Doctor Who
The Curse of Peladon

Starring: Jon Pertwee
BBC Audio
RRP: £13.99
ISBN: 978 1 405 67818 6
Available 05 November 2007

The TARDIS arrives on the storm-lashed planet of Peladon, just as it is being assessed for its suitability to join the Galactic Federation. King Peladon’s Chancellor has died under mysterious circumstances, and his High Priest is vehemently opposed to the Federation’s advances. Mistaken for Earth delegates, the Doctor and Jo struggle to counter myth and superstition with logic and reason. Is the Curse of Peladon about to strike down those who would form a union with the Federation? Has the royal beast Aggedor risen to defend the planet’s independence...?

The Curse of Peladon is one of my favourite Jon Pertwee stories, not least because of its unusually diverse selection of alien life forms, including the hermaphrodite hexapod Alpha Centauri, the half-automaton Arcturus, two Ice Warriors from the planet Mars and the legendary beast Aggedor. The visual appeal of such creatures is of course lost during this audio presentation, which is narrated by Katy Manning, though we do still get to hear the shrill tones of the wonderfully timid Alpha Centauri (Ysanne Churchman). The participation of the Martians is also interesting, as writer Brian Hayles elevates them above the status of mere monsters (as they were in two previous Patrick Troughton stories) into one of the earliest examples of a fully rounded intelligent alien species in Doctor Who.

The script’s European Union allegory, with the Federation representing the EU, still resonates today: not so much in the Peladonians’ fear of new technology or of mineralogical exploitation but rather their fears about loss of sovereignty and the undermining of local laws.

Unusually for a classic series serial, The Curse of Peladon is a genuinely emotional tale, thanks to the central performances of David (son of Patrick) Troughton as King Peladon and Katy Manning as Jo Grant. Troughton brings the role of the lonely and uncertain young ruler vividly to life, the first of many guest characters to fall in love with Jo. The genuine warmth that exists between Peladon and his mentor Hepesh (Geoffrey Toone) in early scenes makes the latter’s betrayal all the more tragic.

Manning provides a lively reading of the linking narration, relishing descriptions such as Alpha Centauri’s “one huge eye” - though there are probably also degrees of relief and satisfaction at having finally got this line out, as the out-takes at the end of the first disc reveal! In her interview with Mark Ayres at the end of CD 2, the actress recalls the making of the production, including the very real attraction that existed between her and Troughton.

Though I’m still not sure why so many characters are named after their planets or star systems of origin (Peladon, Alpha Centauri, Arcturus), this right royal beast of a yarn works almost as well on audio as it does on television.

Richard McGinlay

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