Doctor Who – The Sun Makers [DVD] [1977]

Tom Baker’s fourth season of Doctor Who marked a change from the exploration of Gothic horror. The unusually satirical “The Sun Makers” finds the Doctor, Leela (Louise Jameson) and robot dog K9 involved in a struggle against capitalism-gone-mad at the outer limits of the solar system. The Earth exhausted, mankind has colonised Pluto and lives in six vast “megropoli” lit by artificial suns. These colonies are run by The Company, with drugged human “work units” slaving simply to pay their funeral expenses. With video monitors, brain-washing and ruthless repression there is an obvious a debt to 1984, the white corridors echoing George Lucas’ THX 1138 (1970) and the action a low-rent Star Wars. Michael Keating, who played a rebel in Dalek creator Terry Nation’s Blake’s 7 (1978-1981), is similarly cast as a reluctant freedom fighter. There are plentiful pot-shots at over-zealous taxation and bureaucracy–Robert Holmes wrote the story as revenge on the Inland Revenue after a frustrating VAT audit–and splendidly theatrical performances from Richard Leech and Henry Woolf as the ultra-capitalist villains. With no monsters and little conventional horror, Baker is on fine form in a briskly directed four-part comedy-thriller distinguished by its political edge. –Gary S Dalkin