Doctor Who #321: The Mutants Part 2

"Genocide as a side-effect!?"
TECHNICAL SPECS: First aired Apr.15 1972.

Jo escapes with Ky to the planet, while the Doctor is put to work on various scientific problems.

REVIEW: Wait a minute, they killed off Geoffrey Palmer's character after a sing episode? You don't expect it with some actors. And now the Marshal's in full command and tying up any loose ends, running a Ministry of Truth strategy and rewriting history, in complete contrast to tribal leader Ky's brutal honesty, telling Jo his life is more important than hers (and yet unable to leave her out in the mists to die). It's too bad the Marshal looks and sounds like just another petty bureaucrat - one with a silly truncheon-microphone combo at that - because he could be a fearsome figure. Or perhaps it's better this way, tapping in Doctor Who's warnings about the potential evils of bureaucracy. The villain is the type you might find at your local bank or government office. The introduction of the scientist Jaeger (George Pravda) is a bit more obvious though. He's got an Eastern European accent so he has to be amoral. And he is! The mutants are probably all because of his atmospheric experiments. (Still, did the production team blow a prop up right in Pravda's face?! Somebody call Health & Safety!)

The nice surprise, as far as the guest characters go, is that the comedy guards from Part 1 take on a larger and more sympathetic role. Stubbs and Cotton are both "turned" by the Doctor and start helping him from behind the scenes, and we're glad, because unlike the cookie-cutter extras with guns we usually see on the show, these guys have stories, families, and personalities. They're just regular Joes whose orders stopped making sense to them some time ago. I hope they survive the story.

As for the regulars characters, it's common place for them to be split up between the factions presented, but Jo is a bit silly to run into a toxic atmosphere even after she's been warned. When the pursuers lose her signal, are we to understand she died and was resurrected when Ky unfortunately groped her in the cave? The Doctor's having better luck up on the space station, but he loses a lot of time fiddling around with the magical science du jour, "particle reversal". I say magical because not only is it the key to turning the Time Lord box inside out (is this some kind of TARDIS-related Time Lord technology? What would happen if such a process was used on a TARDIS? See the New Adventures novel Cat's Cradle: Time's Crucible for that, I guess) and, somehow, to purging Solos' atmosphere of toxins without killing the population. What the two have in common has yet to be explained.

REWATCHABILITY: Medium - Stubbs and Cotton make a change from the usual cannon fodder, though I must admit, none of the episode's incidents are particularly memorable.


Anonymous said...

On Mark Waid's web site, he was once dispensing writing tips, and one of his most memorable tips was: every single character in your story wants something. This applies to not only the hero, the villain, and their allies, but every last person who speaks a line or performs an action. You've noted in other stories where side characters show some lick of character -- the soldier who is sweet on Jo, or Yates lording it over Benton -- and how it breathes life into a script. Good to see them using that strategy here too.

Siskoid said...

Probably down to Dicks as script editor. Self-described as a nuts&bolts writer whose forte is making things "fit" (production concerns, producer requests, etc.), he nonetheless should probably be given credit for his character work.


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