Tuesday, 21 August 2012

61: The Curse Of Peladon - Doctor Who At Its Multifaceted Finest

Written by: Brian Hayles.
Companions: The Doctor, Jo Grant.
Monsters/Villains: Aggedor, Arcturus, Ice Warriors, Alpha Centauri.
Brief Synopsis: The Ghost of Aggedor threatens to stop the planet Peladon from joining the Galactic Federation.
Rating: 10/10.

Okay it's been nearly a month since I reported back on Day of The Daleks and I can't apologise enough. So much has been happening. I've started as a staff writer for The Gallifrey Times and a regular reviewer for Blogtor Who but now I'm back here to give you the skinny on an old favourite of mine, The Curse of Peladon.

The Curse of Peladon was the very first story in Doctor Who to be broadcast in a different order from which it was filmed, when it switched places with the previously produced story The Sea Devils. This doesn't sound like the most fascinating fact, but it meant a great deal to all the stories that would follow. Due to the narrow gap between recording and broadcast it had been impossible before this time to broadcast out of production order this extra time gave space for more editing, although you could argue that after this some of the immediacy of the series was gone.

The Ice Warriors are back!
The Curse of Peladon marks the return of writer Brian Hayles and his creations the Ice Warriors, this time appearing somewhat more civilised and in attendance on the planet Peladon to assess it's bid to join the Galactic Federation. Unlike many other Who stories this one doesn't feature just one bug-eyed monster, not even two, but three. Joining the martians we have delegates from Arcturus and Alpha Centauri. It's surprising that we don't get this sort of thing more often; whenever the Doctor arrives on a new planet  he rarely seems to meet more than one alien species. In this instance the Doctor crash lands  on a mountainside beneath a castle and is mistaken for the Chairman delegate from Earth introducing Jo Grant as HRH Princess Josephine of TARDIS.

We also see the return of second Doctor Patrick Troughton's son, David Troughton. This time giving a beautiful performance as the young King Peladon, struggling with this difficult decision that will effect all the people of his planet. From the get go people are murdered and the Doctor assumes that the Ice Warriors must be behind it.

The design is unusual but brilliant. Red and white hair and purple robes.
I have always been a big fan of "political Who," and this story certainly falls under that heading. The story is a then-topical, political allegory for the UK's accession to the EEC (European Economic Community). When The Curse of Peladon was aired in January 1972 the whole country were talking about PM Edward Heath's decision for the UK to join the common market. In this story Peladon stands in for the UK, with it's fears and hesitations to join the Galactic Federation (the EEC). Which countries Arcturus, Alpha Centauri and the Mars represent isn't made abundantly clear, although I like to think the Martians are Germany (previous enemies) Arcturus is France or maybe Italy and Alpha Centauri is Luxembourg or more likely Belgium (somewhere relatively small).

Brian Hayles.
Unlike another political Who writer Malcolm Hulke, who tended towards fairer representation of both sides of the argument, Brian Hayles clearly comes down on one side of things. He is clearly in favour of the join drawing connections between religion and tradition vesus science and progress.

However The Curse of Peladon isn't just a political intrigue story, it's also a murder mystery, a shakespearian tragedy, the personal story of a young King and a romance between Peladon and the Princess Josephine. In short it's a truly multifaceted story, which surely forms a large part of it's appeal.

Jo actually gets quite a bit to do in this one and certainly has a real baring on proceedings. Her romantic side story with the King is handled beautifully. I always wonder what might have happened had she decided to stay on Peladon.

When he accidentally sets foot in the Temple of Aggedor, the Doctor is forced to take part in trial by combat, and manages to best the King's champion, Grun. Delegate Arcturus shows his true colours when he tries to shoot the Doctor, but the Ice Warrior, Ssorg shoots Arcturus first. To the viewers surprise it turns out that it wasn't the Ice Warriors behind the attempts to stop Peladon joining the Galactic Federation. King Peladon's High Priest Hepesh was so afraid of change that he allied himself with the delegate from Arcturus; a planet poor in mineral wealth and hoping for a mining treaty, to stop Peladon's accession and take over the planet. 

Hepesh's men storm the castle defeating the royal guard and capturing the King. The Doctor wins the day when he comes across a rare specimen of Peladon's sacred beast Aggedor, and using hypnosis, empathy and a Venusian lullaby he calms the creature. It transpires that Hepesh previously found a lone  Aggedor beast and trained it to do his bidding. The Doctor produces the creature to the King as proof and it attacks and kills Hepesh. 

The oddly loveable beast, Aggedor.
The Curse of Peladon is a brilliant story because it is multifaceted, entertaining, mysterious, charming, dramatic, political, exciting and romantic. It's everything Doctor Who can be when it's at its very best. It has an excellent and memorable cast, it's overflowing with atmosphere and both Pertwee and Manning are at the top of their game. 

Join me next time for another old favourite, The Sea Devils.

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