Written by Brian Hayles and Sydney Newman
Directed by Lennie Mayne
Doctor Who is a British science fiction television series which has been around off and on since 1963. The main character is just known as “The Doctor” and is a Time Lord from the planet Gallifrey. This means he travels through time to various places. One of his favorite places to visit is Earth. Typically, he has a companion traveling with him, usually female, sometimes male, sometimes one of each. He travels in a time machine known as a TARDIS which is disguised as a British Police booth.
A Time Lord can regenerate if fatally wounded, which has accounted for all the different actors who have played The Doctor throughout the years. In this story arc, the Doctor is portrayed by Jon Pertwee. He is traveling with Jo Grant (portrayed by Katy Manning).
The Curse of Peladon marks the first time in a long time the Doctor is taking the TARDIS off of Earth after being exiled there by the Time Lords. I think it was about time too as the scripts needed a degree of freshness. Pertwee’s run as the Doctor was hampered a bit by his confinement to Earth and it’s story-arcs such as The Curse of Peladon that demonstrate how he could have been better used.
In his first run of the newly-repaired TARDIS, the Doctor lands on the planet Peladon and promptly loses the TARDIS down the side of a cliff. This apparently leaves him and Jo stranded until he can find a way down to it.
The inhabitants of the planet or a monarchal society ruled by the young King Peladon (portrayed by David Troughton (yes, the son of the previous Doctor, Patrick Troughton)). King Peladon is advised by his Chancellor, Torbis (portrayed by Henry Gilbert) and is still unsure of how to rule the planet. They are at the point of deciding whether or not to join the Galactic Federation and are receiving an emissary from the Federation, a phallic-like alien named Alpha Centauri. The High Priest (portrayed by Geoffrey Toone) warns that joining the Federation will result in the curse of Aggedor will be visited upon them should they abandon tradition and join the Federation.
At the same time as the High Priest’s predictions seem to come to fruition, the Doctor and Jo make their appearance, presenting themselves as the Earth delegation to the conference. King Peladon is torn as to who to believe with all that is going on. Alpha Centauri and the other delegates are apprehensive about the conference going forward. Can the Doctor manage to hold it all together while figuring out who is really behind what’s happening on Peladon?
As I said before, The Curse of Peladon was a breath of fresh air for the series. It was a return to some of what made the Doctor endeared to many. There were cheesy aliens and political intrigue, much like what had been happening on Earth, but seeing it in an off-world setting really helped bolster the story.
The acting here is terrific. This is one of those story arcs in which Pertwee really shines. He handles action sequences as well as any of the younger Doctors have, putting to bed the notion that the Earth-bound scripts had something to do with his abilities. The script strikes the right balance for him, giving him enough of the political wrangling to handle along with the physical side of the role and Pertwee handles it magnificently.
The rest of the cast is superb. Katy Manning really shines getting off-planet and being given a storyline that’s not just acting as the damsel in distress to the Doctor’s hero. She shines alongside Troughton as the two wrestle with relationship possibilities and she demonstrates independence. Troughton strikes the right balance as the young monarch unsure of himself while at the same time trying to strike the right note for leading his planet and its people.
Some will complain about the aliens. It’s true they are cheesy, but for those of us who grew up on this show with its limited budgets, it’s also one of the things we love about it. The ferocious Aggedor looks more cuddly than threatening and what passes for alien delegates from other worlds will be laughable to today’s CGI-infused youth. Yet at the time it was magnificent and to those of us who can let our imaginations run wild, it still is.
On DVD, the BBC has once again loaded it up with extras. There’s an excellent and fun commentary track as well as several featurettes and production materials. I can’t say enough for the treatment the classic Doctor Who series has gotten for DVD and stateside studios could learn a few lessons from them. It makes it well worth putting these DVDs in the collections of sci-fi fans.
This is definitely a must-see for fans of the classic Doctor Who fans, particularly if you haven’t seen many from the Jon Pertwee years and want an appreciation for his turn as the Doctor. The only criticism I can level at it is there are several sequences as the political intrigue is playing out that move rather slowly, but it really isn’t that noticeable in the story. All around, this was one of the best I’ve seen in this era.
• Commentary with Toby Hadoke, Producer Barry Letts, Script Editor Terrance Dicks, Katy Manning, Production Assistant Christopher Baker
• Info Text
• The Peldon Saga – Part One
• Warriors of Mars
• Jon and Katy
• Storyboard Comparison
• Photo Gallery