Recently, for reasons which will remain classified, my mind wandered back to my childhood and late night viewings of Doctor Who on the BBC (via PBS). Through the magic of the internet one thing lead to another and I stumbled upon the following gem of cheap sci-fi anarchy. Enjoy.
In 1977 (Nov 26, 1977 to be exact) there was a Doctor Who episode called “The Sun Makers.” Tom Baker played the Doctor back then. Polls I found on-line say he is by far the most popular Doctor of all time as well as the longest tenured. He’s certainly the version I recall. I found a few video segments of the Sun Makers as well as the entire episode transcript. I vaguely remember the show – mostly as semi-decent entertainment. Now, having read the transcript, I am blown away by the trenchant social commentary
You can read the transcript here: http://www.chakoteya.net/doctorwho/15-4.htm.
The Doctor and his companion, Leela (more on her in a moment), arrive on Pluto in the distant future. It seems that sometime between now and then the Earth becomes worn out and uninhabitable. In humanity’s darkest hour an alien race of inter-galactic Shylocks come along and move humans to a rehabilitated Mars – for a price. A high price. Soon Mars is worn out and the show moves to Pluto which, thanks to the malevolent aliens, has artificial suns (hence the name).
When the Doctor arrives humans work in mines and live is large, futuristic cities where they are literally taxed to death by “The Company,” an outfit run by a greedy little alien named “The Collector” (of taxes…). The Collector employs “The Gatherer” as a sidekick henchman.
Everything is taxed on future Pluto: incomes, medicine, other taxes, even death. It almost sounds as bad as the USSA. In fact, the people’s interactions with The Gatherer seem just like current relations with the IRS. At the beginning of the show some poor sap is pleading with The Gatherer about a tax debt. The Gatherer insists the man work double shifts and do without sleep until the debt is paid. Poor sap: “It will kill me!” Gatherer: “You complain too much.”
On future Pluto “The Company” is synonymous with “government.” The Company serves as employer, lender, and civil authority for all. Pluto is a giant “company town” from which there is no escape. The Plutonians have come to literally worship the Company like a god. The dialogue is thoroughly peppered with constant statements of adoration towards the great alien “benefactor” – “praise the company,” God save the company,” and so on. It reminds me of the way modern Amerikans veritably worship the federal government as a god.
The Doctor arrives just in time to stop the afore-mentioned sap from committing suicide by jumping off a high roof. The distressed man explains the terrible situation to the Doctor.
(You’re taxing my Tardis?! What the…. BBC.)
The Doctor explains the man’s plight to Leela: “He can’t make ends meet. Probably too many economists in the government.” By the way, Leela was a beautiful and intelligent “savage” the Doctor picked up on one of his adventures. She came along between Sarah Jane Smith and the two Ramonas. She was like a Xena prototype.
(Go on. You were extolling the “benefits” of government… BBC.)
Leela immediately catches on the semi-divine perception of The Company: “These taxes, they are like sacrifices to tribal gods?” The Doctor responds, accurately: “Well, roughly speaking, but paying tax is more painful.”
Leela then issues one of the most succinct and wonderful solutions ever stated with regards to the universal problem of taxation: “Then the people should rise up and slaughter their oppressors!”
(Yeeeeeah. Before there was Xena, there was Leela. BBC.)
At the time of the Doctor’s arrival a rebellion is already forming in the Plutonian underworld. With a little help from the old sonic screwdriver the movement is a smash success. The good people of Pluto take Leela’s advice literally. Immediately below is a picture of The Gatherer seconds before he is thrown off the roof of a skyscraper by several of his former victims. Look at the face on than arrogant tax-o-mite.
(The taxman falleth … off the roof… BBC.)
On future Pluto, just like current Earth, the only certainties in life are death and taxes. Watch the following clip of The Gatherer’s last ride as one begets the other: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o5cC__bBM1A. I’m still laughing. This is reminiscent of our fore-fathers tarring and feathering the taxman and running him out on a rail. At least, modern Amerikans would do well to so reminisce.
In the next video, the Doctor confronts the “blood-sucking leech” in charge (The Collector): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o9emqnRpYoU. Upon learning his little empire has crumbled, The Collector reverts back to his natural state – a little piece of green slime. He promptly and simply imprisoned in a box. This strategy would likely work well with members of Congress.
Saved by the cunning of the Doctor and by their own courage, the people of Pluto set out to re-colonize Earth, which has apparently healed itself in the intervening years. One has to hope they choose, this time, to forgo the trappings of government in favor of a little freedom. Perhaps we can someday do the same. Thanks, Doctor Who!