Doctor Who #471: The Sun Makers Part 4

"No one has ever endured a steaming without vocalising in the most gratifying fashion."
TECHNICAL SPECS: First aired Dec.17 1977.

IN THIS ONE... The revolution overthrows the tax men, and the Collector is effectively flushed down his own chair.

REVIEW: Maybe it couldn't have gone down any other way. SF can have fun creating an extreme and thus satirical society, but the Doctor Who paradigm almost imposes a revolution plot and the overthrow of that society. The Doctor leaving an oppressive regime standing would be failure on his part, by the standards the program has set for him. Of course, that's the most tedious thing about The Sun Makers.  We know this has to happen, and watching a handful of rebels defeat a handful of guards and authority figures is by-the-numbers Who. That said, there are some nice touches here. As the air is purged of anxiety-inducing drugs, the population gets almost giddy with the spirit of revolution, Cordo whooping with excitement, and Marn switching sides without hesitation to save her own skin. The Doctor uses the media to announce their victory before it's achieved, making it de facto truth, using the propaganda machine to his advantage. And the Gatherer gets thrown off a building in celebration, which is a fun piece of black comedy.

It's unfortunate that the Doctor's final solution to break the Collector's mind is econo-babble, not very well explained to Leela in the epilogue. Could we not have been made aware of this while it was happening instead, perhaps in lieu of frankly irrelevant scenes about opening the Company's vault? I mean, what was the point of doing all that except for Leela to get momentarily zapped? Aside from the "Why don't you girls listen to me?" moment, there's not much point to the sequence. Just shutting the character up during the final confrontation. More entertaining was the Doctor putting a guard in a trance, only to make him wake up with the keyword by mistake. The bit where Leela also falls under would have been funnier if Jo Grant hadn't done the same on Peladon. Not a very strong episode for Leela then, though she does, for once, throw her knife to disarm/wound instead of kill. Perhaps that's progress. As for K9, forget about it. Set to guard a door for the whole finale, he returns to finish his chess game with the Doctor, a sore loser who tilts the TARDIS to reset the board. Meh.

The Collector is a member of another species, which explains his strange voice and look - he seems fascinated by the Doctor's curly hair, a subtle behavior that contrasts with his over-obvious toadishness - a being from Usurius, a planet that sounds like Terry Nation named it. I guess these would rival Sil's as yet unseen people as the Whoniverse's Ferengi, sentient seaweed who can take humanoid form and who have effectively bought the human race. They've used them to exploit Mars and now Pluto (not the world with the most resources, I would have thought), and monstrously expect to leave humanity to die when they close up shop on the exhausted planetoid, a metaphor for lay-offs. The idea of a people with jobs still struggling with poverty and constant fear for their livelihoods while the Corporate State they work for makes obscene amounts of money seems more relevant today than it ever was, and perhaps that's why I wish the satire was a bit sharper and the Doctor far less able to reverse the trend.

VERSIONS: The Target novelization sticks closely enough to the televised story, though it does spell "Sun Makers" as "Sunmakers".

- Some of it works, some of it doesn't (mostly how Leela and K9 are used).

STORY REWATCHABILITY: Medium - What starts out as a fine satire develops variable problems with shoddy sets, camp performances and a plot we've seen many times before. Watched as a whole, it's mostly clever if not exactly memorable.


Craig Oxbrow said...

We're now getting to the point I start to remember things, being three and a half. It certainly wasn't the best Christmas episode the show ever put on...

Siskoid said...

Oh wow, memmmmmmoriiiiiies....

I sometimes envy the Brits for having Doctor Who that encoded into their DNA. For me, while my first Who predates Sun Makers by more than a season, I was still 12-13 years old when I saw [The Hand of Fear] even though it originally aired when I was 5 years old.

There's no Doctor Who in my earliest memories. (And since my earliest memories are when I was barely a year old - damn this insane memory of mine - I would be remembering Terror of the Autons!)

Siskoid said...

Oh, no... actually, I got it wrong by a year. More like The Time Monster.

Craig Oxbrow said...

The first story I really remember was Logopolis, and that was probably the repeat before the Fifth Doctor started properly, and the first I remember really clearly was The Visitation. Robo-Death stuck in my mind much more sharply than anything before.

We got Doctor Who Weekly fairly regularly and I already had most of the Denys Fisher toys, so I had fuzzy memories of the show but clear recall of the Wagner/Mills/Gibbons comics.

Siskoid said...

Hand of Fear remains a powerful memory because it was my first serial and a year or two later, also my second.

After that, very clear memory of Jo with the fungus on her arms in Planet of the Daleks, which was the first Pertwee I saw and which began my family's experience watching the show together on week nights.


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