Doctor Who #468: The Sun Makers Part 1

"These 'taxes', they are like sacrifices to tribal gods?" "Well, roughly speaking, but paying taxes is more painful."
TECHNICAL SPECS: This story is available on DVD. First aired Nov.26 1977.

IN THIS ONE... The TARDIS lands on Pluto where taxes are high and an underground has developed to fight it.

REVIEW: Holmes' swan song before leaving the script editorship, this is pure satire in a fashion not often seen to date. Of course, stories in the 6th, 7th and RTD eras will take up that sword, but here it's almost a new mode for Doctor Who, a refined version of what was attempted with The Macra Terror and Carnival of Monsters. In this Pluto of the far-flung future, Holmes creates a Kafkaesque world of taxation and corporate enslavement that would feel at home in a Paranoia RPG scenario. In this world, the working classes work all their lives to pay for their parents' expensive funerals, and because taxes keep going up, usually end up working off the debt in perpetuity, which explains why they can't pay for their funerals themselves. Praise the Company! Obviously, this comes with a great many witticisms, which probably mean more to the moms and dads than the kids watching.

At the heart of the story is Cordo, broke and suicidal, and talked off the ledge by a bag of jelly babies and a hard shove from Leela. Alive and on the run, he has no choice but to join the (stock) underground, but it looks doubtful that he's got the right stuff to be much of a rebel. On the other side of the moral equation is the Gatherer, part taxman, part judge, part investigator, with a pharaoh's hat and Henry Gordon Jago's way of jumping to conclusions. This callous know-it-all has a deep need to speak with authority on everything, so he creates his own narrative for the unexplainable presence of the TARDIS and its crew. His assistant Marg is a Believer with a capital B, completely subservient to the Company, and deferential to her boss. She's a bouncing board, his "companion". Pluto itself is played by some interesting industrial locations that have an East German feel, while the sets are beige and gray for the proles and artistic opulence for the higher-ups.

The Doctor and Leela are as good as ever, the main instruments of Holmes' wit. The Doctor does it knowingly, Leela naively, but both deliver on the humor. The K9 problem rears its ugly head, however, the tin dog (CLEARLY Leela's pet) is left behind once again. Of course this time, he disobeys and eventually follows his masters into the Megropolis. The bad guys follow him on CCTV, so he's more a disadvantage than an advantage at this point, though I'm sure he'll be handy in getting the Doctor out of that toxic automatic teller. Otherwise, he features in a tedious and unoriginal chess scene (I feel about as bored as Leela). The constant noise he makes is pretty annoying too. The production has to fix that or the studio sound is gonna be ruined. Stupid robot dog.

REWATCHABILITY: Medium-High - A full-on satire is perfect for the comedy that naturally comes out of the two lead characters. Let's hope it doesn't get bogged down by robot dogs and two-dimensional rebels.



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