Doctor Who: The Sun Makers by Robert Holmes (DVD review).

The Doctor (actor Tom Baker) and Leela (actress Louise Jameson) arrive on Pluto, to find it inhabited and after rescuing Cordo (actor Roy Macready) from committing suicide, discover the most dangerous enemy yet, the taxman! Everything is taxed, with paying for everything almost always out of reach and where work is king if you want to pay off your debt. There is also a gas in the air that makes people fearful and a fatal detention centre for dissenters, assuming they are caught. Cordo decides to join the resistance and the Doctor and Leela join him. On the surface, K-9 leaves the TARDIS after its inspection by the local taxman Gatherer Hade (actor Richard Leech), who thinks there’s an uprising building up.


In the underground, there is unease between the time travellers and the resistance but with Leela as hostage, the Doctor, who looks like an Ajak miner is told by its leader, Mandrel (actor William Simons), to use a credit card to get some cash for their cause. Cordo goes with him but is unable to rescue the Doctor when he is trapped and gassed.

Awaking in the detention centre, the Doctor is told by another prisoner, Bisham (actor David Rowlands), about what is going to happen to them both and although in a strait-jacket, he manages to short-circuit the device that will work on them. This keeps things at bay and while they are repairing it, Gatherer Hade decides to release the Doctor, give him the money he was requesting and see if, by using the city cameras, keyed in to a tracker in the money who his fellow conspirators are.

Leela’s hour as a hostage is up but none of the resistance want to face her knife. Fortunately, Cordo arrives back and explains the Doctor’s capture and it is only he who will join her to go to the Time Lord’s rescue. Discovering K-9, Leela uses him to get to the detention centre, find the Doctor gone but rescues the Bisham. As they flee, they find their escape blocked.

With K-9’s help, Leela and her three helpers, take a soldier car and blast their way through the other blockade. Unfortunately, Leela is hit and they can’t get back to rescue her. She is taken to see the head of the company, the Collector (actor Henry Wolfe), and under interrogation reveals the Doctor’s name and comes up on his records as a Time Lord. He orders Leela to be executed and a price for the Doctor’s capture, using money from Gatherer Hade’s account.

The Doctor is still having problems with the resistance but with the arrival of Cordo with more weapons finally gets them to follow his plan. They are going to get rid of the fear-inducing gas and the other members of the resistance to spread dissent. In doing so, they discover Leela’s fate and a secondary plan is put into motion to rescue her. How they succeed is spoiler. Hail the Company. Well, only if you’re happy with their tax plan.

The audio commentary is spread between actors Tom Baker, Louise Jameson, Michael Keating and director Pennant Roberts. Despite the cold temperature on top of the Wills cigarette factory in Bristol, this is Jameson’s favourite story because she doesn’t have to ask the Doctor questions all the time and has adventures of her own. This is followed up in the extra ‘Running From The Taxman’ which also examines the violence and metaphors used in the story.

There is also the second part of a feature about composer Dudley Simpson’s work on the years on the series, ending with an incredible list of series he had worked on beyond. There is also the usual film stills and a multiple out-take showing one of the guns not giving the necessary flash.

What I found interesting with ‘The Sun-Makers’ was despite the small scale of the production was just how much they got for their buck. The Collector was one of the most dangerous foes the Doctor has really took on, despite not really doing very much, and it’s a shame that we never saw more machinations from his people in other stories. I mean, they must be out there still and I think that a tax taking villain would still have some relevance today. This story also places Leela’s people within the same time frame as the Collector identifies the colony planet she came from.

The reason why ‘The Sun-Makers’ still stands up today is because there is a general dislike of taxes, especially where we don’t see what the funds are used for, and the recognition that sometimes there is a need for rebellion when it becomes oppressive. Just makes sure the taxman isn’t an alien.

GF Willmetts

(region 2 DVD: pub: BBC BBCDVD2955. 1 DVDs 100 minutes 4 * 25 minute episodes with extras. Price: under £ 5.00 (UK) if you know where to look)
cast: Tom Baker, Louise Jameson, John Leeson, Roy Macready, Henry Wolfe, Richard Leech, William Simons, Joina Scott,  Michael Keating and Adrienne Burgess
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