Doctor Who #373: The Monster of Peladon Part 2

"These Earth females seem to have a distressing tendency to rash action."
TECHNICAL SPECS: First aired Mar.30 1974.

IN THIS ONE... The miners make a second run at the armory and it's the Doctor and Sarah Jane who are thrown in the pit for it.

REVIEW: I'm already getting a little bored with this one. On the one hand is the rehash of the Peladon culture, and the air of over-familiarity with the plot point - a young monarch who needs a bit of a push, the hard-headed priest who throws our heroes in the pit, and a cliffhanger that doesn't promise anything more than the Doctor taming Aggador as he did 50 years previously. Except it HASN'T been 50 years, has it? It's been barely 2 years (for 70s audiences), or indeed, 2 months (for a blogger I know and his readers). I don't find the so-called new characters have very much more to say than their Curse of Peladon counterparts. The Queen may complain she is being treated like a child (exactly once), but she spends an inordinate amount of time keeping mum when Ortron lays down the law. Gebek is the well-meaning sort, but the character's obvious leadership and wisdom is completely ignored by every other character except the Doctor. Eckersley is either an idiot or working with Galaxy 5 the way he suddenly admits Sarah MIGHT be in cahoots with the miners. Maybe he's stinging from her taking his hands off her after her battle with some psychedelic security system meant to keep her away from... are those shadows green? As for Ortron and rebel miner Ettis...

The latter two characters are enacting one of the most annoying tropes in fiction, conflict through refusal to listen. I very much dislike any story that could solve all its jeopardy if only certain characters would listen to what the heroes have to say. I don't mean characters who hold and defend another opinion. I mean those who absolutely can't be convinced no matter what they're told, and are just waiting for you to stop speaking before doing their thing. Ettis is a complete idiot in this, to the point of sociopathy, but it's Ortron the great wall who's most annoying, countermanding the Queen's orders, making Sarah Jane suffer through a kangaroo court, and going through the motions of "consulting" the spirit of Aggador. Whatever you say to him, he'll twist into his own world view. Except none of it feels believable. At no point do either of these characters seem to have thought-out motivations, they're just doing what the plot tells them to do. A far cry from the character subtleties of Curse. Heck, even Lis Sladen, usually a highlight as Sarah Jane, has trouble with this material, asked to play by turns a strident victim and a slack-jawed advocate in her own defense. Do we even believe she can read that map to the point where she can track back to the Doctor?

The exception, for me, is Alpha Centauri. The creature is better animated than in the previous serial, and the character itself actually shows a measure of bravery. Has it "grown a spine", as it were? This is a more mature hexapod, capable of selflessness and tenaciousness, no longer panicking when the going gets tough. It's in the script, the body language and the voice. Shame about the rampant sexism and racism (by which I mean its repeated negative judgments of both females and Pel "barbarians"). Still, say them in a high voice, and you almost don't notice. The Doctor, a voice in the wilderness like Gebek, might as well keep his mouth shut for 25 minutes with all the good words do him, but he is at least involved in a number of well-choreographed fight scenes. The action in this is sharp, brief but effective, with a variety of weapons brought to bare. I'm wary of calling it a "highlight", however.

- The by-the-numbers plot isn't helped by stock characters more motivated by the script than they are by any kind of internal life.



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