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With this story just having been released on DVD now, I thought it may be a good time to just give the video a quick review in terms of the programme without any extras.
Dating back to the 1970's this story features the 3rd Doctor, played by Jon Pertwee. The plot revolves around the Doctor, on trying to escape from Earth ending up on a planet known as Peladon. Here the Doctor infiltrates the Royal Palace and ends up being mistaken as Earth's ambassador along with his companion Jo Grant. Peladon is holding a conference as it wants to be admitted into the Galactic Federation, but one of the ambassadors is determinted to undermine proceeding.
An excellent story with some pretty imaginative monsters and a good political drama playing out alongside the tale of aliens. Jon Pertwee is on fine form as always being partly quite flippant and also managing to be deadly serious when he needs to be. The story is very imaginative and it's great to see so many aliens. The ice warriors once villanous now act as an appropraite scape-goat for proceedings and my favourite part is probably where the Doctor goes down into the caves to train Agador, the beast of Peladon.
Due to this being a video, there are no extras on this and the video can be picked up easily enough on eBay for £1-£2 or alternatively the DVD is now out though still expensive at about £17-£18 from Amazon (who are selling it the cheapest) in a box set with its sister story "The Monster of Peladon". This features the leaned up story free from dirt and sratches with a whole host of special features on the legend of Peladon.
If you want a cheap way to see this story though, you can easily pik up a copy on eBay and stick it in your VCR for a good night in.
THE CURSE OF PELADON is the 11th 'Doctor Who' story starring Jon Pertwee, who was the third actor to play The Doctor, between 1970 and 1974. It was first broadcast in January / February 1972. The story, which takes place over 4 episodes, also stars Katy Manning as The Doctor's companion, Jo Grant.
The plot in this story has The Doctor and Jo getting involved in the investigation of a murder at a conference of the Galactic Federation. It is The Doctor's old enemies, the Ice Warriors!
The story itself is an interesting one, and I personally have always liked the Ice Warriors. I am hoping that Russell T Davies decides to use them soon in his new version of DOCTOR WHO. What is particularly fun about this story is that in this period in the show's history The Doctor had been exiled to Earth, and hence most of his stories take place here. This one however bucks that trend, with the conference taking place on the planet Peladon, and that makes it 'different' for this era.
VHS copies of this story are available from Amazon for prices starting at £3.99 - as a VHS released there are no extras, as these only really came along when the stories started being released on DVD and took advantage of the format.
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DOCTOR WHO - THE CURSE OF PELADON (1972)
Starring Jon Pertwee as The Doctor, Katy Manning as Jo Grant
Directed by Lennie Mayne
Produced by Barry Letts
Script Editor: Terrance Dicks
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This review will shortly be posted on ciao under the username phurren2006
Brian Hayles wrote several notable Doctor Who serials before his death in 1978, most famously introducing the Ice Warriors in the Patrick Troughton era. These reptilian Martians return in Hayles' 1972 story 'The Curse of Peladon,' in which they teach Jon Pertwee's Doctor a little humility as he learns not to act solely on his instincts, or to judge by appearances alone. This is a good thing, as one look at the ludicrously phallic, one-eyed hermaphrodite hexapod delegate from Alpha Centauri would surely have the scarecrow man rolling in hysterics.
This gathering of assorted odd-looking and unanimously green aliens is explained as a conference to judge the worthiness of planet Peladon to join the Galactic Federation, despite its rather primitive civilisation, and there is significant division in the royal ranks between those who support and oppose the endeavour. Arriving on Peladon by accident, and becoming stranded as the TARDIS plummets off the edge of mountain, the Doctor and his dolled-up companion Jo Grant are only to happy to play along as they are naturally mistaken for the Earth delegates, whose true arrival has been rather conveniently and mysteriously delayed.
It's another episode placing the Doctor and his companion in the centre of an important political conflict, and for the most part this slightly dull four-parter follows the familiar pattern. There's an insecure young King (played by David Troughton, son of Pertwee's predecessor) who relies on the counsel of his two opposing but collaboratively-bearded advisors, one of whom is killed to strengthen the validity of the other, slightly deranged and evil one. Peladon's conflict is based on the rising prominence of rational thought over old superstitions and beliefs, with progressive individuals such as the late King and the new King's closest friend Torbis (Henry Gilbert) pushing forward for this galactic union, and others led by Hepesh (Geoffrey Toone) fearing the destruction of their culture and values that advanced technology would bring. It's an old story and could easily have been made into a more obvious metaphor for real-world concerns, such as Native Americans opening casinos on their holy land or whatever, but Hayles prefers to keep it self-contained. It's not often that Doctor Who was written with any specific political agenda in mind, unlike Star Trek, so it's a shame this rare opportunity wasn't embraced here.
The moral crisis is played out reasonably well, particularly in the confrontation between the Doctor and Hepesh in the third episode, and it's interesting to see just how far this effective villain of the piece will go to preserve his culture. From the viewer's perspective, it's a little irritating and unbelievable that Hepesh wasn't revealed as the culprit until the start of the final part, but there are a couple of fairly satisfying twists involving the alien delegates, the highlight being the sabotage of the robotic Arcturus that brings out underlying racial tensions and nicely places the Doctor as the logical chief suspect. Outside of this, the whole thing seems a little too stretched and repetitive as a four-part story of almost two hours in length, with some plot points such as the burgeoning romance between the besotted King and Jo, and the Doctor's fight to the death with Grun feeling like pointless distractions to spice up the political drama. But this was still an early stage of Doctor Who, comparatively speaking, and although everyone involved knew exactly how to pull off episodes like this by now, they hadn't quite got the knack of how to make them really fun.
Although he's one of the faces I've always most associated with the role, I've never been particularly fond of Pertwee's Doctor in comparison to most of his predecessors and successors, but anyone who enjoys this incarnation's bizarre and slightly unconvincing mix of aloof grandfatherly compassion, gobbledygook technobabble and kung fu fighting should find plenty to satisfy them here, and thankfully in restricted and relevant doses. The Third Doctor certainly has a strong and commanding presence required of the role (and lacking in some of the later, younger incarnations), but generally gives off a stuffy and pompous air that I don't enjoy as much as the eccentricity of Patrick Troughton, the mania of Tom Baker or the jollity of Sylvester McCoy. It's enjoyable watching him feign confidence and knowledge when introduced as the Earth ambassador, bluffing his way through for the most part with only a hint of insecurity added by Pertwee through necessity before bluntly asking if he can be taken through the situation in more detail, please, but the rest of the episode sees the Doctor quite sombrely exploring tunnels, taming wild beasts and reporting back to his companion. A few lines of funny dialogue wouldn't have gone amiss, and his relationship with Jo is far from one of the most interesting the series has offered; it obviously lacks the sexual tension of the recent series (that would just be plain weird - he only gets as far as tugging on her cheek), and Katy Manning herself is distinctly average in her portrayal of another in a long line of well-spoken, pretty young women to ride chastely alongside the Doctor through time and space. An advantage of her relative naivety as an everywoman, as opposed to an alien or scientist, means that the Doctor is permitted to explain things like the Ice Warriors to her for the benefit of new viewers.
However thoughtful and historically relevant its aim, 'The Curse of Peladon' (and indeed, its eventual sequel 'The Monster of Peladon') will always be remembered best, or worst, for its alarming alien creations. The inhabitants of Peladon themselves appear essentially identical to humans, with only a brown streak along the centre of their hair denoting otherwise, but the planet is also host to a near-extinct species of horned monster passed off as the incarnation of Aggedor, represented by statues that resemble 1980s children's sitcom alien 'Alf.' The monster suit is glimpsed only briefly in the first few parts before being presented a little over-zealously in the finale, and while there's never any doubt that there's an athletic man inside the suit, it stands up well several decades later and isn't much different from monster suits still routinely used in sci-fi and fantasy productions today. Less acceptable is the ludicrous creation that is Alpha Centauri, an irritating, shrill-voiced, green phallus in a gold cape with one huge eye that doesn't blink all the way, and six arms of which only two appear to be functional... for some reason. Alpha Centauri is without a doubt one of the most ridiculous creations ever devised for the programme (particularly as the humour was clearly unintentional), and acts as a prime example of the BBC's 1970s effects and budget failing dramatically to live up to what must have been an intriguing and promising character sketch. The Arcturus delegate isn't much better, a small puppet bearing a permanently shocked expression (and a face that looks like Ren from 'Ren & Stimpy'), but the bubbling and condensing water effects are pretty good.
The Ice Warriors come off a lot better, even if I was left unsure as to whether their scaly suits were supposed to be armour or genuine hide, and their struggled, hissing breathing is distracting in a good way, helping them to seem more genuinely alien. The miniature model of Peladon's castle is only glimpsed briefly at the start, unlike the disappointing tiny TARDIS that materialises below it, but for the most part this episode is free of special effects, relying more on its Medieval setting and traditional weapons. One distraction I couldn't shake off across the episodes was the lack of any real civilisation being seen on Peladon, outside of the cramped castle and its handful of guards. This episode would have benefitted greatly from drafting in a few more background extras or even creating more significant roles to expand the credibility of this isolated fortress in the middle of nowhere, though it's possible this was due to budget limitations; it would be interesting to learn whether Gordon St. Clair, who played the King's Champion, was paid as much as the speaking cast for his comical closed-mouth mumblings as the 'mute' Grun.
This Third Doctor serial is so far unreleased on individual DVD or as part of any 'most ridiculous alien creatures' box-set, but it makes for a reasonably enjoyable stand-alone story for Pertwee, Jo Grant or Ice Warrior fans, without any alienating references to past stories or larger continuity issues to deter newcomers, aside from a brief bit of inconsequential theorising from the Doctor at the end as to the true nature of their arrival. I was glad to see some apparent inconsistencies and oversights being cleared up by the end, particularly involving the weirdly overdue Earth delegate whose arrival would have spelled trouble for the time travelling duo, but all the same this isn't an episode I'd recommend to casual viewers as either an introduction to classic Doctor Who or even an arbitrary insight into the Pertwee years, as there are substantially more representative serials out there, with or without shrieking oversized phalluses in capes.
The Tardis crash lands and the Doctor becomes involved in violence on the the planet Peladon.