Sue: Is there anything I should know about this one?
Me: Only that it’s late 1977 and context is everything.
Sue: I would have just turned 16… Oh look, it’s Robert Holmes. I feel better already.
A nervous man named Cordo is loitering in what appears to be a very drab corridor.
Sue: This reminds me of Brazil.
Me: The country?
Sue: The film.
It’s an astute observation (it helps that we watched the film again recently), because Roy Macready really does look like Jonathan Pryce. If you squint. Anyway, Cordo is supposed to pay his departed father’s death taxes to Gatherer Hade.
Sue: This story is very brown. But everything was brown in the 1970s. It’s basically the same colour as a Bond Bug.
Me: A what bug?
Sue: An orangey-brown, three-wheeled sports car from the 1970s. Like a sexy Robin Reliant. It was the same colour as the giant rib cage this guy is walking through now.
The Gatherer sits behind a giant table made from ma-ho-gany.
Sue: I could watch this for hours. Please, keep talking about the wood.
Me: Praise the carpentry.
Back on the TARDIS, the Doctor is playing chess with K9. He tells Leela to shut up as he ponders his next move.
Sue: How can anyone concentrate when K9 is switched on? It sounds like the cleaners are in the studio next door.
When the time rotor stops moving, the Doctor leaps around the console room like a maniac.
Sue: Calm the **** down, mate.
The TARDIS arrives on Pluto in the far future and the Doctor and Leela discuss the prospect of going for a quick W-A-L-K without K9.
Sue: We do that all the time with Buffy. But Buffy is a stupid Labrador and K9 is a supercomputer. So this is cute, but silly.
K9 desperately wants to go with them.
Sue: Just like a real dog. Always wanting to be out. At least he doesn’t moult. Oh, go on, Doctor, take him.
Sue: TAKE HIM!
But the Doctor doesn’t hear her and he leaves the poor mutt behind.
Sue: That’s never Pluto, by the way. It looks like Birmingham to me.
The wide shot helps. A bit.
Sue: It’s miles better than them doing it in a studio with some crappy CSO. Where is this, anyway?
Sue: You know what I mean.
Me: A tobacco factory in Bristol.
Sue reaches for a cigarette as Cordo appears on the factory’s rooftop and shuffles towards its edge.
Sue: Teatime suicide again. We had one of those last week. How did they get away with this, Neil?
Cordo is at the end of his tether because he can’t pay his taxes. The Doctor offers him a conciliatory jelly baby.
Sue: It’s a liquorice ****ing allsort again! That will only make things worse.
The Doctor talks Cordo down from the edge and the poor man tells him everything he needs to know about the planet’s sociopolitical problems. However, when Cordo spots the Gatherer, he makes a run for it. And then, after some slapstick comedy, the Doctor follows.
Sue: Tom Baker is spoiling this. He’s trying too hard to be quirky.
Gatherer Hade suspects the TARDIS belongs to smugglers.
Sue: Why is he dressed as a pink bee? His PA’s costume is naff, as well. Are all the fashions on Pluto based on Quality Street wrappers?
At least the Gatherer’s costume doesn’t put her off the character completely.
Sue: He’s very good. What’s this actor been in before?
Me: Do I look like Toby Hadoke?
Leela, Cordo and the Doctor enter a large tunnel system.
Sue: The location is excellent. I didn’t know tobacco factories had such large pipes, although I guess they have to blow the smoke up something.
Me: This is a tube station in Camden Town, I think. I’m not Richard Bignell, either.
Cordo tells the Doctor and Leela about a group of tax evaders who have become outlaws.
Sue: So there’s a community of rock stars, comedians and Tory Party donors all living together underground? That’s interesting, not to mention topical.
It doesn’t take very long for the Doctor and Leela to bump into these mysterious ‘others’.
Sue: The people who made Lost must have seen this. They even look like the others from Lost. I bet they smell like them too.
K9 disobeys the Doctor’s orders and leaves the TARDIS, eventually making his way to Level 42.
No, that wasn’t a reference to Douglas Adams. Anyway, I ask Sue if she recognises the actor playing Goudry.
Sue: Yes, I recognise his voice. Hang on… I definitely know this.
I pause the DVD. Minutes pass.
Sue: I’ve got it! He’s the vicar on EastEnders!
Me: It’s Michael Keating. He played Vila in Blake’s 7. Actually, this story is very Blake’s 7 in look and feel. The costumes, especially.
Sue: You aren’t selling Blake’s 7 to me, love.
For several years now we’ve fed a small pack of wild cats who visit us each night (usually when we’re in the middle of an episode of Doctor Who). We called them Blake, Avon and Vila. Sadly, Severlan died a few months ago and we haven’t seen Vila in ages.
Sue: I often wonder what happened to Vila.
Me: He probably ran away.
The others’ leader, Mandrel, provides the Doctor with a credit card the size of a paperback book.
Sue: You wouldn’t get many of those in your wallet. If you had more than one bank account, you’d have to carry your credits cards around in a knapsack.
The Doctor visits a hole-in-the-wall machine while Cordo keeps watch, but when he inserts the card, a glass cubicle imprisons the Time Lord and he is gassed for being overdrawn.
Sue: ****ing bankers.
Uniformed men have arrived to retrieve the Doctor.
Sue: Why didn’t Cordo press that button and get him out? He had plenty of time.
The Doctor is hauled away on a gurney.
Sue: It’s Barclaycard’s Death Squad. I bet he gets charged for being carted away. This is very similar to Brazil. And Bob Diamond’s darkest fantasies.
And then we meet the Collector.
Sue: Is he sniffing something off that paper? Is that what I think it is? What a banker!
The Collector is an insane economist.
Sue: He’s a tiny Ed Balls. He definitely livens things up a bit. It’s a creepy performance.
Tom Baker wakes up in a straitjacket.
Sue: Didn’t the Doctor know Houdini? Shouldn’t he be able to get out of that?
The Doctor is deposited in a conditioning room with a man named Bisham. Bisham tells him Pluto’s inhabitants are pacified with a drug called PCM.
Sue: We need a scene with some happy people in it. Just one scene would do it. All I’ve seen so far are depressives, rebels and bureaucrats. What about everybody else?
Mandrel’s gang can’t stop bickering among themselves.
Sue: It’s Oliver Twist for middle-aged men. Mandrel is basically Fagin, and the loud-mouthed woman (who belongs on the stage, not television) is Nancy. She’s bloody terrible.
The Gatherer decides the Doctor must be an arms smuggler, and the Inner Retinue will have to deal with him.
Sue: Oh very good. Was Robert Holmes a communist?
Me: No, that was Malcolm Hulke. But Holmes received a tax demand just before he wrote this, so he wasn’t in the best of moods.
Sue: If any of the Inland Revenue saw this, I bet they crucified him later.
Leela accuses Mandrel of cowardice. She even insinuates he hasn’t got a penis.
Sue: You go, girl!
Cordo volunteers to help Leela find the Doctor.
Sue: He’s like Frodo in Lord of the Rings. Cordo – Frodo. Coincidence?
K9 blankly refuses to return to the TARDIS.
Sue: Typical dog. Buffy is exactly the same. Aww, look at him wagging his little tail…
The Gatherer releases the Doctor from the conditioning centre so he can identify anyone he contacts.
Sue: Is the Doctor going to leave the other bloke there? That’s horrible.
The Doctor throws a bag of sweets towards Bisham on his way out.
Sue: (As Bisham) How am I supposed to eat these when my hands tied? I don’t even like liquorice!
K9 stuns a guard.
Sue: How did that guard not hear K9 coming? Do the drugs they pump into the air-conditioning mess with your hearing as well?
“Humbug!” cries the Doctor as he offers the Gatherer a sweet.
Sue: Now he’s confusing liquorice allsorts with humbugs. Oh, I see! It’s because the Gatherer is dressed as a giant humbug. Okay, I get it now.
Leela, K9 and Cordo rescue Bisham from the conditioning centre before taking the P45 return route.
Me: That reminds me, it’s my last day at work on Friday, and starting this Monday, I’ll be able to give the experiment my undivided attention.
Sue: Does that mean I’ll have to watch more episodes a week?
Me: Yeah, no more days off. We might even finish this by October. Imagine that, Sue. Life without Doctor Who…
Sue: The quicker we finish this, the quicker we can divorce.
The good guys are stopped in their tracks by two security guards on a buggy.
Sue: A golf buggy with a mattress tied to the front? Scary stuff! I must say, apart from the odd joke here and there, this is very average so far.
I should warn you that Sue had a bad day at work today, and she wasn’t in the best of moods when we watched this particular episode. If only I had some PCM handy.
Sue: This is ridiculous!
When K9 stuns one of the guards, his colleague gets out of his buggy and looks behind him.
Sue: What the **** is he looking for? And if this is K9’s POV, it’s nowhere near where it should be. The direction in this scene is atrocious.
Leela’s gang commandeer the buggy.
Sue: They should spend most of Part Three executing an Austin Powers three-point-turn.
There’s some casual sexism about lady drivers, which gets up Sue’s nose, but there’s worse to come.
Sue: They’ll have to get out and move the bodies. Oh wait, that edit suggests to me they just ran them over. I’m not convinced that buggy would have made it over them, but there you go.
They hurtle down a corridor at a cool five miles per hour.
Sue: It’s not exactly Star Wars, is it?
Me: It isn’t even THX-1138.
Leela is sent to the Collector.
Sue: I like the little fella. Is that his real voice or is he putting it on?
The Doctor plants the seeds of revolution in Pluto’s downtrodden masses.
Sue: It’s very topical. Nothing much has changed. The Doctor should come down here and sort our fat cats out.
Leela is threatened with the steamer.
Sue: What’s the steamer?
Me: Swedish waterboarding.
The bad guys gather for Leela’s public execution. Attendance is poor, which the Gatherer puts down to people watching it on the telly for free.
Sue: They should have made it pay-to-view.
Leela’s casket plunges into a hidden chamber.
Sue: So it’s a public execution where you can’t see a damn thing? Is it any wonder they didn’t sell many tickets?
The episode concludes as Leela is about to be steamed alive.
Sue: I’ve seen better. The script was quite funny, though. It actually cheered me up a bit.
The Doctor rescues Leela from the steamer, but K9 goes missing in the process.
Sue: How can they not hear him coming? He’s obscenely loud. Sorry, Neil. I won’t mention that again. I know it’s pointless.
The Doctor and the Collector go head-to-head.
Sue: I love the Collector’s eyebrows.
Me: Remind you of anyone?
Sue: Yeah, I’m not stupid. He’s supposed to be Denis Healey, which is bang out of order, actually. You might want to pause this.
Cue an animated discussion about how amazingly cool Denis Healey was, and how Robert Holmes should have paid his taxes and stopped moaning.
Sue: This programme is made by middle-class ****ers for middle-class ****ers. Pay your ****ing taxes.
Me: Okay, calm down.
And that’s when Nicol walks in.
Nicol: What’s going on?
Sue: We’re watching an episode of Doctor Who where the bad guy works for Barclays Bank.
Nicol: Are you serious? Have you seen the news?
Sue: Barclays in the future is even worse, Nicol.
Nicol can’t resist joining us for the last five minutes.
Nicol: Why are they dressed as jockeys?
She’s referring to the Gatherer’s PA, Marn.
Nicol: She just needs a hat and she’s good to go in the 4.15 at Kempton.
The Gatherer is manhandled by a bunch of revolutionaries.
Sue: Nice Frankie Howerd impersonation, there.
They throw him off the top of a tall building.
Sue: No way! Did that just happen?
Nicol: That’ll be Bob Diamond next week.
Nicol claps eyes on the Collector.
Nicol: It’s Dr Evil’s Mini-Me.
The Collector is so infuriated by the Doctor’s meddling, he returns to his natural form.
Nicol: So the planet was taken over by some green poo? That’s a bit embarrassing.
Sue: That was silly. They didn’t need to do that.
The Doctor, Leela and K9 prepare to leave Pluto behind.
Nicol: You didn’t tell me K9 was in this! I would have come down earlier if I’d known that. I love K9.
Me: Well, that’s certainly news to me. You can always watch the next one with us. You’ll love it.
Sue: It’s good to see the Doctor getting a nice send-off for a change.
Me: Waved off by a bunch of murderous psychopaths. Yeah, it’s lovely.
Sue: The last episode nudged it above average. The script was very witty and the villains were excellent, but the execution was dull, and the direction wasn’t very good. It was all right, I suppose.