Doctor Who #325: The Mutants Part 6

"Oh well, back to the broom cupboard." "Yes, well, at least we've made a clean sweep of this place!"
TECHNICAL SPECS: First aired May 13 1972.

IN THIS ONE... Everything is recapped for thr Investigator's benefit, then Ky turns into a rainbow and kills the Marshal. The end.

REVIEW: This story already strained to make its 6 episodes, and here in the end, it finds a way to further try my patience by essentially summarizing everything that has gone before, at length and repeatedly. This takes the form of a hearing that gets interrupted over and over again by people (or monsters) barging in, like a Matlock spoof or something, accidentally comical. The whole tired exercise seems even more futile because just as the Investigator seems to accept the Doctor's facts, the Mutts show up and the Marshal is rewarded for disobeying orders with complete control of Skybase "during this emergency". So we're back where we started, basically, and that's not a particularly good place. The Investigator and his men wear the Marshal's reversed colors (white and gold), but white guards are no more competent than the black and silver ones, pushing gingerly at the Marshal and not at all preventing him from opening fire, or the various interlopers from walking into the courtroom, or, for that matter, stopping the forces of evil from taking them into custody.

The Marshal's plan is to force the Investigator and his men to settle Solos and help him start a new empire on that ball of dirt. Completely ridiculous, mad or not. Has anyone noticed there aren't any girls? And how can a simple space station that's really easy to board withstand Earth's eventual retaliation? I find no succor with "Ky's people", unfortunately. I'm ok with the Mutts being a transitional form between spring Solonians and summer Solonians, but why would they go from humanoid to bugs to humanoid energy forms? It's down the evolutionary ladder and back up again - very quickly if they're all meant to use crystals to finish the metamorphosis - which is really just because the episode needs monsters. The effects in this episode are much better than the last five's (competent CSO, a good marriage of model and practical probes, and effects well superimposed on the video), however most of these are still silly in design (the phallic probes our heroes walk into, Ky as a rainbow ghost).

The Doctor has a few moments of wit - the "clean sweep" joke and the one he's already used before, about being a Doctor of practically everything - but ultimately, this is a story in which he fails. He doesn't convince the Investigator of the Marshal's wrong-doing (though satisfied the Marshal's rant is damning evidence, it really isn't), and later needs Ky to deus ex machina the ending for him. Jo's part is acceptable, but largely passive. Cotton survives the story and gets "kinged", a small miracle, but otherwise it's over before we have to deal with Solos' future too much. And good riddance.

THEORIES: So why did the Time Lords send the Doctor to Solos? Was this culture so important it needed to be preserved? Or was it more about preventing the Marshal's new empire to form? The latter is laughable, surely. Based on the Time Lords' normal attitudes, you'd think they wouldn't be keen on promoting a species to a kind of godhood. Not unless it was their own. Ah. There's a hook. The Time Lords could instead be insuring a future result (as opposed to preventing one), and if Gallifrey is in the far future, the Solonians could be their ancestors. Strange energies that transform their bodies... sound familiar? We see Mutts once more on the program, among wreckage on Karn in The Brain of Morbius. Just a re-use of a handy alien suit, surely, but Karn has a deep connection to Gallifrey. It's where Morbius, a historically important Time Lord, has been banished AND it's where the Sisterhood of Karn is based, a cult that extracanonical fiction has identified as Gallifreyan. In Cat's Cradle, the Sisterhood leaves Gallifrey when Rassilon's cult of science rose to power. Doesn't mean the Mutt is in any way connected to Gallifrey, but if Karn is in the same sector of space, then Solos might be too, and if that's so, the Solonians might have at least contributed to Time Lord culture and/or science. That's what they might be protecting and why they had Solonian historical records in their possession.

VERSIONS: In the Target novelization, Solos is a jungle world. The Doctor is compelled to deliver the message because of some Time Lord code. Varan's son (the assassin) has a name, Vorn, and his weapon is metallic instead of wooden. Jaeger is described as a disgraced scientist who had to leave Earth after stealing data from a colleague. The Time Lord "box" includes parchment in addition to tablets.

REWATCHABILITY: Low - Repetitive and stupid, it just made me hungry for a return to 20th-century Earth.

STORY REWATCHABILITY: Medium-Low - The Mutants is padded beyond measure, and features very few characters you can care about (most are quite irritating instead). It wastes its monsters, and its effects are all over the map, sometimes good, sometimes terrible. It's directed with some energy, and we can hang our hopes on Stubbs and Cotton, but overall, this is a very ordinary SF story. It's certainly no showcase for Jo and the Doctor like The Curse of Peladon was.


snell said...

It should be noted that the Star Trek TNG episode Transfigurations borrowed heavily on some of the ideas from this story...oppressed mutants who were actually just in transitional stage to "godhood."

Siskoid said...

Not coincidentally, one of my most unfavorite episodes of TNG.

LiamKav said...

You seem to have been a bit "down" on a few episodes recently. Is this the worst run on the show so far?

Siskoid said...

Run? No. I loved The Sea Devils which immediately preceded it. It's just that at 6 episodes, a bad story will seem like a 6-day streak. Of course, The Time Monster coming up next isn't very well regarded either so... we may be up to 12 soon enough.

d said...

Ky is really the quintessential 70's hero, isn't he? An dystopian future rebel leader who evolves into a cosmically powered messiah, it's like he was created by Jim Starlin.


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