5 December 2018: It Takes You Away review added.
26 November 2018: The Witchfinders review added.
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' "Investigator? Investigating what?" "Your activities should give him plenty of scope." '
Oh dear, oh dear.
It's not as if The Mutants' central idea's a bad one. (In fact, it's so good they used it again in Full Circle.) And the idea of splitting the action between the Skybase and the planet adds some enjoyable variety to the setting.
But Jaysus, the script. It's a cliche convention. The poor old Marshal gets the worst of it, forced to spout such gems as "Doctor, always the Doctor! Where is your precious Doctor now?". In fact, he hardly gets a single line that isn't directly lifted from 500 Easy Conversation Starters for Evil Megalomaniacs.
The other characters don't get off lightly either, with cringe-inducing stuff like "What is the meaning of this interruption?" and "We'll all be done for!".
As for the rest of The Mutants, it's weighed down with stock characters like Honourable Moron Warrior and Vaguely Germanic Scientist and overstuffed with escapes, recaptures and excursions to the tedious Radiation Room. And there's too much of stuff happening for no very good reason. It views as if four parts were originally commissioned and then another two were hastily scribbled out on the train up to Television Centre, which is a shame, because the bloody awful last two parts tend to overshadow the not-nearly-so-bad first four.
One thing we find interesting about it is the very strong Blake's 7 tone. The outfits the Skybase bunch wear are dead ringers for Avon's usual threads, and the universe depicted, with the nasty humans trampling all over the locals, is very Blakey in feel. And put the Marshal in a plunging neckline and squint a bit and it's Servalan to the life. Okay, maybe not. But it's intriguing all the same.
They were clearly doing their best, too, to make some Important Political Points, and to a degree they succeed, as despite Ky's one-note ranting and Varan's Klingonesque obsession with honour and revenge, the plight of the Solonians under the jackboot of Earth comes across quite effectively. We'd like to have known a bit more about the backstory that put the "Overlords" into this position, but instead they took the easy way out and just made the Marshal mad. Bor-ring.
But we should be thankful for small mercies. First, "where's me bald cap" Sondergaard, contrary to all expectations, is a sane scientist. Despite Rick James's godawful acting, Cotton and Stubbs are cute characters who personalise the faceless jackbooted etc soldiers. And even more important, the Investigator, in his Bacofoil hat, didn't turn out to be the Master.
The Doctor is astonishingly ruthless in this - he could easily have killed Jaegar with that explosion. Overall, he shows the cool arrogance that typifies the Third Doctor at his best, and even more importantly, wears his knee boots. (Mmm...boots...) Jo, meanwhile, apart from a pleasing display of initiative in grabbing the gun, sending the radio message and bluffing the Marshal, is her usual simple-minded self.
Despite its faults, some potential there, thrown away in the last two eps. Pity.
MORAL: You don’t have to be mad to work here, but it helps.
Somebody please tell us they were taking the piss.
He couldn't, you know. Not even if he wanted to.
Shame about the Solonians' hilariously girly wigs.
There's Geoffrey Palmer again, acting everyone else into the dust.
It's the future, so naturally they're using that silly computery typeface.
THE BLUE SCREEN OF DEATH
There's some truly horrible CSO in the cave scenes.
WHAT’S ON ITV?
The language of the Old Ones? Gack! Personally, we think they're prehistoric remote controls.
BAD TRIP, MAN
There's something very odd about the scene in Sondergaard's lab - one of the cameras, placed to the right of the Doctor, makes the picture look all stretchy.
I WAS LONELY
Why does the Doctor drag poor old Sondergaard through the tinfoil? He's perfectly able to do what he has to on his own without forcing Sondergaard to undergo yet more radiation.
SHADDAPPA YOU FACE
Varan is annoyingly stupid, ignoring what Ky and Jo have to say in a thin excuse to drag in some more dramatic conflict.
The depressurisation scene is like watching an accident, so horribly bad is it from both the science and the acting points of view.
THEY DON’T LIKE TO TALK ABOUT IT
If the Solonians change every 500 years, why don't they know about it? It's not that long, after all.
The SFX when Ky's hand changes to a pincer are pitiful. As for the Mutants, they’re just embarrassing. And we needed trauma counselling for our Zarbi flashbacks.
RESPECT MY AUTHORITAH
Since the Marshal is doing everything but frothing at the mouth, why does the Investigator believe him?
DRY CLEANING INCLUDED
When the Doctor's running around on the planet, he gets mud all over his dead sexy boots, but when he teleports back to the skybase, the mud disappears.
AND BESIDES, WE LIKED THE BOOTS BETTER
And while we're on our favourite topic of boots, the Doctor starts off wearing ‘em, but at some point during his return visit to the skybase, they've morphed into shoes. Serious oops.