EPISODE: The Mutants: Episode One
OVERALL EPISODE NUMBER: 318
STORY NUMBER: 063
TRANSMITTED: 08 April 1972
WRITER: Bob Baker & Dave Martin
DIRECTOR: Christopher Barry
SCRIPT EDITOR: Terrance Dicks
PRODUCER: Barry Letts
FORMAT: DVD: Doctor Who - The Mutants
Episode Format: 525 video RSC
Through the mist an old bearded man runs, pursued by guards. He is showing the first signs of mutation with spines protruding from his back. The Doctor is working in his lab when a container arrives from the Time Lords for him to deliver. The Tardis suddenly becomes active so he and Jo leave with the container materialising on the Skybase orbiting the planet Solos. Kai & Varan, Solonian leaders, have arrived on the Skybase for a conference. Varan is summoned by the Marshall, the military official in charge of Solos. The Doctor & Jo are attacked by a Solonian guard who is starting to mutate, but rescued & held by human guards Cotton & Stubbs. The Marshall argues with the Administrator for Solos: The Administrator intends to use the conference to make Solos independent but the Marshall objects. The Doctor tries to deliver his container but it won't open for the Marshall or Administrator. The Marshall has Varan use his son to assassinate the Administrator, which happens as the Doctor, who has escaped from his imprisonment, enters the room & the box starts to open for Kai. Jo pursues Kai running into the base's teleport with him as the guards open fire...
We'll start with the obvious point: IT'S........ The opening to the episode, with the old man wandering out of the mist towards the screen is so The It's Man, played by Michael Palin, in the opening sequence to many Monty Python's Flying Circus episodes. All involved with this story deny any intentional homage on the DVD. Yet another mission for the Timelords here, following Colony in Space & Curse of Peladon. Here though we get no pretext about how the Doctor believes he's got the Tardis working: the box turns up and off we go.
Several Doctor Who stories have a theme or are about something but the Mutants is possibly the most blatant of these so far. It essentially exists as a commentary on colonialism and Aparthied. At the time it was written Britain was involved in withdrawing from it's colonial interests and, notably, a deteriorating situation in Rhodesia. On screen we have Kai, representing those opposing colonial rule, while Varan supports it. Kai in turn blames the Overlords for the changes happening on their planet. The commentary on the South African situation, can be found in elements of the set design here: The transporter to & from the planet is segregated into Overlords & Solonians and quite clearly labelled as such.