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25 November 2013

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

Day 329: The Mutants, Episode Five

Dear diary,

The Mutants acts as something of a nexus point in Doctor Who history, serving to see out one recurring element of the programme, while simultaneously bringing another to the fore.

This story marks the last appearance of a musical score by Tristram Carey, who’s been providing us with his tunes on-and-off since as far back as The Daleks. He turned up on a fairly regular basis during the Hartnell years, but this is the first time we’ve seen him since The Power of the Daleks. I’ve not often really commented on the music in stories as I’ve moved along, but it’s interesting to note that under yesterday’s notes I’ve actually scribbled ‘lovely soundtrack’. It’s something of a unique sound, but something about it really seems to appeal to me.

It’s always a bit of a shame to see people involved right at the start of the programme make their final contributions to the series, so it’s good to see him going out with something I’m enjoying. Not long after providing this score, I believe he moved to Australia and took up teaching – a bit of a change from creating sound-scapes on Skaro and Solos!

This story also sees the first costume designs by James Acheson for Doctor Who. He’s probably best known for creating the iconic ‘floppy hat and scarf’ look for the Fourth Doctor, but he provided designs for the series across several stories – he's responsible for the Mutts seen in this story, as well, who just keep growing on me more and more!

It’s also home to the first proper appearance of a very important piece of television history. The corridors of the Sky Base feature a hexagonal wall design that will be cropping up an awful lot on British television in the following two decades – ranging from several appearances in Doctor Who, through Blake’s 7, Captain Zep, and even on one occasion turning up as an ornate ceiling design in a period drama! This isn’t the first time it’s been seen in the series (It had something of a preview in Colony in Space last season), but this is the first time it’s been so noticeable as part of the set.

Sadly, I’m not really sure what I make of the sets as a whole. Everything on the location filming seems to look fantastic, but every time we go inside it just feels a bit flat for my liking. I’m not even entirely sure why that is – the sets have levels to them, they’ve got slight slopes at the top to indicate a ceiling (and these bits are given a bit of extra detailing, too), but they just don’t quite work for me.

I am pleased to see that the Third Doctor is fitting into this environment so well, though. During The Curse of Peladon, I mused that he just didn’t feel right so far removed from his contemporary-Earth setting, but here he seems to slot right in. It could simply be that I’ve seen him away from UNIT enough this season that it no longer feels so unusual (I’ve not seen the Brigadier in over a fortnight!), or it could be because Chislehurst Caves look like a better alien world than the drab sets of King Peladon’s castle. It feels like a shame that he (and Jo, at different intervals) seems to spend so much time being shunted back and forth from the planet’s surface up to Sky Base – I want to see him exploring the world a little more!

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