The opening scene of this story is, I feel, inspired by Monty Python. An old, bearded man, in tatty clothes, is heard running towards us across a foggy wasteland. When he finally comes into view and runs up to the camera, you half expect him to say: "It's!"
The man, a "Mutt", is persued by three soldiers. They report that the mutant is dead, cause unknown. The Doctor receives a globe from the Time Lords; it contains a message which he must deliver to someone. The Time Lords steer the TARDIS to a spaceship. A conference is being held where Solonians are seeking independence from the Overlords. Both regard the mutants as diseased creatures who should be killed. Varan, a solonian, is working with the Marshall. A mutant, that came aboard as Varan's bodyguard, is killed because he is a Mutant. The Doctor and Jo are escorted by the guards. Another solonian, Ky, blames the Marshall for creating the mutants because of atmospheric experiments. The Earth's empire is collapsing so they are letting Solos go. The Doctor and Jo are questioned by the Earth Administrator and the Marshall. The Doctor presents the globe but it doesn't open, so it isn't intended for the humans. The Overlords and Solonians begin the independence conference. Ky protests and the Marshall orders his arrest; in the confusion, Varan's son assassinates the Earth Administrator as per the Marshall's instructions. Ky runs from the conference hall, where he passes the Doctor and Jo - the globe opens. Jo is taken hostage by Ky but the guards are ordered to shoot anyway.
Ky and Jo teleport down to Solos. The Marshall wants to know what is in the globe and forces the Doctor to work on opening it otherwise he will not search for Jo, who will die from the poisonous air on Solos. The Marshall kills Varan's son, to stop him talking. Varan runs as the Marshall orders him killed. Jo is taken to a cave by Ky, where she can breathe normally; she tells him that the globe is for him. The Doctor meets Varan and he explains the murder; the Marshall pretends that Jo is in safety and that Ky left her. One of the guards, Cotton, tells the Doctor the truth about Jo and tries to help the Doctor. The Doctor sets up a power failure in order to get off Skybase; Varan grabs him and is going to kill him.
The Doctor and Varan are teleported to Solos. He asks him to take him to Ky as he wants to help the Solonians. In the cave, Jo and Ky see a firestorm and a fully developed mutant. Ky explains that all this is a result of the Marshall's attempts to make the air breathable for the humans. The Marshall orders rockets be used on the atmosphere to change it, which will also wipe out the solonians. The Doctor and Varan find Ky who is surrounded by mutants; they scare them off. Jo walks along some passages and finds a cavern with pulsating crystals on the walls; she collapses and a figure in a protective suit picks her up. The globe opens when the Doctor gives it to Ky; it contains tablets with language from the solonians' past. Ky doesn't understand the old language. Varan leaves for his people in order to launch an attack on the Marshall and humans. The Marshall wants to use gas weapons on the caves to drive out mutants, Ky and the Doctor. The solonian summer is starting and there are more mutations. The Doctor and Ky move towards the cavern. Cotton and Stubbs go after the Doctor. They meet up with the Doctor, Ky and Jo. The Marshall sets off the grenades and seals them all in.
The suited figure signals to the Doctor and co. to follow. They go to a safe room; the figure is Professor Sondergard, an anthropologist. He has hidden in the caves because he tried to report to Earth about the slave status of solonians but the message was intercepted by the Marshall. He looks at the tablets and tries to translate. The mountain begins to quake; Ky, Jo, Cotton and Stubbs evacuate to Varan's village, whilst the Doctor remains with Sondergard to unravel the mystery of the tablets. The tablets tell a story of the four seasons on Solos; the Doctor makes for the cavern, which is radioactive. There he picks up a rock from a glowing pile and leaves again. Varan takes Jo and co. captive and prepares to attack the Skybase. An investigator is on his way to Skybase; the Marshall orders the rockets used as fast as quickly as possible. The Doctor discovers that the mutation is a part of the solonians natural cycle, which happens because it is an adaptive change to the seasons. The crystal the Doctor has can only be analysed on the Skybase; it plays a role in the mutation and he needs to find out how. The Marshall's men attack Varan's party. A hole is made in the Skybase hull, sucking Varan into space; the rockets are launched.
Jo and co. manages to get out of the room and seal the door; they are taken captive by the Marshall, tried and sentenced to death. The rockets have malfunctioned and exploded on the planet, contaminating it. Jo bluffs that she knows about the investigator, and Ky trumphantly says the Doctor and Sondergard are both alive. The Doctor heads off for Skybase alone. The Marshall and guards go to Solos to hunt down the Doctor. He gives them the slip and teleports. He is pursued and captured, then forced to work on a "particle reversal unit". Jo manages to set the captives free and they inform the investigator's ship of what is happening; Stubbs is killed. They re soon recaptured; the Marshall takes Jo with him. Sondergard explains what is happening to the mutants: the atmospheric changes have messed up the solonians natural cycle; he asks for their help in finding the Doctor. The Doctor uses the reveral unit to return the atmosphere to normal solonian levels but the Marshall wants him to continue, turning the atmosphere into one breathable by humans. Ky, Cotton and Jo are put in a radiation chamber; the investigator's ship arrives and needs refuelling, which places the three in mortal danger.
The investigator and the Marshall discuss matters; the latter tries to cover his tracks. The Doctor is forced to support the Marshall's explanation because of Jo's safety. Cotton and co. find a way out of the room and to safety. They make their way to the hearing; the Doctor then lays the charges against the Marshall and his scientist before the investigator. Sondergard makes his way to the Skybase. A mutant follows but is killed by the Marshall; the investigator releases the guards and places the troops under his command. The Doctor analyses the crystal - it is a biocatalust for the solonian cycle. Jo and Sondergard are taken to the radiation room again, with Ky and Cotton. Sondergard gives Ky the crystal and that, plus the radiation, accelerate his metamorphosis into a mutant. The Marshall arrests the investigator and his men and reveals his true nature. Ky mutates further into a glowing humanoid figure. The Marshall is killed by Ky. Sondergard remains on Solos to help the solonians; Cotton is put in charge of the Skybase where he will assist Sondergard and Ky before the humans return home, leaving Solos independent.
This Bob Baker and Dave Martin script is certainly one of the more overtly political stories in Who, with its implied references to apartheid, racism and colonialism.
There are some great characters too. Stubbs and Cotton make a nice duo; the Marshall is an odious villain. The sets and shots in the caves were nicely done, and the mutant costumes were a great design.
The story isn't a typical monster yarn so it might not interest all; I liked it though.
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