I enjoy how the story is driven by the Doctor and Leela’s attempts to get back to each other, which incidentally start to cause the society of Pluto to begin to unravel. In the Doctor’s case, an attempt to get ransom money for Leela ends up with him captured and incarcerated in the infamous Correction Centre. However, Hade’s conviction that the Doctor is part of a conspiracy means the Doctor is spared from brain surgery, resulting in my favourite scene of the episode: the Doctor and Hade circling round each other as they politely humour each other.
Meanwhile, after a brilliantly spicy confrontation with Mandrel, Leela has escaped the clutches of the tax dodgers, and joined up with unlikely hero Cordo with an attempt to rescue the Doctor from the Correction Centre – only to find Hade has already freed him. Still, they do release the brilliantly lackadaisical Bisham before heading off into the corridors of the Megropolis.
I like that the rebels and rulers are as scummy as each other. But this isn’t as scabrously cynical as all that: Bisham and Cordo might be downtrodden, but the reveal that they’re kept submissive by the presence of anxiety-inducing PCM in the air supply is a truly horrible touch: an entire society drugged into subservience. You get the sense that the Doctor would have been happy to leave Pluto until he meets Bisham, and becomes genuinely cross about the way this planet is being run. There’s an angry undercurrent to this, violence simmering under the surface – literally, in the case of Mandrel’s unpleasant allies in the undercity, but even Hade is more dangerous (and lewder, based on his ‘Morton’s Fork’ poke at Marn) than his smugly complacent manner suggests.
And it’s all very funny: Hade waxing lyrical about the religious and expansionist theories of human migrations from Earth; the Doctor getting his head put in a sort of hairdryer: ‘Don’t leave it in too long it goes frizzy’; Leela telling K9 to ‘bite’; Bisham’s placid acceptance of his fate; the Collector, a tiny accountant running the whole planet for efficiency and productivity. ‘They brought you in just as the trumpets were sounding second work shift’ indeed.
Next episode: The Sun Makers – Part Three