Doctor Who #375: The Monster of Peladon Part 4

"If you can't stand the heat, keep out of the mine."
TECHNICAL SPECS: First aired Apr.13 1974.

IN THIS ONE... Martian troops land on Peladon, which unites the Pels against the Federation. As the battle rages, mad Ettis trains the sonic lance on the Citadel.

After three episodes of what felt like a repeat, finally some action. The surprise is that the Ice Warriors are at once the Federation troops called by Alpha Centauri at Eckersley's suggestion (just establishing the paper trail in case we're looking for culprits), and back to their old tricks as well. Even if Commander Azaxyr isn't working against the Federation, he's still going about Federation business in a most ruthless way, violating Peladon's sovereignty, threatening executions, establishing martial law, and blocking planetary communications. But because I thought making this time frame's Ice Warriors respected members of a an interstellar democracy did wonders for them, and that it would be retrograde to make them simple alien invaders again, I don't want to be convinced the Martians are necessarily traitors (the joys having wiped details of less memorable stories from your brain, eh?). Azaxyr is certainly exceeding his authority, and his methods are deplorable, but only the fact his soldiers were already on the planet draws any real suspicion to his motives. And that's yet to be explained.

The conflict benefits from some uncommon fast-paced editing and camera work, not just when the Ice Warriors mow down miners, or when the fighting breaks out in the mines, but even in the verbal sparring. The Doctor and Azaxyr go at it like two old pros, calm and slick, masters at manipulating language to prove their points. There's a good rhythm to the Doctor and Sarah figuring things out too. There's so much movement and action, in fact, that there are more than your usual number of moments where the the Doctor is revealed to be stuntman Terry Walsh. As Pertwee's hair grew across the series, the wig Walsh had to wear became more and more abominable, but in addition, we do see his face numerous times during the sword fight with Ettis. Once in a while is fine, but it gets embarrassing here.

The Ice Warriors' martial actions have an effect on the overall plot, that of finally making the Pels unite, nobles, soldiers and miners alike (except for crazy-eyed Ettis who deserves his death). The conflict between them is secondary to the threat coming from without. The Doctor should have thought of that himself and turned himself into a raging villain instead of trying to make them all listen to reason. He's certainly wearing "alien" colors, all in dark green, just like the Martians.

REWATCHABILITY: Medium - Structurally, I question why all the action needed to be concentrated in this one episode, but the Ice Warriors do bring a dynamic that momentarily shakes the doldrums out of the serial.



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