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The Curse of Peladon

Production Code: MMM

First Transmitted

1 - 29/01/1972 17:50

2 - 05/02/1972 17:50

3 - 12/02/1972 17:50

4 - 19/02/1972 17:50

Plot

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 other committee members - Alpha Centauri, Arcturus and the Martian Lord Izlyr and his Warrior subordinate Ssorg - have already arrived, but are disconcerted by the death of one of the King's advisors, Chancellor Torbis. High Priest Hepesh, who opposes the union with the Federation, attributes Torbis's death to the Curse of Aggedor, the sacred beast of Peladon. Other incidents occur and the Doctor concludes that a saboteur is at work.

At first he suspects the Ice Warriors, but the guilty parties are eventually revealed to be Hepesh and Arcturus. Arcturus has convinced Hepesh that the Federation would only exploit Peladon for its mineral riches, whereas this is in fact his own race's intention. Arcturus is destroyed with a blast from Ssorg's sonic gun, but Hepesh escapes into a network of tunnels beneath the citadel, where he foments rebellion amongst the guards. The rebels storm the citadel and take the King prisoner.

Hepesh then orders Aggedor - a real beast he has been using for his own ends - to kill the Doctor. The Doctor, however, has tamed Aggedor, and it is Hepesh who dies.

Episode Endings

As the Doctor and the committee delegates leave Peladon's throne room, a large stone statue of Aggedor overlooking the passage outside the door topples from its ledge and starts to fall towards them...

Hepesh accuses the Doctor of desecrating the planet's holy of holies - the inner sanctum of the Temple of Aggedor. Peladon reluctantly proclaims that to this charge there can be no defence and only one sentence - death.

The Doctor and the King's Champion Grun have been fighting each other in a trial of strength in a deep pit. The Doctor is victorious but spares Grun's life. Peladon raises his hand to declare the trial over. Then, in a rapid succession of events, Arcturus extends his energy weapon, Jo screams and Ssorg fires his sonic gun...

The real Earth delegate arrives and looks on in open-mouthed astonishment as the TARDIS dematerialises.

Roots

Hamlet.

Star Trek, particularly Journey to Babel.

The Hound of the Baskervilles.

The UK's entry into the EC.

The Government Inspector.

Dialogue Triumphs

Izlyr : "We reject all violence... except in self-defence."

Hepesh : "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."

Dialogue Disasters

Jo Grant : [To Peladon] "I don't understand you! One minute you're condemning the Doctor to death and the next you're proposing to me!"

Double Entendre

King Peladon : "There is no plot! I am being completely honest with you!'"

Continuity

The Ice Warriors don't recognise the Doctor or the TARDIS, and state that they are 'from Mars' (see The Ice Warriors). They maintain an aristocracy. Their spaceships are opened by electronic keys. Trisilicate is only found on Mars. [The Pels are either colonists who have forgotten Earth or are non terrestrial humanoids, perhaps the former, since Peladon has atmosphere, temperature and gravity similar to Earth's, and the Pel 'H' is the same as in the English alphabet. They are biologically compatible with humans (Peladon's parentage).]

The Doctor has telepathic empathy with animals and is skilled at spear fighting. He is sent to Peladon by the Time Lords [the CIA] who seem to have an interest in the Federation progressing successfully. [Doubtless it pacifies many potentially aggressive species in the Milky Way.]

Location

Peladon.

Future History

Peladon is about to be admitted to the Galactic Federation (which includes Alpha Centauri, Arcturus, Earth and Mars). Earth is regarded as 'remote and unattractive' by Alpha Centauri, whose solar system is next to Earth's. [This is a measure of Earth's low standing within the Federation, explaining why the others don't see any problem with Jo's status as a Princess.]

The Ice Warriors assume that Earth still has an aristocratic system. Federation law doesn't allow armed political conflicts, only accepts unanimous decisions, and cannot over-ride local laws.

Untelevised

The Doctor's been to the coronation of Elizabeth I, or perhaps Victoria. He can't remember which, (but isn't worried about attending twice).

Trivia

This story is an allegory of the UK's accession to the Common Market - a highly topical issue at the time of its original transmission.

The only on-screen credit for Terry Walsh's short-lived stunt group PROFILE. Walsh had by this point superseded Derek Ware as the series' regular stunt co-ordinator, but would subsequently be credited simply under his own name.

David Troughton, playing King Peladon, shared a flat with future Doctor Colin Baker at this time.

Sonny Caldinez replaced David Purcell at a late stage as Ssorg.

Amazonia, the real delegate from Earth, is never referred to by name in the story's dialogue; her name is given only in the closing credits.

Myth

The natives of the planet Peladon are called Pels. (They are not called by this name here.)

Izlyr is an Ice Lord. (Although he is referred to as a Lord, the term 'Ice Lord' is never used.)

Goofs

The Doctor is nearly hit by the swinging secret passage door in episode one.

Jo's hair straightens when she climbs back into the citadel.

Why don't the delegates use Arcturus' radio?

There's only one bed in the Ice Warriors' quarters.

If Centauri's a hexapod, what's (s)he walking on?

Fashion Victim

The Pel's streaked hairdos.

Jo's pink party frock.

Jo keeps her high heels on to navigate narrow ledges.

Cast & Crew

Cast

The Doctor - Jon Pertwee

Jo Grant - Katy Manning

Aggedor - Nick Hobbs

Alpha Centauri - Stuart Fell

Amazonia - Wendy Danvers

Arcturus - Murphy Grumbar

Grun - Gordon St Clair

Guard Captain - George Giles

Hepesh - Geoffrey Toone

Izlyr - Alan Bennion

Peladon - David Troughton

Ssorg - Sonny Caldinez

Torbis - Henry Gilbert

Voice of Alpha Centauri - Ysanne Churchman

Voice of Arcturus - Terry Bale

Crew

Director - Lennie Mayne

Assistant Floor Manager - Ros Anderson

Costumes - Barbara Lane

Designer - Gloria Clayton

Fight Arranger - Terry Walsh

Fight Arranger - PROFILE

Film Cameraman - Fred Hamilton

Film Cameraman - Peter Sargent

Film Editor - Michael Sha-Dyan

Incidental Music - Dudley Simpson

Make-Up - Sylvia James

Producer - Barry Letts

Production Assistant - Chris D'Oyly-John

Script Editor - Terrance Dicks

Special Sounds - Brian Hodgson

Studio Lighting - Howard King

Studio Sound - Tony Millier

Title Music - Ron Grainer and the BBC Radiophonic Workshop, arranged by Delia Derbyshire

Visual Effects - Bernard Wilkie

Visual Effects - Ian Scoones

Writer - Brian Hayles

Bottom Line - from The Discontinuity Guide

Dull, but worthy. There's a fight scene in episode three that goes on forever, but is actually rather good. Jo gets accidentally hypnotised by a spinning mirror.

Analysis - from Doctor Who, the Television Companion

One of Doctor Who's most celebrated and popular features is the wide variety of weird and wonderful alien races that it presents. Every so often there comes along a story in which the Doctor encounters not just one or two different types of creature but a veritable menagerie. A good example of this is season two's The Web Planet, the only story (with the obvious exception of Inside the Spaceship) to involve no humanoid characters at all, apart from the Doctor and his companions. Another is The Curse of Peladon, featuring the cowardly hermaphrodite hexapod from Alpha Centauri; the delegate from Arcturus encased in his elaborate life support machine; Izlyr and his Warrior companion Ssorg from Mars; and Peladon's legendary sacred beast Aggedor.

These creatures are fascinating, not only because of their striking appearances - although the designers certainly deserve considerable credit for the excellence of their on-screen realisation - but also because they each have their own particular 'characteristics'; in effect, their own personality. Much of this is down to Brian Hayles's fine scripting, but much too is conveyed by the different and distinctive ways in which the creatures move and speak.

In the case of Alpha Centauri, for example, it is not only the physical appearance that is striking but also the timid, shuffling gait and nervous movements effected by actor Stuart Fell within the costume, and the shrill, high-pitched voice created by vocal artist Ysanne Churchman (who was apparently instructed by director Lennie Mayne to make the creature sound like a gay civil servant!). Similarly, in the case of the Martians, it is their slow, lumbering movements and rasping, whispered speech that stick in the memory.

The presentation of the Ice Warriors as 'reformed characters' (a suggestion made by the production team) is inspired, and the Doctor's initial misguided distrust of them a nice twist. 'The handling of the Ice Warriors was the best I [had] seen aliens dealt with for a long time,' concurred Martin J Wiggins in Oracle Volume 3 Number 6, dated May 1980.

'While there [had] been instances of aliens being apparently good and turning out evil, this was a rare occurrence of the opposite happening. Brian Hayles was able to play on [the viewer's] old prejudices against the Martians... and then to turn the situation on its head. This had two advantages: it obscured the true villains and made the story more of a mystery, and it made the Warriors more real. It is all very well to have them as slavering conquerors all the time, but this story showed that they were motivated not by dedication to evil but by self-interest.'

Izlyr is perhaps the only one of the alien delegates to come across as a three dimensional character in his own right (it is a perennial problem in Doctor Who that where creatures lack any recognisable features there is little that can be achieved in the way of in-depth characterisation), but this is more than made up for by the excellent portrayal of the Peladon natives. The complex relationship between Peladon and Hepesh is a particular highlight of the story, as is the nascent romance between Peladon and Jo. Indeed, the planet Peladon and its civilisation as a whole are wonderfully conceived and realised.

'Peladon was a compelling setting from the first,' noted Wiggins. 'A barbaric, medieval castle was juxtaposed with the sophisticated technology of the Federation delegates. This clash between barbarism and civilisation went down to the very roots of the story, with the political leaders' desire for progress checked by opposition from [a] religious leader.

'As the story progressed, it was shown that Hepesh was willing to do anything to prevent the planet being jerked into civilisation, even to commit sacrilege by cruelty to the royal beast, or be false to his own beliefs by conspiring with one of the aliens he professed to hate. As it was, he omitted to give thought to Arcturus's reasons for giving help... Hepesh is thus a very interesting character: a fanatic, a patriot, but above all, a man doomed to failure.'

'Brian Hayles' script is a masterpiece,' enthused Anthony Brown in DWB No. 116, dated August 1993, 'superbly structured and filled with exquisite characters, whose depth makes it possible for them to behave in utterly unexpected ways without acting atypically. Plot twists come out of nowhere, the point behind Hepesh's machinations always unclear until the moment when the trap closes around his victim. Every cliffhanger is integral to the plot, twisting it in a new direction which provokes reactions from the characters, in turn driving the plot.'

The Curse of Peladon is a hugely enjoyable story, and one of the real gems of the third Doctor's era.

< Day of the DaleksThird DoctorThe Sea Devils >

This episode guide is made up of the text of The Discontinuity Guide by Paul Cornell, Martin Day and Keith Topping, and Doctor Who: The Television Companion by David J. Howe and Stephen James Walker.

The Discontinuity Guide © Paul Cornell, Martin Day and Keith Topping 1995.
Doctor Who: The Television Companion © David J Howe and Stephen James Walker 1998, 2003.



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