Doctor Who #310: The Curse of Peladon Part 1

"Your legend seems violent and unpleasant... and rather too convenient."
TECHNICAL SPECS: This story is available on DVD. First aired Jan.29 1972.

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.


Anonymous said...

insert "giant one-eyed monster" joke

Craig Oxbrow said...

It's lucky Jo decided on "fairytale princess" as a look for her date, really.

Anonymous said...

The Doctor does 'adapt' to the situation and is quick to kiss the royal tuchus without the Brigadier around to smooth his behavior over, isn't he? Different attitude towards bureaucratic authority than he displays in a safer setting, huh?

I actually thought Arcturus was pretty cool - even more 'alien' than Alpha Centauri. Makes the imagination wonder what its world must be like and how it lives outside its 'box'. Perhaps the same kind of evolution happened to his 'people' as happened to the Daleks, with or without the intervention of a Davros-like figure?


Siskoid said...

Craig: Only the strangest for kinky Mike Yates. Truth be told, Jo's clothes are SO fantastic on any given day that she could pass herself off as an alien princess on any remote world.

Anon: The Doctor hates military and political authority, but he seems like a Royalist to me. To this day, even.

LiamKav said...

"The Doctor hates military and political authority, but he seems like a Royalist to me. "

Well, he's apparently slept with at least one member of Royalty...

Chalbo said...

I like the comparisons and differences with Star Trek you mention. The basic idea of the story might fit well into both series but Curse could only be Doctor Who! Proper alien aliens - including a camp, cardigan-wearing squeaky-voiced ... thing.
Russell T Davies' 'The End of the World' in the revived series definitely owes this episode something of a debt.

Siskoid said...

Most definitely! Not quite as good, but love the throwaway aliens.


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