There are plenty of essays and articles about the social commentary and technical realisation of ‘The Mutants’, all over the internet. This is not one of them. However.
1. The old man who meets a premature death (but only just) in the opening credits is a dead ringer for – well….
To be fair, I am really not the first to pick up on the Monty Python’s Flying Circus thing. It’s all over the internet, and Barry Letts spotted it in 1972. It’s kind of hard to miss.
2. More subtly, the colonists’ outfits do seem to have had some sort of influence on Steven Kynman’s Robert the Robot costume, as worn in Justin’s House.
Or perhaps I just watch too much CBeebies. Actually I think we could safely say I watch too much CBeebies anyway, irrespective of any influences here, perceived or otherwise.
3. Whenever Geoffrey Palmer turns up in Doctor Who, you can guarantee he will last two episodes tops. (That two-episode limit is imposed by ‘And The Silurians’, in which he takes a comparatively long time to die, eventually managing it in style not far from a London railway station. Apart from that, he’s usually dead within twenty minutes.)
Actually, looking at that ‘Voyage of the Damned’ image again, it really does look as if he’s fallen asleep at the (ship’s) wheel.
Palmer’s tendency to die on-screen is far from unique, of course. Kevin Stoney meets the Doctor three times and only in ‘Revenge of the Cybermen’ does he live to fight another day. And Michael Sheard appears in no fewer than six Classic Who stories, dying on-screen in two of them and left to an uncertain fate in ‘Castrovalva’. But heavily recurring actors is for another day and another blog entry, so watch this space.
4. There’s a lovely scene in episode 5 when the execution squad come into the Marshal’s office, ready to kill Jo and the others, and two of them turn on cue, while the other one apparently forgets, then awkwardly shuffles round so he’s facing the same way as the others. Here it is: start at 3:21, if the embed code doesn’t work properly.
(Apologies for the unskippable ads, if you see them first. My hands were cuffed.)
5. The story is renowned for its eclectic range of accents and (for 1972) diverse casting. But primarily I noticed John Hollis, playing a (presumably Dutch) scientist who’s a dead ringer for Lex Luthor.
6. ‘The Mutants’ is two parts social commentary to one part sci-fi: it can’t decide whether it’s mainly about decolonisation or slave labour. By and large it balances in favour of the former, but it’s also interesting that the role of Cotton, a redeemed lackey originally written with a Cockney’s voice in mind, was given to Rick James.
Hang on, what’s this? An ACTUAL BLACK MAN cast in 1970s Doctor Who? Well, this is a turn-up for the books. Or it would be, were it not for the fact that Rick James is dreadful. The dialogue doesn’t help. I can imagine lines like “He’s sort of a mate o’ mine” delivered by Barry Jackson in ‘The Armageddon Factor’, but as rendered here it’s simply clunky. James is clearly out of his depth, and is churning up a lot of foam simply trying to stay afloat. I daresay given the right script he’s wonderful. Sadly, this isn’t it.
Still, you can’t entirely blame the casting. Not when you have scenes like this.
(Start at 23:05.)
I know we ranted a lot about series 8, but I do think that Ruby’s panicky exclamation in ‘Forest of the Night’ was a considerable improvement.
Well, I knew that episode would eventually be good for something.