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DVD Review

DVD cover

Doctor Who
The Sun Makers


Starring: Tom Baker
RRP: £20.42
Certificate: U
Available 01 August 2011

The Doctor and Leela accidentally land on Pluto and are surprised to discover that, rather than it being a barren rock, six suns shine upon its surface and humanity has made a new home. The society which exists lives under the direction of the corporation, which works its staff to death, taxing them into their graves...

The Sun Makers is a story from the original show's fifteenth series. The show stared Tom Baker and Louise Jameson. The four-part story was originally transmitted between 26 November and 17 December 1977, written by Robert Holmes, directed by Pennant Roberts, the story was Holmes’ vitriolic rant against both the tax man and the BBC. Holmes had written some of the best Who stories and so it was fitting the last story he would write for the series would be a biting satire, full of wit.

The Doctor finds a society ruled by a single company, whose sole aim appears to be to squeeze every penny and every ounce of work out of the population. The workers are kept subservient by way of a gas in the air system. Overseeing the taxation is Gatherer Hade (Richard Leech), on behalf of The Collector (Henry Woolf), whose corpulence is only matched by his greed and his subservience to the Collector.

When a worker, Cordo (Roy Macready) finds that he cannot pay his father’s death taxes he tries to throw himself off one of the Megropolis tower blocks, only to be saved by the Doctor and Leela. All three of them go on the run, Cordo leading them to the underground, to a group of disaffected rebels. Things quickly get out of hand when the Doctor is arrested trying to pass a fake credit chip.

Although hampered by the usual budgetary restraints, the superior script makes this a very watchable story, partially made more relevant to any age as taxation and the power of corporations has been a feature of modern society for many centuries.

What following is a linear narrative with the Doctor helping the humans to throw off their oppressors and for the greater part of the show the oppressors are shown as human beings, rather than the usual monsters, which the show was known for. It is only at the end that the audience discovers that Pluto’s overlords are, in fact, a race called the Usurians - a play on the word usury. The show is steeped in small side jokes, from the labelling of the corridors (P45) to the surreal nature of the company.

The story has been fully restored and, given its age, it looks pretty good. The extras appear to be shrinking in recent releases and this disc is not different. There is a full length commentary with Tom Baker, Louise Jameson, Michael Keating and Pennant Roberts. Baker is a little less exuberant in this commentary and there is less talk about the show and a great deal about the actor involved.

Running from the Taxman (24 min, 51 sec) is a featurette about the making of the show, which takes in some reminiscences from Louise Jameson, a discussion of the political background, even a bit about why Pluto is no longer considered a planet. Outtake (34 sec) has a small piece with a gun failing to fire. The Doctor’s Composer (18 min, 06 sec) is the final part which looks at the work of Dudley Simpson, the most prolific composer in the show's run.

The disc is wrapped up with a trailer (43 sec), a photo gallery, the Radio Times listings, programme subtitles and production notes as well as the Coming Soon (1 min, 23 sec) for Day of the Daleks: Special Edition, with new special effects.


Charles Packer

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