Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Serial 61: The Curse of Peladon

Doctor: Jon Pertwee (3rd Doctor)
Companion: Jo Grant

Written by: Brian Hayles

Directed by: Lennie Mayne

Background & Significance:
"The Curse of Peladon" is an exploration of what happens when The Doctor goes out to help out another society, not necessarily to stop a problem, but to actually help some folk out.

People have said that this story is essentially what if Doctor Who told a story in the vein of Classic Star Trek, and while I'm not a yes man by any stretch of the imagination, I'm hard pressed to disagree with them. Doctor Who, as I know it, is this show that's a whole lot more about fun and big adventure a la Star Wars than the more "serious" and "culture examiney" genre of shows like Star Trek or Battlestar Galactica. That's not to say Doctor Who doesn't do commentary, but a show about political maneuverings and intrigue is certainly not the story I tend to look for when it comes to Doctor Who.

Then again, Doctor Who has this chameleonic ability to blend and mix genres as they see necessary. Want an alien invasion story? Do Daleks. You want zombies? Do Cybermen! It's like zombies, but they're robots! They can do western stories or horror stories or thriller stories or romance stories or war stories... It all depends on what a writer wants to do with this story. The possibilities are endless.

Granted, certain of these genres blend in with Doctor Who more than others, and political intrigue (which inevitably involves lots of people talking and very little action running) is not the easiest story to pull off.

But how in the world do they pull this off? The odds are stacked against them. If there's one thing wrong with classic Who, it's the propensity to have too much talking and cut back on the high adventure. So how do they make this, a decidedly not adventure story, into a kick ass adventure story?

I'm gonna blame the cage match. But we'll get there soon enough.

So let's get to it.


Part 1:

We open on a dark looking ominous planet, and a castle carved into the mountainside. There’s wind and ominous ominous. So yeah. That.

Inside the castle, we go to a throne room, where the King of Peladon (that’s where we are) is listening to a debate between his high priest, Hepesh, and his chancellor, Torbis. Eventually, the King (who is played by Patrick Troughton’s son. W00t w00t.) silences them and tells them that he is disappointed in them.

Also interesting to note, both of these old guys look similar because they have the same exact ridiculous haircuts with a nice brown stripe down the middle of their white manes of hair. I thought they were the same actors for a while.

Ah well.

Torbis seems to win the argument and sets off to inform the delegates that the second to last one has arrived. But then, on the way to do the thing, he’s attacked! How do we know he’s attacked? He makes his attacked face!


Also, in case this matters to you, I would like to apologize for the muddy quality of the screencaps. The story itself is dimly lit and the videotape seems to be of lower quality, so I did the best I can.

Torbis’s screams catch the attention of other guards and the like. They see the thing that attacks Torbis and totally genuflect to the thing, letting it run off and such. But it’s too late. Torbis is dead and Hepesh proclaims that the Aggedor has returned and Peladon will soon fall.

Outside, the TARDIS has landed with Jo and The Doctor inside. Jo seems a bit put out that she’s alighted away from Earth for a night on the town with Mike Yates (oh ho ho! She probably means a sexy time…). The Doctor seems not to care, far too excited that his TARDIS is still working again and he’s back in business (mostly).

He checks out the scanner but it comes up blank and Jo ribs him a bit for the TARDIS’s failings.

And okay, I have two things to say about this:

1) Jo looks awesome in this serial. Really, really awesome. I love her hair, I love her dress, I really love it all. It just works.

2) After “The Green Death” and understanding Jo and seeing her as awesome and seeing what her and The Doctor are like, I really get her now. And now I love her. A lot. A LOT. I really enjoy their relationship and seeing how the two act with each other. It’s very clear that he has a very paternal affection for her and she reciprocates back. It’s just wonderful and delightful and it makes me glad I see that now.

So the TARDIS starts to tilt because of where they landed: on the edge of a cliff. The Doctor and Jo manage to jump out just in time as the TARDIS takes a nice long tumble down the cliff face. Which looks like it hurts. I know The Doctor says The TARDIS is indestructible, but my goodness. Poor old thing.

They look up the cliff face and see the castle. The Doctor realizes they can’t rescue the TARDIS by themselves, and they opt to scale the mountain and seek help inside.

In Peladon’s throne room, King Peladon welcomes delegate Alpha Centauri (whose voice is high and whose body suit apparently resembles male genitalia under that cloak) and tells him/her to not worry his/her head (heh) over the “mysterious circumstances” death of Chancellor Torbis earlier that night.

Having found a tunnel leading into the castle, Jo and The Doctor come across a lit torch, which The Doctor finds odd because it’s still alight despite the tunnels showing signs of disrepair.
He lifts the torch off the wall, but it opens up a secret passage and they head inside, but come across an Ice Warrior right away. Ice Warriors you say? OH YES.

But what are the Ice Warriors? Well, they first showed up with The Second Doctor and he went up against them twice. They’re basically Lizard Warrior dudes from the planet Mars. Which makes them awesome. Cuz they’re called ICE WARRIORS. My only problem with them is their design, which is horrid. But I want them to come back. Badly. A modern upgrading of the Ice Warriors would be so freaking awesome. I’d love that.

Anyways, The Doctor freaks out a little bit because he knows of The Ice Warriors (having gone up against them before), and they turn around to run out, but get apprehended by guards. Ruh roh!

Peladon (the king. We just call him Peladon) brings all of the delegates into the main throne room, which includes a pair of Ice Warriors, a head in a jar named Arcturis, and the delegate from Alpha Centauri. He assures them that this attack wasn’t anything worth losing themselves over and that they’re all perfectly safe, but the delegates aren’t so sure.

They ask to hear the legend of the Curse of Peladon, which talks of a monster, the Aggedor, who, while fierce, will return to protect King Peladon from an evil stranger hellbent on bringing chaos to the kingdom.

Of course, this is the moment the guards decide to bring The Doctor and Jo in.

"lol wut up guyz?"

The Ice Warriors identify The Doctor and Jo as the delegates from Earth and there’s introductions all around. The Doctor, ever with the improv goes from “Wut” to “Oh yeah. I’m totally him” on a dime. It is most humourous.

And this is what I love about this story. Literally it’s just a way of seeing The Doctor improv his way around a situation, especially when he has to proclaim Jo as “Princess Josephine of TARDIS”.

And you can totally tell that the young King Peladon is totally into Jo. A lot.

We find out that the four delegates represent the Galactic Federation and they’re here to decide whether or not to allow Peladon to join the Galactic Federation.

It’s like this whole club thing.

The delegation already starts to argue, but The Doctor silences them with his loud and awesome voice. They all opt to withdraw to the delegates’ conference room, Peladon giving his last word to Jo, saying he looks forward to seeing her again.

But as they depart, one of the Peladonian guards drops a statue on the conference delegates. And Pertwee pulls out his cliffhanger face!

Part 2:

And how do you rescue everyone from the giant statue thing that’s about to fall? You push them all out of the way! Which The Doctor does! Cliffhanger averted!

The Doctor insists they investigate this assassination attempt, but Hepesh warns them that it is Aggedor’s curse and that it’s only going to get worse. Arcturis wants to cancel, but Peladon yells at Hepesh for making his decisions for him and tells them there’s no canceling because of Peladon.

The delegates reconvene in the throne room, with Arcturis and Alpha Centauri saying they have no business on Peladon if there’s political violence as they are not allowed to get involved, but Peladon pleads his case, saying that their worlds were not so unlike his and that they can help him bring Peladon out of the dark ages.

Jo goes off to examine where the statue fell off the ledge and finds a little dingle dangle. I don’t know. She finds it and explains it later. It’s a thing.

The delegates defer their judgment to The Doctor, saying that it’s up to him as to whether they stay or leave. The Doctor affirms his conviction that they should stay and offer Peladon the chance.

And I really like this. I love how jumpy and self-interested the delegates are. They’re genuinely scared of what’s going on and it doesn’t help that it’s all being set up for them to actually want to go.

The delegation adjourns for the night and Peladon asks Jo to stay behind, and this is the first time I noticed what Peladon is wearing.

Look at that man. Short shorts and knee high boots. Christ I love Doctor Who.

So now Jo and Peladon are alone, Peladon asks if she believes him and such. She says it’s not her place, but the two bond and flirt and it’s actually rather cute, especially because Peladon feels she’s the only person he can really talk to.

And then he starts hitting on her. Oh lord. One of his lines is “My mother was an Earth woman. So you see, there is a bond between us.”

Good lord, dude. Does that mean “I’m your species so we’re made for each other?” That’s awful. I should use that to pick up women. “Hey, baby. You’re human. I’m human. What say you?”

Pathetic. Learn some moves, fancy boy.

Oh, but it gets better. *Then*, when Jo tells him she believes him, he asks her to go tell the commission of her convictions.

And she gets PISSED. Who is this fancy clown? He hits on her, flirts with her, establishes a bond, and the asks her to make some political moves?

Not suave, dude. Not suave.

Lucky, Jo is savvy to his tactics and proclaims herself neutral and walks out on him.

Elsewhere, Hepesh, who prays for Aggedor’s forgiveness, compliments his head footsoldier, Grun, on a nice drop of the statue, and tells Grun to kill the Doctor as he is the King’s enemy.

The Doctor examines the doohickey Jo found, saying it’s Martian in origin, making the Ice Warriors the prime suspects for the assassination attempt. The Doctor theorizes that the Ice Warriors are planning to colonize Peladon as they had once planned to colonize Earth.

And this scene is actually quite wonderful. It’s really great to see The Doctor and Jo bonding as people and not adventurers. Again, their relationship is charming and the gentle ribbing and playful nature of their interplay just makes me smile.

An alarm goes off and they run off to investigate, finding Arcturis spinning madly and convulsing all seizure like. Someone sabotaged his box and took out a part he needs to breathe.

The lead Ice Warrior enters with Hepesh and they demand to know what’s going on. The Doctor explains and manages to get Arcturis’s life support system back online. Without hesitation, he implies his suspicions of the Ice Warriors, but the Lead Ice Warrior says it could be any of them, noting that The Doctor, in particular, was found at the scene of the crime.

Goodness I’m loving this intrigue stuff.

While everyone’s busy arguing, Jo breaks into the Ice Warrior’s room and finds Arcturis’s life support box. She tries to get out, but is found out by the bulky Ice Warrior and restrained.
Arcturis says his memory circuits are fried and he doesn’t remember who did it. The Doctor heads off to find Jo, but gets carted away by Grun and taken into the secret passages. The bulky Ice Warrior appears and tells the other delegates that he found Arcturis’s life box in Jo’s hands.

And then Jo escapes out the window and to a corridor to safety. Sorta. She runs into the Aggedor and then runs away and gets captured by the Ice Warriors again.

Grun pulls The Doctor into one of the underground caverns under the castle, but they don’t get very far before Grun (whom, did I mention, has no tongue so he’s all mute) hears the roar of the Aggedor and runs off.

So The Doctor’s running away from the Aggedor, which looks like a beast version of Alf, but with horns and teeth and claws.

The Ice Warriors question Jo and reveal that the piece removed wouldn’t have killed Arcturis, but rather set him into a metabolic coma and the damage to his box was superficial.

I think this is something that really works in this serial. They set up the Ice Warriors to be the bad guys, but they’re just as lost as everyone else. That’s good.

The Aggedor hot on his tail, The Doctor manages to use one of the torch-activated secret passages to get back into the castle. Once inside, he comes across a statue of Aggedor and goes to touch it.

But Hepesh is there to catch him doing it. He arrests The Doctor and brings him before the King. They converse for a bit, but it’s true, the one punishment for touching a statue of The Aggedor is death.

Part 3:

The Doctor insists that he had no clue of the law and should not be punished for it. The delegates insists that that is not fair, but Hepesh, hungry for blood, insists upon the law. The Ice Warriors ask King Peladon for a Kingly pardon, saying it will be a big vote in the win column for Peladon.

But Hepesh insists on being a dick. And so does Arcturis, who says it’s against Federation regulation to interfere with the legal system. Jo begs Peladon to give the pardon, but Peladon’s not much of a ruler and apologizes for not being able to save him.

Peladon offers the only alternative he can offer because of The Doctor’s noble rank: trial by combat. The Doctor accepts and gets told of the battle to the death he’ll have to do. But we’ll just cover that when we get to it (cuz make no mistake, it will happen. Trust me).

The Doctor is sent to a holding room and locked inside, but not before he can take a jab at Hepesh for being a giant dick, saying Hepesh KNOWS of the scandal that The Doctor’s death will cause.

Jo starts yelling at Peladon for not doing enough to save The Doctor (and really, he so didn’t). She begs him to be the king he so desperately wants to be and knows he can be, but he is a weakling (have you seen his outfit? Look at it!).

Instead, he asks her to marry him and create an interplanetary alliance between Peladon and Earth.

Really, dude? Really? This is your move? You just banished dude-who-is-surrogate-father-to-the-girl-you-are-into to trial by combat, out of which he will surely not escape and you’re thinking about your junk? Good lord. I don’t think that’s okay.

And AGAIN Jo gets pissed off at Peladon for doing this crap. He says the two ideas are separate and unrelated. Condemning the Doctor to death is his duty, but asking her hand in marriage is from his feelings “as a man”.

So she gets mad and runs out on him, leaving the sniveling man-child to call out to her in vain.

The delegates, led by Arcturis, discuss the possibility that Earth and Peladon are conspiring to break up the Federation with their plans and possibly might need to be stopped.

Hepesh visits the Doctor and assures The Doctor that he doesn’t want to see him dead (right). He draws The Doctor a map that shows him how to get out of the castle and away, saying that when he gets out he’ll find the TARDIS waiting for him.

The Doctor finds it peculiar that Hepesh is out for his blood one second and then helping him escape the next. He asks him what his problem is, and Hepesh says that he thinks the Federation is wrong for Peladon and will lead to the enslavement of the planet. He’d rather take his chances with Aggedor.

After The Doctor’s retort that Aggedor won’t save them, Hepesh blurts out that Peladon does not stand alone.

Ruh roh. The Doctor asks who their ally is, but Hepesh is less than forthcoming, offering The Doctor the map so he can leave.

The delegates (now joined by Jo) argue about whether or not to leave Peladon for safety reasons. Arcturis and Alpha Centauri are for it, but Jo insists that they can’t leave now and strand the Doctor behind. Arcturis reminds her that it’s a very delicate situation and they must regroup and reanalyze.

The Ice Warrior explains that if The Doctor, as the Federation’s delegate, is killed, the Federation would swoop down and obliterate Peladon, making this whole situation that much more complicated.

Jo goes to find him The Doctor, but is held back by the Ice Warrior leader, who says he’s decided to vote against the delegation retreat from the planet, meaning (because the Federation runs on unanimous decisions) no one’s going anywhere.

I would also like to point out that the Federation needing unanimous decisions is the stupidest idea ever. Can you IMAGINE the sheer amount of NOTHING that gets done in those meetings?

(Oh, and Arcturis was eavesdropping, which is strange…)

So here’s the first youtube, which is totally priceless. Basically it’s what The Doctor does after he leaves his cell. It kinda rocks.

Spoilers. Pertwee sings.

The worst part of that? When The Doctor calls Jo an idiot. I think that’s a misinterpretation of his character. But whatever.

In the throne room, the Ice Warriors are demanding to know where Jo and The Doctor have been taken. Peladon thinks they’ve escaped (and Hepesh says they will be hunted and killed like an animal. What a douchebag), but then the two of them turn up.

The Doctor proudly declares that they went to see Aggedor and there’s a conspiracy afoot. Aggedor is far from harmful. All you have to do is treat him well and he’s sound as a pound.

Hepesh gets all holy on him, saying this is further proof that The Doctor’s a jagweed and they need to silence him permanently. When The Doctor says Aggedor is being used to STOP the Federation from including Peladon, asshat Hepesh just gets all angry and says that is defilement and treason and whatevernot have you.

Look, kids. I’ll just be upfront with you. Hepesh is being an assweed right now. He’s lying back and forth, saying there aren’t tunnels (AFTER HE DREW A MAP FOR THE DOCTOR) and trying to spark interplanetary war. How have you NOT suspected him for anything yet?

But Hepesh has had enough. He orders The Doctor taken to the trial-by-combat pit. Jo cries to Peladon, begging him to not. But he’s a pussy yes man who wears booty shorts and knee high boots. Time is wasted on him.

So what is this trial by combat? Let’s find out. It’ll take us through to the end of the episode and is probably one of the best youtubes so far in the history of this blog. And no, I’m not joking. It’s brilliant. Bloody brilliant. It’s SO classic Trek. And it’s WONDERFUL. I want to play it over and over again.

Cage match!

Part 4:

So Arcturis was going to attempt to assassinate Peladon, but one of the Ice Warriors shot him and blewed him up. Hepesh walks out, escorted by his own guard and unseen by anyone.

We find out that Hepesh and Arcturis were in league with each other and that Hepesh had sabotaged Arcturis to throw off suspicions. Hepesh and Arcturis had entered a secret alliance that would leave Hepesh effective ruler of Peladon and would allow Arcturis and his people access to mine Peladon’s minerals. They had planted evidence in the Ice Warriors’ room to throw out suspicions and just needed to get the Federation out of the way so that all could be well between them.

Got all that, Peladon and Jo?

… Okay.

Peladon is at a loss. His one and only friend has deserted him and he doesn’t know what to do. The Doctor tells him to appoint a high priest he can trust, but Peladon is reluctant, because he is a pussy. The Doctor assures him it’s not easy to be a king and he can’t be friends with everyone.

Jeez. Someone needs to get King Peladon a copy of Machiavelli. My word…

Alpha Centauri wants nothing to do with any of this, and the delegates try to “persuade” him/her not to leave. Ha. The Doctor leaves Jo in charge and heads down into the tunnels to search for Hepesh.

Hepesh, it turns out, is mounting for an attack on the castle, planning to invade with a small army he procured from... somewhere. Grun heads down into the caverns too to try and bring Hepesh to justice, but he’s knocked unconscious and the attack on the castle commences.

The delegates all decide (despite Alpha Centauri’s vote under protest (meaning he/she can claim no responsibility for what happens, just like a true politician)) to recommend full support of King Peladon to the Federation.

But then Alpha Centauri reveals that she found her communicator broken this morning. The Ice Warriors say that they can use theirs, but the lead Ice Warrior says he’s concerned that Jo will not support the delegations’ view given the circumstances.

And Jo makes the mistake of asking what circumstances.

Why, her forthcoming marriage to King Peladon, of course.


The Ice Warriors check their room only to find the communication equipment broken while The Doctor treks through the caverns and comes across the just-awakening Grun. He surmises Hepesh’s plan and realizes they’re screwed when Hepesh takes the citadel.

Then The Doctor gets an idea.

And that’s when all hell breaks loose.

And this is going to round out the youtube coverage. It’s the climax of the story, with a big epic sword fight and one of the best maulings I’ve ever seen because the Aggedor is awesome.

So Hepesh dies at the hands of the Aggedor and makes Peladon all sad and stuff. Which is sad. But Peladon insists the day be wiped from their history and Hepesh be remembered as looking out for Peladon’s best interests.

The Doctor and Jo find The TARDIS, safe and sound. Jo remarks that she hopes they get back to Earth this time, but The Doctor casts doubts. He finds it rather strange that they just happened to turn up on Peladon at precisely the right time in precisely the right place.

He thinks the Time Lords brought them there to fix the problem.

And I really love that. I love that the Time Lords just get in their way when it comes to meddling in their lives and such. Jo’s put out that The Doctor hasn’t beat them yet, but he assures her that given enough time, he will.

They decide to go see the coronation and are greeted by Peladon, who thanks them for the job they did. Peladon asks Jo to stay, but she tells him that she can’t. She has to go home. He says that he’ll see her after the ceremony and departs.

Jo and The Doctor decide to go off to the coronation, but come across the REAL delegate from Earth, who’s trying to convince Alpha Centauri and the Ice Warriors that she’s the real delegate.

Seeing this as the sort of opportunity to quietly slip away, they sprint back to the TARDIS and depart to go see Queen Victoria’s coronation, leaving everyone else perplexed as to the mystery of these two strange interlopers.

Final Thoughts?: I really, really love this story. This is the sort of story that you can just hand to anyone and say "You like other sci-fi? Watch this one" and I can just see people loving it and enjoying it.

The one drawback is that it's a bit slow all throughout, but it really takes its time to layout the plot and pepper it with wonderful conversations starring political maneuverings and the like. It more than makes up for it, though, especially episode three, which is just really, really well done.

Pertwee is one excellent form here, as is Jo. Again, their relationship officially makes their appearances for me. They're such a wonderful delight to watch and most of their screen time together is just wonderful and totally exciting.

Also fun to see are the Ice Warriors, although they are so in need of an overhaul in terms of modernization it's amazing. I seriously practically can't stand how awful they are. But I like Ice Warriors so that's okay. They really do add a great layer to this that makes it just sparkle a bit more. They don't spare any expense on the aliens and really go out of their way to make them charming and endearing and the like.There's really not much more to say except it's totally, totally excellent, so I'll just stop gushing. All in all, this is just great. Tons of political intrigue and excitement.

And then there's a cage match. What more could you want?

Next Time!: 6th Doctor! Luddites! A gorgeous TARDIS interior! A series of very dangerous wells! Transmogrified Trees! Peri gets the best dress of all time? And an analysis on how not to create effective villains! "The Mark of the Rani" coming next Tuesday!

No comments:

Post a Comment