Sue: Hey, it’s… Monty Python man! Write that down, Neil. That’s a good one. Has anyone ever made that connection before?
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 have a decent role in this?
Me: Yes, heaven help us.
Sue: Neil! You can’t say that!
Meanwhile a mysterious package has arrived for the Doctor at UNIT HQ.
Sue: A squashed football? What’s that all about?
The Time Lords have decided to send the Doctor on another secret mission.
Sue: So he’s a Time Lord hitman, now?
Me: He’s like a Time Lord postman, I think.
Jo is delighted when she finds herself on a ship that’s flying through space. So the Doctor 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 to spout exposition about the current socio-political situation on Solos at each other, Sue tunes out.
Sue: I’m lost already. I like the costumes, though. You can’t go wrong with silver and black.
Me: The costume designer, James Acheson, will go on win to several Oscars.
Sue: I’m not surprised. The costumes are the most interesting thing about this story so far.
As Cotton and Stubbs pass the time playing chess, Sue thinks she’s spotted a gap in the market.
Sue: I could make a chess set like that for you, if you like. I’ve got some metal piping lying around somewhere. We could sell them online.
Me: I don’t think there’s any demand for replica chess sets based on The Mutants, but I’ll check, just in case.
Sue: I see what you mean about the black character, now. He can’t act for toffee. Is it too late to black somebody up? I’m joking! Do not put that on the blog, Neil.
Me: Okay. I won’t.
Sue: Moving swiftly on, let’s see if I’ve got my head around the plot yet. Okay, so the men who are dressed in the fetching black and silver uniforms are rounding up the 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 instead.
Sue: Why does this bloke have the number 58 sewn into his uniform? Is that his age?
When the Doctor and Jo gaze upon the planet Solos, Sue is reminded of something vitally important.
Sue: We have to eat that lemon meringue pie in the fridge tomorrow, or it will go off.
The Doctor doesn’t know who to deliver his 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?
An Earth Administrator tells his militaristic Marshal that the planet has decided to pull out of Solos, and the Solonians will be granted their independence. The Marshal doesn’t take this news very 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 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 entirely of Solonians, a young upstart named Ky decides to talk over him. When this tactic fails, Ky leaps to his feet to demand 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.
However, 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.
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.
Ky tells Jo his people will be worried about him because he’s very, very important.
Sue: This Ky guy’s ego is out of control. But he is very easy on the eye, so I’ll give him a break. 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 to do those.
As Stubbs and Cotton pursue Ky and Jo across the desolate plains of Solos, Sue spots a flaw with the Overlords’ communications system.
Sue: Was it really such a good idea to have these characters speaking to each other with masks on? I can’t understand a single word they’re saying.
Me: It’s as if we’re watching a Christopher Nolan film.
Cotton removes his mask so he can talk more clearly.
Sue: Actually, could he put the mask back on, please? He sounds better with his mask on.
The Marshal takes command of the Skybase and kills the Solonian assassin. But when he turns his gun on Varan, the Marshal misses and Varan escapes to the Skybase’s herbarium.
Sue: Are they growing marijuana in there? That would explain why the guards are so laid back in this story.
A scientist who’s trying to alter Solos’ atmosphere with “a giant cocktail shaker”, and who dismisses the genocide of an entire species as a side effect of his experiments, gets to feel the Doctor’s wrath.
Sue: I like it when Jon Pertwee gets angry. He’s a pretty good actor when he’s enraged.
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. Somebody 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, Neil?
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.
Ky and Jo are resting in some caves. Sue anticipates a snog but gets some colourful lights instead.
Sue: A firework display? 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.
When Jo makes a run for it, she finds herself in a cave awash with psychedelic colours.
Sue: Have you put some acid in my tea, Neil? You know I hate it when you do that.
Jo witnesses a mysterious apparition in a silver suit.
Sue: The LSD is really starting to kick in now.
The Doctor finally delivers 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 argue 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 ready for some impromptu karaoke with that portable microphone holder of his.
The Marshal’s explosions have sealed the caves and the gas is closing in…
Sue: That still wasn’t bad. There’s some dodgy acting, but the script is sound enough. Why are you looking at me like that, Neil?
Our heroes are approached by a humanoid figure in a silver suit. But who – or what – can it be? Nobody knows!
Sue: It’s a man in a radiation suit. Any fool can see that.
The mysterious figure leads our heroes to safety and removes his helmet.
Sue: It’s Duncan Goodhew.
Me: Is it still 1980 where you live, Sue?
When Professor Sondergaard explains what he’s been doing in his secret laboratory, Sue can barely understand him.
Sue: Is there a competition for the weirdest accent in this story? It’s very close if there is.
The Doctor and Sondergaard analyse the stone tablets they extracted from 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?
Even though the roof is starting to cave in, the Doctor continues to decipher the tablets with Sondergaard.
Sue: Why doesn’t he put 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, so Sondergaard leads him to a cave bathed in Quality Street lighting.
Me: This is nothing like Fringe.
Sue: I’m talking about the fringing around Jon Pertwee’s cloak. I’m sorry, Neil, but it’s terrible.
The Doctor retrieves a 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. What the hell is going on?
The Marshal is livid when he learns that an Earth Investigator wants to poke his nose into his affairs.
Sue: Is it the Master? He’s cutting it a bit fine if it is.
The Marshal corners Varan and shoots him. The gunfire breaches Skybase’s hull and Varan is sucked into the vacuum of space.
Sue: They’re trying. They’re trying really hard.
Jo, Ky, Stubbs and Cotton escape from the rapidly depressurising chamber.
Sue: Is that even possible? Wouldn’t they be dead by now? Wouldn’t they freeze to death? This scene borders on insanity. I’m not talking about scientific accuracy, either. I’m talking about the ambition required to even attempt a scene like that in 1972. It’s madness.
The Marshal ramps up his mania to 11.
Sue: Ah, it doesn’t say 58 on his uniform, after all. It’s the letters 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 don’t understand the significance of the green gem, so the Doctor returns to Skybase to analyse its properties.
Sue: The direction is very flat in 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 okay, 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’d repeated this story instead of The Sea Devils when that cricket match was rained off, 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’re dismissing it now. Well, that’s my theory, anyway.
Stubbs is killed in a fire fight, which, even I have to admit, looked pretty cool.
Sue: Noooo! Not Stubbsy! Anyone but Stubbsy!
Me: Even I’m choked up by that.
Jo, Ky and Cotton are locked in a thaesium storage chamber. Cotton tries to explain the ramifications of standing next to that much radiation. In short: they’re all going to die.
Sue: This is impossible to watch. I don’t think I’ve seen acting this bad since Nicol’s nativity play in 1997.
Me: She’s never forgiven you for brutally panning her performance. She’ll be in therapy for years.
Sue: Nicol was brilliant. She was the best actor in the whole thing. It was the shepherds who were the problem. Look, will somebody please stop Cotton talking!
Earth launches an enquiry into the Solos affair.
Sue: What are the investigators wearing on their heads? That’s a terrible look. No one is going to win an Oscar for that.
The Doctor describes the Marshal and Jaeger as two of the most heinous villains he’s ever encountered.
Sue: Worse than the Daleks and the Cybermen? Really? The Marshal is a decent bad guy, 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 equals Sadistic Bastard.
Ky transforms into the next stage of Solonian evolution.
Sue: It’s Joseph and his Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.
Or as Cotton so eloquently puts it: “Great, innit?”
Sue: They killed Stubbsy but 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.
Super-Ky murders the Marshal for being a massive twat, and everybody lives happily ever after. But what will Cotton do now?
Sue: Go to drama school, I hope.
Incredibly, Cotton is put in charge of the Skybase.
Sue: God help them all.
The episode concludes with another outing for the increasingly wearisome “Doctor who?” joke.
Sue: But people would say that, wouldn’t they? It’s only funny in a universe, which has a television show called Doctor Who in it. In this universe it’s a perfectly reasonable question. Oh, it’s finished.
Sue: I enjoyed that. Yeah, it wasn’t bad at all. The plot was interesting, the designs were very 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 was definitely above average.