The Monster of Peladon

Region 1

Region 2
Box Set
VHS Video
(Doctor Who Story No. 73, starring Jon Pertwee)
  • written by Brian Hayles
  • directed by Lennie Mayne
  • produced by Barry Letts
  • music by Dudley Simpson
  • 6 episodes @ 25 minutes each
Story: Returning to the planet Peladon 50 years after his last visit, the Doctor investigates deadly sightings of Aggedor that have conveniently frightened the local miners from using blasphemous high-tech tools to fulfill Peladon's interplanetary trade commitments. Can Queen Thalira come to terms with the disgruntled miners before they revolt? Have traitors infiltrated the court to manipulate the political scene once again? And will the Ice Warriors be justified to exert force to restore control to this feudal society?

DVD Extras include:

  • Parts 1-3, 5-6 audio commentary by producer Barry Letts, script editor Terrance Dicks, actors Donald Gee (Eckersley),
    Nina Thomas (Queen Thalira), Ralph Watson (Ettis), and Stuart Fell (body of Alpha Centauri). Moderated by Toby Hadoke.
  • Part 4 audio commentary by fans Robert Shearman, Toby Hadoke, Mark Aldridge, Kate Du-Rose, and Philip Newman.
  • "The Peladon Saga - Part 2" (22 min.) concludes the making-of featurettes for both this story and "The Curse of Peladon", with
    Thomas, Gee, Watson, Fell, Letts, Dicks, Sonny Caldinez (Ice Warrior), Nick Hobbs (Aggedor), make-up supervisor Elizabeth Moss,
    actress Katy Manning (Jo Grant), production assistant Chris D'Oyly-John, and sound designer Brian Hodgson.
  • "On Target" featurette on Terrance Dicks' novelizations for Target Books (21 min.)
  • TV interview clip of Ysanne Churchman (voice of Alpha Centauri) (2 min.)
  • Recreation of a lost deleted scene from part one (1 min.)
  • Easter Eggs, including audio-only behind the scenes of the Ealing filming session (5 min.)
  • Pop-up Production Note Subtitles
  • Photo Gallery sound effects montage (8 min.)

Buyers' Guide Review

by Martin Izsak

(A more in-depth analysis, containing "SPOILERS" and intended for those who have already seen the program, can be accessed here.)

A certain warm and fuzzy bias towards this story has me watching it almost every November. With its cozy all-indoor settings, and the Doctor cranking up the heat on his enemies, it brings back nostalgia of reading the novelization on a long truck ride to buy firewood one year, and of first watching the movie compilation years later during a particularly pretty November first snowfall here in Ontario.

Silence in the Citadel

A bizarre coding error in many satellite receivers in our area, and the fact that our satellite dealer was away for a two week hunting season, meant that for many years the only copies I had of this story and "Planet of the Spiders" (the next story) came to me completely silent. To keep myself interested in viewing the visuals, I dubbed all kinds of music onto that silence, whatever I could think of that had something to do with the mood of the scenes or sequences at hand. "Monster of Peladon" had a royal court nature earning it a lot of classical music, while "Planet of the Spiders" leant more towards instrumental pop songs of the 60's and 70's, especially those following the James Bond action spy trend. Subsequently hearing Dudley Simpson's scores, they do fall quite a fair bit short of my vivid auditory imagination.

Again, I do question Simpson's choice to attempt to compose "new" music for every scene, instead of taking an approach of composing less, but in a thematic style, and reusing it across a wider range of stories. His actual music ends up sounding like it's stumbling randomly over the same territory again and again, without any really solid thematic material to help tie the emotional threads of the story together. Extra attentive listening reveals an attempt at a unique Peladonian anthem during early court scenes, and the percussion motif for the Ice Warriors from "The Curse of Peladon" (story no. 61), which sounds quite like one of Jerry Goldsmith's for Star Treks five and eight, makes a slightly modified return in this story, now embellished with a particularly excellent "ice-wind" instrument effect. Why is the impact of these wonderful bits so diminished? The answer seems to lie in the brass section, which is overused in most of Simpson's scores as it tries to follow every minutia of suspense, surprise, and disappointment in the visual drama with perfect synchronization, usually doing little for the emotional subtext of a story. One becomes too accustomed to the constant presence of this ambling brass and tunes the music out. The brass accompaniment during the Peladon Anthem in particular seems to be playing a three note motif that appears monotonously typical of most of Simpson's scores. Meanwhile the unique instrumentation of the new Ice Warrior stuff seems far too subdued in the final mix. A pity. There is some good composition here after all, but one has to dig to find it.

Plot Scrutiny

The main characters of this story generally get good entrances, with the etiquette of the royal court demanding a few proper introductions on top of a good exposition of tensions between the miners and the pro-technology hierarchy ruling Peladon. The Doctor and Sarah also make a suitable entrance with the TARDIS. Although the interior is not shown, it isn't terribly necessary today. Hayles quickly and expertly uses the typical mistrust by the locals to impart through dialogue everything one needs to know about our hero and his previous relationship to the planet. Before the episode is finished, the Doctor is investigating the heart of the sci-fi mystery plaguing the Peladonians, namely the supernatural and deadly manifestations of the beast Aggedor.

Episode two's plot direction appears rather contrived, although I'll save that discussion and its spoilers for the in-depth analysis version of this review, along with the comparisons between Queen Thalira and her father. Come back and read them after you've seen the story. The script keeps the cliffhangers in this story fresh and interesting, although they seem to lack a certain power in their execution, and one of them in particular is a real let-down.

Episode Four is one of the best of the story. All the major characters and themes are in play, and the plot becomes complex yet elegant. It's probably the Doctor's busiest episode in the story. There's a really fun speech at one point, and one of the story's subplots comes to a good climax. Terry Walsh also gets to put a lot of his best talents on display.

Episodes Five and Six contain a good focus on the main plot, while a variety of action escalates the show towards its climax. Theoretically, the various elements in play here are more to my liking than those of "The Curse of Peladon". But there are some curious problems with it as well.

"The Monster of Peladon" eventually endures a bit of an anti-climax. It draws easy comparison with the ending from "Curse of Peladon", only this time the performances and the acting don't gel so well, and the drama isn't nearly as satisfying. The goodbye scenes work well enough to end the story on a high note.

Casting Highlights

I like Rex Robinson a lot in this one; I think it's my favourite of his Doctor Who performances. Donald Gee manages to remind me of Tom Baker a lot in his mannerisms. Nina Thomas can be very expressive and subtle, managing to make the Queen compelling and watchable even though the character is such a weenie on paper. Jon Pertwee and Elisabeth Sladen put in their usual exemplary work. Stuart Fell deserves mention for giving Alpha Centauri some very emotional gestures under difficult circumstances.

Imperfect as it may be, I like this story. It's got most of the elements I like to see in Doctor Who, and holds together rather well. This Peladon sequel was well worth making.

     A short list of Brian Hayles Stories, ranked from best to worst:

     -The Curse of Peladon
     -The Monster of Peladon
     -The Ice Warriors (story no. 39)
     -The Smugglers (story no. 28)
     -The Seeds of Death (story no. 48)

     ("The Celestial Toymaker" (story no. 24) that ended up in Doctor Who
     is too much of a Gerry Davis work to be included.  I would need to see
     the original Brian Hayles/Donald Tosh version of the script to rank it here.)

This story has become available on DVD and VHS video.
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Read the Buyers' Guide Review for the next story: "Planet of the Spiders"

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