The Curse of Peladon
The Ghosts of N-Space
The Monster of Peladon
|Dates||Mar. 23, 1974 -
Apr. 27, 1974
With Jon Pertwee, Elisabeth Sladen.
Written by Brian Hayles. Script-edited by Terrance Dicks.
Directed by Lennie Mayne. Produced by Barry Letts.
|Synopsis: In the sequel to The Curse of Peladon, the Doctor returns to defend Peladon from enemy spies amidst a galactic war.|
A Review by James Mansson 3/3/98
To my mind, The Monster of Peladon makes a great deal more sense if you consider contemporary events in Britain at the time - the story was broadcast in March and April of 1974, and so was presumably written in 1973.
Industrial disputes were very topical; in 1973, power cuts has led to the '3-day week', while the following year a minerís strike triggered a general election. The handling of the revolt of the Pel miners in the story would seem to be a plea for moderation on both sides of such disputes.
Peladon joining the Federation might be seen as analogous to Britainís recent entry into the EEC, which occurred in 1973. This decision had been hotly debated (shades of the first Peladon story!), while there was later (in 1975) a referendum on whether Britain should stay in, as some people felt that membership involved heavy payment in return for little benefit, much as the miners were skeptical of the benefit Peladon gained from Federation membership.
The growth of the Womanís Liberation movement had inspired (if that is the right word) the production teams decision to introduce the Doctorís first feminist companion, Sarah Jane Smith, at the start of the season. In The Monster of Peladon, the writer, in placing a female ruler at the head of a formerly male-dominated state, developed this idea further. Although her speech to the Queen on "womanís lib" might seem a little twee to us now, then it was a far more contentious issue.
So much for the background, you might say. Is the story any good?
I would rate it as middling. It has much the same basic strengths and weaknesses as The Curse of Peladon. The strengths are the atmospheric interiors and the monsters - especially that big green thingy in the cloak! The weaknesses are the Pels (the Queen is bland, and the rest arenít much better), the sets for the refinery and control room, the not-so-special effects, and a couple of bloopers so obvious that even I spotted them without prompting! The plot is more complex than in the first story, with each of the main characters having their own agenda. However, while there is certainly enough material to fill out the six parts, the story is not especially fast-paced, like so many six-parters.
A Review by Keith Bennett 10/5/98
The general view amongst Doctor Who fans seems to be that The Curse Of Peladon is better than its sequel, but I lean to the opinion that there is little between them as far as quality is concerned. Both are set on a fairly interesting planet with a very interesting array of aliens, but while Curse was something of a mystery story, Monster is more straight out adventure.
It's a bit too long really, and not terribly wonderful, but pretty entertaining all the same, with plenty of action to please. The characters vary. Queen Thalira shows more backbone than her wimpy old man did, and Alpha Centauri is again a delight, but Eckersley is a poorly drawn character. When his true intentions are revealed, he hovers between being totally ruthless, not caring who gets killed for his cause, to unable to shoot Sarah when he has the chance. And his "I will be ruler of Earth" desires are laughably unbelievable. He's got to be kidding. He hasn't got the charisma to rule a Crash Test Dummies factory.
Chancelor Ortron is, largely, just The Curse Of Peladon's Hepesh under a different name, but his aims are at least more honest, and he ends up a fairly decent chap. And, while the novelty of the Ice Warriors being goodies isn't in this story, they still come across well.
Probably the biggest fault Monster of Peladon has is that it is just a bit too similar to it's predecessor in its character and situations, if not its story. 6/10
More Than a Tedious Runaround by Christopher Fare 24/1/99
Much as I have tried over the years, I find it very difficult to reconcile the accepted view of this story (that it is a pointless and tedious runaround that should never have been made) with my own opinion, which is that The Monster of Peladon is just as good as its predecessor, and one of the strongest stories of Season 11.
Brian Hayles' scriptwriting remains at its usual high standard. The plot is quite reasonably rationed over the six episodes and the allegory to the miners' strikes of the time is well put across. Certainly there is some padding as characters are caught and escape again, as well as wandering around in tunnels and corridors, but I can think of stories that are far worse than this in that respect. The return of the Ice Warriors to their old ways (albeit via a breakaway group) is an excellent double bluff, and some intriguing new characters are introduced. We see more of Pel society here than in The Curse of Peladon, adding an extra dimension to what would normally be a tired retread.
The performances are all fine to me, although Ralph Watson's Ettis does get on my nerves. However, that is compensated for by excellent performances by Rex Robinson as Gebek, Nina Thomas as Queen Thalira, Donald Gee as Eckersley (a nicely laidback performance) and especially Frank Gatliff as Ortron. Ortron is given far more depth than Hepesh, and his eventual death whilst saving the Queen is very moving indeed. And Jon Pertwee and Elisabeth Sladen continue to show that the third Doctor and Sarah Jane could have continued as a team quite well, although Sarah's continual thinking the Doctor to be dead, followed by his "resurrection", are very wearing. It's also great to have Alpha Centauri back. It steps into the limelight more here, and is not found wanting. I don't care what people say about its appearance, the creature is one of my favourite alien creations of the whole series.
Direction and other technical credentials are excellent, and the whole production has a very polished air about it (although I will admit Terry Walsh's all-too-obvious doubling for Jon Pertwee is a comical highlight). Add to this such priceless moments as the scene where Sarah gives the Queen a talk about Women's Lib, and The Monster of Peladon stands up surprisingly well, easily tying with Death to the Daleks as the best story of the season.
A Review by Stuart Gutteridge 12/8/00
As sequels go, The Monster Of Peladon is pretty substandard, especially when compared to the superior The Curse Of Peladon. Some of the situations in the story, notably the miners revolting and the advent of Women's Lib, seem to be something that Brian Hayles was trying to reconcile with real life. But all of this carries on for at least two episodes too long, resulting in padding.
The return of the Ice Warriors is unexpected yet welcome, but this is but a small highlight in an otherwise dull story. Aggedor is overused, Jon Pertwee and Elisabeth Sladen seem to be going through the motions and the Queen and the Pels are bland and forgettable. With the exception of The Doctor, Sarah and the Ice Warriors, the only interesting character is Ortron whose motives and outcome are actually different from your standard villain. This is too similar to its predecessor to be anything special and as a result it just about fits into the category of standard runaround Doctor Who.
A Review by Stephen Mills 31/1/01
The Monster of Peladon is usually the one criticism in an otherwise excellent season with excellent stories such as The Time Warrior (I like this story), Death to the Daleks and to a lesser extent Invasion of the Dinosaurs (Despite the rubbish puppetry). Having watched it twice I struggle to find much wrong with it apart from the fact that it is far too similar to The Curse of Peladon.
We see Queen Thaliria who has an ambition to see Peladon become a successful, civilized planet like King Peladon in The Curse of Peladon. We later find out that King Peladon is Queen Thaliria's father. Alpha Centauri is no different from The Curse of Peladon. Centauri does get very scared when violence occurs. Chancellor Ortron doubles for the High Priest in The Curse of Peladon, Hepish who sides with the rebel miners and also believes greatly in the spirit of Aggedor. There is one difference that Ortron actually cares to see Peladon become a successful planet but he also helps fight the rebels. When Alpha Centauri, Sarah, Chancellor Ortron and Queen Thalira are trapped in the throne room we see them trying to escape to the communications room. When Sarah pushes the Ice Warrior she traps the Queen's escape. Ortron then desperately pushes the Ice Warrior's considerable bulk to allow the Queen to escape. This shows a caring attitude towards the Queen unlike the attitude shown by Hepish towards King Peladon.
There is also good characters who manage to succeed such as Gebek. He plays a crucial role in this story trying to keep the miners together, attacking the Ice Warriors, negotiating with the Queen and he proves to be an all action man but also very modern and civilized on a very uncivilized planet of Peladon. Technician Eckersley is one of the best characters in this story because his motives are cleverly hidden and he's cunning, manipulative and clever. He also tricks Centauri into help bringing in the Ice Warriors. Sarah Jane also takes on a good role in this story because she keeps going to the Doctor's rescue 2/3 times, advises the Queen on women's liberation and helps fight the Ice Warriors. I also think that Elizabeth Sladen gives the best performance in this story with caring consideration for the Doctor and being strong willed enough to tackle the Ice Warriors. It also affirms my belief that the 3rd doctor was much better with Sarah than the 4th.
The writing is definitely the best thing about this story as it is superb throughout with one minor blip. Brian Hayles managed to write something that you could keep watching for two and a half hours. It does it by asking a series of questions in such a way that keep the viewer interested. In Part 1 we see Aggedor appear but we don't know who's causing it. In Part 2, when Sarah goes down to the refinery she sees something that with good incidental music gives us the idea that there is something creepy lurking in the refinery. In Part 4 we wonder what the Ice Warriors actually want from Peladon. We find that out in Part 5 as well as who's causing the Aggedor trick. We also have the old question which comes up in this story, how's the Doctor going to deal with the menace. Hayles also picks a perfect setting in Peladon which creates an image of a planet still struggling to see the benefit of joining the Galactic Federation which is also very primitive and barbarous which is a phrase Alpha Centauri uses to describe the mining problem. We also find out more about Peladon such as it's miners, technical capabilities and it's use to the galactic federation. We also find out more about the galactic federation such as weapons they develop, its missions and what happens in time of struggles. There is one blip in this, which sees the Ice Warriors coming through on the communicators just before they come out of the refinery. This means that the element of surprise is taken out of what would have been a very good cliffhanger.
Overall this has very good characters such as Eckersley, Gebek, Sarah and the Ice Warriors combined with some excellent writing mean that this story is deserving of a place amongst a very good Season 11. I think it's worthy of a place among some of the Best Pertwee stories ever such as The Silurains, The Daemons, Day of the Daleks, Curse of Peladon and The Time Warrior. A good story and well worth checking out 8/10.
A Review by Jonathan Martin 27/2/01
This story definitely is a refreshing change for the Pertwee years. NO Master, NO Unit, and most pleasingly, NO Jo Grant! This is a particularly well-written adventure with the Ice Warriors back to being the bad guys, which is good, because the novelty of them being good had certainly worn off. The story contains little padding, if any, and remains interesting and exciting when watched one episode a sitting, as they were meant to be viewed. People wonder why they get bored with stories over six episodes long need to realise that they're not meant to be watched all at once!
The performances are all very good, with perhaps the person voiceing Alpha Centauri going a little over the top. All of the characters have plenty of depth and that's what keeps the story interesting. Eckersley is certainly a different sort of villain for Doctor Who, with him being the central villian in the story, not the Ice warriors. That is, until he says that ridiculous line about ruling Earth, which spoils things a bit. And, to Keith Bennet, Eckersley has no qualms about killing people when it's necessary, not for the pleasure, and there was no need for him to shoot Sarah so he didn't.
There are of course the mistakes that everyone knows about, such as the miner that gets killed by an Ice warrior and then Eckersley 3 minutes later, and I won't mention Terry Walsh! As well as that, it's pretty obvious that after six episodes of miners being killed, it's still the same bunch of blokes at the end that were at the start. And why do all (four) of the Ice warriors look so different? If they all looked just about the same then they could have avoided the problem that the miners had, but they didn't
Over all, a very good piece of drama, and ignore anyone who says Nina Thomas can't act.
Green Vader by Andrew Wixon 8/12/01
Is George Lucas secretly president of the Alan Bennion Fan Club? I only ask because, well... look at Mr Bennion's DW career. Often seen in a cool helmet-and-cape outfit. Clearly a touch asthmatic. First he's evil, then he's good, then he's evil again. Case closed, your honour...
This kind of feeble whimsy only partially numbs the disappointment of Monster of Peladon not being nearly as good as Curse was. And it's a bit bemusing as to why it isn't - same writer, same director, same sets, most of the same sets, two of the same actors... and yet the magic just isn't there. Probably this is partly due to the script - rebels versus oppressors isn't nearly as interesting as the set-up for Curse, and while there was at least a modicum of mystery in the original, there's virtually none here.
There are quite a few flaws - Sarah is poorly written, the miners look ridiculous in their badger wigs, and the shoestring budget is obvious - but the main one is that this is very badly paced. There's three whole episodes of tedious corridor-jogging with the miners before the Ice Warriors finally show up, and the big twist that they're back up to no good is thrown away after only fifteen minutes or so. Then at the end the final confrontation isn't with them at all but the rather effete and non-threatening Eckersley.
This is a real flaw as the Ice Warriors add a lot to the story; it perks up enormously in the closing stages (even if the Warriors themselves do seem to all have the wrong size heads). Alan Bennion shines again from within his suit, which makes it all the more irksome that appears to die from being stabbed in the knackers - an unworthy fate for a superior villain. That said, there are equally solid performances from Rex Robinson and Ysanne Churchman.
So, a missed opportunity in many ways, but a story that undergoes a slight but definite improvement in its' later stages. Not bad enough to tarnish memories of the original, but not good enough to rank alongside it either.
YYY was it made? by Tim Roll-Pickering 14/5/02
A direct sequel to a previous story is always a risky strategy to take, but The Curse of Peladon is clearly one of the best stories from the earlier Pertwee seasons and so a sequel to it is not necessarily going to fail if handled well. Unfortunately in many areas the story fails to live up to the success of its predecessor and the result is a long rambling mess that begs the question "Why, why why (YYY!) was it made?"
The most immediate problem is the length of the story. The plot barely covers a four part story, but has been dragged out to a six part length to fill up the requirements for the season and it really shows. The tale can be broken into two halves, which flow badly from one to another and make the whole thing even more painful.
Parts One to Three focus on the grievances of the miners and the question of whether or not Peladon's joining the Federation has brought benefits for the planet. Barely a month before the story began transmission, the British government of Edward Heath had just fallen over its failure to tackle a miners' strike and the one great achievement of that government was taking Britain into the European Union. Feminism gets an exposure in the arguments between Sarah and Queen Thalira about the rightful role of women in society, though this scene is extremely forced and does not work that well. The look of the miners implies a racial division between the ruling classes and the masses, but there's little more than that to imply any commentary on either the tensions over race or the growth in Scottish, Welsh and Irish nationalism that was occurring in the mid 1970s.
The story is to be commended for its topicality, but the whole thing is executed poorly. Neither Thalira nor Ortron are as impressive as Peladon or Hepesh from the earlier story, whilst the miners are poorly handled in their divisions between moderates and extremists. Gebek is probably the least weak of the characters presented, but this is as much a reflection upon the other major characters as upon himself. The Pels are presented as a continually superstitious race and other than the change of most of the personalities there is no indication that anything else has changed on Peladon. Alpha Centauri and Aggedor both provide direct continuity with the previous tale, but neither is especially effective and Alpha Centauri shows little sign of having been on the planet for fifty years.
The arrival of the Ice Warriors at the end of Part Three brings some improvement to the story, but the Ice Warriors are for the most part a bunch of extras lumbering around in old and ill fitting costumes. As Azaxyr Alan Bennion brings a strong presence to the story that has little competition since even Jon Pertwee and Elisabeth Sladen seem to have followed Donald Gee's (Eckersly) lead and given a less than enthusiastic performance. Nevertheless the occupation of Peladon comes off poorly given how easily the Ice Warriors are defeated and the Pels appear all reunited together.
Production wise the story has many weaknesses, with many costumes and sets showing their age, whilst the fight scene at the end of Part Four all too clearly shows that there is a stunt double for Jon Pertwee. Throughout the story there is a continual failure to generate much enthusiasm by any part of the production. The result is a poor sequel to its predecessor that fails on virtually all levels. 3/10
Make it stop! by Mike Jenkins 20/5/02
The pain of Gebec's afro. The unchanging scenery. The overpresent Sarah and the underpresent Pertwee. I don't know if I would describe this as the Apollo 13 of Doctor Who because it's not even a sucessful failure. I did not particularly enjoy the first Peladon story, though it had many strengths. This must have been a treamendous let down/disapointment for the many who truly enjoyed Curse of Peladon. The unimpressive aspects of Sladen's character really have a chance to shine here because the other travesties surrounding her performance are noticeably less interesting. Aggedor was undoubtedly a cliched monkey suited man in the first story. Here he's a bleeping laser beam! Apparantly it's enough to threaten masculine workers. King Peladon or Hepesh might not have been the most likeable characters (or the most gripping) but they were at least well acted, which is more then we can say for the Queen. Even Alan Bennion as the once noble Ice Lord is hopelessly cliched. Someone is dubiously overcompensating for the somewhat wooden pacifism of the Curse of Peladon batch of Ice Warriors (Ssorg and Izlyr).
Someone on this site recently conveyed the opinion that Claws of Axos, in their opinion, embodied everything that was wrong or askew within the Pertwee era. This story is the quintessential example for me. After 'the family' broke up, lacking the Master (but plenty of rotten costumes and effects, CSO, etc.), a cliched, underdeveloped, poorly used Elizabeth Sladen, and worst of all, NO PERTWEE! One of it's few saving graces would be the fact that it is sandwhiched between two absolute classics (Death to the Daleks and The Planet of the Spiders), any positive features pertaining to the actual story could only have been 'lichened' from the much more original (both chronologically and creatively) Curse of Peladon.
A Review by Paul Rees 24/9/03
The Monster of Peladon is not the most well-regarded of Pertwee's stories and, to be honest, this is with good reason. The whole thing is probably about a third too long and the action does get a little repetitive at times. In its defence, however, we can say that The Monster of Peladon is at least never boring: witness the interaction between the Doctor and Sarah; the reappearance of the Ice Warriors; the treachery of Eckersley; and, of course, the bizarre silliness that is Alpha Centurii. These factors mean that there is always something to enjoy at any one moment.
The effects and the sets are actually very good for this era of Doctor Who - although the costumes are admittedly a little bizarre. Peladon at least has a believable culture, and the Queen and the High Priest are both well realised characters. The real problem lies with the miners and the palace guards: there are quite obviously meant to be hordes of them although we never see more than eight or so at any one time and - let's be honest - their acting is universally awful. At times, when fleeing from an apparition of Aggedor, their screams of 'terror' are unintentionally hilarious. Of course, the fact that the guards wear ridiculously short and rather disturbingly alluring leather miniskirts doesn't help either.
The plot is pretty thin, although Eckersley's unveiling as a traitor towards the end was a surprise to me at least. It is nice to see the Ice Warriors again although, to be honest, they were more effective in black and white; their ungainliness also makes them less than formidable adversaries. I must also mention Alpha Centauri, who is surely the most ridiculous and silliest creation ever seen in the Doctor Who universe - and yet one cannot help developing a fondness towards him/her/it. It is just as well, however, that Aggedor himself appears only at the very end as in real life he is revealed to be a pretty mangy ball of fur. Terrifying he certainly isn't.
Overall, Monster of Peladon is watchable, enjoyable and often unintentionally funny. If only it were two episodes shorter, with a more concise plot and better acting from the supporting cast then it could be a pretty good story. As things stand, it's one for a rainy day. 6/10
A Review by Brett Walther 1/11/03
I'm going to make a rather shocking statement here, so brace yourself.
The Monster of Peladon is vastly superior to The Curse of Peladon.
Although it's tempting to do a hit and run with that verdict, I'll elaborate.
One of the accusations thrown at Monster is that "there's only three sets". I was completely taken aback by this argument, as I thought the set design was above par for Season Eleven. There has never been a cave in Doctor Who as completely black and menacing as Aggedor's pit, into which Sarah Jane and the Doctor are thrown. It's so effective, even if it's only a black cloth backdrop combined with some effective lighting, and an interesting shot of the Queen, Ortron and Alpha Centauri looking down through the pit mouth. There's also a seemingly endless supply of tunnels to run through, and they're all strewn with roots, as if there's a forest growing directly overtop. It's a highly atmospheric bunch of sets.
Aggedor is also much more effective here than in his first appearance, probably because the man-in-the-gorilla-suit version is largely absent until the final episode. Although static by nature, the ghostly apparition of the royal beast of Peladon is really quite creepy (except when it makes that bizarre throaty cat's meow at the end of Part One -- thankfully edited out of the reprise in Part Two!), spitting fire and vapourising whoever stands in its path. Mercifully, the atrociously designed Vega Nexos (his crossed eyes had me in stitches!) is the first on Aggedor's hit list, so his ludicrous appearance doesn't spoil the rest of the adventure.
The Monster of Peladon is not a "drawn out retread", either. Even at six episodes, it moves so much faster than Curse, which seemed to consist of endless static talking scenes. It's positively breathless, in fact, rushing from one decently choreographed action scene to another. It helps to no end that the Ice Warriors get to be extremely violent, mowing down legions of Pel miners with their powerful weapons and re-establishing their role as uber-villains. The incidental music adds to the presence of the Martians to a great extent, as their presence is often accompanied by a cold, metal-on-metal shrieking sound that is... well... chilling. (Sorry, couldn't resist.)
The backbone of the story is the plight of the Pel miners. Full use is made of the six episode format to fully flesh out the dilemma faced by the people of this planet, and is enriched by the fact that all three sides of the debate (represented by the Queen, Gebek and Ettis) gain the viewer's sympathy at one point or another. For me, this situation was far more involving than King Peladon's "do I join the Federation or not?" issue in Curse, because we actually get to see the common folk in this story, instead of just the big-wigs who are making the decisions on behalf of the people.
The Monster of Peladon also boasts one of my all time favourite scary moments in Doctor Who, in which Sarah catches a glimpse of a menacing silhouette lurking about in the refinery. At this point in the story, the Ice Warriors haven't even been mentioned, which establishes a great mystery very early on.
There's also some really decent effects like the psychedelic security system that attacks intruders in the refinery, which help make up for the oft-cited dodgy stunt-double sequences.
The Monster of Peladon is great fun, and a wonderful penultimate for Pertwee. Criminally under-rated.
Pertwee and PolySci by Brian Phelan 7/3/05
As something of a Doctor Who neophyte (I only discovered the charms of the franchise about four years ago, after years of arrogantly putting it down for its cheap special effects and cultish fanatics) I don't hold myself as an experienced enough fan to be on the one hand an iconoclast or on the other a booster of the downtrodden stories. So, I haven't found myself dissenting from the positive aura that surrounds the commonly acknowledged classics like Pyramids of Mars and The Caves of Androzani, though I have found myself wondering what's so great about Inferno, being that the Primords are a bit silly and the damn thing is SEVEN episodes long when the series finds it difficult to fill six without gratuitous padding, although I like the Star Trek Mirror, Mirror alternate reality... But back to my self-discipline as a nouveau-Whovian... I also will usually defer to the experts when they pan a story- yes, The Twin Dilemma is fairly wretched, although I like the mood-swinging Doctor, and why is everybody so mean to poor Colin anyway? Nevertheless, I am inclined to respect the opinions of those who have been in the Who game longer than I have. But for the first time, I must dissent from the Doctor Who conventional wisdom. Here it goes-
The Monster of Peladon is splendid.
After finishing watching it last night, I turned to my Third Doctor Handbook and found that the esteemed critics gave it a two and a three out of ten, respectively. Allow me to violently disagree. I would rate the program at least a seven. No, it's not quite as compact as its highly regarded forerunner, The Curse of Peladon. But it is more ambitious, mining the field of political science and international relations much more deeply than Curse, which was after all a just-so story about the UK joining the EU and how some members of the society resist and aren't willing to change with the times, and... ah, but now it's starting to sound typical boilerplate sci-fi rather than political allegory.
Now, compare that to the political aspects of Monster. First, you have the problem of class, that British obsession that we Americans are thankfully free from (kidding, kidding). Okay, so class has been done in Who before and certainly after. But Monster offers a more nuanced reading of class conflict, with the working class split within itself between the reform-minded leader (Gebek) and the violent, overthrow-the-system radicals. Into this atmosphere steps the Doctor, who cunningly urges the Queen and Ortron to a deal with Gebek, before they are forced to deal with the radicals. Pertwee's Doctor thus sides with a reformer rather than the radicals, as he usually does. That does not mean that the Doctor is an apologist for the status quo. He just believes in opening up they system to wider political participation. The Doctor recognizes the verity of that old American political saw, "those who make peaceful change impossible make violent revolution inevitable." The Doctor urges class harmony on the residents of Peladon not simply to validate the class prerogatives of the elites but rather to set in motion a process where the workers will be welcomed into an inclusive polity.
In the end, of course, Peladon achieves something like class harmony when (presumably) Gebek is appointed minister by the newly empowered Queen on the Doctor's suggestion. But the class reconciliation wasn't solely the Doctor's doing. Herein lies the second insight of the story: the role of foreign affairs in domestic politics. For besides making a point about the need for class reconciliation based on real reform, the story also comes out for the triumph of the nation and the nation-state (or in this class, presumably the planet-state or something) in the construction of identity. For ultimately it is the threat of foreign domination that heals the class wounds on Peladon. Marx's call for the "workers of [the galaxy] to unite" must have fallen on deaf ears in the mines of Peladon once alien troops arrived on the planet. Even BEFORE the Pelodonians knew that the Ice Warriors occupying their planet were working for the enemy (Galaxy 5) the court and the commoners decided to make common cause, a phenomenon repeated time and time again in the history of war in the twentieth century. One could say, in fact, that the outside invasion turned the miners into Peladonians first, workers second- and it is the court's recognition of this that causes it to open the door to reform at the end.
Are there a lot of corridors? Sure there are. Are characters captured and freed over and over again? Yes, but no more than in the sadly overrated Frontier in Space. The point is that for the second time in two months I have experienced a Doctor Who story that I wouldn't mind sharing with my students at University as a demonstration of some historical phenomenon or concept or problem (the other is the Big Finish audio adventure Omega, in many ways a deeply insightful piece on history and memory). Now if only I could get my students to stay awake through all the padding...
A Review by Brian May 8/5/07
Let me tell you about the other weekend. A close friend of mine, another Who aficionado, came down with food poisoning. Over the same two days I watched The Monster of Peladon. All I can think is - what a lucky bastard! Why should he have had it so easy?
Like most sequels, it's inferior to its predecessor, in this case the wonderful Curse of Peladon, a story I reviewed three years ago and gave a seven out of ten, a mark I'm considering upgrading. Once again Brian Hayles - and more significantly Terrance Dicks and Barry Letts in the background - aim for social commentary, bringing together the miners' strike of 1973, the British class system and a brief, tokenistic statement on feminism. Whereas Curse examined the contemporary topic of Britain's entry into the Common Market, it did so with a substantial measure of intelligence and less self-importance. Monster results in the exact opposite: it tries to do Ken Loach and fails dismally.
The length does not help; it's a plodding, ponderous six episodes of nothingness. The slowness is mind-numbing: parts two and three are the greatest offenders, but the other four aren't far behind. Whether in the throne room, the communications room or the corridor-substitute tunnels, it's endless talking with little momentum. There's only one point where you think things will pick up: the appearance of the Ice Warriors exactly half-way through/ But as soon as part four begins, the snail's pace resumes.
A little of Curse's sparkle spills over; Alpha Centauri makes a welcome return, for example. While Alan Bennion's third portrayal of an Ice Lord is his least interesting, Azaxyr is nowhere near as well written as Slaar or Izlyr; at least Bennion makes the effort (his pause between "Your judge, your jury and executioner" and "perhaps" is perfectly timed and so suave.) Given the sets and costumes are recycled from Curse, that's a few more points in Monster's favour, and at least the mines are under-lit. But that's it, really. The badger-style haircuts on the miners are ludicrous. Since when did mines have central heating? Director Lennie Mayne, who helped make Curse so atmospheric, puts in a complacent effort here. There's an inundation of static shots, men running through mines and an endless number of dull fights - whether between miners and guards, the Doctor and guards, or that excruciating struggle at the end of part four, and of course it's here Mayne has the ultimate shocker (Terry Walsh IS the Doctor!). And for the start of part five, we get the scene recapped in all its overlong, tedious glory.
Donald Gee's laidback portrayal of Eckersley has been criticised by some but I like it; it's an accurate reflection of the character. He's confident in both his technical abilities and his links with Azaxyr, so what else is there for him to do than swan about with a carefree attitude and get on with business? However his ambition to rule the Earth at the end is very silly; why can't he just crave lots of money? That's power enough. Falling back on the ultimate cliche of turning him into a megalomaniac does the character no favours at all. Frank Gatliff's overly theatrical Ortron suits perfectly and Gatliff understands the subtleties that make the Chancellor an ultimately sympathetic man. Rex Robinson puts in a decent performance, but Gebek is such a bland, unshaded character he can't do much with it - just think how Malcolm Hulke would have written him!
But as for the rest, well... Nina Thomas is too inexperienced for the major role of Thalira. Even though the Queen is also a novice at her royal duties, Thomas is unable to effectively communicate this - unlike David Troughton in Curse. But for a definition of dreadful, simply go to Ralph Watson as Ettis; wide-eyed, hysterical overacting does not a convincing fanatic make! (I can't believe this is the same actor who gave us a wonderful Captain Knight in The Web of Fear?!?) For his penultimate performance as the Doctor, Jon Pertwee is in virtual cruise control, coasting along from scene to scene with little enthusiasm, while Elisabeth Sladen is done the injustice of having Sarah so horribly underwritten, it's a wonder she turned up!
There is little to enjoy in The Monster of Peladon. It's a poor sequel. It's boring, overlong and tries too hard to be worthy. It's my least favourite Pertwee story by far. 2.5/10
Not quite as pointless as it may seem by Richard Evans 12/9/10
When it first came to my attention that there were no fewer than two Peladon serials in the series, I was quick to brand The Monster of Peladon as an incredibly pointless story. After all, the story titles differed by just one word, their sets were the same throughout and - in The Monster of Peladon - the Third Doctor is very aware that he is going back on himself by revisiting a primitive planet (as the Second Doctor would have put it). What defence, then, can this serial possibly offer?
Surprisingly, it turns out that The Monster of Peladon is an improvement on its predecessor, The Curse of Peladon. While the first Peladon story offered an entirely new perspective on the "cruel" Ice Warriors and a lesson in how not to carry out inter-planetary discussions, Monster asks us to question all of this; did Federation membership benefit Peladon in the slightest? It turns out not, because in this serial a narrow-minded, vain Chancellor still sits in a position of power, and Peladon continues to be dogged by the eponymous monster, which The Curse of Peladon apparently did away with. The Doctor realises that, despite his efforts fifty years previously, the planet is back to square one, providing an intriguing look at its unending woes. Helpfully, the Ice Warriors are far more convincing in The Monster of Peladon as ruthless villains than they were in Curse (as benevolent diplomats), headed up by the excellently named Azaxyr, their presence as self-proclaimed dictators is a clear cause for concern. (For comparison, The Curse of Peladon's villain equivalent is destroyed by an Ice Warrior with a whole episode remaining in the story. In other words, Azaxyr not only makes his evil known, but he is very hard to get rid of, eventually receiving a pleasingly unorthodox execution at the hands of a miner's sword.)
The Monster of Peladon boasts a couple of outstanding cliffhangers, a noteworthy feat given my fondness, and perfectionism, regarding them. Part Three sees the Doctor preparing to break into the obscurely placed refinery and hence determine who he is up against, only for a large, brutal Ice Warrior to walk out and answer the question before it is asked. Prior to this, it has been heard that a group of Warriors are flying to Peladon, and the viewer is naturally inclined to believe that they are the good guys. Shattering this suggestion so simply is wonderfully effective, demonstrating that an excessive build-up is not necessary for a masterly episode ending. Similarly, the final shot of Part Five is of the Warriors burning their way through a door; this is a suitably scary, rather than overly dramatic, moment of jeopardy. Most importantly, this cliffhanger cannot and does not cheat in any way at the start of Part Six.
However, despite these subtle positives, The Monster of Peladon is marred by a number of serious flaws. Revisiting the theme of amazing cliffhangers, Part Four has the Doctor knocked out by a mad miner, who then proceeds to try and blast Peladon's Citadel out of existence, only for the weapon he is using to explode. This could have been a jaw-dropping twist in the episode, but all hopes of that are completely dashed minutes earlier when the stupid Ice Warriors announce to the world that the weapon will not shoot. Such an unnecessary spoiler reduces the cliffhanger to the ranks of "those that don't fulfil their promises", and is incredibly infuriating. The net result of the explosion is the apparent death of the Doctor but he simply gets up and walks away in no time at all.
Hence, The Monster of Peladon is yet another story to try (more than once) the tired, ineffective plot convenience of the Time Lord not quite dying. Part Six attempts the strategy again; Brian Hayles obviously felt, by this point, that he had nothing new to offer in the way of plot points.
Then, of course, we have the rigorously enforced criticism which states that the serial is nothing more than a rehash of its predecessor, what with the same tunnels and archetypal characters turning up. While this view is highly shallow and misses the overall meaning of The Monster of Peladon, it does hit one scene and two characters on the head perfectly - and by that, I mean the loathsome Chancellor Ortron, the avoidable Eckersley, and the manner of the latter's demise. Ortron only serves as a renamed (albeit well renamed) remake of The Curse of Peladon's Chancellor Hepesh, so his delightfully inevitable death in Part Five gives the more gripping Ice Warrior menace room to move in the story.
Eckersley, on the other hand, could have been completely edited out of it, as he has no purpose at all until his treachery is realised (when watching the credit sequences to the first four episodes, I actually had to remind myself who the hell Eckersley was). Even when he is running around as an enemy, the man is only definable as being highly unlikeable, coming across as an unremarkable character that was made evil at the last minute only because the production team felt like it. His "plan" to "be the ruler of Earth" seems highly abstract, not to mention unreasonable. In another case of a convenient last-minute plot convenience thrown in without thought, Eckersley decides to drag the Peladonian Queen through a tunnel that starts in her throne room, and which has not been noticed in any of the previous nine episodes set on Peladon!
The Doctor takes another easy way out of the situation, somehow requisitioning the eponymous Monster to attack and kill Eckersley. I was left reeling after watching this happen, given that the Monster had previously defeated The Curse of Peladon's main villain as well. Eckersley is despicable enough to plead for help as he is being destroyed, and after falling to the floor, he breathes very deeply and visibly, showing that he is not dead at all.
The overall narrative may work well, but hindsight is a wonderful thing when it comes to highlighting minor gripes, and I must say, finding them is most frustrating. Shame on The Monster of Peladon, thus.