Doctor Who #323: The Mutants Part 4

"Experiments, population control... jargon, Jaeger! This is war!"
TECHNICAL SPECS: First aired Apr.29 1972.

IN THIS ONE... The Doctor meets a much nicer scientist, Sondergaard, and together they start unraveling the mystery of Solos, while the tribesmen attack Skybase.

REVIEW: Oh wow, like the Solonians turning into Mutts, the serial is quickly devolving as well. Let's talk plot. Everything I said yesterday about Solos' natural life cycle is here explained in a massive info-dump (in the interests of full disclosure, I don't remember anything about The Mutants if I've seen it before - which would be over 20 years ago anyway - but I've read enough about Doctor Who to have a vague echo of that knowledge floating in my head). And that's the interesting bit. The Doctor gets help from Sondergaard, halfway between a hippie and a Buddhist monk, with a boiler suit and an unusual accent. Speaking of info-dumps, that's all Ky knows how to do, and his harping on about his "people" is grating on the nerves. The Mutts are sadly used to decorate the mines as if it were a fun house in a county fair, a dreadful waste of a good monster. Varan stages a hare-brained attack on the space station, which of course ends in disaster, with him and his men shockingly thrown out into space when the Marshal's gun blasts a hole through the paper-thin bulkhead. Should anyone even be allowed to carry a weapon aboard this death-trap?

The character work is also lacking. The Doctor and Sondergaard do Doctory and Sondergaardery things, sure, but Jo's only role is to point at things she's afraid of. The Marshal, if he ever had an once of subtlety, loses it completely and starts chewing up the scenery (might explain the explosive decompression), now a cardboard villain on the verge of madness. How can he question Earth's decision to send an investigator? There's just been an assassination of an official sent to give Solos its independence! And while I was happy to give Stubbs and Cotton a good review earlier for being more than your standard guards, here they go up against those very motiveless guards. Nondescript extras who shoot at sympathetic colleagues, don't ask questions and moreover, are the worst shots in the history of the series. No really. Look at the angles between guns and squibs.

And finally, technical issues. More bad CSO, and though the bit where radiation sparks fly through the screen is interesting, it looks very rough indeed. Yellow halos flare around the characters and worse, parts of the Doctor disappear completely. Something similar happens in the explosive decompression sequence as well. Ugly. And then there are those moments which seem to be shot at an angle through a reflective mirror. Are they using that to cause the quakes? Because it seems unnecessary (just shake the camera), and all those shots look more distorted than a bad case of Shaw-Scope. What the heck.

THEORIES: So when did the Doctor become so highly resistant to radiation? In The Daleks, he almost dies from radiation poisoning. Here, he claims (and shows) that he can withstand it easily when even a man in a lead suit has trouble. By the Tenth Doctor era, this kind of trick will become more commonplace, as when Ten shunts radiation out through his shoes. So is it that Time Lords have a natural immunity, which was eroded by his first body's age? Or does it depend on the radiation, as this is specifically labeled as thaesium radiation. A crazy theory I'm throwing out there is that each regeneration gives a Time Lord a new "trick", evolving as it were towards a more powerful form. First to second, a second heart. Second to third, radiation immunity. And so on until he can do telepathic uploads. No? Might explain why Borusa went through so many regenerations in such a short time in his quest for ultimate power while on the relatively safe Gallifrey. Suicides?

REWATCHABILITY: Low - Oh, it's watchable, especially as part of the greater whole, but the production has been let down on every conceivable front.


Eric TF Bat said...

I believe the idea that you simulate earthquakes by shaking the camera is an urban legend. Try it yourself with your camera phone, assuming it has a video mode. What you get doesn't look like an earthquake; it looks like someone was shaking the camera! So they have a mirror, attached to a frame by rubber bands, and they film through that and shake it instead. Without seeing the episode in question, that sounds like what they did there.

Siskoid said...

It is, though there isn't a shake on every shot that looks like this, and the mirror is at an odd angle so everything looks warped on a single camera angle.

Anonymous said...

I've had much the same thought about Time Lords picking up new abilities from one regeneration to the next, though I sort of figured it was more like Lamarckian adaptation: the more times you've been killed by radiation, the more your subsequent regenerations can withstand it. Not that they become immune: Three's body ultimately dies from radiation (and almost can't regenerate), and Ten succumbs to a dose of radiation that his shoes aren't large enough to contain (yet he regenerates just fine).

There are flaws to this theory, such as we would expect every Doctor from Five onward to be death-by-falling-resistant. Then again, Eleven DID survive a fall to earth in that Christmas special ...

Siskoid said...

It may be that the same way one body might have blue eyes and another brown, Time Lords have a number of hereditary traits that a regeneration might manifest. Not evolution, just a different pick from a list that includes immunity to certain kinds of radiation, telepathic/hypnotic abilities, more or less temporal awareness, respiratory bypass control, overcoming poison with strange recipes, what have you.

To return to Borusa, he might have been committing serial suicide to get a particular mix of abilities.


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