13 December 2021: not really a review of Flux added.
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THE SUN MAKERS
' "Suppose I refuse to go?" "You'd die." "It was just a passing thought." '
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Conversation in the Androzani office:
"What exactly did they find in the safe again?"
Um... can't remember...
"And why was it necessary for the plot for Leela to have an electric shock?"
"It's all a load of bollocks, isn't it?"
Now, we all know how great Robert Holmes can be. Talons of Weng-Chiang, Ark in Space, yadda, yadda, yadda. But everyone has an off day, and Sun Makers is it with a vengeance.
There are traces of Holmeserie there - lines like "You craven-gutted factory fodder!" are a dead giveaway for a start. And the tax satire stuff, while admittedly a hard target to miss, is unmistakably him.
But these glints of gold are all but smothered by the handy-dandy all-purpose plot. Come on, you know how it goes. You can do it yourself. A repressed population under the jackboot of something-or-other. A sullen, rebellious illegal underclass in need of a wash. One Doctor and one companion fomenting rebellion, being captured and escaping. All and sundry running up and down corridors. Pow, zap, truth, justice and good prevail, Doctor 1, evil aliens 0. Roll credits.
And that's the trouble with Sun Makers. Apart from the mildly enjoyable satirical element, which in any case is toned down pretty quickly, there's nothing here that we haven't seen a thousand times before. We even started getting traumatic flashbacks - what, the correction centre again? Just like those endless trips to the Radiation Room in The Mutants. Holmes even manages to throw away what dramatic tension might have existed by having the Doctor escape under his own, um, steam, thus making Leela's expedition to find him utterly pointless. And K9, as usual, leaches any remaining drama out of things by instantly solving problems with his boring superpowers. There's no emotional grip here whatsoever.
Fairly rubbish characterisation doesn't help matters, either. The underclass types are all interchangeable rent-a-rebels (the only one of any note is Goudry, and that's only because it's uncanny how close he is to Vila). The Gatherer and the Collector are stock villains, and Marn is a personality-free zone. The only one who's even mildly interesting is Cordo, and frankly, that's not saying much, given his yawnsomely familiar journey from wimp to self-actuated etc etc.
As for the core cast, at least Leela is fun, and she gets one good if hackneyed moment when she's asking the rebels to help her find the Doctor. The Doctor, on the other hand, is uninspiringly by the numbers, with overdrawn broad comedy and too many jellybabies spoiling the broth. And as ever, the violence question is fudged, with the Doctor sanctimoniously lecturing Leela yet dispatching the underling in the correction centre with a merry quip. (He just doesn't like Leela showing him up. Why else would he tell her to stop when she's about to save Cordo from jumping off the roof?) And K9? Loathsome as ever. He doesn't say "I am at fully offensive capability" for nothing.
Cardboard sets, cardboard characters, cardboard plot. Where's Robert Holmes and what have you done with him?
MORAL: Life is taxing.
DON'T HOLD BACK
For the first time we know of, the Doctor tells a companion to shut up. Well, two, actually. Not that we blame him for K9.
I'LL CALL YOU
Okay, we admit that the epithets the Gatherer uses for the Collector are pretty good. Our favourite is "your voluminousness".
OR I'LL KILL YOU WITH THIS DEADLY CORNFLAKE PACKET
There are a lot of horrible cardboard props in this to marvel over, but those guns really take the cake. Ugh.
THAT'S THE LAST TIME I LISTEN TO YOU
Why does Leela only stun the guard rather than killing him? There's no sign anywhere else that she's taking the Doctor's lectures to heart.
The Collector's wheelchair reminds us of something. Wait a minute... it's starting to come back... plungers... egg whisks... oh, yeah. Davros ripoff.
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