The Sunmakers

Written by:
Robert Holmes
Directed by: Pennant Roberts
Starring: Tom Baker
Year: 1977
Video Availability: Try

Another Robert Holmes script, and this time it's come over all season 24. Cheap it is, though the script diverts.

However, I've never really thought Holmes + Williams is a good combination. They seem to bring out the worst and silliest in each other. Mind you, it's not helped by Richard Leech's hammery. Some would say this sort of stuff is "operatic". It at least makes you realise why Doctor Who has so many gay fans.

Death taxes... "perhaps everyone runs from the taxman"... "too many economists in the government"... as a satire this ain't exactly subtle, is it? Take away these not-so-sub subtexts and you're left with a pretty bogstandard Who. Mind you, you have to admire the audacity of a series that tries to convince you you're looking at a Pluto city by combining a rooftop carpark and a feeble matte painting.

It's always great to see Michael Keating, my favourite B7 cast member, and this is a good episode. Yet it fails to reach the giddy heights of its own reputation. As with The Two Doctors, its first cliffhanger is the Doctor getting gassed.
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I'm a Graham Williams fan (apologist?) but watching these season 15 stories again I can see why he gets so much stick. Most of the season 15/16 stories are half-baked with a lacklustre performance from the lead. It all picks up again for season 17 (though as we know, that season has more than its fair share of detractors even today) but less than half of the 15/16 output is above average.

There's a filler Leela scrap in this episode, bringing back memories of Pertwee. (Ol' Big Nose is back) Henry Woolf is bizarre yet great as the Collector. Did Philip Martin rip him off for Sil do you think?

The Doctor inadvertently helps a guard to kill himself this episode, followed up by a crack about being deaf. I bet the people watching this on Ceefax subtitles loved that.

Again, while the story is dressed up in fiscal overtones - the P45 return route is a better joke than most - at its core this is just a generic corridors 'n' tunnels story. Quite a dull episode, too.
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Some slightly childish humour - the K-9 biscuit gag, the accidental buggy reverse - is used to pad out episode three. The fact that a story needs padding when it hasn't even displayed a fully rounded plot shows Holmes was short on ideas. In terms of design and intent this one reminded me of The Happiness Patrol quite a lot. Patrol is better, though. At least that had the Kandyman, this just has some rather faceless guards and rebels running up and down corridors.

"What have we got to lose?" "Only your claims" is another nice joke, but there's little structural difference between this, and, say, Underworld. Rather than being inspired, it seems as if Holmes just wanted a few childish digs at his taxman and lazily wrote a by-the-numbers Who story to justify it.
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Unfortunately parts of my Who collection are rubbish. You know the score - tapes from Australia, sixth generation copies off UK Gold... the luxury of nearly every story on official release was denied us for so long that I'm sure many of us built up a "squint and you'll see it" collection of tapes. What I'm basically saying is that I'd forgotten my episode four of The Sunmakers has no sound.

From what I remember (and can see) this is the same as the rest - a gun-waving runaround spruced up by some sledgehammer subtle political asides.

It's also always disturbed me how the "good guys" save the day by hurling a man to his death. The Collector draining away is funny though.
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A likeable, watchable tale but displaying the flabby excesses and lack of care that went into much of the period. It's also nowhere near as clever as it likes to think it is. ("A bit like you then, Anorak" - Mr. Bitch)
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