The planet Solos in the 30th century is the location for The Mutants, 2entertain’s latest release from the Doctor Who back catalogue, which sees Jon Pertwee’s Third Doctor arrive as the Solonians prepare for independence from Earth.
As regular Who viewers may have guessed, things don’t go quite according to plan as the Doctor and Jo (Katy Manning) land on Skybase with a message for its residents. The decision by the Marshal (Paul Whitsun-Jones) to oppose independence leads to the death of an Administrator (Geoffrey Palmer) and the blame being laid on Ky (Garrick Hagon).
Can the Doctor prove Ky’s innocence? Will Jo help or hinder proceedings? Will there be a lot of running about as the story is drawn out to six episodes?
The answer to all of these questions takes time to unfold as The Mutants wends its way to a conclusion. An appearance by Geoffrey Palmer lends a touch of class, but the rest of the cast struggle to match him.
Writers Bob Baker and Dave Martin add some depth to proceedings with their allusions to real-world situations, most notably their anti-apartheid stance and mentions of genocide. Not bad for Saturday tea time.
Helping bring the story to life are Christopher Barry’s direction and Jeremy Bear’s set design, the former allowing the latter to look suitably impressive throughout.
In many ways The Mutants is classic Doctor Who, with a moral to convey to the audience, the Doctor fighting for the little guy and enough debate on right and wrong to cover all bases. In saying that, it’s not quite a classic adventure, not as entertaining as it should be but worth sticking with for the long haul.
The extras on the two-disc set are some of the strongest seen in recent months, starting with a commentary from Katy Manning, Garrick Hagon, Christopher Barry, co-writer Bob Baker and more. With moderation by Nicholas Pegg, facts are teased out of the participants, even Manning toning things down once in a while.
The documentary, Race Against Time, narrated by Noel Clarke, looks at the subject of race in the series and is a balanced and informative dissection of the subject. With copious clips, soundbites from critics, writers and actors and a look at Doctor Who’s contemporaries, it’s a welcome investigation into a topic which could easily be ignored by those who simply see Who as a meaningless kids show.
There’s also a fantastically fun interview with costume designer James Acheson, who recalls his time working on Doctor Who during the Pertwee and Tom Baker eras. Acheson has some vivid memories of the series and of his friendship with Baker, recalling happy train journeys to locations.
Acheson also can’t help giggling all the way through his interview, making him one of the happiest talking heads we’ve ever had on Doctor Who release. Here’s a clip of him in action:
Elsewhere viewers are treated to another documentary on the making of the story, a clip from Blue Peter, a photo gallery and PDF’s of Radio Times coverage.