Nov. 6th, 2016

purplecat: The Tardis (Doctor Who)
I had fond, if vague, memories of The Mutants from the Target novelisation which is slightly odd since, if I remember correctly, the novelisation is one of Terrance Dicks' 120 page wonders - a straightforward retelling that does its job but little else.

I mentioned to tame layman that I recalled it being somewhat "post-colonial" and, to be honest, was surprised to find that it was indeed (within the constraints of 1970s Doctor Who) distinctly post-colonial. The story itself, about a planet gaining independence from the Earth Empire is an obvious enough allegory of the break-up of the British Empire. However, when Doctor Who of this era wanted to suggest a multi-national cast of characters it tended to look towards European, American and Australian accents - here we have South African and (I think) Jamaican accents and we even have two black actors one of whom has a significant speaking role which, again, is a lot for the time. It's a shame really that he's such a bad actor.

The central story idea, of a planet with a year measured in hundreds of our years and whose inhabitants mutate into new forms as the seasons slowly change is fairly unique in Doctor Who and is explored nicely, though it's certainly handy that the next mutational form turns out to be a god-like creature which can quickly solve everything in the final 10 minutes of the story. It's also interesting that the Doctor gains allies from among the Marshal's security guards, where Doctor Who is not generally particularly interested in the equivalent of hired muscle. Framing the science-fictional idea within a tale of the bureaucracy and the tensions that might accompany a handover of power also gives the tale more to work with than it might otherwise have had. That said the story also has to sustain itself with a fair bit of capture-escape and the Marshal's motivation, as is so often the case in Doctor Who, is clearly dependent upon at least some rationalisation along the lines of "he's mad as a box of frogs". It's not really clear what the Time Lord interest in the whole situation is either, they serve as a convenient excuse to get the Doctor into the story but the mechanism (a box that only opens for Ky, but contains writings he can not decipher and has no interest in deciphering) seems pretty clumsy and one does wonder if the story wouldn't have been stronger if the Doctor hadn't just randomly shown up.

Still, I liked this. It reinforced my fond memories of the story from the novelisation.

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