Having said this is a dull premise, it’s actually a very watchable adventure. By no means up there with its neighbour The Sea Devils it is strangely compelling. I’m not sure whether this is because it’s any good, or whether the Peladon tales are some of my first memories of Who and therefore can do no harm. Everything is very slow, however, and the tale flip flops from the Doctor being believed, and sentenced to death, then believed again. Add to this some odd character traits, some leaps of faiths and more holes than a holey thing, and this shouldn’t really work.
I enjoyed it though. David Troughton’s King Peladon is earnest and true and the best thing in it, if you don’t count Alpha Centuri, and Katy Manning manages to make Jo the cutest thing ever. This is quite a departure for the format of the time, with no UNIT or secondary cast like the Master, and it’s curious to see that, really, this is the first time that Doctor/One Female Companion template which works even today was tested. Jon Pertwee sails through the whole thing slightly too comfortable in the role, but nonetheless a commanding figure. The Ice Warriors are clunky and slow, and with only two of them they really aren’t much of a threat. Despite all the things that should be wrong with this, it definitely is worth watching. The lighting is particularly noticeable, as is the model work. Just don’t think too hard about Aggedor!
Two years later, The Monster of Peladon is basically a rehash and reverse of what has come before, the same talky scenes interspersed with a bit of action. This time Brian Hayles decides to allegory the miners strike and to this end a lower cast is developed in the form of the Northern speaking miners. Try not to be offended, there was none intended. Again a mix and match of alien creatures make an appearance, including the infamous Alpha Centuri and again the Ice Warriors, and now Peladon has been replaced by his daughter, Thalira. The switch in gender of monarch basically sign posts every other surprise in the whole thing. It’s curious that the co-star Donald Gee, the devious Eckersley, looks very like Tom Baker!
This story is slightly longer with six episodes, but merits it, as the miners plight makes more sense than the constant debating about Federation membership – and you thought George Lucas thought of it first! There is more action too, and more people, which makes the place look a little more populated, and there are a few more characters, each with a decent motivation. The Ice Warriors of course return, this time as proper enemies and with some very brutal methods. However, the outfits are awful and some of them look really bad. And they insist on dubbing on voices to mouths we can see aren’t moving. Pertwee seems more awake this time round and throws himself into it, maybe a renewed vigour now he knows he’s leaving. Sadly, Lis Sladen’s Sarah is a bit unlikeable, agressive, balshy and a little too “womens lib” to work properly. But, all in all, this is another very watchable adventure, and the faults are outweighed by sheer nostalgia.
The extras are a fine bunch too. Both commentaries, as is becoming the norm, feature Uncle Terrance and the late Barry Letts and both continue to amaze with well recounted tales and anecdotes and memories. Katy Manning joins them in Curse, again being outrageously lovey, doing brilliant voices and, I imagine, lying her arse off! Fabulous. Also joining is the ever modest Chris D’Oyly-John, who’s insight is fascinating. When he get’s a word in. Monster is voiced by Terrance and Barry, along with “body of Alpha” Stuart Fell, Donald Gee, Nina Thomas, Ralph Watson and coralled by Toby Hadoke and makes for a busy commentary, but not everyone is there at the same time. However, it does come across as very crowded at times. Still interesting stuff.
Also on the extras are a touching short “Jon And Katy”, a potted history of the Ice Warriors, story boards, photo gallery, all the usual, as well as a two part documentary on the making of both serials, which, in my opinion, hold the funniest line ever muttered on a DVD, especially by Uncle Terrance, as he does an impression of director Lenny Mayne and his immediate impression of the original Alpha Centuri. “It’s a giant dick!” Uncle Terrance says. I almost spat my coffee out. Genuinely funny.
This boxset is out on the 18th January, and is retailing at £29.99. Definitely worth it.