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Review #3060: Classic Doctor Who: “The Monster of Peladon”

Posted on the 12 October 2011 by Entil2001 @criticalmyth

Written by Brian Hayles
Directed by Lennie Mayne

“The Curse of Peladon” was considered one of the best serials for the Third Doctor, rife with pointed commentary on contemporary politics. So it’s not too shocking that the producers and writers would want to go back to that particular well, as the Third Doctor era was well into its final lap. The results are mixed, to say the least, and part of the problem is that the serial is extended far beyond its natural length.

Review #3060: Classic Doctor Who: “The Monster of Peladon”

“The Curse of Peladon” was a meditation of sorts on the UK’s societal debate over entry into what would eventually become the European Union. Beyond internal disagreement, there were various other nations that either supported or opposed British entry, and those nations are presented within the context of the story. None of that is truly represented in “The Monster of Peladon”; instead, the story plays out more conventionally, with Federation members conspiring to control Peladon, and Pel miners rebelling in protest. The fact that this ultimately boils down to six episodes of running about in tunnels and corridors doesn’t help. (Granted, mining disputes were very relevant at that time, so there is a bit of an attempt to be timely.)

“Doctor Who” is rather free with technical logic, but this story takes the cake. A great deal of the plot revolves around the Federation’s vital installation of central heating/air conditioning in the mines, which is apparently essential to the miners’ survival. How, then, the Pels managed to mine the tunnels just fine before Federation intervention is a rather gaping plot hole. It’s clear from the presentation of the mine itself that this is hardly a new vein.

I’m also a bit disappointed in the notion of the Ice Warriors reverting to villainous status. One of the best elements of “The Curse of Peladon” was the reversal of expectation: the Ice Warriors turned out to have cast aside their belligerent ways, providing a lesson as the Doctor struggled to shift his perspective. Making them switch back to villainy robs that earlier story of one of its better advancements within continuity.

As if aware of the loss of relevant geopolitical commentary, early episodes focus a bit on sexist elements of Peladon’s society, as Queen Thalira struggles with the fact that she is a figurehead, overruled regularly by the male “advisors” around her. Sarah Jane, having been established as a strong proponent of women’s liberation, presses Thalira to take control of her people. This seems to be building to something over the course of the story, but then it is unceremoniously dropped. (At least, that was my impression.)

I can’t emphasize enough, however, that the biggest problem is that this relatively bare and obvious story is stretched over six episodes, and so it feels like everything progresses at a snail’s pace. Even watching it over a period of time, episode by episode, it is an exercise in tedium. A shorter serial, more focused on the social commentary that was gamely attempted, would have provided a more worthy follow-up to the original Peladon tale.

Writing: 1/2
Acting: 2/2
Direction: 1/2
Style: 1/4

Final Rating: 5/10

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