshal with too much gusto and chewed the
too much, yelling about destroying all the Mutts and crushing any
every chance he could get. There is also
a black guard, Cotton (played by Rick James), who is one of the first
African descent to appear in a supporting role in Doctor Who. It's appropriate since the story addresses
racism, but ironically James gives a horrible performance.
He's incredibly wooden and seems to be
reading all of his lines off of cue cards.
Given that it's a pretty meaty role, I'm a bit surprised they
have found someone better to play the part.
So the story is long, a bit convoluted, has several holes
(for example - once the box is opened, Ky has no idea what to do with
contents and never does figure it out, which begs the question: Why did the Time Lords send this information
to him?) and the acting varies a bit.
The story still has its strengths though. Pertwee
is restrained in his role, nicely
offsetting most of the rest of the cast, and the script, while wordy,
some interesting ideas and concepts. The
stakes are high, the survival of an entire race, and the costumes for
Mutants are actually pretty good. While
these don't totally make up for the flaws in this adventure, they do
make it a
story worth watching.
This release is a two-disc affair. The six episode story is on disc one
the second one is reserved for the bulk of the special features.
This show comes with the original mono soundtrack that fits the show
fine. The dynamic range is nothing to write home about, but the
generally crisp and clear and there is no background noise, tape hiss,
distortion or dropouts. There are optional subtitles in English.
The full frame image looks good. The Restoration Team did their
fine job though the first two episodes are a bit softer and not as
tight. That's because that pair of show's
tapes were wiped and the restoration had to be performed on NTSC tapes
That necessitated transferring them to PAL first, restoring them, and
transferring them back to NTSC for this release.) The
colors are nice and the fine detail is
good. The blacks are pretty strong too, but there is some detail
bright, white areas in a few scenes. It's not a big deal
This looks very comparable to the other Who
releases from this time frame, which means your getting a pretty solid
This disc has some great extras included, as is the standard for Doctor
releases. There are commentary tracks for all of the episodes
hosted by Nicholas Pegg.
commentators vary from episode to episode (which is good... there's only
one person can say about each story) and they including actors Katy
Grant) and Garrick Hagon (Ky), director Christopher Barry, script
Terrance Dicks, co-writer Bob Baker, set designer Jeremy Bear and sound
Brian Hodgson. They're fun to listen to,
with none of the cast or crew taking show too seriously but not
Most of the bonus material is found on disc two. The video
start out with Mutt Mad (20 min) a
look at the creation of the story with most of the surviving cast and
giving their take on the show. It's
interesting to note that director Christopher Barry admits that it's
best work and that there are some problems with the story, something
never happen in a feature profiling a current film or TV show. It's very refreshing to have the creators
talk freely about their work without having to worry about pissing off
who might give them a job. Race
(37 min) is a look at black actors in British television from the 60's
onward. It was interesting, especially
since it appears that black actors had a harder time getting on air in
the UK than they
did in the US.
I was expecting it to be terribly dull, Dressing Doctor Who (27
actually a fun look at Academy Award winning costume designer James
tenure on Doctor Who. He's a fun and
interesting guy and has some nice memories of the show and the lead
actors. There's also a minute long clip
from Blue Peter.
In addition there is a pop-up informational text option which is very
informative as always. It does give some dry statistics,
many people viewed each episode, but there are also some interesting
as script changes that were made and background information on the
characters. The extras are rounded off with storyboard
trailer for the story, a photo gallery, and the listing from the Radio
While this story does have some serious flaws, when all is said and
an average Who story from the Pertwee
era. It would have been strengthened by
being just four parts, but even at six there's enough good here to Recommend
this disc to fans of The
Doctor. Check it out.