Doctor Who: Colony in Space (part two)

Last week, when my son and I were watching the Bionic Woman episode “The Deadly Missiles,” I paused to explain, in terms appropriate for a six year-old, a little about politics. I explained that Forrest Tucker’s character was what we would call a typical right-wing character, and tried to give him a simple and balanced view of what that meant.

Tonight, our son really impressed us. We learn that IMC is the Interplanetary Mining Corporation, and that they’re running a scam where they land on planets that have been approved for colonization, chase all the colonists off one way or another, and then suck the rock dry while they’re passing as the innocent victims of some bureaucratic mistake back on Earth. Captain Dent thinks that the Doctor is a colonist, and they have a brief debate about whether Earth would benefit with people leaving to start colonies, or bringing back minerals to build new homes.

Our son listened to their discussion and said “The Doctor is left wing and the other man is right wing.” Mom, who wasn’t here for the Bionic Woman episode, did an amazing double take. We’re very proud of our son retaining that information and correctly applying it. Malcolm Hulke, this episode’s writer, was as left-wing as they got, and had the most cynical and negative view of a future Earth empire that Who has ever shown, with the Doctor shown as strongly opposed to it. Both in this story and in 1973’s “Frontier in Space,” the Earth is run by a totalitarian government in thrall to corporations, where political dissidents are jailed. That’s one reason these two stories are a little hard going; they’re incredibly grim.

But the other political component of this story was a production one. In the photo above, that’s Tony Caunter as Morgan, Dent’s second-in-command. He’s the guy who killed the colonists in the remote dome and staged it as an attack by giant lizards. But Caunter wasn’t originally cast in the part. Susan Jameson was.

Here’s Jameson from the 1969 BBC series Take Three Girls. The actress had been contracted to play Morgan, but at the last minute, some high muckity-muck at the BBC decided that it wasn’t appropriate for a woman to play a ruthless murderer in black leather. So Jameson was paid for five episodes’ work and thanked for her time. The decision not only robbed the show of a strong female villain at a time when it really could have used one, it would have given this particular story some badly needed presence. The only other female characters that Jo and the Doctor meet are colonists who all fade into the background as quite unimportant.