It’s… The Mutants! I really hate this experiment sometimes.
Sue: Hey, it’s… Monty Python man! Write that one down. That’s a good one. Has anyone ever made that connection before?
Bless her. But before she can dig an even deeper hole, Sue is distracted by a fat man shouting “Mutt!” at the top of his lungs.
Sue: Will there be dogs in this story? They had better not kill any dogs, Neil. I’m serious.
And then we are introduced to Christopher Coll as Stubbs (who looks like Peter Purves and sounds like Ernie Wise, apparently) and Rick James as Cotton.
Sue: Bloody hell, a black character in Doctor Who. I can’t remember the last time that happened. Does he get a decent role in this?
Me: Yes, heaven help us.
Sue: You can’t say that!
Meanwhile, at UNIT HQ, a mysterious package has arrived for the Doctor.
Sue: A squashed football? What’s that all about?
The Time Lords are about to send the Doctor on another secret mission.
Sue: Is he a Time Lord hitman?
Me: He’s more like a Time Lord postman.
After taking a quick trip in the TARDIS, Jo is delighted when she finds herself standing on a ship flying through space. So the Doctor immediately punctures her joy with a pedantic lecture about geostationary orbits and space stations.
Sue: What a complete arse.
When two groups of opposing characters converge in a corridor, so they can spout undiluted exposition about the current sociopolitical situation on Solos at each other, Sue tunes out.
Sue: I’m a bit lost. I like the costumes, though. You can’t go wrong with silver and black. Trust me, you can’t.
Me: The costume designer for this story, James Acheson, would go on win to several Oscars, you know.
Sue: I’m not surprised. The costumes are the most interesting thing in this story so far.
When Cotton and Stubbs decide to pass the time with a quick game of chess, Sue makes me an offer I can’t refuse.
Sue: I could make a chess set like that for you, if you like. I’ve got some metal piping lying around somewhere. Maybe we sell could them online?
Me: I don’t think there’s any demand for replica chess sets based on The Mutants, but I’ll check.
Sue: I see what you mean about the black character, now. Oh dear, this guy can’t act for toffee. Is it too late to black someone up? I’m joking! Do not put that on the blog!
Sue: Moving swiftly on, let’s see if I’ve got my head around the plot. The men dressed in the fetching black and silver uniforms are rounding up mutants, yes?
Sue: So it’s a bit like the X-Men?
Me: Yes, it’s exactly like the X-Men.
Sue: Oh, look! (suddenly singing). “Love is like a butterfly, as soft and gentle as a sigh. Something something la-la-la something satin wings”.
Me: Yes, very good, it’s Geoffrey Palmer. Well done.
Sue: You’re very tetchy tonight.
Me: I’m sorry. Just ignore me. It’s nothing.
Who am I kidding? Of course it’s something. I’m watching The ****ing Mutants! But I don’t want to prejudice her, so I blame post-Christmas ennui for my persistent sighing instead.
Sue: Why does this bloke have the number ’58′ sewn into his uniform? Is that his age?
But it’s when the Doctor and Jo gaze upon the planet Solos from orbit that Sue is reminded of something vitally important.
Sue: Meringue. We have to eat that lemon meringue pie in the fridge tomorrow, otherwise it’ll go off.
It looks like The Mutants wasn’t a complete waste of time after all.
Unfortunately, the Doctor doesn’t know who he should deliver his special package to.
Sue: Why didn’t the Time Lords put a name and an address on the football? Are they trying to be awkward on purpose?
The Earth Administrator explains to his militaristic Marshal that Earth has decided to pull out of Solos, and the Solonians will be given their independence. The Marshal doesn’t take this news well.
Sue: This is pretty heavy for the kids. The politics, I mean. I can see the parallels with apartheid, and the end of the British empire, but would children really be interested in that? I don’t think so. The themes are very adult. It’s good, though.
When the Administrator makes a keynote speech to an audience comprised of Solonians, a young upstart named Ky decides to talk over him. When this tactic fails, Ky leaps to his feet to demand immediate independence from the evil alien Overlords.
Sue: If you just sit down and shut the **** up, he’ll give it to you! This Ky guy is really getting on my nerves.
But before he can deliver the good news, the Administrator is assassinated by a Solonian. The room is thrown into chaos and Ky runs away. He bumps into the Doctor on his way out and the mysterious football begins to open. Jo rushes after Ky but he uses her as a human shield when he is fired upon by the Marshal’s men.
Sue: That wasn’t bad at all. Having said that, I always tend to like the first episode because everything is new and interesting. Let’s see how I feel when we reach Episode Five.top
Jo and Ky arrive safely on Solos via a “Star Trek transporter thingy”. Ky tells Jo that his people will be very worried about him because he is very, very important.
Sue: This Ky guy’s ego is out of control. But he is very easy on the eye, I’ll give him that. Jo will set him straight, just you wait and see. I’m not mad about what Jo is wearing this week, though. It’s too butch. She does, however, have lovely eyelashes. It must have taken her ages.
As Stubbs and Cotton pursue Ky and Jo across the desolate plains of Solos, Sue spots a fatal flaw in the Overlords’ communications system.
Sue: Was it really such a good idea to have these characters speaking to each other with their masks on? I can’t understand a single word they’re saying.
Me: It’s as if we’re watching a Christopher Nolan film.
A little later, Cotton removes his mask so he can talk more clearly.
Sue: Actually, could he put the mask back on, please? He’d sound better with his mask back on.
The Marshal takes command of the Skybase. He kills the Solonian assassin and then he turns his gun on Varan, the assassin’s father, and a puppet in the Marshal’s machinations. But the Marshal’s shot misses and Varan manages to escape. He takes refuge in the Skybase’s herbarium.
Sue: Are they growing marijuana? Actually, that might explain why the guards are so laid back in this story.
Meanwhile, the Doctor has been coerced into assisting a scientist named Jaeger, who is trying to alter the atmosphere on Solos with the help of a “giant cocktail shaker”. When the Doctor rounds on Jaeger for dismissing the genocide of an indigenous species as a side-effect of his experiments, Sue is impressed.
Sue: I like it when Pertwee gets angry. He’s a pretty good actor when he’s enraged. As long as he’s pointing his anger in the right direction, he’s fine.
The Doctor and Stubbs end up in the herbarium with Varan.
Sue: Oh dear, there’s another boom in shot. That’s two stories in a row. Someone needs to have a quiet word. I’ll be looking for microphones all the time now.
The episode concludes with Varan attacking the Doctor, as he tries to make his way off the Skybase.
Sue: You know, this isn’t bad at all. I’ve seen a lot worse. Why are you looking at me like that?top
The Doctor subdues Varan with the old finger-on-the-chest trick.
Sue: He should do that every time. It never fails. Why doesn’t Matt Smith use his finger like that? It’s definitely the way to go.
Meanwhile, Ky and Jo are resting in some caves. Sue anticipates a snog but she gets some bright, colourful lighting instead.
Sue: A firework display? Shouldn’t they be cooing “Ooohhh” and “Ahhh”? Stick some Jean Michel Jarre on the stereo. Actually, I’ve just realised, they’re filming this scene in a real cave. They usually do this sort of thing in the studio, don’t they? This is much more impressive.
And then we get our first glimpse of a Mutt.
Sue: It’s a giant cockroach. I like its tail.
Jo makes a run for it and she finds herself in a cave bathed in psychedelic colours.
Sue: Have you put some acid in my tea, Neil? You know I hate it when you do that.
Jo is then visited by a mysterious apparition in a silver suit.
Sue: Seriously, the LSD is really starting to kick in now…
With Jo safe once more, the Doctor can finally deliver the Time Lords’ football to Ky.
Sue: Will Ky have to sign for it? And can the Doctor leave as soon as he gets Ky’s signature? Job’s a good ‘un. Three episodes. Over.
We are told that the seasons on Solos can last for centuries.
Sue: It’s like Game of Thrones but…
Me: But with less incest. Yes, we know.
Sue: Tetchy, tetchy.
The Doctor, Varan and Ky start arguing about the best way to stop the Marshal.
Sue: Varan looks like he should be fronting a heavy metal band.
The Marshal decides to shut everyone up – including Stubbs and Cotton – by gassing them to death.
Sue: What a git. But I do like how he’s always ready for some impromptu karaoke with that portable microphone holder of his.
The episode concludes with the Marshal’s explosions sealing the caves and the gas closing in.
Sue: That still wasn’t bad. There’s some dodgy acting but the script is sound enough. Seriously, why are you looking at me like that?top
A mysterious figure in a silver suit approaches our heroes. No one can work out who or what it could be.
Sue: It’s a man in a radiation suit. Any fool can see that.
The suited figure leads our heroes to safety and then he removes his helmet.
Sue: Duncan Goodhew.
Me: Is it still 1980 where you live?
Sue: OK, George Dawes, then. Better?
When Professor Sondergaard explains what he’s been up in his secret laboratory, Sue can barely understand him.
Sue: Is there a competition for the strangest accent in this story? It’s a very tight race.
The Doctor and Sondergaard decide to analyse the stone tablets that were secreted inside the Time Lord’s football.
Sue: Would it have killed the Time Lords to have included some instructions? This is worse than 3-2-1. Are they watching this back on Gallifrey? Are they having a good laugh at the Doctor’s expense? Actually, the tablets look like ancient Sky Plus remote controls. Am I close?
As the roof begins to cave in, the Doctor sends everyone away to safety while he continues to decipher the tablets with Sondergaard.
Sue: Why don’t they just take the tablets somewhere safe? Just stick them in your pocket and leave! Why are they putting themselves in unnecessary danger? It’s just an excuse to split the characters up again, isn’t it?
The Doctor deduces that the tablets refer to a radiation chamber and Sondergaard leads him ends to a cave bathed in Quality Street lighting.
Me: This is nothing like Fringe.
Sue: I’m talking about the fringing around Pertwee’s cloak. I’m sorry but it’s terrible.
The Doctor retrieves a large gem from the arms of a glowing statue.
Sue: It’s Raiders of the Lost Ark on really powerful hallucinogenic drugs. I’m starting to lose the plot a bit. What the hell is going on now? It’s quite complex, this one.
Back on the Skybase, the Marshal is livid when he discovers that an Earth Investigator wants to poke his nose into his affairs.
Sue: Is it the Master? He’s cutting it a bit fine.
The Marshal corners Varan and he shoots him down. Unfortunately, the weapon fire accidentally breaches Skybase’s hull and Varan is sucked out into the cold vacuum of space.
Sue: They are trying. They are trying really hard.top
Jo, Ky, Stubbs and Cotton manage to escape from the rapidly depressurising chamber.
Sue: Is that even possible? Shouldn’t they be dead by now? Wouldn’t they freeze to death? Still, they are definitely trying, even if this scene does border on insanity. Actually, I’m not that bothered about the scientific accuracy, it’s more about the ambition required to even attempt a scene like that in 1972. Madness.
It’s at this point that the Marshal decides to ramp up his mania.
Sue: Ah, it’s not ’58′ on his uniform, it’s the letter ‘SB’. Now I know what it stands for. Stupid Buffoon.
With events rapidly spiralling out of control, Ky uses the opportunity to make another ill-timed speech about Solonian independence.
Sue: It’s turned into Malcolm X-Men, now.
The Doctor and Sondergaard debate the significance of the green gem and the Doctor decides to return to the Skybase so he can analyse its properties.
Sue: The direction is very flat during the dialogue scenes, but now that we’re outside again, it’s not so bad. This scene with the Doctor being chased through the fog is pretty good. I don’t understand your problem with this story. It isn’t that bad. The monsters look good, the plot is interesting, the sets are nice (I would have preferred some proper carpentry but you can’t have everything), and the Doctor isn’t offending me too much. This is easily as good as The Sea Devils.
Me: You what?
Sue: If they had repeated this story instead of The Sea Devils in 1974, you would have pretended to be a mutant cockroach in the school playground. It’s because you never saw this when you were a little boy that you are dismissing it now. Well, that’s my theory anyway.
Stubbs is killed during a firefight, which, even I have to admit, looked pretty good.
Sue: Noooo! Not Stubbsy! Anyone but Stubbsy!
Me: Even I’m a bit choked up.
The Investigators from Earth dock at the Skybase and the Doctor and the Marshal set out to greet them while Jo, Ky and Cotton are taken hostage and locked in a thaesium storage chamber. Cotton tries to explain the ramifications of standing next to that much radiation.
Sue: This is uncomfortable to watch. I don’t think I’ve seen acting this bad since Nicol’s nativity play in 1997.
Me: Yeah, she’s never forgiven you for brutally panning her performance. She’ll be in therapy for years.
A cushion is thrown.
Sue: Nicol was brilliant. She was the best actor in the whole thing. It was one of the shepherds who was the problem. Look, will somebody please stop Cotton talking!
The episode concludes with Cotton warning everyone that they are facing certain death, with a passion that only Rick James could muster.
Sue: You should never give the last line to an actor that bad.top
The investigators begin their interrogations into the Solos affair and the Doctor is forced to play along with the Marshal’s lies.
Sue: What are the investigators wearing on their heads? That is a terrible look. You’d never win an Oscar for that.
Jo, Cotton and Ky escape from the radiation chamber and the Doctor quickly rounds on the Marshal and Jaeger. He describes them as two of the most heinous villains he has ever encountered.
Sue: Worse than the Daleks and the Cybermen? Really? The Marshal an effective bad guy here but I can’t see him invading London.
A Mutt rushes into the room and all hell breaks loose. The Marshal uses the opportunity to murder the poor thing at point-blank range.
Sue: There was no need for that! SB = Sadistic Bastard.
Ky uses the Doctor’s gem to transform himself into the next stage of Solonian evolution.
Sue: It’s Joseph and his Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.
Or, as Cotton so eloquently puts it:
Cotton: Great, innit?
Sue: They killed Stubbsy and yet they let Cotton live. What were they thinking?
Super-Ky floats down a corridor like an ethereal Christmas tree decoration.
Sue: Is Ky Kosh now?
Me: If you like.
Sue: The idea is better than the execution, but at least they’re trying.
Super-Ky calmly murders the Marshal for being a massive twat, and everyone lives happily ever after. When Cotton is asked what he’ll do next, Sue decides to answer for him.
Sue: I’m going to drama school!
Incredibly, Cotton is put in charge of the Skybase instead.
Sue: God help them all.
The episode concludes with yet another reprise for the increasingly wearisome “Doctor who?” joke.
Sue: But people would say that, wouldn’t they? It’s only funny in a universe that has a television show called Doctor Who in it. In this fictional universe, it’s a perfectly reasonable question. Oh, it’s finished.top
The Final Score
Sue: I enjoyed that. It wasn’t bad at all. The plot was interesting, the designs were good, and some of the performances were excellent. The bloke playing Cotton was appalling but I can look beyond that. It’s two episodes too long, obviously, but it’s definitely well above average.
The experiment continues…top
We will be recording a video commentary for the first story of Season 10 and, if everything goes according to plan, this should happen on or around Tuesday the 17th. If you have a question about this story that you’d like me to put to Sue as we watch it, please get in touch via this Contact Form within the next seven days. The best question will win some brand new Wife in Space merchandise (that should be ready to buy in the next couple of weeks). Please try to keep your questions specific to Serial RRR if you can, thanks.
Secondly, I’m very sorry but we won’t be attending the Gallifrey Convention in Los Angeles next month. After taking a long, hard look at our finances, and mindful of the fact that I will be unemployed in the second half of 2012, we simply can’t afford it.
However, Sue will be visiting the Doctor Who Experience this weekend instead! Expect to see Sue posing with classic series monsters on our Facebook page when we return from London. And yes, I will remorselessly test her as we make our way through the exhibits.top
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