Do you remember well written but quite boring in places story “The Sun Makers?” well get ready for the similarly well written but also equally boring in places story “The World Traders”! Yes The Doctor and Leela comes face to face with a greedy Usurian again (or for the first time, retroactively…) and the end result is pretty much the same as the first result. Let’s take a look!
When a day out in 21st Century London leads to the TARDIS being impounded, the Doctor and Leela find themselves getting involved with the mysterious Amapan Investments, a company that’s managed to become remarkably successful in a remarkably short amount of time.
So what’s their secret? The Doctor and Leela are about to find out.
The Usurians have come to Earth. And they have big plans.
*spoilers appear from here on out!*
If you like your satire based around big business, rich people and the current state of politics then there is a lot to like in “World Traders”. I myself don’t actually look for that sort of thing in my Doctor Who, but I can at least recognise when it’s done right as opposed to… well, “The Silurian Candidate”. Acting royalty Siân Phillips does a really good job as the Usurian in question, only ever referred to as “The Director”, concerned solely with making a profit with no thought towards human life (… no, I won’t go there, I’ll leave it to the story to write stuff like that…)
As for the actual story, well The Doctor and Leela have a nice day out in London but return to where the TARDIS was left only to find it confiscated by a company known as Amapan Investments, ran by the aforementioned Director. They meet a reporter named Emma (Sara Powell) who becomes a “companion for the day” and they’re soon breaking into the building and getting caught, with Leela running into a room that ended up being a portal to prehistoric times (as you do) and Emma being hypnotised into loving the company with all her soul. The Doctor of course resists the mental conditioning so gets a chip that causes pain the lower the stocks go in order to ensure his compliance. Turns out Amapan is also using their tech to extort people of different time periods, and even sell logging rights to chunks of land from the time of the dinosaurs, which is why Leela ended up there. While The Doctor and a still bamboozled Emma hop from one period to the other (and meeting the same android assistant) Leela fights with President Dunn-La (Ramon Tikaram) who is positioned at the prehistoric building.
Everything comes to a head when Dunn-La sells the rights to prehistoric Britain to an alien race, after all, what’s the harm? Humans are millions of years away from coming into existence! Oh wait, they built a civilization there and stop humans from ever having evolved on the planet. Whoops! This leads to The Doctor, Leela and Emma to figure out a legal way out of the issue, while The Director tires (and fails) to do the same. They succeed and all returns to normal. Oh, and The Director is killed by the last surviving member of a race she wiped out, a mindless cartoon-stupid creature named Mozz (Chris Porter), who was… sort of amusing, I guess?
The cover certainly makes it look far more exciting!
There are some slow parts, as mentioned in the opening paragraph. Particularly part 3, which has a lot of The Doctor and Emma running about and only actually getting somewhere right at the end. If anything this makes it feel more “of the era”, but sometimes that’s not always a good thing…
Basically how much you get out of this story is based on how much you like the kind of humour its going for.
The only other encounter with a Usurian comes in the Fourth Doctor TV story “The Sun Makers”, which as mentioned has a similar tone to it but due to the presence of K9 has to take place after this one. As Leela doesn’t know what Usurians are in that story this script is written so that Leela isn’t actually around to hear the word used, and since Usurians take a form that looks like a slightly pale human with furry eyebrows there wouldn’t be an obvious connection for her to make.
As mentioned several times now, how much you enjoy “The World Traders” will be based solely on how much you like politics and businesses satire and social commentary. It’s well written, so if you do like it then this will be a 4-star story for you. I’m personally not a big fan, and so to me a lot of the story was … unengaging, so I won’t be listening to it again. No slight on the writing or the performances mind, just personal preference.