It is a common misconception that The Monster of Peladon is a sequel to The Curse of Peladon. In fact, it is the same story, with (some) different actors. Fifty years later in plot terms, and Aggedor is still in his pit, Alpha Centauri is still loitering around, a weak ruler is struggling with a treacherous priest and the Ice Warriors are back. Ortron is Hepesh all over again and Vega Nexos is the odd alien who gets dispatched early on, just like Arcturus. Thalira is an (oh-so-irritating) carbon copy of her (ditto) father and she has another mute champion. There is some enjoyment to be had in the familiarity of it all, which would have been even more the case for viewers at the time who perhaps had fond memories of The Curse of Peladon.
In order to stretch the story out to six episodes, there are a few additional plot elements. Most notably there are the miners, who are revolting (at least their hairstyles are, anyway). The miners’ strike is another example of Doctor Who reflecting contemporary concerns. There had been a major strike in 1972 in the UK, two years before this episode aired, and then the same year as The Monster of Peladon aired we had the three-day week due to industrial action by coal miners. That had only come to an end on 7th March 1974, with the first episode of Monster airing on 23rd March, so this was a raw topic. Doctor Who has rarely been so contemporary in its allegories. But it is not surprising that a script writer would feel compelled to write something like this, because the three-day week was hitting very close to home while Hulke would have been writing his scripts, with television broadcast restrictions due to lack of power running from December 73 through to February 74, cutting off the BBC’s late night output at 10.30pm.
Apart from Gebek the miners all come across as very irritating, at times displaying a frustrating level of stupidity. Eckersley is a much more interesting character, although not quite convincing as the power-hungry, ruthless villain he is supposed to be. It is good to have the Ice Warriors back, and also see them restored to villainy, although they are devalued slightly by being portrayed with a lack of intelligence. Gebek’s ‘co-operation’ speech in Part Four wouldn’t fool anyone… except Ice Warriors apparently.
A lot of the story’s problems could be forgiven if it had been made to a higher standard, but there are several distractions from our enjoyment of the plot. The studio-bound nature of the story doesn’t help at all, with the flat studio floor and the join between the cave walls and the floor often visible. The end of Part Four unfortunately features some of the worst stunt-doubling in Doctor Who history, with Terry Walsh’s face in shot (and even when it’s not that awful grey wig is not fooling anyone).
The first three episodes drag horribly, suffering from the 3+3 structure, when a traditional 2+4 would have been less hard-going (i.e. the Ice Warriors turning up an episode earlier). Luckily, the wonderful Elisabeth Sladen is there to keep us watching, making the most of her few good lines (‘pompous old idiot!’). Unfortunately the Doctor himself doesn’t fare so well in this story, with his morality a bit off from what we would usually expect. He goes armed with a sword to tackle Ettis (he abhors weapons when it suits him) and is responsible for the death of Aggedor, basically using the animal as a weapon against Eckersley.
I would normally conclude that, as with most six-part stories, the best thing that could have been done with The Monster of Peladon would have been to cut out all the padding and reduce the episode count to four. But then you really would be left with a re-shoot of The Curse of Peladon. RP
The view from across the pond:
My love of Doctor Who started when I was very young in a time when finding anything related to the show was nearly impossible. So when I received a Doctor Who book for Easter, I was both surprised, and delighted. I didn’t so much read it as devour it. (It was The Aztecs). At this point, I didn’t know anything about regeneration so the description of the Doctor meant little to me, but the adventure was wonderful. So I went to B. Dalton in the Staten Island Mall and found The Monster of Peladon. And maybe one or two more… The cashier who rang me up would encounter me again in the future buying a couple more Doctor Who books, which would strike him as odd and somehow memorable – that’s a far longer story, but 30 years on, we’re still friends and getting together weekly! (Yet another time the Doctor bonded people! Thanks for being there that day, Rob!)
Back to Monster of Peladon…
Coming off the wonderful Curse of Peladon, this is a pale shadow. In its favor, it has Lis Sladen as Sarah Jane Smith, the ultimate companion. And it has a Queen replacing that preposterous king Peladon; she’s far more likable if you ask me, though little more than a repeat. If nothing else, she’s reasonably cute and her hair actually looks nice, unlike the rest of her subjects. It’s a reach, I know, but I just hated the King… And our old pal, Alpha Centauri is back on all 8 of his/her/its hexapod legs… but after that, it just does not hold up. There’s very little redeeming about the story as Roger said, it’s just a remake of its stronger predecessor! And it drags though all 6 of its hexapod episodes… (how was I expected to resist that?) On top of that, they killed Kenny… um, Aggedor!
Reading the book was so much better as I had not encountered any of it before, but after seeing it, it was literally a drag. Also, I could not get out of my head that Gebek was in fact Doctor Tyler from The Three Doctors just with a far worse hair style!
I mean, look at that thing!! No, that’s not a raccoon he’s wearing. That’s meant to be his hair. I almost wish it were the hide of Aggedor worn as a trophy, but nope… we’re expected to believe that any race could be both intelligent and thusly coifed.
And the Ice Warriors, the proud race that we just learned so much more about two years earlier (or 50 from your point of view). Yep, back to plain old witless villains. Allegory or not, it’s hard to watch something that drags. What we must not forget is that Doctor Who was shown in 25 minute episodes once a week – in other words, some Who was better than none, so we can perhaps forgive this story, but it might explain why the Ice Warriors went away for so long before showing their faces in the Whoniverse again. I too would be ashamed of trying to take over a planet of such hairdos!
I hear there’s a sale on raccoon wigs, so I’m off to see what I can find… ML
Read next in the Junkyard… Planet of the Spiders