Doctor, Leela and K9 arrive on Pluto in the far future. By
this time, the planet has been made habitable by a series
of artificial suns and colonised by humans. But the population
is over-worked and over-taxed by its unfeeling corporate rulers...
This four-parter is a fairly unusual example from Graham Williams's
tenure as producer of Doctor Who in that it features
no monsters - at least, not until the very end of the story.
Up until that point, the villains of the piece, Gatherer Hade
(played by the appropriately named Richard Leech) and the
Collector (Henry Woolf) are human in appearance. Oh, they're
grossly exaggerated caricatures of fiscal greed, to be sure
(Woolf's whining vocal delivery pre-empts Deep Space Nine's
Grand Nagus Zek by a decade or two), but they are humanoid
era's trademark emphasis on humour is very much in evidence,
even if the men in monster suits are not. However, thanks
to the writing of Robert Holmes, this is not one of those
toe-curling examples of puerile comedy, but rather one of
the finest parodies that the series has ever done. Holmes
had allegedly received a hefty bill from the Inland Revenue
while he was shaping his ideas for this story, and the result
is this cutting satire on crippling taxation and debt.
opening minutes of Part One drive home the tragically absurd
plight of an ordinary worker, Cordo (Roy MacReady), who is
taxed for the cost of his father's funeral and taxed for the
extra shifts that he needs to put in to try and make ends
meet. Puns and sight gags both subtle and obvious permeate
the production, including Holmes's references to liquidation
and "corridor P-45" and costume designer Christine Rawlins's
humbug-coloured garb for the greedy Gatherer Hade. Beneath
all the jokes, however, there lies a serious message about
the dangers of spiralling and inescapable debt, that of both
individuals and entire Third World nations.
production values are remarkably high for the period, especially
when you consider that this story is part of the typically
cheap-looking fifteenth season. The absence of rubber monsters
helps enormously, and many of the corridor scenes were filmed
on location, which gives a greater sense of scale to Pluto's
capital city, Megropolis One. Unfortunately, K9's drive system
sounds dreadfully noisy during these corridor scenes, while
his laser gun seems to possess an incredible ability to hit
its target no matter which way his nose happens to be pointing
at the time!
story holds additional interest for fans of Blake's 7,
who will notice the presence of Michael (Vila) Keating, in
a slightly earlier freedom-fighter role as the rebel Goudry.
The Sun Makers: a brilliant fun maker.