The Sun Makers
Starring: Tom Baker (The Fourth Doctor), Louise Jameson (Leela), John Leeson (Voice of K-9).
The TARDIS lands on Pluto in the far future, where the Doctor is astonished to find the planet inhabited by humans and heated by a number of miniature suns. He, Leela and K-9 discover that the human race has been moved off Earth to do the bidding of the Company, a ruthless intergalactic conglomerate. It is up to the Doctor to uncover the secret of the Company's head, the Collector, while Leela is sentenced to death by steaming.
For much of his time as Doctor Who's script editor, Robert Holmes had enjoyed an unusual contract provision which allowed him to also continue writing stories for the series. Before leaving his post, Holmes elected to take advantage of this clause one final time for what was intended to be the third story of Season Fifteen. The were two ulterior motives to this decision: not only would it give Holmes the opportunity to define the role of K-9 -- a late addition to Doctor Who's regular cast of characters -- in the series, but it would also allow his successor to gain some quick experience before formally taking over the job. This successor was Anthony Read, a former BBC staff writer and producer who had worked on shows like The Troubleshooters and The Professionals, and had once been a candidate for the script editor post on The Avengers. Read, a longtime acquaintance of both Holmes and producer Graham Williams, had indicated his interest in writing a Doctor Who serial, and this lead to his eventually becoming the programme's tenth script editor.
Holmes' story, The Sun Makers, was commissioned on April 30th, 1977. Holmes largely intended it to be a satire of the Inland Revenue service, with whom he had some rather unpleasant experiences. This was much to the liking of the director, Pennant Roberts (who had previously helmed The Face Of Evil), but Williams ultimately forced Holmes and Roberts to tone down the political content, for fear of reprisals from viewers. Roberts, meanwhile, decided to fight back against what he saw as Doctor Who's misogynistic tendencies by casting female actors to play two of the main supporting characters, Veet and Marn. Although neither had a specific gender in Holmes' scripts, the author had envisaged both as males. This was a tactic Roberts would continue to use in his later Doctor Who work.
The Sun Makers was the first serial of Season Fifteen to be allocated location filming, and this took place from June 13th to 18th. Originally, all material was to have been enacted at Cambden Deep in London. However, one of the script requirements were for a roof beyond which no skyline would be visible. After visiting several tall buildings without finding any of them suitable, production assistant Leon Arnold finally suggested they instead make use of a roof which was large, if not particularly high up. The Imperial Tobacco Factory in Bristol was found to be ideal, but this meant that Williams had to sanction additional filming. Given that he was under orders not to let the Doctor Who budget become excessive, as had often been the case in the past, Williams was reluctant to allow this, suggesting that the scenes might instead by achieved in studio with Color Separation Overlay. In the end, a compromise was reached by which Roberts agreed to complete all his studio material in just three days.
The location shoot was the first time the K-9 prop had been brought on location. Fortunately, visual effects designer Peter Day took advantage of the extra time between the making of The Invisible Enemy and The Sun Makers to upgrade the machinery, most notably replacing the robot dog's problematic rear-wheel drive with a front-wheel drive. Studio work finally commenced on Monday July 4th, and continued on Tuesday the 5th and Monday the 18th. Unfortunately, some overtime was required to finish up all the required scenes.
It was during production on The Sun Makers that Louise Jameson informed Williams that she would not be returning to Doctor Who the following year, and in fact would like to leave the programme as soon as possible. She suggested that Leela might be killed off in The Sun Makers, but Williams was able to convince her to finish out her contract and stay until the end of the season. Meanwhile, Williams decided to shuffle the running order of Season Fifteen. The Sun Makers was moved to fourth to shift it away from The Invisible Enemy, as he felt that the two futuristic stories would appear too similar if screened back-to-back.