The Sun Makers
The Sun Makers was the fourth story of Season 15 of Doctor Who. It took on a political note with writer Robert Holmes outing his dislike of the Inland Revenue’s taxation. For this reason, much of its plot involved subtle jokes in reference to this.
It was usually against BBC policy to allow script editors to write for their own show, but Holmes had received special permission to script a limited number of serials per year. The Sun Makers was the fifth story Holmes wrote during his tenure.
Holmes was inspired by Adrian Berry’s novel, The Iron Sun: Crossing The Universe Through Black Holes, that proposed the idea of man-made stars. Holmes also wanted to couple the idea with Britain’s former colonial ruling. After Graham Williams decided to keep K9 on as a series regular, Holmes, as script editor, was one of the first to know and was easily able to integrate the character into the story.
Throughout production of The Sun Makers, Louise Jameson continued to be dissatisfied with the direction of her character. At one point, Leela was to be killed off at the serial’s climax. Despite this, Jameson has noted on multiple occasions that this story is her favorite.
As of March 2012, it was one of only two stories — the other being Night Terrors — to feature location filming in Bristol, England.
Cordo visits Gatherer Hade, having saved up the money to pay for the Golden Death his father received. However, he finds the fee has been increased to 117 talmars, which he cannot pay. Hade tells him he will have to increase his workload despite already working twenty-one hours a day.
The Doctor is playing chess with K9. They land on Pluto and the Doctor exits with Leela. He is amazed the planet has a breathable atmosphere and huge cities. They spot Cordo preparing to jump from the roof and the Doctor distracts him long enough for Leela to pull him away from the edge.
In his office, Hade is informed by Marn of an illegal airspace invasion and landing. Overjoyed that this will incur heavy fines upon the perpetrator, Hade heads out with Marn to catch the criminals. On the roof, Cordo tells the Doctor and Leela about the taxes all citizens are subject to. Hearing the warning that Hade is coming, the three escape down a ladder.
Hade finds the Doctor’s TARDIS and tells Marn the tale of Kandor, an Executive Grade from Megropolis Four who stole millions from the Company.
Meanwhile, Cordo announces he is headed for the undercity, where he has heard tax evaders and outlaws dwell. Leela and the Doctor accompany him. As they walk, Cordo tells the Doctor that the planet has six suns, who judges them to be in-station fusion satellites. Soon they find themselves surrounded by a band of humans and Leela pulls her knife. The Doctor warns her not to take any aggressive action.
On a screen, Hade and Marn watch as K9 heads out of the TARDIS and ponder as to what he is. The Doctor and Leela are taken deeper into the undercity. Cordo tells Mandrel of his failure to meet Hade’s demands and requests to join his group. Mandrel tells him he must earn his keep through theft from the upper levels and killing. After Leela inadvertently demonstrates her skills with a knife, Mandrel notes that both she and the Doctor may be of use. Hade and Marn are still watching K9 as he makes his way through the city.
The Doctor is instructed by Mandrel to take a Consumcard to the Consum Bank on subway 37 with Cordo acting as his guide. Madrel warns him that he must return before his candle burns to a set level, or Leela will be killed.
Exiting the undercity, K9 meets up with the Doctor. Hade asks Marn to move the tracker onto the Doctor, taking him to be an Ajack, a miner from Megropolis Three and his intended disguise. However, the tracker is keyed onto K9 and unable to follow. Hade deduces that the Doctor must be orchestrating arms smuggling and he decides to go to the palace to warn the Collector.
At the bank, the Doctor inserts the Consumcard and the process seems to have worked. Suddenly, the cubicle he is in shuts and begins to fill with gas.
Cordo moves to escape and watches as a stretcher party take the Doctor away. In the rebel hideout, Veet asks Mandrel to kill Leela swiftly, as she wants her leathers for her herself undamaged. In his office, the Collector is visited by Hade who reports that he believes dissident Ajacks are plotting to overthrow the Company through armed rebellion. The Doctor wakes up in a straight jacket and a man, also in a straight jacket, warns him not to speak as the balerium gas affects the throat. The man, Bisham, tells the Doctor that he is in the Induction Therapy Section of the Correction Center and has been for about an hour.
In the undercity hideout, the candle burns to the set level and Mandrel orders his men to seize Leela. She out-maneuvers the first aggressor and warns the others that the next one will die. Realizing his men will not face her, Mandrel rises to the challenge himself. As they start to fight Cordo returns and informs them of the Doctor’s capture.
Back in the Correction Center, the Doctor hops around the room and begins inspecting the walls. He questions Bisham who tells him he was arrested for becoming curious about other products outside his section. He was formerly an Executive Grade but found some pills for use by Gatherers and other Company staff. Inquisitive, he took them and felt like he was truly alive for the first time. Bisham then kept on taking them and eventually the change was noticed and Megro Guards arrested him in his sleep. His job was manufacturing Pento-Cyleinic-Methyldrane, or PCM.
Meanwhile, Hade and the Collector discuss how to deal with the supposed uprising. Hade proposes more staff should be employed to search the undercity and claims a 5% increase in protection tax would offset the cost. The Collector pledges half of his Inner Retinue guard to assist Hade. In the undercity, Leela tries to convince the rebels to free the Doctor. Mandrel warns her that the Correction Center is under the palace itself. Only Cordo offers to come with Leela.
A man enters the Doctor’s cell and fits a helmet-like device to both him and Bisham. As the man moves to activate the devices, the controls electrocute him and explode, having been tampered with by the Doctor. Leela and Cordo find K9 and she invites the robot along with them. Marn enters the Correction Centre as workers are repairing the controls. She orders the Doctor to be released, telling him Hade wants to talk with him. As he walks out, he leaves a bag of Jelly babies beside Bisham.
As they traverse the tunnels, Leela begins to feel fear and queries this. K9 tells her that there is a chemical inhibitor in the air, causing her to feel fear as it affects the nervous system and debilitates the will. The Doctor arrives in Hade’s office and Marn hands over the 1000 talmars to the Doctor per the value of his Consumcard. Hade tells the Doctor he is forgiven, all part of his and Marn’s plot to give the Doctor – or more precisely, his supposed rebellion – a sense of security. After a chat, the Doctor departs, telling Hade that he will be exploring Megropolis One for a bit.
K9 blasts open the door to the Doctor’s cell in the Correction Center and Leela shoots the worker within. They free Bisham who tells them Marn took the Doctor. They all leave together.
As the Doctor moves into the undercity, the tracker placed by Hade can no longer track him. Unfazed, Hade tells Marn his plan to force the rebels into the open with the Inner Retinue guard and then pick them off. He calls the maneuver Morton’s fork. A guard K9 stunned outside the Correction Centre wakes and sounds the alarm.
The Doctor returns Mandrel his money but this makes the group suspect and Madrel takes him to be a spy. Leela, Cordo and Bisham find their way blocked by a barricade. Turning they see a armed vehicle speeding towards them and Cordo tells them it’s no good, they’ve been seen.
Leela instructs K9 to hide and he does so. As the guards get out, Leela has K9 shoot them down and their guns are taken by Bisham and Cordo. They take the vehicle and, with Bisham driving, charge at the barricade. Believing them to be dead, the guards had already taken it down and they pass through with ease. However, in the fire fight that ensues, Leela is hit by one of the guns and falls from the vehicle. Unable to help her with the soldiers still firing, Cordo and Bisham drive on.
In the undercity, a hot iron is being prepared by Goudry with which to torture the Doctor so that he reveals what happened between him and Hade. Mandrel believes some form of deal was brokered between the two and he takes the iron and readies himself to burn the Doctor. Bisham appears on the balcony above and threatens Mandrel into halting the process. The Doctor then asks them where Leela is, realizing that she is not with them.
In the Correction Centre, Leela is lying on one of the surfaces, alive but unconscious. The Collector sits in his chair nearby and is puzzled to find that Leela has not been numbered like all the work units on Pluto. As he leaves, the Collector tells his entourage to maximize her medi-care and bring her to him as soon as she is “on her feet”.
Back in the undercity, Mandrel reveals that he used to be a B-Grade working in Main Control and tells the Doctor that they could take over Main Control and cool the PCM to a point below its critical temperature, thus stopping it altering the minds of the citizens. The Doctor instructs Cordo to fetch him two of the oculoid electronic monitors that are being used to spy on him.
Leela is brought before the Collector and tells him her name and origin in the Sevateem. She goes on to tell him that she arrived on Pluto with the Doctor in his TARDIS. Leela is then taken away. In the undercity, the Doctor questions the rebels as to what the Company actually does. They don’t know where the money they pay actually ends up. The Doctor tells them to spread the word to the other humans that they should fight for their freedom.
Hade is summoned before the Collector and is told that the Doctor is not a conspirator, just a traveler who landed on Pluto by mistake. The Collector puts out a reward for information leading to the capture or death of the Doctor – specifically 5000 talmars, to be paid from Hade’s own purse. Secondly, the Collector decides that Leela is to be publicly executed. Meanwhile, the Doctor uses the monitors that Cordo fetched to create a loop of himself walking the same path, thus tricking the scanner. The Commander of the Inner Retinue visits Leela in the Correction Centre and tells her that she is to be executed. As he prepares to leave, he mentions the steaming, the process used in execution and the name of which scares Leela.
In his office, Hade is informed by Marn that the Doctor has been detected. They watch the footage of him walking up and down, unaware that it is duplicated. With the risk of 5000 of his own talmars present, Hade decides that he will arrest the Doctor himself and sets out with Marn. In Main Control, a guard is watching a public bulletin that announces the bounty on the Doctor. As he looks away he finds the Doctor next to him along with Bisham, Mandrel and Cordo who threaten the two guards present into surrendering. Mandrel shuts down the vapor towers as Cordo asks the guard and his friend, Hackett, if they are with the revolution. They join the uprising.
Arriving at the supposed location of the Doctor, Hade is surprised to find him absent. He has Marn check the scanners, but they still show that he is walking up and down beside them. In Main Control, the Doctor views a second public bulletin announcing the execution of Leela. Mandrel is maintaining the PCM at 70 centigrade. Bisham explains the steaming, telling the Doctor that it involves putting the victim into a condensation chamber and the heat exchanger, regulated by water pump, turns the water into high-pressure steam that then goes into the condensation chamber. In order to access the condensation chamber, the Doctor is told that he would have to pass through a high-pressure vent. As he would not survive, K9 opts to go instead. On the screen, Cordo watches as Leela is bundled into the chamber.
At the execution, the Collector is disappointed by the turnout and the news of the faulty scanners. Back in Main Control, K9 has stopped the water supply and returns through the vent. Mandrel hands the Doctor a two-way communicator as he enters the vent. They struggle to hold back the water as Leela enters the steamer.
The Doctor enters the steamer and helps Leela from the chamber. As he does so, Mandrel contacts him on his communicator and noise is audible to the Collector and the others assembled. Aware that something has gone wrong with the process, the Collector orders an investigation. Leela and the Doctor make it back through the vent and are greeted with the news that the PCM is clearing fast. Watching the execution, the Doctor considers the advantages for the rebellion if they could take control of the public video system and decides that he should head for the palace to do just that. Two guards enter and are taken captive almost immediately. The Doctor and Leela set off for the palace, leaving K9 and the others to defend Main Control.
In the execution room, the Collector is brought news that some of the workers are refusing to leave their rooms. This infuriates him as it damages “company profitability”. Elsewhere, Goudry and Veet coerce some workers into attacking the guards and refusing to work. The Doctor and Leela enter the palace and disable a guard there. The Doctor stops Leela killing him and hypnotizes him into sleeping, only to be awoken by the phrase “wake up”. Hade reports to the Collector that the situation is worsening, but is refused more men as his superior needs them for his own protection.
In the palace, the Doctor is fiddling with the Collector’s computer. Leela finds a safe and the Doctor tries to open it by listening at the door. Failing that, he opens it with his sonic screwdriver. Leela runs in and hits a barrier, knocking her unconscious. The Doctor follows her, deactivating the barrier as he does so. In Main Control, Bisham and Mandrel are happy to discover that the public video system is in rebel hands. It broadcasts a message stating that all government officials are to be arrested on sight and that guards should engage in peaceful co-operation. A group of rebels spring upon Marn, but she surrenders and tells them she wishes to join the revolution.
On the roof top, Hade is enraged to find citizens lounging around. He orders them to return into the city but, led by Vanna, they attack him and throw him from the roof to his death. In the palace, the Collector returns to his computer and the Doctor joins him. The two converse and the Doctor asks him about the Company. He asks where the head office is and the Collector tells him it is on Usurius to which the Doctor identifies him as an Usurian. The Collector explains that his species made a deal with the humans. They built a colony for them on Mars, subjected them to extreme taxation and moved them to Pluto when the resources there ran out. He goes on to tell the Doctor that, once the resources of Pluto have depleted, the Company will move on, leaving the humans to die.
The Doctor accidentally uses the phrase “wake up” and the guard he previously hypnotized pulls a gun on him. The Collector decides it is time to activate “Contingency Plan A”; he reveals to the Doctor a switch that operates the sprinkler system. However, they used dianene, a deadly poison. Leela arrives and throws a knife, wounding the guard. She then stops the Collector flicking the switch. Cordo, Mandrel and the Commander burst in, but the Collector is too distracted to care. Stressed by the collapse of his rule, he reverts to his natural form, shrinking until he is contained within the chair he could not leave. The Doctor explains that, naturally, Usurians look like seaweed, and no one would take orders from seaweed.
On the roof, Leela and K9 return to the TARDIS. The Doctor tells Bisham that he has faith that the humans will be able to colonize Earth again, then enters the ship. Inside, Leela asks the Doctor why the Collector gave in so easily and he explains that he fed a 2% growth tax into the computer that blew the economy. Unable to take it the Collector collapsed. The Doctor takes the controls of the TARDIS, tossing the vessel to one side and flipping the chessboard which he and K9 had left at the start of the adventure. With mock sincerity, the Doctor deeply apologizes and promises K9 a rematch.