The Doctor and Jo make a test flight in the TARDIS and arrive on the planet Peladon. Seeking shelter, they enter the citadel of the soon-to-be-crowned King Peladon, where the Doctor is mistaken for a human dignitary summoned to act as chairman of a committee assessing an application by the planet to join the Galactic Federation.
The Curse of Peladon is one of the first Doctor Who stories that reflects the wider context in which it was made. The story can be seen to be paralleling current affairs of the day, with Peladon’s application to join the Galactic Federation a metaphor for Britain’s vote on joining the European Economic Community. Like a lot of Jon Pertwee’s era as the Doctor, this political metaphor is not unusual, but it is certainly one in the eye for anybody who claims that Doctor Who being political is only a recent thing.
The story is really strong here, with a conflict between tradition and progress embodied by the conflict between King Peladon and the Galactic Federation the one hand, and Hepesh and his followers on the other. Neither side are completely flawless – the Galactic Federation discuss destroying Peladon should the rebellion led by Hepesh successfully overthrow Peladon’s rule, whilst Hepesh’s faction are resistant to modernisation that joining the Federation would bring. The story works really well and establishes the planet as one of the better developed planets in the show’s history. We get a well developed sense of history and a faith system, which makes this world feel lived in, as well as a genuine background given to the relationships of the people of the planet. Hayles’ story also shows how creatures can change over time, as demonstrated by the Ice Warriors who have switched from the aggression we have seen in the past to being more peaceful ambassadors, much to the Doctor’s distrust at the beginning of the story. In fact, the change in the Ice Warrior’s nature leads to the tension and intrigue around the central plot of who is sabotaging the conference on Peladon – as we have only met the Ice Warriors through travels with the Doctor, we mistrust them too. I particularly like the idea of the Galactic Federation and it certainly makes this story more interesting as it features a range of colourful aliens and makes the wider universe feel more realistic and lived in. Not every bit works well though, as I think that the cliffhangers are pretty underwhelming and I’m struggling to remember any of them really well, with the one at the end of Episode 3 needing some clarification as to what is actually going on at the beginning of the concluding part.
From a production point of view, this is really well made despite having a low budget. The story makes up for a lack of location shooting by having some lovely model shots of the citadel of Peladon which look fantastic and the sets seem to be of a very high quality, simply conveying the fact that these people live quite medieval and feudal lives. One of the best of the model shots is when the TARDIS topples over the edge of the mountain, which looks really good and certainly gives off the impression of the hopelessness of the Doctor and Jo’s situation. The director, Lennie Mayne, does a good job making the story look visually interesting and making the most of a limited budget. The costume design is also pretty fantastic, with the obvious exception of Alpha Centauri, but the production team and director are to be praised for realising that something had to be done to the original costume. Arcturus’ costume is really good and works really well, whilst Aggedor’s is possibly where the show’s lack of budget finally shows.
The performances are good here. Jon Pertwee seems noticeably softer and is charming at times, especially when impersonating the Earth delegate. He has some really lovely scenes with Katy Manning here, where their fondness for each other really shines through, especially when he commends her for her bravery despite her chasing off Aggedor when the Doctor had nearly completed hypnotising the creature. Pertwee is particularly good towards the end of the story where he bashfully confesses that the TARDIS is not fixed at all, and their presence on Peladon was most likely due to more Time Lord meddling. Manning is really good in her scenes with David Troughton, selling the romantic angle really well opposite the young and naïve King-to-be. It is testament to how good this story is that the romantic subplot between King Peladon and Jo is wrapped up before the conclusion of the story. Troughton does well as the half-human, half-Peladon King, desperately trying to lead his society into the future despite the advice coming from his former mentor, Hepesh, which is another fine performance in this story.
Verdict: The Curse of Peladon is an example of a low budget story done well. There are good performances, good direction and model work making this a great Pertwee story. 8/10
Cast: Jon Pertwee (The Doctor), Katy Manning (Jo Grant), David Troughton (Peladon), Geoffrey Toone (Hepesh), Henry Gilbert (Torbis), Alan Bennion (Izlyr), Sonny Caldinez (Ssorg), Stuart Fell (Alpha Centauri), Ysanne Churchman (Voice of Alpha Centauri), Murphy Grumbar (Arcturus), Terry Bale (Voice of Arcturus), Gordon St. Clair (Grun), Nick Hobbs (Aggedor), George Giles (Guard Captain) & Wendy Danvers (Amazonia).
Writer: Brian Hayles
Director: Lennie Mayne
Behind the Scenes
- The first story to be broadcast in a different order to that in which it had been produced. Though a common occurence in later years, it had been impossible in the 1960s due to the narrow interval between recording and broadcast.
- This is the first story of the Third Doctor’s era not to feature the Brigadier, UNIT or any scenes set on Earth.
- The only story of the original run of the show to feature the Ice Warriors that does not consist of six episodes.
- David Troughton makes his third appearance in this story. He is the son of Patrick Troughton and appeared opposite his father in The Enemy of the World and The War Games. He would reappear in Midnight.
- Geoffrey Toone previously appeared in the film Dr Who and the Daleks.
- Ysanne Churchman would reprise her role as Alpha Centauri in The Monster of Peladon and Empress of Mars.
I really liked all the miniature shots, but especially the one of the TARDIS falling off the mountain, which looks really stunning and is a superb piece of direction from Lennie Mayne and the production team.
I wanted to save our world…to preserve the old ways. Perhaps I was wrong, Peladon. I hope so. Your future, which you set so much store by, is yours now.Hepesh
Previous Third Doctor story: Day of the Daleks