The Sun Makers

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095 – The Sun Makers
Doctor Who serial
The Sun Makers, Doctor Who, 1977.png
The Doctor and Leela, examining Pluto.
Directed byPennant Roberts
Written byRobert Holmes
Script editorRobert Holmes and Anthony Read (both uncredited)
Produced byGraham Williams
Executive producer(s)None
Incidental music composerDudley Simpson
Production code4W
SeriesSeason 15
Length4 episodes, 25 minutes each
First broadcast26 November – 17 December 1977
← Preceded by
Image of the Fendahl
Followed by →
Doctor Who episodes (1963–1989)

The Sun Makers is the fourth serial of the 15th season of the British science fiction television series Doctor Who, which was first broadcast in four weekly parts on BBC1 from 26 November to 17 December 1977.

The serial is set on Pluto. In the serial, the alien time traveller the Fourth Doctor (Tom Baker) and his travelling companions Leela (Louise Jameson) and K9 (John Leeson) start a revolution among the humans against an alien corporation which has an economic hold over humanity.


The inhabitants of Pluto in the far future are taxed to desperation, including the functionary Cordo, who is so overwhelmed by the size of his tax bill that he decides to take his own life. He is interrupted by the arrival of the Fourth Doctor and Leela from the TARDIS, who save him and discover that false suns have been created around Pluto to provide the ability for some of mankind to live. However, the Company which owns the suns and the buildings on Pluto is using its economic stranglehold to extort ever growing taxes through extreme usury. The Doctor is concerned at this economic and social structure, where each Megropolis is ruled by a taxation Gatherer, and the entire operation on the planet reports to a malevolent Collector. Some citizens have rejected this social order and live in the dark tunnels of the Undercity. The Doctor, Leela and Cordo venture there and encounter the renegades of the undercity, vicious thieves and dropouts led by the brutal Mandrel. He tells the Doctor that he must use a stolen consum-card to obtain money from a cashpoint or Leela will be killed.

The Gatherer of Megropolis One, Hade, is alerted to the arrival of the TARDIS. He uses an electronic tracker to follow K9, who has departed the craft in search of his master. K9 finds the Doctor and Cordo at a cashpoint where the Gatherer sees them and suspects they must be arms dealers. He orders his private guard, the Inner Retinue, to deal with them. When the Doctor tries the stolen card, he is overpowered by noxious gas and falls unconscious.

When the Doctor awakes, he is in a Correction Centre alongside another detainee, Bisham. They are likely to be tortured, but the Doctor is concerned for Leela, whom Mandrel threatened to kill if the Doctor did not return. Leela has defended herself, though, and Cordo, who evaded capture, returns to the Undercity with news of the Doctor’s capture. This increases Leela's standing with the thieves, and the threat over her life diminishes. The Doctor’s lot improves when he is released for questioning by Gatherer Hade, but Hade orders his movements tracked, believing the Doctor will lead him to the heart of a conspiracy against the Company. Not knowing about this change in fortunes, Leela, Cordo and K9 attack the Correction Centre to try to rescue the Doctor. He has left, but they free Bisham. As they leave their travel routes are blocked by Inner Retinue troopers.

Leela leads her friends in an attack on the guards, but she is injured and falls from a troop transporter they have commandeered. The Doctor has returned to the Undercity to find Mandrel, who refuses to believe he could have been simply released after such a crime. Cordo returns with Bisham and K9 and explains what has happened to Leela. He also uses a stolen blaster to force Mandrel to stop threatening the Doctor. He persuades the Undercity dwellers to revolt. Their first target is the main control area where the Company engineers PCM, a fear-inducing drug which helps keep the population servile and is being added to the air.

Leela is presented to the Collector, an odious humanoid in a life-support wheelchair. The Collector deduces that Hade’s conspiracy theory was unfounded and orders that Leela is steamed to death. The Doctor saves Leela, but the microphones set up to relay her death screams instead relay the sound of Mandrel warning the Doctor of how little time he has left to rescue her. The Collector is incensed and even more troubled when the revolution starts spreading. Gatherer Hade is thrown to his death from the top of his Megropolis, and his underling, Marn, joins the revolution.

Leela and the Doctor head for the Collector's Palace, where The Doctor sabotages the computer system. The Collector arrives and is challenged by the Doctor, who discovers that he is a Usurian, a seaweed-like sentient poisonous fungus, from the planet Usurius. The Doctor denounces his operation on Pluto, which consumed Mars as well as the population were moved from Earth. Before the Collector can implement a plan to gas the population of Pluto, Cordo and the lead rebels help the Doctor defeat the remaining members of the Inner Retinue. The Collector checks his computer to find the Doctor's input has resulted in projected bankruptcy, and the shock causes the Collector to revert to his natural state in a compartment at the base of his wheelchair. The Doctor seals him in, and he and Leela depart with K9, leaving Cordo, Mandrel and the others to contemplate recolonising the Earth.


Cast notes[edit]

Michael Keating also appeared in the audio play The Twilight Kingdom as Major Koth and in Year of the Pig as Inspector Chardalot. Louise Jameson stated in the DVD commentary of the story and on the commentary for The Talons of Weng-Chiang that The Sun Makers was her favourite serial.

Outside references[edit]

Robert Holmes intended the serial to be a satire of his own experiences with the Inland Revenue services. However, much of the political content was toned down by order of producer Graham Williams, who feared it would be controversial among viewers. Many of the letters and numbers used to denote the labyrinth of corridors in the city, for example P45, allude to well-known tax and Governmental forms, and the abbreviation used to refer to the suppressant gas 'PCM' also stands for Per Calendar Month. The actor who played the Collector, Henry Woolf, had deep bushy eyebrows, very reminiscent of the then-Chancellor of the Exchequer, Denis Healey. However, Holmes presented the villains of the piece as working for a private corporation rather than a government.

The director had originally intended that the giant credit cards featured in the story should resemble Barclaycards. This was vetoed by producer Graham Williams who said that it would be free publicity for the bank.[1]

Near the end of Part Two, when prompted by Mandrel for a story, the Doctor begins, "Once upon a time, there were three sisters..." mirroring the same story he started telling Sarah Jane Smith near the end of Part Three in The Android Invasion (1975).

The Doctor refers to Galileo Galilei in passing, saying, "Galileo will be pleased." When one of the rebels rhetorically asks the Doctor, "What have we got to lose?" he replies, "Only your claims!" This is a playful paraphrase of the famous slogan derived from the last lines of The Communist Manifesto. K-9 refers to Pluto as "the ninth planet." It was regarded as such at the time the programme was written and broadcast; in 2006, Pluto lost that distinction when it was redefined as dwarf planet. In this episode, Leela and the Doctor are identified as "terrorists." In real life, Leela's character was partially based on Palestinian revolutionary Leila Khaled.[citation needed][2]

Broadcast and reception[edit]

EpisodeTitleRun timeOriginal air dateUK viewers
(millions) [3]
1"Part One"24:5926 November 1977 (1977-11-26)8.5
2"Part Two"24:573 December 1977 (1977-12-03)9.5
3"Part Three"24:5710 December 1977 (1977-12-10)8.9
4"Part Four"24:5717 December 1977 (1977-12-17)8.4

The story was repeated on BBC1 on consecutive Thursdays from 10 – 31 August 1978, achieving viewing figures of 3.2, 6.5, 6.5 and 7.1 million viewers respectively.[4]

The BBC's Audience Research Report recorded a positive reaction from contemporary viewers, who were pleased the story and characters were more realistic, as well as finding the serial entertaining and well-developed. However, a "substantial minority" were less positive, finding it average science fiction and not strange enough.[5] The Report also found that audiences rated the production values and Jameson's performance as Leela highly, while K9 was popular with younger viewers.[5]

Paul Cornell, Martin Day, and Keith Topping wrote of the serial in The Discontinuity Guide (1995), "A clever script is balanced by a straight-forward plot, although the subtlety of some of the jokes will be lost on a younger audience."[6] In The Television Companion (1998), David J. Howe and Stephen James Walker praised the "high level of sophisticated humour" that satirized the tax system.[5] In 2010, Mark Braxton of Radio Times also gave The Sun Makers a positive review, calling it very successful in terms of the writer's objectives and described it as "playful, witty, ingenious". In addition, he praised the performances, design, and music, and only noted minor faults such as the improbability that the Plutonians had never questioned their society.[7] DVD Talk's Ian Jane gave the serial four out of five stars, saying that it "may not rank up there with the best that the series has to offer but it sure is a fun diversion". While he noted the high production values, he felt that the serial's strength was its script and performances.[8] Dave Golder of SFX was less positive, giving The Sun Makers two and a half out of five stars. He wrote, "The satire is rather blunt, and the gags don't make up for a story that's even more about running down corridors than normal. And these ones are really boring corridors (the concept of set-dressing clearly having eluded the designer). Some good performances and an on-form Tom Baker keep it watchable."[9]

Commercial releases[edit]

In print[edit]

Doctor Who and the Sunmakers
AuthorTerrance Dicks
Cover artistAndrew Skilleter
SeriesDoctor Who book:
Target novelisations
Release number
PublisherTarget Books
Publication date
18 November 1982

A novelisation of this serial, written by Terrance Dicks, was published by Target Books in November 1982. Dicks chose to tone down the scene in which revolutionaries cheer as they hurl one of their former oppressors from a roof, reducing the apparent horror so that the rebels concerned feel that their actions have gone "a bit too far".

Home media[edit]

This story was released on VHS in July 2001. The Sun Makers was released on region 2 DVD on 1 August 2011.[10]


Doctor Who: The Sun Makers
Soundtrack album by
LabelSilva Screen
Doctor Who soundtrack chronology
Doctor Who: Series 11
''Doctor Who: The Sun Makers''
Doctor Who: The Visitation

The February 2020 issue of Doctor Who Magazine announced that Dudley Simpson's score for this serial will be released on CD and vinyl.[11]


  1. ^ "Pennant Roberts – Doctor Who Interview Archive".
  2. ^ Viner, Katharine (2001-10-26). "'I made the ring from a bullet and the pin of a hand grenade'". The Guardian. Retrieved 2007-03-18.
  3. ^ "Ratings Guide". Doctor Who News. Retrieved 28 May 2017.
  4. ^ "Doctor Who Guide: broadcasting for The Sun Makers".
  5. ^ a b c Howe, David J & Walker, Stephen James (1998). Doctor Who: The Television Companion (1st ed.). London: BBC Books. ISBN 978-0-563-40588-7.CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  6. ^ Cornell, Paul; Day, Martin; Topping, Keith (1995). "The Sun Makers". The Discontinuity Guide. London: Virgin Books. ISBN 0-426-20442-5.
  7. ^ Braxton, Mark (7 November 2010). "Doctor Who: The Sun Makers". Radio Times. Retrieved 10 November 2013.
  8. ^ Jane, Ian (16 August 2011). "Doctor Who: The Sun Makers". DVD Talk. Retrieved 10 November 2013.
  9. ^ Golder, Dave (29 July 2011). "Doctor Who: The Sun Makers – DVD Review". SFX. Retrieved 10 November 2013.
  10. ^ "Sun Makers goes Solo". 28 January 2011. Retrieved 29 January 2011.
  11. ^ "Gallifrey Guardian: Revisiting Vinyl". Doctor Who Magazine. No. 547. Tunbridge Wells, Kent: Panini UK Ltd. February 2020. p. 4.

External links[edit]

Target novelisation[edit]