Science fiction can be a powerful tool to convey ideas and opinions, by taking real world issues and abstracting them into a fantastical context. This can be done with subtlety and grace, or, in this case, as bluntly as a sledgehammer.
It’s an Orwellian nightmare, a farcical depiction of capitalism and religion gone mad, and I bloody loved it. An all-powerful company that works its people to the bone and charges them for the privilege of breathing, and even of dying! Its characters are obviously written as archetypes: a cackling ruler who revels in suffering, a snivelling servant with delusions of grandeur, and the downtrodden workforce wallowing in self-pity. Perhaps it’s too ridiculous to be believable, but that makes it all the more compelling. However silly, its themes are as relevant now as they ever were.
The writing is sharp, witty, intelligent, and the Doctor and Leela are on absolutely top form here. I have decided that Leela is my favourite Doctor Who companion of all so far, cemented finally by her scene with the underground rebels, in which she shows bravery, loyalty and honour in the face of cowardice. Meanwhile, K-9’s stun gun is used as a convenient get-out device, much like I predicted. However, I cannot be angry at that lovable little dog – his droopy tail when he’s told off is just adorable.
Despite the fact that the story is set on Pluto, the setting is decidedly Earth-like (although this is explained away in the plot). That said, I found the on-location filming to have a realism to it that worked really well here, even when it was just some corridors or the roof of a building. But, ultimately, it’s all about the plot, the ideas and the characters within it. This, really, is what science fiction is all about.