The Sun Makers

Region 1

Region 2
VHS Video
(Doctor Who Story No. 95, starring Tom Baker)
  • written by Robert Holmes
  • directed by Pennant Roberts
  • produced by Graham Williams
  • music by Dudley Simpson
  • 4 episodes @ 25 minutes each
Story: Six artificial suns help sustain life on a colony on the planet Pluto, but its citizens are being oppressed, and taxed, to death. Can the Doctor, Leela, and K9 navigate the boiling tensions of this society's domed industrial Megropolis complexes, and free the colony from the chains of usury?

DVD Extras include:

  • Audio commentary by Tom Baker (The Doctor), Louise Jameson (Leela), Michael Keating (Goudry), and director Pennant Roberts.
  • "Running from the Taxman" retrospective making-of featurette (25 min.) with Jameson, Keating, Roberts,
    historian Dominic Sandbrook, and astronomer Marek Kukula.
  • "The Doctor's Composer - Part Two" featurette (18 min.) interviewing Dudley Simpson. (See "The War Games" for Part One.)
  • Photo Gallery music & sound effects montage (4 min.)
  • Pop-up Production Note Subtitles
  • Outtakes & bloopers (32 seconds)
  • Story trailer (43 seconds)

Buyers' Guide Review

by Martin Izsak

(A more in-depth analysis, containing "SPOILERS" and intended for those who have already seen the program, can be accessed here.)

The Doctor finally gets to confront the most heinous and insidious evil in the universe: Taxes!! Rich satire combines with an exciting, triumphant action plot, producing the most enjoyable story of the season.

The most important ingredient in the success of this tale is by far the writing. Robert Holmes proves eminently versatile as the horror style he had preferred and helped develop gets the boot. As humour and sci-fi fantasy take over, Holmes rolls right with it and spearheads its best and most inspired showing this season.

His subject matter strikes a chord far louder than anything that "Image of the Fendahl" (the previous story) brought up earlier, encouraging the entire production team to aid and embellish the details that make the story so worthwhile. He also delivers a solid on-screen plot that keeps the Doctor, Leela, and even the hastily added K9 busy confronting the characters and issues at hand.

But best of all, he continues his tradition of creating wonderful new characters to populate the screen. Gatherer Hade is typical Holmes, the not-so-competent official high up in an organization, with too high an opinion of himself and just begging for someone to come in and make fun of him. The Collector is a much more unique creation, the symbolic realization of taxation, usury, and corporate exploitation gone wild. Actor Henry Woolf, given superb make-up, costume, and mobothrone wheelchair prop, does supreme justice to this key role. He and Richard Leech playing Gatherer Hade lead a wonderful cast who all put in good performances that make the story work well.

Also of note in the cast as Goudry is Michael Keating, who would go on to play Vila, my favourite character in Terry Nation's sci-fi series Blake's 7, and be the only actor to feature in every single episode of that show. It is a great joy to see him playing not too dissimilar a character in a poignant Doctor Who story as well.

As for the TARDIS, the superior interior continues to reign, while the police box gets short-changed on materialization effects. At least the interior/exterior relationship is defined reasonably enough.

The story is also a bit skimpy with grand-scale establishing shots, lacking the kind of opening space panoramas that many other stories this season were blessed with. A shot of Pluto from space, with six suns around it would have been a great touch, as would have some good model work for the Megropolis One city. The composite shot appearing on the TARDIS scanner and again later as a cutaway view lacks a certain believability, as though it would be an impossibility in three dimensions, and therefore must only have two.

The opening sequence of the story is not too impressive either, beginning with Cordo in an empty and completely white corridor set, followed by an introduction to Gatherer Hade's office that makes it look like a pile of oversized children's building blocks assembled by someone trying to make an indoor play fort or a sand-castle. This type of minimalist set design works as shot throughout most of the story, when one can assume there are proper walls in the darkness behind the highlighted bits in obvious sight, but the entrance to Hade's office destroys the needed illusion from the beginning, where it is all too obvious that there is no wall between one side of the door and the other, and where the view from his desk can see into the rib cage entrance hall from its outside, rendering it redundant. This prompts the viewer to scrutinize the sets more closely than normal during the rest of the story, which is not a good thing. Blank white corridors are also not too riveting, but at least these match up with the long corridor filmed on location. Perhaps it wasn't such a great location after all, despite its impressive size.

In large part, the location material works really well for the story, giving it a sense of scale and enough diversity to make the industrial city society believable and selling many of the set-pieces that get mixed in afterwards.

Pennant Roberts directs the action of the story clearly and adequately, even if it sometimes lacks the punch and tension it might have been able to achieve. The crew plays it safe with lasers. K9 gets a few good shots in during the middle episodes, with similar sound and superimposed visual beams as during his introduction in "The Invisible Enemy" (story no. 93), although here it is much better directed and pulled off with greater finesse. The rest of the weapons fire has to make do with flash charges. Not all that one can hope for, but it works all right in the end, delivering better action than that of "The Invisible Enemy."

The story really does become an enjoyable romp as the final episode draws near, an infectious atmosphere that easily spreads to the story's audience. It is a sharp contrast to many works written by Malcolm Hulke, which tackle equally poignant social themes, but can't manage to believably turn things around in the end. Holmes finally surpasses Hulke with thematic writing here, and turns in his best thematic work for Doctor Who in this story.

A mammoth suite of music from "The Sun Makers"
lasting (11:22) was released on:
Audio CD - Doctor Who:
The 50th Anniversary Collection
11-disc version (2014)

More info

Several years later, the entire original score of music from "The Sun Makers"
(about 27 minutes duration) was released on:
Audio CD - Doctor Who:
The Sun Makers

More info

The rich satire of "The Sun Makers" tops season fifteen, and remains a monument to the wonderful writing of Robert Holmes.

This story has become available on DVD and VHS video.
Click on the Amazon symbol for the location nearest you for pricing and availability:
DVD NTSC Region 1
for the North American market:
in the U.S.
in Canada
DVD PAL Region 2
for the U.K.
VHS Video
NTSC in the U.S.
NTSC in Canada
PAL for the U.K.

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Read the Buyers' Guide Review for the next story: "Underworld"

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