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Doctor Who: The Curse of Peladon

"Haroon haroon haroon..."

It might not have aged all that well in places, but I adore ‘The Curse of Peladon’.

It's an atmospheric slice of Gothic sci-fi, loaded with sinister plots, mysterious deaths, ancient curses, and a mythical hairy beast that lurks in the shadows and can only be tamed by Venusian lullabies. It was a great idea by writer Brian Hayles to set this story in a dark castle on a stormy night rather than some dull looking space station.

In one of their rare off-world excursions, the Third Doctor and Jo find themselves on Peladon, a medieval-like planet that is about to be admitted into the Galactic Federation (clearly they'd never heard of the Prime Directive). Various alien delegates have gathered for the event, including the Ice Warriors and a very rude looking hermaphroditic hexapod. I'm frankly amazed they got as far as shooting before someone realized that Alpha Centauri looked somewhat phallic. Then again, we are British and don't like to talk about such things in public. Best to just stick a cloak on it and act as if nothing is wrong.

It’s a great showcase for Jon Pertwee to show off everything that makes his Doctor great. Worzel always seem to flourish whenever he gets the chance to escape his exile. He is generally more cheerful and refreshing less grumpy and patronizing than he often is during his UNIT adventures. Here he’s the compassionate diplomat, the ever curious scientist, the suave and dashing adventurer and the undefeated kung fu master. This the only time you are ever likely to see the Doctor fighting for his life in a gladiator pit.

Katy Manning is also blessed with a storyline that doesn’t require her to just stand there looking cute and occasional ask the Doctor to explain everything. Despite a dodgy costume and hair style, David Troughton makes for a credible young king, and also has real chemistry with Katy Manning (rumour has it they actually fancied each other at the time but were both too nervous to ask each other out).

The most surprising aspect of 'The Curse of Peladon' is the way the Ice Warriors, one of the Doctor’s recurring foes, are presented. For once the Doctor encounters one of his regular enemies who are not out to destroy him or conquer the Earth. Instead the Ice Warriors are given something that actually resembles development. Having turned their shells on warmongering, they have become respected members of the Galactic Federation and are the Doctor's allies throughout this story. A villain turning over a new leaf, you certainly don’t get that with the Daleks or Cybermen. They’ve rigidly remained the same since their respective introductions.

Notes and Quotes

--David Troughton had previously appeared in 'The End of the World' and 'The War Games'. At the time this story was made he was sharing a flat with Colin Baker.

--Before they ended up on Peladon, Jo was about to go out for a night on the town with Mike Yates. My reaction to that piece of information was something like this:


--The Doctor tells Jo that the Tardis is indestructible, which does somewhat contradict the events of 'The Mind Robber'. Another case of Doctor Who being a bit wibbly wobbly when it comes to continuity.

--Trust Princess Josephine Grant to go for a walk along a narrow ledge on a castle at the top of a mountain in high heels.

Princess Josephine: “I just don't understand you. I really don't. One minute you're condemning the Doctor to death and the next you're proposing to me!”
--Those are some mixed signals. For Aggedor’s sake, Peladon, get your act together. You’re nearly in there.

Peladon: "There is no plot! I am being completely honest with you!'"

Peladon: “Greetings, Princess. I'm sorry to hear that your journey ended so unfortunately.”
Princess Josephine: “The whole affair was most deplorable. The pilot was exceedingly inefficient.”
--I love the look on the Doctor's face after she says that.

Peladon: “Hepesh, you were always telling me a king must choose and choose courageously.”
Hepesh: “Aggedor has shown the way.”
Peladon: “Backwards, into superstition?”

The Doctor: “Cheer up, Jo. It's a perfect landing.”
(Tardis shakes)
Princess Josephine: “You did say perfect?”

Hepesh: “The spirit of Aggedor will take his revenge. His manifestation is holy!”
The Doctor: “Rubbish. His manifestation, as you call it, is solid hairy fact.”

Hepesh: "I wanted to save our world... to preserve the old ways. Perhaps I was wrong, Peladon. I hope so. Your future, which you set so much store by, is yours now."

The Doctor: “The Federation's real intent is to help you.”
Hepesh: “No. They'll exploit us for our minerals, enslave us with their machines, corrupt us with their technology. The face of Peladon will be changed. The past swept away. And everything that I know and value will have gone.”

Princess Josephine: “At least we get to see a real coronation before we go, eh?”
The Doctor: “Yes, that's true. You know, I haven't seen a coronation since Elizabeth I's. Or was it Queen Victoria's?”
Princess Josephine: “Name-dropper.”

Earth Delegate: “I am telling you, my good fellow, I am the official Earth delegate!”
Alpha Centauri: “But the Doctor is the accredited Earth delegate.”
Earth Delegate: “Doctor? What doctor? Doctor who?”

Four out of four Venusian lullabies that tame mythical hairy beasts.
--
Mark Greig has been writing for Doux Reviews since 2011. More Mark Greig.

5 comments:

  1. Knowing how low budget this show was, they probably were curtain pelmets.

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  2. I sing the Venusian lullaby to my dog* during thunderstorms when he's a tad anxious. It does seem to relax him a bit.

    Both Peladon stories are two of my favorite 3rd Doctor stories.



    *I wish i would have named him Aggedor.

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  3. I read another review of this serial that called it the worst (by far) of all the Third Doctor's stories. I couldn't disagree more. Sure it's a bit silly, but it's also loads of fun, which is an ingredient sorely lacking in almost all of Pertwee's serials up to this point.

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