Tuesday, 16 June 2009

Doctor Who: The Mutants

Part One

“Did you ever read Gibbon’s Decline and Fall?”

“No. Is it good?”

For a moment it looks as though I’ve popped in a Monty Python episode by mistake. It’s…

Gradually it’s becoming less of a novelty to start a story on an alien world, and we know from the start that we’re to expect a trip in the TARDIS courtesy of that large black spherical thing (Lunch?” “No.” “Bomb?”). Jo, continuing her growth in confidence, is determined to go along.

We get an awful lot of exposition this episode, and two blatantly obvious allegories are set up- decolonisation and apartheid, both of which would have been contemporary issues. In fact, I’m sure the Marshall is at least partly based on Rhodesia’s Ian Smith. Interesting that Earth’s empire in the late 30th century is going the way of Britain’s a century earlier- a nice bit of future history.

Oh, and Rick James is every bit as bad as I remember.

Part Two

“I’m surrounded by incompetents!”

Pertwee’s performance is notably worse here than it’s been recently- it’s as if he’s going through the motions. I’m beginning to see a reverse correlation between how engaged Pertwee is in the story and how much he rubs the back of his neck. And there are some rather poor performances elsewhere.

Part Three

“The Marshall’s solution to what he calls the Mutt problem…”

Cotton invoking Grimm’s Law there…

Paul Whitsun-Jones is playing the Marshall as a fairly standard cartoon baddie, and while this certainly works and Whitsun-Jones executes it well, I can’t help feeling there’s a missed opportunity here. The character is written believably- he doesn’t suspect Stubbs and Cotton out of sheer narcissism and obsession, and his descent into irrationality and essentially madness is gradual and believable as written. A different style of performance would have wrung out more of the depth to the character that’s there in the script. Interestingly, this is a character who’s inevitably going to be in very serious trouble with the Earth authorities- it’s only a matter of time. And this makes him all the more dangerous- he’s a cornered dog, liable to cause as much trouble as possible before he’s caught.

The plot’s moving on well though, and so far there seem to be few problems with the script, which so far has been a well-paced and well-plotted effort from the Bristol Boys with some good concepts and no returning baddies- a plus at this point in the series. But there are so many problems elsewhere- Paul Whitsun-Jones, Frederick Jaeger and Rick James are all clearly miscast, and actively bad in the case of the latter. Pertwee’s still oddly subdued too. And this seems to be our first glaring example of what would become the bane of depictions of the future in 70s Who- bland, featureless corridors and silly, unconvincing uniforms. A lot of this has to be blamed on Christopher Barry.

Part Four

“Professor Sondergaard, I presume?”

The good Professor is quite the exposition machine, isn’t he? Still, someone has to be and, frankly, Pertwee’s still looking a bit flat at the moment. One thing hasn’t been explained though- why are the Time Lords sending these hieroglyphs to Ky if he can’t read them? Still, aside from little niggles like this the script is essentially quite good- it’s just everything else that isn’t! The concept of the Solonian life cycle in the context of the planet’s 500 year long seasons is brilliant.

So. An Investigator is coming? Just after Varan’s rebels have taken over Skybase? It’s all getting a bit Colony in Space.

Part Five

“Marshall, you are quite mad.”

Hmmm, so Solos is now radioactive. A fact which, of course, won’t be dwelt on so to spoil the happy ending!

Things start manoeuvring for the endgame here, with some good bits- Jo’s escapology again in what’s actually been quite a good story for her, the Doctor finally gets a good moment with the Marshall, and Stubbs’ death is a genuine shock. But all this is counterbalanced by the sheer awfulness of Rick James’ performance, which seems particularly bad in this episode. Also cringeworthy is the Doctor’s silly speech about “un-people doing un-things un-together”.

Part Six

“I am a scientist!”


A rather dull last episode in the end, mainly because of the intrinsic dullness of the Administrator, whose sole function in the story seems to be to stop anything happening until all the pieces (ie Sondergaard and Ky) are in place. He seems strangely fickle too, switching his sympathies according to dramatic convenience.

Well, a real curate’s egg, that one. While not without its faults, the script was actually quite good, with a great central concept, good dialogue and characterisation (wasted in some of the performances, sadly), and mostly well-paced. It’s just that the acting was atrocious- not only was this by far the worst guest cast yet assembled, but Pertwee seems to have caught some of their bad acting germs himself. And then there’s the whole look of the thing, the most generic- looking piece of that’ll-do futuristic space opera yet. I’ll be very generous and give this a 3/5, as I feel sorry for the poor script for being so cruelly treated.


The Massacre 5/5
The War Games 5/5
Spearhead From Space 5/5
Fury from the Deep 5/5
The Evil of the Daleks 5/5
The Myth Makers 5/5
The Aztecs 5/5
The Tomb of the Cybermen 5/5
Marco Polo 5/5
The Crusade 5/5
Day of the Daleks 5/5
Inferno 5/5
The Highlanders 5/5
The Daleks’ Master Plan 5/5
The Time Meddler 5/5
The Invasion 5/5
The Power of the Daleks 5/5
The Mind Robber 5/5
The Web of Fear 5/5
The Rescue 5/5
The Reign of Terror 5/5
An Unearthly Child 5/5
Colony in Space 5/5
The Macra Terror 5/5
The Savages 5/5
Mission to the Unknown 5/5
The Ambassadors of Death 4/5
Doctor Who and the Silurians 4/5
The Curse of Peladon 4/5
The Gunfighters 4/5
The Claws of Axos 4/5
The Tenth Planet 4/5
The Moonbase 4/5
The Dalek Invasion of Earth 4/5
The Romans 4/5
Terror of the Autons 4/5
The Krotons 4/5
The Ice Warriors 4/5
The War Machines 4/5
The Smugglers 4/5
The Abominable Snowmen 4/5
The Sea Devils 4/5
Planet of Giants 4/5
The Daleks 3/5
The Seeds of Death 3/5
The Enemy of the World 3/5
Galaxy Four 3/5
The Space Museum 3/5
[B]The Mutants 3/5[/B]
The Chase 3/5
The Space Pirates 3/5
The Sensorites 3/5
The Edge of Destruction 2/5
The Dæmons 2/5
The Mind of Evil 2/5
The Faceless Ones 2/5
The Ark 2/5
The Wheel in Space 2/5
The Dominators 2/5
The Web Planet 1/5
The Keys of Marinus 1/5
The Celestial Toymaker 1/5
The Underwater Menace 1/5

Season Five: 4/5
Season Seven: 4/5
Season Three: 3.9/5
Season Four: 3.889/5
Season Six: 3.857/5
Season Two: 3.778/5
Season One: 3.625/5
Season Eight: 3.4/5

No comments:

Post a Comment