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21 November 2013

Will Brooks’ 50 Year Diary - watching Doctor Who one episode a day from the very start...

Day 325: The Mutants, Episode One

Dear diary,

The Mutants represents another one of those Doctor Who black spots for me, where I know almost nothing about it. I think this is probably the last story that I know so little about - from this point onwards I know at least a handful of basic facts about every story. With The Mutants, all I can tell you is that it's set on an alien planet somewhere, and it's got creatures called 'Mutts' in. I'm assuming that they're the things pictured on Disc Two of the DVD release. I'm so clueless about the story that I didn't even know what fan opinion was, until checking it out on the Doctor Who Magazine Mighty 200 poll today, where it managed to come in at number 182.

It's not the lowest ranking Pertwee story (that distinction - worryingly - goes to the next story, The Time Monster, which placed 187th), but it's hardly a glowing beacon of hope for the story, is it? Regular readers of The 50 Year Diary will no doubt have noticed that I've not been looking at the Mighty 200 results since leaving the Troughton era, and it's been for a very good reason: I've not wanted to know. Coming to the Third Doctor's era with the idea that I wasn't going to really like anything, I wanted to experience the stories on their own merits, without being informed of fan opinion where I didn't already know it.

Frankly, I'm surprised it took me until late Season Nine to take a peek! The thought of knowing so little about the tale was really bothering me, so I figured I'd give myself at least that information to go on (though you'll be pleased to know that I had someone else check the issue for me - so it's only these two stories whose placements I know!)

With a heavy heart, I slid the disc into the Mac, and hit the play button. It's been a bit of a roller coaster, this first twenty-five minutes. I've swung wildly back-and-forth between quite liking what I'm seeing and really not being all that bothered by it all. Let's start with the positives, shall we?

By this point - about half-way through their time together - the Doctor and Jo really have his the perfect balance with their relationship, haven't they? He was, let's face it, a bit of an arse to the poor girl during The Dæmons, but it's mostly been up-hill since there. We always seem to find him being rude to her in relation to food (it happened in Day of the Daleks and The Sea Devils recently), but they're clearly loving each other's company now. I'm really pleased to find myself enjoying the pair so much, as I've never really understood the appeal - possibly simply because it came as a part of this particular era.

Right from their first appearance in the episode, they're sparking off each other nicely - one of my favourite exchanges from this season (scrap that. One of my favourite exchanges from the last two seasons!) has to be Jo's reaction to the Time Lord's errand arriving:




No. Nothing so exciting.

From there, they simply continue to light up the screen together, with Jo refusing to be left behind, and jumping into the TARDIS at the last moment to the conclusion that they've arrived on a Sky Base (with a little help from the tannoy system). Even when he's operating on his own, the Doctor is full of wit here - it's demonstrated best when he hands over his 'container' to someone and nothing happens. 'Yes, well, obviously it's not for you,' he observes before snatching it back.

And yet, for all this, I'm just not that invested in the story. When the Doctor and Jo are on screen then I'm fine, sat up on the sofa, enjoying every second. Bob Baker and Dave Martin have done a stirling job capturing the pair, and I'm hoping they can continue to work their magic as the story goes on - they were the redeeming feature of Season Eight, so there's a high bar to meet!

When we're with the guest cast, though, I'm struggling to really care. We've got what appears to be a slightly medieval society rubbing up against a futuristic one, and it's a theme that will go on to crop up in Doctor Who plenty of times throughout the rest of this decade. The stories I'm equating it to in my mind at the moment are The Face of Evil and State of Decay, though in some ways both are unfair comparisons. I'm hoping that once the story really gets going (I'm assuming that action will shift from the Sky Base to the planet surface before long), I'll find myself caring a bit more about the other characters.

Still, for the 182nd story (out of 200), it's not a bad start…

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