Friday, February 15, 2019

Tales from Peladon


Jo, Alpha Centauri and Izlyr discuss affairs of state in the 
fondly remembered THE CURSE OF PELADON.

IN the first serial, the medieval and superstitious planet of Peladon -  led by its young king (David Troughton) - is on the verge of joining the Galactic Federation. High Priest Hepesh (Geoffrey Toone) is opposed, warning that the curse of Aggedor, the Royal Beast of Peladon, will bring doom upon such sacrilege. After the TARDIS gives The Doctor (Jon Pertwee) and Jo (Katy Manning) an ignominious entry, they are taken to the throne room where the delegates are gathered: Alpha Centauri (Stuart Fell, voiced by Ysanne Churchman), Arcturus (Murphy Grumbar, voiced by Terry Bale), together with Lord Izlyr (Alan Bennion) and Ssorg (Sonny Caldinez) of the Ice Warriors. The Doctor is mistaken for the delegate from Earth, and introduces Jo as "Princess Josephine of TARDIS," a neutral royal observer. Exploring the tunnels under the palace, The Doctor runs into Aggedor, a very real creature that can be tamed with a Venusian lullaby. After Hepesh and Arcturus are revealed as saboteurs - and Arcturus is blasted by Ssorg's sonic gun - Hepesh retreats to the tunnels and forms a rebellion.

THE CURSE OF PELADON is a diverse four-parter, mixing monsters and political intrigue with more than a passing nod to the UK being on the brink of joining the EEC after over a decade of negotiations. Playing out within the science versus progress debate, there is also an emotional core of a young monarch yearning for his bride against more pressing duties. The execution of the creatures are a mixed bag, but overall successful in creating real characters behind the masks: Alpha Centauri is a nervous, shuffling phallicesque mass that was instructed by director Lennie Mayne to sound like a gay civil servant, and Arcturus is one of the most bizarre Time Lord adversaries (an abrasive tentacled skull encased in an elaborate survival cell). Aggedor is too small to be threatening, the Royal Beast further undermined by its tepid taming, leaving the Ice Warriors to slowly go about their business as reformed characters.

Terrance Dick's Target novel of THE MONSTER OF PELADON, released in December 1980.

THE CURSE OF PELADON was broadcast during the 1972 UK Miners Strike, which led to many parts of the country undergoing scheduled power cuts. This accounted for a drop in viewers for the last two episodes, and such industrial action inspired the sequel THE MONSTER OF PELADON. Here, a power struggle is in place between Trisilicate miners (sporting Badger hairstyles) and the ruling class, with the workmen calling for improved conditions. Queen Thalira (Nina Thomas) - daughter of the late King Peladon - is sympathetic, but knows her planet is vital to supply the war effort of the Galactic Federation, who are in conflict with Galaxy 5. The Doctor (Pertwee) and Sarah Jane Smith (Elisabeth Sladen) arrive at the Citadel, and an apparition of Aggedor has been causing deaths underground. It transpires that human engineer Eckersley (Donald Gee) has created the spirit with the use of a matter projector and heat ray, and is in league with renegade Ice Warriors led by Commander Azaxyr (a returning Alan Bennion), in a plot to seize Trisilicate for Galaxy 5.

Again written by Brian Hayles and helmed by Lennie Mayne, to call THE MONSTER OF PELADON a sequel is overly generous, as it is just a drawn out six-part retread with major liberties. Set fifty years after the first adventure, Alpha Centauri and the real Aggedor are still present, and it seems particularly sloppy to duplicate The Ice Warriors so centrally. But the biggest coincidence is that the mineral Trisilicate - which The Doctor explained in THE CURSE OF PELADON to be exclusive to Mars - is now in such abundance on an alien world. Even Pertwee, in his penultimate serial, seems unenthusiastic, with Sarah Jane left with nothing to do apart from share a limp monologue on women's lib with Thalira and play hostage.