Thursday 17 June 2010

The Sunmakers

The Fourth Doctor and Leela go to Pluto and instigate a revolution.

I think this is generally an overrated story.

This story is often regarded as a political satire. The problem with the Sunmakers as satire is that the system that is satirised makes no sense and neither does any coherent ideology challenge that system.

The Sunmakers has lots of fun demonising taxation and has the Doctor pouring scorn on taxation (giving no thought as to how essential public services can be paid for without taxation). No doubt right-wing viewers must have all smiled at this. However, true to the show's left-wing tendency it also satirises capitalism and gives us an evil, profit-fixated company. Unfortunately, the synthesis of these two opposing systems makes absolutely no sense.

It would seem that on Pluto everything is owned by the company. Everybody works for the company and the company raises all the taxes. The problem with this is that the taxes are coming from the very wages the company is paying. Why not simply pay all the workers lower wages? The whole tax-gathering operation seems pointlessly inefficent.

On the other hand, it is quite fun seeing the Doctor and instigating a revolution simply by his mere presence. Nevertheless, I think the revolutionary theme was handled better in the rather less well-regarded Happiness Patrol.

A good deal of the humour in this story is very subtle and likely to be missed by many viewers. For instance, corridor P45 and the fact it is set on Pluto (a 'plutocracy').

The acting is a mixed bag. Louise Jameson puts in one of her best performances, on the other hand, some of the guest cast are rather less inspiring. Governor Hage is fun, even if a little over the top. Citizen Cordo is a well created character, a man engulfed in misery who is transformed by meeting the Doctor. The underground dwellers are a little cliched. It also seems quite unlikely that they would change so swiftly from being bandits to committed revolutionaries.

The Collector is maybe just a bit too nasty to be quite convincing. It is interesting to know that really he is a sort of seaweed, but we are disappointed when we don't get to see him in his real form. Likewise, it is intriguing that the Doctor should be taken for an Ajack. Naturally, we want to see what an Ajack looks like.

There are lots of corridors in this story. Thankfully, some of them are large enough to look less like a t.v. set than some other Doctor Who corridors.

I think the killing of Governor Hage is a little unfortunate. There is nothing to suggest that the revolutionaries are going too far in their use of violence.

For all its faults, The Sunmakers does at least compare favourably with The Invisible Enemy and Underworld, though it really makes one wish one was watching Horror of Fang Rock or Image of the Fendahl.


  1. "the synthesis of these two opposing systems makes absolutely no sense."

    Actually there is a long tradition of pro-free-market anti-capitalism; see

  2. Oh, and also a large literature on "how essential public services can be paid for without taxation"; see