"Your legend seems violent and unpleasant... and rather too convenient."
IN THIS ONE... The TARDIS lands on Peladon, where Federation delegates are convening to evaluate the rather Medieval planet for membership.
REVIEW: So what the hell, Time Lords? The Doctor can use his TARDIS now? I don't mind a break from the UNIT era (a building might not explode at the end, this time), but if the production is to play fast and loose with its own rules, they really should provide an explanation. Even the way the TARDIS is taken out of the equation is out of another era, or more specifically, from The Romans (though it's a much better tumble). The destination is Peladon, a planet on the cusp of joining the "Federation", but a mysterious murder could derail the whole thing. So it's a lot like Star Trek's "Journey to Babel", except that this Federation is filled with truly alien aliens. None of those actors with stuff stuck on their faces for Doctor Who! Alpha Centauri is the weirdest thing to hop on... what does it hop on anyway? And while I've seen both Peladon stories a NUMBER of times, his/her/its high-pitched, giggly voice still came as a laugh-inducing shock the first time I heard it in the episode. Negative to Alpha's positive is delegate Arcturus, an ugly shrunken head in a water dome atop a weaponized box (some diplomatic summit!). And then the Ice Warriors show up, and they've got diplomatic immunity too!
At the heart of the story is Peladon, both the world and the boy-king (played by David Troughton, son of the second Doctor), and writer Brian Hayles uses him and his two councilors - Hepesh the high priest and (doomed) Torbis the chancellor - the two men who effectively raised him and who are diametrically opposed in their opinion of Peladon's place in the universe. Hepesh, insular, superstitious and traditional. Torbis, logical, looking ahead, open to contact with other worlds. No doubt because my mind was on Star Trek already, I couldn't help but see King Peladon as Kirk and his advisers as Spock and McCoy. What's important is that we get to know these people, in broad strokes, yes, but Hayles quickly makes us understand who they are, and what drives them. Politically, I suppose this is about the United Kingdom joining the European Union or not. But time, and in my case, distance, divorces the story from its original context, so that's not a big consideration for me. And it pretty much disappears behind the murder mystery and talk of a monstrous curse.
The Doctor is mistaken for Earth's delegate and has to quickly adapt, but it's Jo who's a nice surprise in this episode. When she learns that only women of royal blood can walk into the throne room, she smoothly takes on a posh personality and plays the part of Princess Josephine (which King Peladon immediately takes a shine to). She's quite good at it, though her bubbly "See you later!" at the very end does worry the Doctor (or is he a little jealous that some other male is getting her attention?). She's "all dolled-up" for a date with Mike Yates, but is quick to trade up. What happens on Peladon, stays on Peladon, if you know what I mean. Earlier, Jo is the one to find the tunnel leading out of the windy rock face, and damn it, she's cute doing it. In the absence of the UNIT boys, it looks like our girl Jo will get room to breathe and grow.
REWATCHABILITY: Medium-High - It's all set-up at this point, but it's a good set-up with a variety of characters and the regulars, Jo especially, getting plenty to do too.