Doctor Who: The Sun Makers DVD Review: Death and Taxes

Doctor Who is a long-running British science-fiction television series featuring the Doctor, a Time Lord from the planet Gallifrey whose adventures see him travel through time and space. Over the years, different actors have starred in the role, and to compensate for the realities of the television business Time Lords were given the ingenious ability to regenerate their bodies when they die.

The Sun Makers is the 95th story of the Doctor (Tom Baker). It debuted in four weekly parts beginning November 26, 1977 on BBC 1. Humanity has moved to the planet Pluto, which is supported by artificial suns. The citizens are overly taxed, even in death, by an organization known as The Company. Taxes are so oppressive, the Doctor and Leela (Louise Jameson) come upon Cordo as he contemplates killing himself. Cordo takes them to a group of rebels living below ground, whom the Doctor, Leela, and K-9 (voiced by John Leeson) will lead against their oppressors, a frequent Who story trope.

Mandrel, the rebel leader, doesn’t trust new people and threatens to kill Leela if the Doctor doesn’t go use a debit card and withdraw funds. The Doctor is captured by the authorities while doing so and the local overseer, Gatherer Hade (Richard Leech), presumes he’s an arms dealer, but allows him to leave in order to track where the conspirators are located. Hade reports to the Collector (Henry Woolf), a wheelchair-bound humanoid who is focused on profit and productivity above all else.

With the Doctor away, Leela gets to be her strong, warrior self. Unfortunately yet not surprisingly, Leela gets captured and the Doctor rescues her. The series’ limited budget is on full display during the former. Looking a bit like a student film, Leela, K-9, and Cordo fight against soldiers in a hallway that is used multiple times to evoke a large complex. They drive passed the soldiers so slowly they would have gotten farther away on foot. The guns don’t fire lasers, but are augmented by puffs of smoke and sound effects.

The episode has some good humor amid the serious nature of the story. There’s a very funny scene where the Doctor puts a guard to sleep and it works on Leela also. Richard Leech is amusing as the pompous blowhard Hade, who clearly has the job because he’s a yes man, and his underling Marn (Jonina Scott) is clearly frustrated by his incompetence. Woolf’s performance created a sense of mystery as the Collector appears to be something other than human, but the character never seemed threatening.

The extras include an audio commentary with Baker, Jameson, Michael Keating (who played Goudry), and director Pennant Roberts. Running for the Tax Man (25 min) is an exploration of the episode’s making and themes in the story. The Doctor’s Composer – Part 2 (18 min) is a continuation of a look at Dudley Simpson’s career, but no idea what disc Part 1 is on. Outtakes (35 sec) of an actor trying to fire a gun. There’s an informative Info Text, a photo gallery (4min) and PDF material.

The Sun Makers is an enjoyable albeit familiar Who adventure anchored by the main cast and supporting players.

Gordon S. Miller

Publisher/Editor-in-Chief of this site.

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