Wednesday, 10 June 2009

Doctor Who: Curse of Peladon

Part One

“It was not I who chose to quarrel!”

Without warning we’re thrust straight into scenes on an alien planet, a particularly disorientating experience at this point in the show. The scene works well both as exposition and as introduction to themes and the Peladonian characters. David Troughton looks very like his dad, particularly so at this very first appearance. He’s playing a king struggling to match his father’s achievements. There’s so much I could say about that!

Without any explanation beyond a brief allusion from Jo about how the Doctor’s got the TARDIS working again, the Doctor and Jo arrive on Peladon. The scene with Jo exiting the TARDIS at the last moment before it plummets to the ground is extremely well done. Still, for the purposes of her soon-to-be assumed princess persona it’s rather convenient that Jo’s “all dolled out for a night on the town with Mike Yates”.

The delegates are an odd bunch. There’s Alpha Centauri, with its slightly rude shape and funny voice, the sinister Arcturus, who blasts what is no doubt a priceless antique as a social nicety, and some Ice Warriors! In colour! With Alan Bennion back as an Ice Lord! More references to the past for the second story in a row. Two seasons of what felt like an almost completely new programme and now this- it’s great, but somehow also it feels like a bit too much a bit too soon.

The Ice Warriors advance on the Doctor- and welcome him to the delegation. A nice subversion of our expectations. A good episode, marred only by a cliffhanger not exactly exuding danger.

Part Two

“There is no plot!”

Jo’s a bit harsh to shout at the king like that! He seems a nice chap, even to a semi-republican like me. The Doctor also seems to be a bit unfair on the Ice Warriors, calling them “a savage and warlike race”- but saying that may not quite be in the spirit of the marathon. It would probably help if I’d not seen this story before- clearly and understandably we’re supposed to suspect the Ice Warriors. But Jo is right about accusing the Doctor of jumping to conclusions.

Generally, though, this story continues this season’s mellowing of the Doctor, and again he’s likeable here. He’s even good-humoured in the face of Jo’s spot-on accurate mockery: “Oh, come on! You love all that Chairman Delegate stuff!” Jo also gets to show her resourceful, escapologist side by escaping from the Ice Warriors’ room via a dangerous looking ledge. In high heels! She may be a bit dippy sometimes but there’s a bit of the Emma Peel about Jo.

The Doctor and Jo suspect the Ice Warriors of trying to murder Arcturus and the Ice warriors, not irrationally, suspect the Doctor. But Izlyr’s not being irrational, and you can certainly see his point of view.

Part Three

“Yes, you’re a wily old bird, aren’t you, Hepesh?”

The Doctor has been sentenced to death, seemingly just to provide a cliffhanger, but this turns out in fact to be a decent pretext for some interesting development of the delegates. It’s notable that Izlyr sticks up strongly for the Doctor. Meanwhile, the relationship between Jo and His Nibs seems to be developing a bit fast- do they really know each other well enough for all these strong feelings to have sprung up? I suppose that’s the problem of having a romantic subplot in a four part episodic action drama- by definition there can’t be enough time to develop things properly.

I really like the development of Izlyr here- not only is he honourable, saving the Doctor in return for having his own life saved from that oh-so-deadly falling statue, he’s also very sharp, picking up on what’s going on as quickly as the Doctor is.

The Doctor shouts at Jo for having the temerity to interrupt his chanting a Venusian lullaby at Aggedor (!) but this time Jo challenges him right back and he gives ground. Is this a bit of character development I see before me? Is this going to be sustained, with Jo becoming more assertive? We’ll see.

Part Four

“It’s not easy to be a king.”

It turns out Izlyr really is smart- after the Doctor does his Hercule Poirot speech, our Ice Lord gets to say “That is as I suspected”, and he’s earned it. There’s more good character stuff in this episode, although the story is pretty much over five minutes in and Hepesh’s attempted coup feels like a bit of an epilogue. A pity- after three episodes this was on course for a 5/5.

Another nice moment for Jo as the Doctor asks her to “take charge of the conference” while he faffs about in the caves. And a very good job she does, earning Izly’r’s respect and confidence- I love his aside to Jo about preferring Arcturus’ treachery and cold logic to Alpha Centauri’s hysteria!

There’s a nice ending, with the Doctor confessing to Jo that the Time Lords must be behind the trip and Jo finally dumping Peladon’s rather wet monarch. And the final scene, with the real Earth delegate arriving, is perfect.

Almost a 5/5 overall, but I had to dock it a point for having the story end at the start of part four. The remaining plot never felt like more than running on the spot, although the characterisation remained good.
Oh, and this is the first story since The War Games not to feature the Brig!

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