Bob Baker (1990’s)

Here’s Bob Baker, who along with Dave Martin wrote a number of classic 70’s episodes, including ‘The Three Doctors’, ‘The Mutants’ and ‘The Claws of Axos’. In this interview, he talks mostly about ‘The Mutants’.

“Of all the scripts Dave Martin and I wrote for ‘Doctor Who’, ‘The Mutants’ is the best they’ve ever done. It was the show where everything seemed to blend perfectly. The monsters were terrific, really superbly done. The ganglion creatures in our previous story, ‘The Claws of Axos’, had been good; but the Mutants were a high point.

“Dave and I learned the ‘Doctor Who’ formula with ‘The Claws of Axos’. It took us a year to write that. The formula is to have a little something every couple of minutes, a small climax every five minutes, something big every ten minutes, and something huge at the end. It’s a structure you work to, using your characters to shape it. And it’s good fun.

“I think Terrance Dicks was pleased with ‘The Claws of Axos’, and he hinted that if we came up with the right story, he’d like to use us again. When Terrance asked us to put up a story, he said that they were looking for rsomething about pulling out of Empire. It’s the sort of thing the British do well. They’re still doing it with films like ‘White Mischief’. It somehow lives in the British consciousness.

“It was part of the brief to involve the Time Lords and get away from Earth. The Doctor was a detective for the Time Lords, who would whizz him off to do jobs, though he didn’t know what was involved. The classic situation was that he’d got with it takes, but he doesn’t know what it’s for. So the little black box appeared, containing the cryptic signs. The pure space ones were always more satisfactory. Putting monsters on Earth means that you reach a point where you have to ask ‘How do Daleks go down steps?’ or ‘Doesn’t that monster look silly walking down the street?’.

“We had the idea of the evolving creature, only it could take a lot shorter on another planet. Or a metamorphosis could take place in a much longer time. We explained this by the planetary movement around the sun: the creatures had to be like this for the next so-many centuries until the whole cycle started again. Another element was the idea – almost like South Africa – of the indigenous people being hunted by the new suppressors. We calle them Munts. Terrance Dicks called us up and said ‘You can’t call them Munts!’, so we calle them Mutts instead.

“The idea of Earth as a grey world was ours too, a sort of Friends of the Earth thing. It was the idea that, if pollution continued at its present rate, all that would be able to survive were rats and ants. it was a nice turnabout to make oxygen the pollutant on Solos. This would kill off the natives and make it very nice for the Earth colonists, selling real estate. The messages were there for those who wanted to see them. I wouldn’t be upset if people didn’t spot them. If so, that’s fine. The messages had to contribute to the telling of the story.

“The Three Doctors was alright because it was confined to the UNIT building. The worst thing about that was the gellguards – great blobs going round shooting people. It was exactly the same as those ‘fifties science fiction films in which jeeps full of soldiers pull up, and they fire like hell at these things that never get killed. UNIT were doing that every week. It got terribly boring, I thought.

“I liked K9. It was an extra character you could use. I didn’t like the idea of it killing anybody. That was never what it was there for. it was supposed to be an enigmatic character, moving independently to support the Doctor. It would be very difficult to sustain the programme with just the Doctor.”

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