Sunday, 5 July 2009

Doctor Who: The Monster of Peladon

Part One

“I don’t want to leave Peladon without having a word with my good friend the king…”


The first shot instantly tells us we’re on Peladon again, although this time it’s far more obvious that the citadel is just a matte painting. We get miners, bizarre hairstyles, and this rather cool looking alien from Vega who quickly gets killed. We also get Alpha Centauri, now far more annoying, and a very fit looking queen. Oh, and the Doctor’s hair has never been bigger.

This is a story made about miners in 1974, so it’s clear there must be a subtext about Edward Heath and the miners’ strikes of the time, but sadly I’m not so read up on this to be able to spot any parallels. This seems to be a very left-wing script though, especially from a post-Thatcher perspective. The Doctor even states at one point “When miners have to take up arms to protect their rights, they probably have reasons.”

Part Two

“How unfortunate! What a catastrophe! Has she been harmed?”

The Doctor rather stupidly lets the miners know how to open the armoury door, in an alarmingly lazy bit of plotting which hints to us that this may not turn out to be any good. There’s also a lot of tiresome mistrust of the Doctor by Ortron to fill up time- I hate this kind of thing; only Malcolm Hulke is really able to pull it off. And Alpha Centauri is getting really annoying.

It’s interesting to compare what this story is saying about the Federation to what we heard in The Curse of Peladon- if the European Union metaphor is still in operation then this story seems much more Eurosceptic, implying that membership has benefited the Peladonian aristocracy but not its people. I’m not sure how much relevance that has to 70s Britain, mind.

Part Three

“Since she is only a female her activities are of little importance.”

I think this is the point that it becomes obvious that the queen is so irredeemably wet that it’s completely implausible that she’s retained her position, especially in such a patriarchal (and don’t we know it) society as this one. Sarah’s “advice” to the queen on, ahem, “Women’s Lib” of course treats the subject with all the seriousness and gravitas that it requires. “It isn’t like that on Peladon”, indeed.

Meanwhile, Alpha Centauri continues to greatly annoy. Without Izlyr around to make snarky comments about him, you just want him to get off the screen. And why does he accept the Doctor so readily, especially after the ending to The Curse of Peladon?

We end with two momentous events- the sonic screwdriver being actually used as a screwdriver (shock, horror) and the appearance of some Ice Warriors. The very last thing we were all expecting, I’m sure.

Part Four

“I am the law!”

Suddenly, without warning, from coasting along on the trajectory to a 1/5 for three episodes, the story perks up a bit with the arrival of Judge Dredd- er, Azaxyr. His summing up of the situation is great, with Alan Bennion acting everybody else off the screen even with a bucket on his head.

And then we get an entertaining speech with a double meaning from Gebek, and a rather fun swordfight from the Doctor. Things still haven’t improved to the point of actually being any good, but a 2/5 is now looking possible if the standard can be kept up.

Part Five

“He was the most alive person I’ve ever met.”

Sarah believes the Doctor is dead, but it’s obvious from the shot of the explosion that the Doctor wasn’t anywhere near caught up in it.

It’s a genuine sock that Azaxyr, and especially Eckersley, are traitors working for Galaxy Five. For some reason I find it hilarious to hear Alpha Centauri say “Thank you, Eckersley, but you are still a traitor.”

Part Six

“You sure you don’t want to take the job, Doctor? Civil Service post, with a pension…?”

This episode spend most of its time just plodding on, waiting to end. The Doctor’s apparently dead again but we don’t care because the story cried wolf in this way only an episode ago. It’s hardly a surprise to hear he’s just put himself in a trance.

The story seems to have finished with Azaxyr dead, but oh no- Eckersley has to go and kidnap the queen, just to pad things out for a few more minutes. Still, he gets a nice ending- Death by Aggedor.

That was awful. I’d probably have to go all the way back to The Underwater Menace to find a story I disliked so much. A half-hearted rehash of Curse of Peladon but without any of the charm or characterisation, and with six episodes to fill and a plot which is really quite thin, most of the story is just padding. Dull and boring, with even the coolness of Azaxyr not raising it from a 1/5.

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