I don't know how she does it.
Josephine Grant manages to make her job at the United Nations look frightfully glamorous, but I wouldn't want to be in her platform boots. Continual stresses, violations of health and safety, working with two of the most patronising men in Tarminster (three, if there's an 'r' in the month and the Master's dropped by). The hours are decidedly odd, too – some of them are in the future, and when she's there she witnesses the most miserable visions of life on Earth. Yet somehow she remains buoyant.
In The Mutants, she has her second glimpse of the future life of humankind (the dystopia of the Daleks doesn't count because – we assume – it doesn't happen). And it's shit. Earth itself is all concrete and car fumes. Its colonists don't even have the pioneer spirit of Gail Tilsley and co., who were making a fairly miserable job of farming a mudball, shortly before their ship was blown up by venture capitalists.
At least Gail (and Tlotoxl) were co-existing peacefully with the inhabitants of the planet, even if they are all blown up a papier-mache gnome with a super-weapon at the end of that story. In The Mutants, the project of colonising the galaxy has inevitably begun to implode. The
, expertly performed here by Paul Whitsun-Jones,
is a variation on Morris Perry's similarly vile Captain Dent: adding to Dent's
avariciousness over mineral rights, the crazed despotism of a business
executive. Nevertheless, they are equally inhuman, equally capable of
corruption on a galactic scale and cold-blooded murder. Marshall
If you were Jo, you might almost wonder if it was worth struggling to save the Earth of the present day. Despite the fact The Mutants evinces the strongest influence of 'Star Trek' yet, it paints a rather less optimistic version of the future.
But Jo just can't help herself. She heedlessly throws herself into the action, and does a good job of convincing the
that she and the Doctor – together with the authorities – have got him on the
run. This is before the authorities turn up, in their gold lame judges' wigs,
and nearly dither the Solonians (and the audience) into an early grave. Marshall
She sees some amazing things, too. A firestorm viewed from the mouth of a cave. Giant flea people who lurch out of the shadows. A cave of pure Colour Separation Overlay which sends her into a slow motion spin. A mutant viking falling through a spaceship wall into the void. Last, but not least, a multicoloured butterfly man who can fly through walls and talk through his eyes.
It's a shame that the Time Lords, as a thank you for risking their necks over the planet's fate, couldn't take the Doctor and Jo to the future of Solos, where the air is presumably thick with butterfly people. But, no. Giant fleas and being locked in a radioactive fuel cell. Then home. You've had your fun.
This is a strange story for the Time Lords. It's never very well explained just what they're doing, and why the Doctor's doing it for them, which wouldn't matter if it wasn't a big part of the narrative. Everyone's behaving out of character, intervening in the affairs of Solos for no particular reason. Jon Pertwee sells it with all the star power of his Doctor, but sometimes you can feel him wondering – what exactly am I after, here?
Call me a fan wanker – you won't be the first – but one's imagination is tantalised by the appearance of George Pravda, Deadly Assassin's Castellan Spandrell. The headwear of the Earth authorities recalls that story too. Mad as it might seem, I long to write a revisionist Target novelisation where the dodgy Earth colonists are mixed up with shady Gallifreyans. I could hardly resist popping a Season 6B incarnation of the Doctor in there somewhere, too.
An alternate fantasy would be to hoover all the Time Lordy bits of the story out, hopefully reducing the whole thing down to four episodes. (No more six episode stories. No more. I won't stand for this.) I think The Mutants, with its atmospheric locations, mad characters, eerie music, amazing monsters and unguarded political sentiment would be immediately taken to viewers' hearts. Pertwee's outfit is particularly nice this story, too. Like Quentin Crisp in space.
As it is, I don't quite know how Jo and the Doctor have the strength to crack a joke in the closing reel, but it's a hallmark of this era that they try. They're a class act, this team: stylish, playful and outspoken. Long may they reign.