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The Sun Makers was the fourth serial of season 15 of Doctor Who. It took on a political note with the 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, however this was the last story he wrote while he was script editor, as Holmes had decided to step down from the position by this point. He was succeeded by Anthony Read.

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.[1] 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 favourite. (DCOM: The Sun Makers, The Face of Evil, and others)


Far in the distant future, Earth has become uninhabitable, forcing mankind to colonise first Mars and then Pluto. No longer the coldest planet in the solar system, Pluto is now warmed by artificial suns. The Doctor, Leela and K9 arrive to discover the exploitation of the Megropolis people by the ruling elite, led by the Collector.

Deep in the Undercity, a small group of revolutionaries plot to overthrow the company and the Doctor is forced to fight the oppression of the people using fire against fire...


Part one[]

Cordo, a D-Grade foundry worker from Megropolis One on Pluto, is informed by a nurse via an oval-shaped hatch in a corridor that his father has died. The nurse tells Cordo to report to Gatherer Hade's office to pay the money for the Golden Death his father received, then slams the hatch shut. Cordo does as instructed, but he finds the fee has been increased from 80 to 117 talmars, which he cannot pay. Hade tells Cordo that he will have to increase his workload, despite the fact Cordo is already working twenty-one hours a day.


Don't Let Cordo Jump! - Doctor Who The Sun Makers - BBC

The Doctor and Leela stop Cordo from committing suicide.

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. 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 to which all citizens are subject. 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, pondering 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 to them. Hade and Marn are still watching K9 as he makes his way through the city.

Leela shows off her knife skills.

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...

Part two[]

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 Centre 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 outmanoeuvres the first aggressor and warns the others that the next one will die. Realising 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.

K9 leads the attack on the Correction Centre.

Back in the Correction Centre, 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 PentoCyleinicMethyldrane, 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 Centre 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.

Leela, Cordo and Bisham find the way blocked.

K9 blasts open the door to the Doctor's cell in the Correction Centre 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 manoeuvre 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 Mandrel takes him to be a spy.

Leela, Cordo and Bisham find their way blocked by a barricade. Turning around to go another route, they see an armed guard vehicle speeding towards them. Cordo tells Leela it's no good, they've been seen...

Part three[]

Leela instructs K9 to hide and he does so. As the guards get out of the vehicle, Leela has K9 shoot them down, and their guns are taken by Bisham and Cordo. The three get aboard the vehicle and Leela takes the wheel, but when she inadvertently puts the vehicle into reverse, Bisham tells her perhaps he'd better drive! With Bisham driving, the vehicle charges at the barricade where, believing Leela, Cordo and Bisham to be dead, the guards have already begun taking it down, and the three pass through with ease, taking the guards by surprise. However, a gunfight ensues, during which Leela is hit by a shot to the head and falls from the vehicle. Unable to help her with the guards still firing, Cordo and Bisham have no choice but to 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, realising that she is not with them.

Leela is brought before the Collector.

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 maximise 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 traveller 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 vapour towers as Cordo asks the guard and his friend, Hackett, if they are with the revolution. They join the uprising.

K9 returns, having stopped the flow of water.

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...

Part four[]

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.

Veet and Goudry inspire rebellion.

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 hypnotises 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 Collector reverts to his natural form.

The Doctor accidentally uses the phrase "wake up" and the guard he previously hypnotised 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 colonise 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 apologises and promises K9 a rematch.


Uncredited cast[]


Uncredited crew[]



  • Gallifrey is mentioned as being a Class 3 planet with its "potential for commercial development being correspondingly low".
  • 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.




  • One of Hade's predecessors was called Morton.

The Doctor[]


Foods and beverages[]


  • The Doctor refers to Galileo Galilei in passing, saying, "Galileo would have been impressed."
  • 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.

Story notes[]

  • The story originated from recent problems Robert Holmes was experiencing with UK tax authorities, and contains many references to the British tax system. These include the Inner Retinue (cf. Inland Revenue) and "the P45 return route" (cf. the P45 form). (INFO: The Sun Makers)
  • The name of the Collector's home planet, Usurius, is a pun on the term "usury", which describes unusually high or unfair interest rates.
  • Hade's epithets for the Collector gradually go from flattering ("Your Highest", "Your Sublimity", "Your Eminence" and so on) to insulting ("Your Corpulence" and "Your Grossness").
  • This story marks the last appearance of Leela's darker outfit. For the next two serials — her last — she would continue to wear the lighter (and more revealing) one.
  • The Radio Times programme listing for part one was accompanied by a black-and-white photograph of the Doctor in one of the tunnels of the Megropolis underworld, with the accompanying caption "A new adventure for Dr. Who when he lands on a distant planet: 6.5 p.m."
  • On the DVD commentary, director Pennant Roberts says that the positions in the chess match between the Doctor and K9 were based on the endgame of a match between Bobby Fischer and Garry Kasparov. However, Kasparov never played Fischer.
  • Some textures of the walls are enlarged photographs of a die of an AMD microprocessor. The logo of AMD is large and visible.
  • Actor Richard Leech saw his character, Gatherer Hade, as a version of Pooh-Bah from the Gilbert and Sullivan operetta The Mikado. (INFO: The Sun Makers) Hade's remark that giving the Doctor a thousand talmars "added a touch of verisimilitude" echoes Pooh-Bah's famous line describing an element he has added to a cover story as "merely corroborative detail, intended to give artistic verisimilitude to an otherwise bald and unconvincing narrative."
  • The exchange between Mandrel and the Doctor, "What have we got to lose?" "Only your claims," riffs on a common paraphrase of the final lines of The Communist Manifesto by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, "What have you got to lose? Only your chains." The official English translation of the line is "The proletarians have nothing to lose but their chains."

Safe tumblers or Hitchhiker's Guide?

  • Unusually, Paddy Kingsland did the special sounds on this episode. He was also responsible for special sounds on the radio adaptation of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. Hence, as Louise Jameson pointed out in the DVD commentary, there was some crossover of sounds. Most notably, the sound of the Doctor fiddling with the combination lock in part four is the same as the sound of the Guide being consulted in the original Hitchhiker's radio drama.
  • At one point in scripting, the scene in which Leela is stunned when entering the large safe was to have been her death scene. However, the production team decided against killing Leela, in part because to have Tom Baker's Doctor shown grieving midway through a story would have been inappropriate both for the story and Baker's version of the character. (INFO: The Sun Makers)
  • The joke involving the Doctor accidentally hypnotising Leela was devised on the set by the two actors. (INFO: The Sun Makers)
  • When the story was first screened by ABC in Australia in 1979, a small edit was made to part one by the Australian Film Censorship Board (now the Australian Classification Board) to remove the "Stuff the Company!" insult delivered by Mandrel in response to Cordo's rather nervous "Praise the Company!" Strangely, a repeat transmission of the story in 1979 was in uncut form — i.e. with Mandrel's line intact — as well as subsequent screenings in 1982 and the late 1980s.
  • Veet's lines originally went to a character named Rashif, who was dropped from the script.
  • Michael Keating makes his only on-screen appearance in Doctor Who in this serial. He would become perhaps best known for his regular role in another British sci-fi series, Terry Nation's Blake's 7. In fact, it was Pennant Roberts who recommended him for the series. Also, the episode Ultraworld saw Keating return to this story's filming location in Bristol.
  • The initialism PCM may be a play on Per Calendar Month (DWM 503)
  • Douglas Adams suspected that Robert Holmes may have borrowed the idea for PCM from a script they were working on at the time, involving an aggression-reducing machine.
  • The Collector was originally conceived as a large, corpulent figure, which is why Hade calls him things like "Your Immensity".
  • Pennant Roberts had originally intended that the giant credit cards featured in the story should resemble Barclaycards. This was vetoed by Graham Williams who said that it would be free publicity for the bank.
  • Marn was originally a man.
  • Leela and the Doctor are identified as "terrorists." In real life, Leela's character was partially based on Palestinian revolutionary Leila Khaled.


  • Part one - 8.5 million viewers
  • Part two - 9.5 million viewers
  • Part three - 8.9 million viewers
  • Part four - 8.4 million viewers

Filming locations[]

  • WD and HO Wills Tobacco Factory (now known as Imperial Park), Hartcliffe Way, Hartcliffe, Bristol
  • Camden Town Deep Tube Shelters, Stanmore Place, Camden Town, London
  • BBC Television Centre (TC3 and TC6), Shepherd's Bush, London

Production errors[]

If you'd like to talk about narrative problems with this story — like plot holes and things that seem to contradict other stories — please go to this episode's discontinuity discussion.
  • At the start of part two, the shadows of the extras playing the security guards are visible awaiting their cue to enter.
  • A car park insignia is visible on the roof top.
  • In part two, the Doctor offers Hade a humbug, but he actually takes a green Jelly baby.
  • A microphone enters the screen for a few seconds in upper left corner at minute 18 of part three.
  • Near to the end of part three after K9 has exited the steamer, the Doctor praises K9 with his scarf rolled out and lengthened down his body, yet less than a second after when he is given a communicator, it is rolled up over his shoulders.


  • When Mandrel says that the Doctor had better have a good story, the Doctor begins, "Once upon a time, there were three sisters..." This is a paraphrase of a story begun by the Dormouse in Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. The Doctor previously began this story upon being revived in the Kraal Disorientation Centre, though on that occasion he combined it with the title characters from the play Three Sisters by Anton Chekhov. (TV: The Android Invasion)

Home video and audio releases[]

Video releases[]

This story was released as Doctor Who: The Sun Makers.


DVD releases[]

Originally planned for release in a boxset with The Ambassadors of Death, The Sun Makers was released on DVD on its own in Region 2 on 1 August 2011, followed by a Region 1 release on 9 August. The DVD's special features were:

Digital releases[]

  • The story is available for streaming in the US through Hulu Plus or Amazon Instant Video in the UK.

External links[]