Cordo: Praise the company!
Mandrel: Stuff the company!Doctor Who
goes all political with this thinly-disguised allegory on the evils of income tax. The TARDIS arrives on the planet Pluto, which in the future has six suns' worth of eternal daylight, a breathable atmosphere and a thriving industrial base. "The Company" controls the entire planet and exploits the workers mercilessly, paying peanuts and taxing everything. As soon as the Doctor and Leela step out of the TARDIS, they find a worker about to commit suicide. They distract him with a jelly baby and introduce him to the concepts of freedom and darkness.
The Doctor and Leela are soon captured by La Résistance
, led by Mandrel, and learn that the workforce are being kept calm by a gas piped into the atmosphere. While The Company has a human representative in Gatherer Hade, it is in fact run by alien Usurians, noted for keeping planets in economic servitude. The Doctor is captured, sent on a errand, captured again, almost branded in the face, and eventually convinces La Résistance
to stop twiddling their thumbs and start actually resisting the government.
The Doctor succeeds in switching off the paranoia gas and the workers rise up against The Company and ruthlessly kill the hated Gatherer Hade, while the Doctor does some computer jiggery-pokery to bankrupt it. The Usurian "Collector" (a very thinly-veiled Denis Healey parody) is powerless to stop The Company going bust and reverts to his natural form — a harmless fungus.
- Absurdly-Spacious Sewer: The undercity.
- Author Tract: Writer Robert Holmes based this story on some of the troubles he was having with England's revenue office (due to having been simultaneously paid by the BBC as a salaried worker in his role as script editor, and as a freelancer for the scripts he was credited writer on). Some of the floors are numbered based on tax forms.
- Badass Boast: Leela gets several, but most memorably when the Others threaten to kill her.
Leela: Before I die I'll see this rathole ankle deep in blood. That is a promised thing.
- Book Ends
- Camera Spoofing
- Cold-Blooded Torture
- Conveyor Belt-O-Doom: For conveying Leela into the Sauna of Death.
- Corrupt Corporate Executive
- Curiosity Is a Crapshoot
- Disney Villain Death: Gatherer Hade is ultimately thrown over a railing to his death.
- Driven to Suicide
- Earth That Was: The Company rescued humanity from a dying Earth, moving them first to Mars and thence to Pluto.
- The Doctor does note that Earth's probably habitable again once the story ends, however.
- Elaborate Underground Base: The serial was filmed in the real-life deep air raid shelters of London.
- Emotion Bomb: Used by the evil tax-gathering government to control the human populace. The Doctor inverts the technology to make people angry instead.
- Evil Cripple: The Collector would appear to be one, since he's confined to a wheelchair-like device throughout the story. It's actually a device that emits radiation to keep him in his human form.
- Evil Debt Collector: Gatherer Hade. Even The Doctor notes that everyone runs from the tax-man.
- Expy: The Collector appears to have been based on Davros's design.
- Fate Worse Than Death: The Correction Center. Followed by death.
- Leela tells the Doctor to kill her when she starts to experience fear (due to the Emotion Bomb).
- Heel-Face Turn: Marn makes one when she realises La Résistance is going to win.
- Hypnotic Eyes: The Doctor. It works a little too well.
- I Fight for the Strongest Side: Marn's Heel-Face Turn at the end of the serial.
- Incredibly Lame Pun: The Doctor spoofs Karl Marx when he tells the workers they have nothing to lose but their claims.
- Least Is First
- Loan Shark: Tax arrears are dealt with like this.
- Loves the Sound of Screaming: the Collector anticipating Leela's painful execution.
The Collector: This is the moment when I get a real sense of job satisfaction!
- Meaningful Name: The Usurians are usurers.
- Mega Corp.
- Mister Big
- Names to Run Away From Really Fast: Hade(s).
- Nice Hat: Gatherer Hade wears one.
- No Celebrities Were Harmed: The Collector's bushy eyebrows evoke Denis Healey, who was the current Chancellor of the Exchequer.
- Not Now, Kiddo: After Leela attempts for several minutes to pull the Doctor's attention away from a riveting chess game:
Leela: Doctor, can I speak now?
The Doctor: What? All right, if you must. What is it?
Leela: Well, the column has stopped moving.
The Doctor: So?
Leela: It is not important?
The Doctor: WHAT?! We might have gone right through the time spiral, why didn't you tell me?
Leela: I tried to, but you wouldn't let me.
The Doctor: You didn't!
Leela: I did!
- Only Electric Sheep Are Cheap: Gatherer Hade boasts a desk of real wood - most people only learn about trees in school - and members of the resistance are extremely impressed by Leela's skins.
- Plant Aliens: The Usurians turn out to be a species of poisonous fungus.
- La Résistance
- The Revolution Will Not Be Civilized: Initially subverted - the 'resistance' are depicted as brutal, self-interested and venal criminals out for themselves rather than any higher purpose until the Doctor effectively takes over.
- Sauna of Death: Leela is captured and sentenced to death by "steaming."
- Saying Too Much: The Doctor scoffs "Oh wake up!" The guard he's hypnotised into falling asleep does so. Then the Collector says he plans to release Deadly Gas that will kill every human in the compound. "I do not breathe air." The Doctor points out that the man holding a gun to his head does.
- Shout-Out: Leela's attempted execution contains visual references to Metropolis (the pod she's confined in, and the control panels). The opening shots of Cordo are a copy of the opening shots of Winston Smith in the famous 1950s BBC version of 1984.
- Smart People Play Chess: The Doctor plays chess with K-9. He's losing.
- Spell My Name with a "The"
- Stealth Insult: Gatherer Hade has an ostentatious manner of addressing The Collector (your Immensity, your Hugeness, your Supernal Eminence, etc), but as their relationship breaks down under the strain of events the honorifics become somewhat insulting, as in: "I fear the situation is worsening, your Grossness!"
- Villainous Breakdown: The Collector, upon realizing the revolution has finally caught up with him, is reduced to a babbling wreck as he slowly (and literally) goes down the drain.
- Visual Pun: when Leela is captured the Collector orders her status to be set as "pending". When we next see her she's hung on a wall.