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

Mission to Magnus

The despised creature who owns every last woolly jumper on the planet.

Sil

Synopsis

The Doctor and Peri face enemies at every turn on the planet Magnus. There’s the Time Lord bully Anzor, who made the Doctor’s life hell during his time at the Academy. There’s also Rana Zandusia, the matriarchal ruler of the planet, who seeks to prise the secret of time travel from these alien visitors. Also on Magnus is the slug-like Sil, still bitter from his defeat on Varos and seeking to make his fortune from the most potentially destructive ends. And deep within the planet, there is something else. Another old enemy of the Doctor’s. And the future is looking decidedly colder…

Preamble

It would be remiss of me, I feel, not to mention the fact that the writer of this story, Philip Martin, sadly passed away on 13 December 2020. Martin wrote two televised stories for Doctor Who, Vengeance on Varos and Parts 5 – 8 of Trial of a Time Lord, also known as Mindwarp. He also wrote The Creed of the Kromon and Antidote to Oblivion for Big Finish Productions and created the character Sil, who also had a spin-off in the Reeltime Film Sil and the Devil Seeds of Arodor, released in 2019. Vengeance on Varos is a high point of Colin Baker’s time as the Doctor during his television run, and whilst I haven’t seen Mindwarp, I know that some hold it in high regard.

Outside of Doctor Who, Martin created the tv series Gangsters, as well as writing for Z-Cars, Tandoori Nights and Star Cops.

He sadly lost his battle with leukemia and will be much missed.

Review

Mission to Magnus is a story that has a pretty poor reputation amongst fans, which is a massive shame considering this writer’s other work, largely due to the misogyny and general sexism in this story. There are some interesting ideas at play here, but unfortunately it feels as though everything but the kitchen sink is thrown at this story which allows none of these ideas to really develop. The sound design and music feel authentically as though they could have from the 1980s, though, and there are some good performances.

There are so many ideas at play here: we have two rival planets, Magnus and Salvak, each ruled by women and men respectively, climate change, two faces from the Doctor’s past and the Ice Warriors. I feel like I say this a lot with Doctor Who, especially in the original run and I suppose it applies to these Lost Stories too, but whilst some of the central ideas are sound, it falls down when it comes to execution. The central idea of the two warring planets inhabited only by one gender is not bad, but it is characterised so poorly and generally paper thin – men are presented as war-like, whilst women are presented as rather gentler. It feels as though this is a bit of an afterthought, and ultimately the plot of this story sees one planet wanting to obtain time travel technology to prevent a rival planet penetrating their defences is a good enough driving force for a story without the added battle of the sexes element we have here. The ending also feels really awkward, with men from the planet of Salvak deciding that they will unite with the women, who have no concept of marriage.

We then have the character of Anzor, a fellow Time Lord and classmate of the Doctor’s from his days at the Prydonian Academy. Unlike some notable contemporaries of the Doctor, Anzor seems to be completely incompetent and a bit of a borish oaf, who obviously made the Doctor’s school days hell. I feel that Malcolm Rennie does a decent enough job here, and the idea of the Doctor facing off with a bully from his past feels as though it is ultimately abandoned towards the end of the first part, with a coda at the end of the story seeing him off. It is interesting to see a Time Lord like this, as whilst we have seen various different Time Lords, they tend to be knowledgeable and the Doctor’s equal, whilst Anzor is, at his heart a coward.

Then when we get to the Ice Warriors, who ultimately flip the axis of the planet to change the climate of the warm Magnus. In association with Sil, who is looking to make a killing selling warm clothing and equipment, they are looking to make it a more hospitable environment for themselves. Again, this is an interesting idea that could have profited from more time, especially as we don’t have very many stories with the Ice Warriors, and even fewer with them acting as the primary antagonist. The whole climate change subplot seems to fall by the side through the first part, so when they come back to revisit it in Part 2 and it becoming a central plot element means that it doesn’t really work as well as the story seems to think it does.

There are some good performances here, though. Nabil Shaban is superb as Sil and he feels just as slimy and unpleasant as he was in the show, thanks to some great vocal ticks and production. Sil flips between the Magnusians and the Ice Warriors with ease and has some great lines, especially when he is concerned about his survival once the Ice Warriors reveal themselves. Sil’s laugh is just as creepy on audio as it is in Vengeance on Varos. Colin Baker is good as the Sixth Doctor and it is great to see him encounter a figure from his past that brings up such feelings of fear that he has to hide behind the console and in turn, stand up to his school bully at the end of the story. Nicola Bryant doesn’t have a lot to do here as Peri, and probably suffers from being partnered with the child Vion, whose actor William Anderson gives a very one dimensional performance. His performance does not vary, which is really frustrating when he is in peril, such as when Vion and the Doctor are being chased by the Ice Warriors or Peri is being carried off – which feels all the more glaring when he’s acting opposite Colin Baker and Nicola Bryant.

Verdict: Some interesting ideas are let down by some sexist characterisation, poor acting by some actors and too many ideas. I have high hopes for the next Lost Story! 2/10

Cast: Colin Baker (The Doctor), Nicola Bryant (Peri Brown), Nabil Shaban (Sil), Malcolm Rennie (Anzor), Maggie Steed (Madame Rana Zandusia), Susan Franklyn (Jarmaya/Tace), Tina Jones (Ulema/Soma), William Townsend (Vion), Callum Witney Mills (Asam), Nicholas Briggs (Brorg/Vedikael/Grand Marshall/Ishka) & James George (Skaarg/Jarga/Hussa).

Writer: Philip Martin

Director: Lisa Bowerman

Parts: 2

Behind the Scenes

  • This story was adapted from a Target novelisation of a story intended for the original Season 23. If it had been produced, it would have been the first appearance of the Ice Warriors since The Monster of Peladon in 1974.

Cast Notes

  • Susan Franklyn also appeared in the Companion Chronicle The Library of Alexandria.
  • James George has appeared in a number of Big Finish plays, including The Condemned and The Guardians of Prophecy with Colin Baker.

Best Quote

Doctor? You have thwarted our plans before, have you not?

Once or twice. I’d rather like to do it again!

Grand Marshall and the Sixth Doctor

Previous Sixth Doctor Story: The Ultimate Evil

The Ice Warriors

We only fight to win.

Varga

Synopsis

The Doctor, Jamie and Victoria arrive in the midst of the New Ice Age, where the human race are attempting to keep advancing glaciers at bay using an ioniser. A team from the Brittanicus Base find a frozen warrior in the glacier, which revives once it has thawed out. Unfortunately, it is an Ice Warrior from Mars and his comrades and spaceship are still frozen in the ice, and he sets about planning to conquer the Earth.

Review

The Ice Warriors is a fun, if flawed story, introducing a villain who is probably in the ‘B’ List – I don’t think you’d have many casual viewers or people on the street able to identify the hissing Martian menace easily. I enjoyed this story, but it does definitely have some flaws associated with stories with a longer running time and the conclusion is a bit of a let down.

There are some interesting ideas here, some as fundamental as the setting of the Brittanicus Base inside a Victorian stately home, as per the war effort in the Second World War is a really nice touch and the juxtaposition between the house outside the control room and the advanced computer inside is a really good idea. More centrally, there is the conflict between base commander Clent and scientist Penley, which leads to Penley leaving the base as the TARDIS materalises. This essentially boils down to trust in technology, and with characters like Storr, an acquaintance of Penley, we have a character who does not trust in science at all. Clent, a self-professed coward, dares not go against the advise provided by his computer, which leads him to the point of paralysis towards the climax of the story when the computer predicts that the result of using the ioniser to attack the Ice Warriors’ ship will result in an explosion that will wipe out the base. Penley, whilst a scientist, seems to maintain his trust in humanity making decisions for himself, and taking on the risk that this involves, as seen by his willingness when helped by the Doctor to destroy the Ice Warrior spaceship.

Ultimately though, the conclusion lets this story down. It is problem that is generally shared with the six-part stories that they do feel overly long and this story is no different. Some are able to justify it and pull something out of the bag in the final part, however, The Ice Warriors closes with the reveal that the destruction of the spaceship is ultimately small and inconsequential. This makes it feel like most of the story, in which various characters have been trying to calculate and investigate what the damage would be feel like treading water for the majority of this story’s run time. I also struggled quite a lot with the sense of geography in this story – I couldn’t visualise where locations like Penley’s hideout and the Brittanicus Base is, which was more of a problem when it came to the Ice Warriors beginning their attack.

The Ice Warriors themselves look fantastic, and the set designs here are really good. From watching the behind the scenes documentary on the DVD, I know that the caves were made from polystyrene, but I honestly could not tell. It really stands up from this point of view. Derek Martinus’ casting of bigger actors to be in the Ice Warrior suits also really helps the audience buy them as a threat. The effect is only enhanced when we get to see Ice Warriors alongside Patrick Troughton and Deborah Watling onboard their ship later on in the story, where they tower over the Doctor and companion. In the course of my research for this review, I found out that Troughton is the joint-third shortest actor to play the Doctor with William Hartnell – only Sylvester McCoy and current incumbent Jodie Whittaker are shorter. The Ice Warriors do feel like a threat and their hissing voices are really sinister. Although they are never going to reach the heights of Dalekmania, it is easy to see why the production teams for the Troughton and Pertwee eras brought them back and why they were brought back for the revived show in 2013.

In terms of the central cast, Troughton is on fine form again here, and he seems to really have hit his stride when it comes to playing to the Doctor. Frazer Hines and Deborah Watling don’t really have a lot to do here, with Victoria playing the part of damsel in distress for long stretches of the middle episodes. Amongst the guest cast, Peter Barkworth stands out as Clent, the seemingly robotic base commander, who does show that he is still capable of compassion when Arden and Jamie go off to investigate what has happened to Victoria. It is a good decision to have Clent have a pronounced limp and more intriguing that the reason is never elaborated on – perhaps this was a decisive moment behind him putting his trust in computers rather than humanity. Peter Sallis is good as Penley, even it took me a while to realise that it was him! Having grown up on Wallace and Gromit and occasionally seeing Last of the Summer Wine, it took me a while to realise that it was him. He does provide a good counterpoint to Clent and their relationship is very believable.

Verdict: The Ice Warriors has some good ideas, but unfortunately fails when it comes to its conclusion. The Ice Warriors are great and the sets look amazing though. 6/10

Cast: Patrick Troughton (The Doctor), Frazer Hines (Jamie McCrimmon), Deborah Watling (Victoria Waterfield), Wendy Gifford (Miss Garrett), Peter Barkworth (Clent), George Waring (Arden), Malcolm Taylor (Walters), Peter Diamond (Davis), Angus Lennie (Storr), Peter Sallis (Penley), Bernard Bresslaw (Varga), Roy Skelton (Voice of Computer), Roger Jones (Zondal), Sonny Caldinez (Turoc), Tony Harwood (Rintan) & Michael Attwell (Isbur).

Writer: Brian Hayles

Director: Derek Martinus

Parts: 6

Behind the Scenes

  • The first appearance of the Ice Warriors. Writer Brian Hayles originally envisaged to resemble human soldiers in medieval-style space armour. It was costume designed Martin Baugh who suggested that they be reptilian.
  • A real bear was used for the film inserts, which were specially filmed for this story. It was hired for a day’s filming at BBC Ealing for a fee of £70.
  • Episodes 2 and 3 remain missing from the BBC Archives and were recreated using animation for the 2013 DVD release.

Cast Notes

  • Michael Attwell would later appear in Attack of the Cybermen opposite Colin Baker.
  • Angus Lennie appeared in The Terror of the Zygons.
  • Peter Sallis was originally going to play Striker in Enlightenment, however, due to industrial action delaying the schedule, he had to withdraw from the cast.

Best Moment

I quite like the moment where the Doctor walks into the control room of the Brittanicus Base completely unnoticed and starts basically being the Doctor.

Best Quote

In 2 minutes 38 seconds, you’re going to have an almighty explosion! The readings say so!

Well, how can you possibly know that? I haven’t even — I haven’t even processed them through the computer yet!

I don’t need a computer.

The Second Doctor and Clent

Previous Second Doctor post: The Abominable Snowmen