The Curse of Peladon

We reject all violence…except in self-defence.

Izlyr

Synopsis

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.

Review

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

Parts: 4

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.

Cast Notes

  • 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.

Best Moment

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.

Best Quote

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

Love & Monsters

When you’re a kid, they tell you it’s all, grow up, get a job, get married, get a house, have a kid, and that’s it. But the truth is, the world is so much stranger than that. It’s so much darker, and so much madder. And so much better.

Elton Pope

Synopsis

An ordinary man becomes obsessed with the Tenth Doctor and Rose Tyler, and uncovers a world of living nightmares.

Review

Love and Monsters is a bit of a marmite episode amongst Doctor Who fans, with few in the middle, which is where I find myself. There are some good performances in here, namely from Marc Warren, Camille Coduri and Shirley Henderson, coupled with an interesting idea, however, elements like Peter Kay’s performance and some weird writing decisions let it down. So please forgive me for sitting on the fence – I genuinely have no strong feelings towards this story.

It’s easy to look at Love & Monsters with the benefit of hindsight and the experience of Doctor-lite stories like Blink or Turn Left and say that it is not as good as those stories, which I do agree with to an extent but this was a production team experiencing the challenge of making this type of story for the first time. This has to walk so that later stories of this kind can fly. There is a lot to admire here, for instance, this gives us a view of an ordinary person of the events in the revived series so far, such as the Auton Invasion seen in Rose, the spaceship crashing into the Elizabeth Tower and the Sycorax ship arriving. The Doctor’s impact on the wider population than his companion and their family is something that we haven’t seen much before or since this episode, and furthers Clive’s message in Rose – if your life touches the Doctor’s, it’s probably not going to end well. Again, something that this episode brings up which isn’t really touched on again is the impact on the companion leaving on those left behind. This is something that I felt was dealt with really badly in Aliens of London and never brought up again, especially considering that Jackie believes Rose to be dead for that year. This element is really effective, showing how Jackie is desperate for company and the fact that she never knows when she will either see or hear from Rose whilst she is off on her travels with the Doctor. The story wants to emphasise the differences between travelling with the Doctor and staying on Earth, by using industrial areas and scenes around the Powell Estate, contrasting with the wonders we have seen Rose experience. Dan Zeff does a decent job of directing, juggling the normal narrative and Elton’s video diary well for the most part, but the brief cut to Elton in the cold open does puncture the tension after seeing the Hoix. Zeff even manages to make the Scooby Doo-esque opening sequence not seem utterly ridiculous, which has to go in the plus column for this episode.

LINDA, short for London Investigation ‘N’ Detective Agency, is a thinly veiled parallel for the Doctor Who fandom. A group of people who are united by their interest in the Doctor, who then divulge further interests, it’s not a terribly favourable view on the fandom. Here, Elton’s love of ELO feels a bit like confessing you like Doctor Who to anybody ‘normal’ – I know that I personally am not forthcoming with telling new people my interests or about my love of Doctor Who. The five members of LINDA are almost stereotypical science fiction fans, portrayed as being a bit weird and lonely and able to gain some enjoyment in their fellowship. When Elton is initiated, he is almost drawn further and further down the rabbit hole as the other members tell When their other interests get in the way of their search for the Doctor, Victor Kennedy enters to stop the fun. Some have stated that they believe Kennedy to be a parody of people like Ian Levine and their passion for the Doctor. It’s really a story about how easily something pure can be corrupted by a minority and arguably is as important an episode now as it was in 2006.

The story does have a massive flaw in the shape of its central villain – Victor Kennedy, or the Abzorbaloff. One of the biggest problems with this story is the celebrity casting of Peter Kay in the part, and as soon as he enters the story, I certainly see nobody other than Kay rather than a character. His casting makes little sense to me, as I am primarily aware of him as a comedian rather than an actor, but I don’t really find that there are a lot of funny lines in general and especially not said by Kennedy. Again, the creature is an interesting idea and I have no problem with the whole Blue Peter competition winner’s concept, but I feel that a pantomime performance by Kay and some poor effects, especially when the faces of the creature’s victims aren’t speaking, really let the story down. When the absorbed members of LINDA unite to destroy the Abzorbaloff, it shows that this episode was perhaps not blessed with a huge budget!

Whilst Kay’s performance is poor, this episode’s strength lies in a triumvarate of Marc Warren, Camille Coduri and Shirley Henderson. Warren manages to take a relatively underdeveloped pencil sketch of a character, who has quite generic male interests (“I like football. I like a drink. I like Spain.”) and make him quite likeable. The writing has lines which make Elton seem quite childish, but I was surprised to learn that Warren is only two years younger than co-stars Camille Coduri and Shirley Henderson. I really like Camille Coduri’s performance here and this makes Jackie’s character much more likeable. I’ve spoken about not really liking Jackie very much in previous reviews, but given more understanding into her insecurities and loneliness here and her speech about how she will be protect Rose and the Doctor is one of this story’s few high points. I do have a problem with the story presenting the potential predatory nature of Jackie, especially as Elton is portrayed as being much younger than her. Henderson is good as Ursula, who introduces Elton to the wider context of the Doctor’s actions, and of all the LINDA gang, she is probably the most fleshed and out and likeable. It’s only the unfortunate love life line that really lets her character down – and that’s not Shirley Henderson’s fault! Tennant and Piper are in this so briefly and do a solid enough job.

Verdict: Maybe in a few years, I will be amongst those who love this story. Ultimately, Love & Monsters is just fine. 5/10

Cast: David Tennant (The Doctor), Billie Piper (Rose Tyler), Camille Coduri (Jackie Tyler), Peter Kay (Victor Kennedy/The Abzorbaloff), Marc Warren (Elton Pope), Shirley Henderson (Ursula Blake), Simon Greenall (Mr Skinner), Moya Brady (Bridget), Kathryn Drysdale (Bliss), Paul Kasey (The Hoix) & Bella Emberg (Mrs Croot).

Writer: Russell T Davies

Director: Dan Zeff

Behind the Scenes

  • The working title was I Love the Doctor.
  • The Abzorbaloff was created by a child, William Grantham, who won a Blue Peter competition. It was often stated that Grantham was disappointed with the appearance of the monster, however, on the DVD documentary Who Peter, he stated that he was “stunned” at how well realised it was by Millennium FX.
  • This story was double-banked with another story, allowing fourteen episodes to be filmed in the time it should take to film 13. The “Doctor-lite” format continued in the show going forwards.
  • This story mentions elements of the first four story arcs of the revived show: Bad Wolf, Torchwood, Mr Saxon and the missing planet Clom.
  • The acronym LINDA was previously used on the children”s television show Why Don’t You?, which Russell T Davies worked on.
  • In an early draft, Elton would have experienced events from the original run, including his third birthday part being evacuated due to the Shoreditch Incident (Remembrance of the Daleks), his mother being killed by a plastic daffodil (Terror of the Autons) and Elton would have seen the Loch Ness Monster rising from the Thames (Terror of the Zygons).

Cast Notes

  • Peter Kay got the part after writing to Russell T Davies after the new series began in 2005 and Davies replied offering him a part. He was originally offered the part of Elton, but Kay declined, feeling that the part was too similar to his Coronation Street character. Kay would later reflect negatively on being in the show, stating “I loved making it, but when I saw it, I thought “Oh my God. I’m a big green lizard running around in Cardiff? Is that it?”

Best Moment

I quite like the moment that Elton, Ursula and Mr Skinner storm out of the basement – it is one of the few

Best Quote

Let me tell you something about those who get left behind. Because it’s hard. And that’s what you become, hard. But if there’s one thing I’ve learnt, it’s that I will never let her down. And I’ll protect them both until the end of my life. So whatever you want, I’m warning you, back off.

Jackie Tyler

Previous Tenth Doctor review: The Satan Pit

Other Stories Referenced:

Aliens of London

The Enemy of the World

People spend all their time making nice things and then other people come along and break them!

The Second Doctor

Synopsis

On Earth in 2018, the Doctor and his companions are enmeshed in a deadly web of intrigue thanks to his uncanny resemblance to the scientist/politician Salamander. He is hailed as the “shopkeeper of the world” for his efforts to relive global famine, but why do his rivals keep disappearing? How can he predict so many natural disasters? The Doctor must expose Salamander’s schemes before he takes over the world.

Review

Season 5 is sometimes referred to as the monster season, and The Enemy of the World is a pretty obvious outlier in this regard as it features no aliens except for the Doctor himself. With Troughton playing both the Doctor and Ramón Salamander, this story is real exhibition of his talents as an actor and considering his acting CV, it is no surprise that he is fantastic in the dual role.

It would be all too easy, with hindsight, to say that this story shows the direction the show would take in the coming years, especially the early Pertwee era, especially considering that Barry Letts directs it. In reality, at the time, it was just another story, experimenting with what kind of stories the show could get away with showing. Some draw parallels between this story and the James Bond films of the era and to an extent, I can see where they are coming from. This story is certainly globetrotting, with locations such as Australia and Hungary featured, although on a budget and it is to the production team’s credit that the British locations don’t let the side down. Salamander is also similar to Bond villains in a lot of ways, with his seemingly amiable public façade covering for much more diabolical schemes. When it’s revealed later on in the story that Salamander has slaves working underground, it certainly feels like a plot element that you wouldn’t be surprised if it came up in a Bond movie, lurking in a traditional lair. The story also evokes a dystopian future, almost like 1984, with a situation that feels quite bleak and hopeless at times.

The story is pretty great, though, and I was pleasantly surprised that it kept me engaged throughout. It has a pretty action-packed opening, with the helicopter and hovercraft, before becoming a Cold War thriller, trying to bring down a dictator with a plot about duplicates. Jamie even gets to step into the Bond-esque role when he is sent to earn Salamander’s trust by saving his life, complete with Victoria and Astrid in tow. I quite liked the fact that the story delivers a good twist in its final part, revealing that the seemingly affable Kent wants Salamander out of the way so that he can take his place, which worked really well for me. Equally, Salamander impersonating the Doctor towards the end of the story was a good idea even if it was disappointing that we didn’t get a bit more of it.

Whilst the majority of the story works really well, there are aspects that aren’t great, for instance, Victoria doesn’t have a lot to do, and the conclusion feels distinctly underwhelming after waiting for the Doctor and Salamander to come face to face. This is not entirely the story’s fault, as the technology did not exist to do this more often, but I feel that the story does struggle due to this. The kitchen interlude is bizarre, introducing the constantly complaining Griffin, and doesn’t really feel like it services the story going forwards, except for the attempted assassination of Denes.

Patrick Troughton is a great actor, and this story is one that allows him to show off his abilities to the full, using subtle things to differentiate between the Doctor and Salamander. Troughton manages to even lose his sparkle when he is playing the villain and is capable of being quite menacing at times, like in his scenes with Denes and Fedorin. Admittedly, part of this is down to the changing hairstyle, but Troughton’s entire face seems to switch effortlessly between characters. When the TARDIS arrives on the beach, I was struck how similar the Second and Eleventh Doctors are when the Second Doctor is so enthusiastic at being at the seaside, much to the bemusement of his companions. Salamander is an effective villain, although it would be nice to see more characters who adore him rather than the characters we get, who all seem to be firmly on the other side.

Verdict: One of the high points of Troughton’s time as the Doctor, The Enemy of the World feels different to the stories surrounding it but struggles with practicalities of the time. 8/10

Cast: Patrick Troughton (The Doctor/Ramón Salamander), Frazer Hines (Jamie McCrimmon), Deborah Watling (Victoria Waterfield), Bill Kerr (Giles Kent), Mary Peach (Astrid), George Pravda (Denes), Colin Douglas (Donald Bruce), David Nettheim (Fedorin), Milton Johns (Benik), Henry Stamper (Anton), Simon Cain (Curly), Rhys McConnochie (Rod), Reg Lye (Griffin), Christopher Burgess (Swann), Adam Verney (Colin), Margaret Hickey (Mary), Andrew Staines (Sergeant to Benik), Bob Anderson (Fighting Guard), Gordon Faith (Guard Captain), Elliot Cairnes (Guard Captain), Dibbs Mather (Guard in Caravan), William McGuirk (Guard in Corridor) & Bill Lyons (Guard on Denes).

Writer: David Whitaker

Director: Barry Letts

Parts: 6

Behind the Scenes

  • This is quite a notable story from a production aspect. This was the last serial broadcast whilst creator Sydney Newman was working at the BBC, as his contract expired at the end of 1967. The key production roles for this story were all occupied by men heavily involved in the development of Doctor Who:
    • David Whitaker was the first script editor for the show;
    • Barry Letts makes his directorial debut for the show here, and he would become the show’s producer for the majority of the Pertwee era, executive producer for Season 18 and occasional script writer.
    • Peter Bryant (script editor) would become producer from the next story; and
    • Innes Lloyd was the current producer and left after this story.
  • Troughton is credited as “Dr Who” for episodes 1 and 6 and as “Dr Who” and “Salamander” for the remaining parts. This is the second time a doppelganger of the Doctor has appeared following William Hartnell’s double performance as the Doctor and the Abbott of Amboise in The Massacre.
  • The helicopter explosion in Episode One was stock footage originally shot for From Russia With Love.
  • It was intended for the Doctor to come face to face with Salamander more often in this story, but due to the technical difficulty in accomplishing this, the characters only meet once.
  • Episode 3 was the only episode to survive in the BBC Archive until 2013 when the remaining five episodes were returned, having been found in a television relay station storage room in Nigeria.

Cast Notes

  • Frazer Hines and Deborah Watling do not appear in Episode 4 as they were on holiday that week.
  • Milton Johns would reappear in The Android Invasion and The Invasion of Time.
  • Colin Douglas appeared in The Horror of Fang Rock.
  • George Pravda would reappear in The Mutants and The Deadly Assassin

Best Moment

The scenes with the hovercraft on the beach in the first episode are great, really well directed and tense scenes.

Also, Jamie and Victoria being terrified of the helicopter is great.

Best Quote

Perhaps we’ve landed in a world of mad men!

They’re human beings, if that’s what you mean. Indulging their favourite pastime of trying to destroy each other.

Victoria Waterfield and the Second Doctor

Previous Second Doctor Review: The Ice Warriors