‘The Mutants’ (TV)


Please feel free to comment on my review.

Mutts on Solos with the Third Doctor and Jo

I must be ‘mutt mad’ to have watched this ‘Doctor Who’ story!

Na, I’m kidding of course! ‘The Mutants’ is a six-part adventure from the Jon Pertwee era of ‘Doctor Who’. I purchased this story on DVD when it was released back in late January 2011. The story stars Jon Pertwee as the Third Doctor and Katy Manning as Jo Grant who go off and visit the planet Solos.

‘The Mutants’ was released on a 2-disc DVD set with the story on Disc 1 and the special features on Disc 2. There is a lot to take in from this story and it certainly is pretty imaginative. I assume ‘The Mutants’ is one of those underrated stories in ‘Doctor Who’ since it does not get talked about much.

I enjoyed this adventure when I saw it on DVD back in 2011. I’ve seen it three times now. On first viewing, I don’t this adventure was as compelling and exciting as some of the other ‘Doctor Who’ adventures of that era. But watching it again, I did find it to be really good with intriguing messages.

The story is by Bob Baker and Dave Martin, who previously contributed to the ‘Doctor Who’ series in ‘The Claws of Axos’. For ‘The Mutants’, the two writers wanted to address a certain political subject involving colonial oppression which was something of a common thing during the British Empire era.

In the story, the Doctor receives a spherical pod sent to him by the Time Lords at U.N.I.T. HQ. From there, the Doctor goes off on a mission with Jo Grant accompanying him to deliver this spherical pod containing a message to someone. They soon end up on Skybase One that is in orbit of planet Solos.

The Doctor and Jo have ended up towards the end of the Earth Empire. Colonial oppression occurs between the Solonians and the humans who are given the name Overlords by the Solos inhabitants. Mutations also occur for the Solonians where they are being transformed into the monstrous Mutts.

The Marshal, who is a tyrannical oppressor aboard Skybase One as well as on the planet Solos, is determined for the Earth Empire to live on by eradicating the Mutts and having Solos’ atmosphere breathable for human life. Can the Doctor, Jo and their friends stop the evil tyranny of the Marshal?

‘The Mutants’ would have been a story of its time during the 1970s with its themes of oppression, racism and colonialism. Sadly topics from the story still resonate to this day and it should be noted that ‘The Mutants’ is a story that provides a reminder to us of how bad things can be with an empire.

I like how this story gets to give the Third Doctor and Jo a chance to get away from U.N.I.T. and have adventures in time and space. This is while the Doctor is still trapped on Earth during his exile and sometimes is given tasks by the Time Lords to do jobs for them, giving him a chance to get off Earth.

This has happened a couple of times before in ‘Colony In Space’ and ‘The Curse of Peladon’. The Doctor and Jo had an earthbound adventure without U.N.I.T. and instead had the Navy in ‘The Sea Devils’. Only two Season 9 tales – ‘Day of the Daleks’ and ‘The Time Monster’ – had U.N.I.T. in them.

It would be a while before the Third Doctor got his freedom again to travel in time and space again. But for now, this seemed like a good way to give the Doctor adventures in his TARDIS during his exile. It was a process producer Barry Letts and script-editor Terrance Dicks had developed gradually.

I enjoyed the concepts featured in this adventure by Bob Baker and Dave Martin. As well as the themes of colonialism, racism and oppression, there are also the themes of mutation and a certain life cycle that the Solonians go through in this tale. These things would interconnect with each other.

Watching this story again did put me in mind of the history lessons I took studying at school about the 20th century and its attitudes to society. I may not be too familiar about the British Empire overall, but I was able to pick up certain aspects from human history that are so resonant in this tale.

I like how director Christopher Barry had approached this story with a colourful atmosphere, especially when on Skybase One, in outer space and on the planet Solos in the caves and outside in the foggy mists. This is one of many ‘Doctor Who’ stories Christopher Barry’s directed and it is good.

Jon Pertwee is brilliant as the Third Doctor in this adventure. I like how he takes on board the challenge of the mission given to him by the Time Lords and how he seeks to find the person he wants to give this message pod to. He’s outraged by the plans the Marshall has with regarding Solos.

He’s disgusted and appalled by the plans of genocide concocted by the Marshal and chief scientist Jaeger. The Doctor’s sympathetic to the Solonians and shares a scientific interest with fugitive human scientist, Sondergaard. I enjoyed it when the Doctor has his action moments during the story.

Katy Manning is equally brilliant as Jo Grant in this adventure. She’s determined to join the Doctor on his mission to Solos when he almost leaves without her. She gets to join in on the adventure when she chases after Ky, the person the Doctor and Jo are looking for to give their spherical pod to.

I liked it when Jo’s on the planet surface of Solos with Ky, despite not having a gas mask to which she eventually passes out only to be given a gas mask by Ky. She’s terrified of the Mutts at first when in the caves with Ky. But Jo realises what the Marshall is doing and I liked it when she gets to defy him.

Paul Whitsun-Jones guest stars as the villainous Marshall in this story. This is Paul Whitsun-Jones’ second ‘Doctor Who’ appearance since he did ‘The Smugglers’ before this. I was mesmerized by his performance as the Marshal in this adventure, who is clearly mad and a great enemy for the Doctor.

It’s easy to dislike the Marshal with his style and approach; his racism to the Mutts and wanting the Earth Empire ways to go on. I liked it when the Marshall showed his true colours in the investigation scene in ‘Episode Six’. My Dad knew Jon Pertwee would say “Need I say more!” to the Earth Investigator.

Garrick Hagon guest stars as Ky, a young Solonian in the story. Ky is the leader of his Solonian group who’s fed up of the humans/Overlords’ rule on their planet. He demands freedom during the Administrator’s address to them and soon escapes to Solos when this assassination attempt occurs.

Ky spends some time with Jo in the story when they’re together on the planet Solos. Ky is given the spherical pod by the Doctor and he opens it to find inside some tablets of ancient Solonian script on it. Can Ky provide the key to the survival of the Solonian people as well as to the ultimate mutation?

George Pravda guest stars as Professor Jaeger, chief scientist aboard Skybase One. George Pravda previously appeared in ‘The Enemy of the World’ and would later play Castellan Sprandrell in ‘The Deadly Assassin’. I liked his performance as Jaeger, a reluctant scientist in cahoots with the Marshall.

There’s Christopher Coll as Stubbs and Rick James as Cotton, two aides to the Marshall of Solos. I like these two as they’re almost a double act helping the Doctor and Jo in opposing the Marshall in this story. Cotton is also an intriguing character in that he’s played by an actor who happens to be black.

At that time, non-white actors were rare to see on UK TV. It’s not like nowadays where you have characters like Mickey Smith and Martha Jones who are black in ‘Doctor Who’. I thought Rick James gave a good performance as Cotton, despite the criticisms said about his acting and in being miscast.

The story also features James Mellor as Varan, Ky’s Solonian rival and Jonathan Sherwood as Varan’s son. There’s also John Hollis as Sondergaard, a scientist who the Doctor, Jo and friends met inside the caves on the planet Solos and sometimes wears a spacesuit in the lethal areas of tense radiation.

There’s also Geoffrey Palmer who plays the Administrator in this tale. Geoffrey Palmer has appeared in ‘Doctor Who’ before in ‘The Silurians’ and would later star in ‘Voyage of the Damned’. There’s also Peter Howell (who would play Saruman in ‘The Lord of the Rings’ radio series) as the Earth Investigator.

The Mutts as monsters are pretty impressive for their time. They remind me of ants for some reason especially with their abdomens on their backs. It was amazing to discover Terrance Dicks’ grown-up son found the Mutts terrifying when watching them according to the ‘Mutt Mad’ DVD documentary.

It was intriguing how the Mutts evolved as monsters. They’re initially scary but then it turns out that they’re victims of the mutation process caused by the Marshall and the experiments made on Solos’ atmosphere. It was scary seeing them in those caves as opposed to the bright light on Skybase One.

The costumes and the production design of this story is pretty good. James Acheson, who would later go on to design costumes for movies like the original ‘Spider-Man’ trilogy’, does wonders for the costumes on Solos and Skybase One as well as Jeremy Bear’s designs for the planet and Skybase.

The DVD special features are as follows. On Disc 1, there’s a commentary with Katy Manning, Garrick Hagon, director Christopher Barry, script editor Terrance Dicks, co-writer Bob Baker, special sounds supervisor Brian Hodgson and designer Jeremy Bear, moderated by Nicholas Pegg. There’s also an info-text commentary option to enjoy and a ‘coming soon’ trailer for ‘The Ark’ with William Hartnell, Peter Purves and Jackie Lane.

On Disc 2, there’s the ‘Mutt Mad’ making-of documentary with behind-the-scenes cast and crew interviews. There’s also the ‘Race Against Time’ documentary, narrated by Noel Clarke. There’s also the ‘Dressing Doctor Who’ interview with costume designer James Acheson and a ‘Blue Item’ item. There’s also a photo gallery of the story and PDF materials including a ‘Radio Times Listings’ of the story.

‘The Mutants’ is a pretty enjoyable and enlightening ‘Doctor Who’ adventure from the Jon Pertwee era. I’ve enjoyed it more on a third watch and find it fascinating with its themes and concepts throughout. I’ve also enjoyed the performances of the cast including Jon Pertwee and Katy Manning.

I’m sure many messages of this six-part adventure get echoed in future stories of ‘Doctor Who’. And rightly so, considering the story challenges the audience on how we perceive things differently compared to what was perceived in the 1970s and we question ourselves whether we’ve got better.

‘The Mutants’ rating – 8/10

The previous story

For the Third Doctor was

  • ‘The Other Woman’ (ST/Audio)

For Jo was

The next story

For the Third Doctor is

  • ‘Still Life’ (ST/Audio)

For Jo is

  • ‘Still Life’ (ST/Audio)
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4 thoughts on “‘The Mutants’ (TV)

  1. Timelord 007

    Great review on one of the Third Doctor’s most underrated adventures, i thoroughly enjoyed this 6 parter as it doesn’t shy away from controversial topics, Love the setting & Jon Pertwee getting on his high horse lol.

    Location filming was excellent on this which added great atmosphere to the story as were the performances, you summarized this one perfectly my friend.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Tim Bradley Post author

      Yeah ‘The Mutants’ is a pretty underrated adventure in ‘Doctor Who’. I think I’ve enjoyed it more seeing it three times now for this review. The controversial topics are interesting and I especially enjoyed Jon Pertwee and Katy Manning in this Third Doctor adventure.

      Very pleased you enjoyed how I summarised this adventure. I enjoyed your thoughts on this story and glad you enjoyed the atmosphere and location filming from it.

      Many thanks

      Tim. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      1. scifimike70

        As a reminder of how sometimes the underrated sci-fi stories may have the most important things to say, and as a fan who can now be more attuned to such sci-fi stories thanks to special films like Gattaca, The Mutants earns my respect for resonating with Whovians on the most serious side of the genre.

        Recognizing Garrick Hagon as Ky from having played Biggs in Star Wars IV, he certainly stands out as a character who makes us realize why such oppressions like that of the megalomaniacal Marshal are never to be tolerated. To make up for the ultimately sad endings for both The Silurians and The Sea Devils, this story is among the most specifically enjoyable for me from Pertwee’s era. Thank you, Tim, for your review.

        Liked by 2 people

      2. Tim Bradley Post author

        Hi scifimike,

        Thanks for sharing your thoughts on ‘The Mutants’ and glad you enjoyed my review on the story. I’m looking forward to updating my thoughts on the story when it comes to revisiting Season 9 in its upcoming Blu-ray box set. I’m likely to update my thoughts on the stories in the Season 2 and Season 9 Blu-ray box sets sometime in 2024.

        Tim 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

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