9.2 – “The Curse Of Peladon”
Peladon is hosting delegates from the Galactic Alliance as it tries to join as a member but, on the eve of the conference, one of the King’s closest advisors is killed mysteriously and Peladon’s future with the Alliance is thrown into doubt as the delegates try to get to the bottom of the murder. The King must decide whether to move Peladon forward and join the Alliance or retreat into a past of medieval mythology. The Doctor and Jo land on Peladon during their first trip away from Earth in a newly repaired TARDIS and are instantly mistaken for the Alliance delegates from Earth and caught up in the chaos as it ensues.
After the long exile on Earth, “The Curse Of Peladon” shows why this era of Doctor Who did well to be earth bound in a time and universe of heavy budget constraints. All the limitations of doing this show under the workload and lack of cash are fairly clear to see here.
It’s a well loved story, and not without its charm, but it does seem to struggle under a few heavy brassneck aspects. For the first visit to an alien planet in some time, Peladon feels like it relies heavily on the BBC drama department’s historical drama sets. Drafty castle chic with torch lined walls is the order of the day. It’s the reason that my brother was convinced that all 70’s Doctor Who contained two warring factions and a monster in an underground cave. Still, there is a Shakespearean tragedy to the Peladon throne being led into disarray between the scientific advice of Chancellor Torbis and the traditional beliefs of the King’s co-advisor Hepesh with his obsession with Peladon’s mythical royal Beast Aggedor.
David Troughton does a great turn as the young King, and its nice to see Brian Hayles bring his Ice Warriors back, although it would be better to see them have more of a purpose than the somewhat stiff Martian delegates featured here as an “Are they or aren’t they the baddies?” role. Alpha Centauri’s delegate is one of the worst Who aliens ever created, carting about like a gigantic pea with a cloak and the most ridiculous high pitched voice. Even my ten year old was looking at it and wondering what they were thinking. Centauri is up there with the Absorbaloff as one of the most ill-conceived alien designs we’ve seen, so bad it could have been created by a junior level Blue Peter competition winner.
Arcturus could have been a great alien villain – head in a jar – but it just feels like they missed a trick with a rubber head in a plastic box, covered in green liquid, but with no real facial movement. Wish they’d spent the budget for the Alpha Centauri costume on a puppeteer’s hand to give Arcturus face more of an edge with movement and had a humanoid Centauri and not a giant pea-headed walloper. Most of the delegates discussion is a high pitched rummy that starts to grate quickly and you just end up wishing they would all shut up. Why would you be chosen to represent your Planet at a serious conference when you’re a mad gobshite that can’t shut up?
Royal Beast Aggedor looks a bit like a wild boar that’s taught itself to lumber about on its hind legs. A poor misunderstood creature that responds well to The Doctor singing it a lullaby and hypnotising it with a bit of bling. Most of Aggedor’s damage seems to come from statues in its image toppling over rather than the “monster” itself.
The Doctor also gets to do a bit of hand to hand combat against the King’s champion, and its always a joy to see a stunt fighter in a silver wig swapping out for Pertwee as he goes flying, or takes a heavy tumble.
I usually try and be fairly positive about the shows, but having watched this a couple of times this week, my memory of the story is definitely better than how the story itself has stood up, and I’m struggling to be as positive as I would like. Its just a bit of a naive 4-parter, that struggles to effectively create an alien planet and is let down by fairly poorly realised aliens. The Doctor and Jo are up to their usual standard, but its just a bit of a dull outing which doesn’t shine the way you’d hope. If “The Curse Of Peladon” is a satire on the UK joining the European Common Market, can we look forward to an imminent return to Peladon to see a next generation King/Queen of Peladon being advised by Chancellor Farage that they should really leave the Federation cause you just can’t trust these alien delegates. Lets hope not. 5/10
Written and edited by Gavin Dunbar