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DVD Review: Doctor Who – The Sun Makers
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Doctor WhoDoctor Who: The Sun Makers
DVD
Directed by Pennant Roberts
Written by Robert Holmes
Starring Tom Baker, Louise Jameson, John Leeson, Henry Woolf, Richard Leech, Michael Keating
BBC
Release Date: August 9, 2011

Tom Baker‘s era tends to be the most favored among Classic Doctor Who followers – and justifiably so: the man spent 7 years in the role, longer than any other Doctor, embracing the role that would help redefine the series. From his era, recently released on DVD is The Sun Makers (finally available for rent on Netflix, along with a couple others I will be reviewing as well), first broadcast in 1977 during Season 15; and Tom Baker’s fourth season in the role.

Written by fan-favorite Robert Holmes, the serial finds the Doctor and companion Leela of the Sevateem (Louise Jameson) together with K-9 (voiced by John Leeson) arrive at Pluto in our very own solar system – surprised to find that the planet is no longer the cold, lifeless rock. Instead, Pluto has been colonized by humanity, heated by numerous artificial suns.

The Doctor, clearly, finds this discovery to be especially odd, and the strangeness continues when they come across one of the locals attempting to commit suicide. They stop the man from killing himself, finding him to be named Cordo – and begins to explain the strange nature of the planet. As the authorities locate them and chase them down, the Doctor finds himself shocked at his own fear and choosing to run.

As the tale progresses, it is discovered that humanity has been enslaved by an alien society that have been built as a conglomerate – seeking profit over sheer control of their population. To assist in controlling the pacification of the humans, they release a chemical steadily into the terraformed atmosphere that instills fear and that explains the Doctor’s fear from earlier.

What follows is the genesis of a revolution against those who seek to control the masses through fear, and taxation, and financial domination. While the Doctor positively doesn’t begin this revolution, he sure does assist along the way to help free humanity – the species he has long loved and supported.

Tom Baker, as always, is brilliant as the Doctor in The Sun Makers, and Louise Jameson likewise puts in an excellent and spirited performance as the violent Leela. However it is Henry Woolf who steals the show as the villainous Collector, with an absolutely over-the-top and borderline-camp performance that befits the character, and emulates the corrupt controllers of massive corporations – something still relevant in this day and age as the Occupy Wall Street movement continues to gain momentum.

Pennant Roberts works as director of this serial, and while his direction is commendable, it is clearly Robert Holmes that rightfully should claim credit as the nucleus of The Sun Makers. Inspired by his own woes with the tax man and, more relevantly, several souring experiences with the BBC, Holmes penned the adventure, with much homage to the political climate at the time, and his own world view – even quoting some lines from The Communist Manifesto to aid in bolstering the revolution sub-plot of the story.

Doctor Who

As with all Classic Doctor Who episodes, the effects are somewhat dated, but surprisingly in The Sun Makers, they stand up fairly well in this day and age. What helps is the sturdy story serving as the foundation, reinforced by the exceptional performances – even while some of them may be over the top.

The special features of the DVD feature some nice goodies. There’s an excellent “Making-Of” featurette with many of the cast and crew (although Baker is absent for this segment) reflecting on many of the political elements of the adventure, while highlighting that The Sun Makers strongly mirrored the structure and attitudes of the BBC during that period in history.

As always though, the biggest highlight of the special features is the spirited commentary track. On this DVD the commentary features Tom Baker, Louise Jameson, Michael Keating (who portrays Goudry), and director Pennant Roberts. The commentaries on the Classic Doctor Who DVDs are the absolute best – and Tom Baker always steals the show, often adding preposterous random musings of ridiculousness and peculiarity.

Overall, The Sun Makers is a welcome addition to the Classic Doctor Who DVD line. While it plays second fiddle to Tom Baker episodes like Genesis of the Daleks and The Talons of Weng-Chiang, it is backed by a solid plot by Robert Holmes, and is a serial that should not be overlooked.

Overall Rating: 4 out of 5

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