The Serial (4/5)
I have always asserted that the best genre fiction uses the fantastic to reflect situations in the real world. For example, George A. Romero's seminal film Dawn of the Dead works great as a fun zombie film, but the added layer of depth Romero added, by making a statement about our societies consumerism helps to separate it from less serious genre efforts that would come in its wake. The same can be said about the two Jon Pertwee era Doctor Who stories set at Peladon. They work extremely well as Sci-Fi adventure stories, but also work as a reflection of the state of politics at the time the serials were shot. This makes the Peladon serials, at least to me, a little bit more interesting than your typical Who story.
The Monster of Peladon is a sequel to the Curse of Peladon. This serial takes place 50 years after the events of Curse... Jo Grant has left the Doctor for a environmental scientist at the conclusion of The Green Death, and to take her place is fan favorite Sarah Jane Smith. A lot has changed on Peladon, they have joined the Galactic Federation, and the King has died, leaving his only daughter as Queen and ruler of Peladon. Of course the more things change, the more they stay the same, and like her Father, Queen Thalira is being pushed around by the High Priest, and is unsure about her right to rule.
In the midst of this is a rebellion from the miners of Peladon. Since the Doctor last visited Peladon, the Galactic Federation has shown much interest in the planet, namely because of the mineral triscillicate which is found in abundance on Peladon. The miners have been mining for the mineral with their primitive tools as long as they can remember,, and now the Galactic Federation once to introduce technology to speed up the mining process. The miners who are a primitive and religious bunch, who believe the technology will take away their jobs, and that their God Ageddor will curse them if they use it. This latter belief is supported by the mysterious deaths now happening around the mines and the citadel of Peladon.
It is this situation that the Doctor and Sarah Jane find themselves in the middle of when they arrive. Upon their arrival they are captured and brought to the Queen. The Doctor's prior exploits are now legend on Peladon, unfortunately, the only being who can remember them is the hermaphroditic hexapod Alpha Centauri. The Doctor and Sarah Jane struggle to gain the trust of the royal family, and the minors in the midst of an invasion by the Doctors ancient nemesis The Ice Warriors...
Over the years I have heard a good many things about the Peladon stories, mostly mixed reactions to them. The general consensus was that Curse... was the better of the two, and that Monster of Peladon was sort of an extended rehash of the first story. I, however, am willing to dispute that. As much as I love the pairing of the Third Doctor and Jo Grant, I find myself preferring the Monster of Peladon to it's predecessor.
The stories themselves do feel quite similar, as they should. I actually rather enjoyed how the insecurities of the Father, have found their way to his daughter Queen Thalira, and while the first half feels like a redo the earlier serial, it also feels like a more polished version of that story. If I had to compare it sort of feels like what Evil Dead II is to the first Evil Dead movie. Also, a good many Doctor Who Six-Parters tend to drag toward the middle but Peladon writer Brian Hayles manages to change the tone of the serial with the third episode arrival of the Ice Warriors, and thus, keeps the story fresh and interesting. It is these episodes that are the highlight of the serial, as the Doctor, has to deal with the threat of the Ice Warriors in the midst of the rebellion of the miners. The acting all around is excellent, and the director Lennie Mayne has managed to once again create a fantastic otherworldly atmosphere, while maintaining a compelling pace throughout the six episode serial.
Doctor Who: The Monster of Peladon is presented in it's original 1:33:1 full frame aspect ratio. The transfer looks absolutely fantastic, detail is good and sharp, colors are bright and pop, only a few lighter scenes seem to suffer any loss of clarity. Overall, the Doctor Who Restoration Team have created another successful Doctor Who transfer.
Doctor Who: The Monster of Peladon is presented with it's original mono track in English. The track is perfectly suitable for what it is. The dialogue comes through perfectly clear, and there is no background noise or distortion to be heard anywhere on the track.
The DVD release of Doctor Who: The Monster of Peladon is a fully loaded 2 disc set. The first extra is a commentary track featuring many members of the cast including Nina Thomas, Donald Gee, Ralph Watson, and Stuart Fell. The tracks also feature Who producer Barry Letts, and script editor Terrance Dicks. The commentaries are moderated by Toby Hadoke. There is also a fan commentary on episode 4.
This is followed on disc 2 by the Peladon Saga part 2, which is a continuation of the behind the scenes documentary from the Curse of Peladon disc. This one continues to go into detail about the Peladon stories, but goes into more detail on the characters, than the actual production. There is also a deleted scene, recreated from stills, and the surviving audio. There is a segment called Where are they Now? Which interviews the voice of Alpha Centauri Ysanne Churchman. This is followed up by what I consider the most interesting extra on this disc, a short documentary called On Target: Terrance Dicks, which goes into detail about the side career of script editor Terrance Dicks as the writer of the Doctor Who paperbacks , issued by Target books. The set is rounded off by a photo gallery, and PDF materials.
Doctor Who: The Monster of Peladon is another interesting addition to the Doctor Who canon. The story is great, and is continually interesting throughout it's six parts. The A/V is in fine form, once again, thanks to the efforts of the Doctor Who Restoration Team. The extras are completely extensive, and amazing, between this and Curse of Peladon you will probably find out everything and more you ever wanted to know about these 2 serials. For a Whovian like me this is a no-brainer, and while I wouldn't suggest these discs to newcomers to the series, for long time fans this a must buy.
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