Doctor Who: The Curse of Peladon
(4 episodes, s09e05-e08, 1972)
This was a surprising hit for me, and it’s mostly due to Princess Jo Grant.
The King of Peladon wants to join the Galactic Federation, but one of his advisors, the High Priest Hepesh, believes that an ancient curse is trying to stop this assault on their culture’s sanctity. The king’s other advisor, Chancellor Torbis, is killed by the embodiment of that curse, a creature called the Aggedor. This nearly derails the conference that is scheduled to happen now-ish since the delegates are afraid of conflict, which sounds an awful lot like another Federation we know, but they agree to wait for the delegate from Earth to arrive.
Enter The Doctor. The previously immobile TARDIS (conveniently) arrives on a cliff with the Doctor and Jo, who are out for a little spin around time and space before Jo goes on a date with Mike Yates. There’s one small problem, however, since the stormy cliffs of Peladon are not the UNIT base. In a decent bit of model work, the TARDIS goes over a cliff, (conveniently) trapping our heroes, and they begin to climb toward the citadel on the rocks above them.
When the pair arrive, they assume the role of the Earth delegation, and meet the other members of the quorum: The high-pitched Alpha Centauri delegate, the impressively operated shrunken-head-in-a-jar Arcutran delegate, and a pair of Ice Warriors.
Wait. Ice Warriors?!
There’s a nice moment of empowerment for Jo where she becomes a princess to avoid execution – only men of rank and women of noble lineage may enter the throne room – and she grabs that role and runs. Meanwhile, the Doctor saves all of the delegates from a crushing fate after a statue falls with a little help from the king’s mute champion Grun and his friend gravity. Grun is a pawn in the plot to derail the king’s vision, and Hepesh is engineering it by working the whole curse angle. But who is the mastermind? It must be the Ice Warriors, right?
Well, actually, no. And that’s the beauty of this story.
The Doctor believes that the bad guys are the Ice Warriors. He’s run into them twice before, and they’ve been formidable foes each time. This go-round, there’s even circumstantial evidence pointing toward their complicity after the Arcturan delegate’s life support pod is sabotaged, but they claim to have given up war in favor of peace and self-defense. After a bout in the Thunderdome with Grun, the Doctor believes the Ice Warriors when they save him from being shot by the Arcturan, who was working with Hepesh all along. If Peladon fails to join the Federation, Hepesh can rule the planet (even through a figurehead like the king) and sell the valuable mineral rights to Arcturus.
The Doctor locates and hypnotizes the Aggedor with a spinning mirror and a lullaby, and then leads it to the throne room to expose the reality of the curse to the king. The throne room is occupied by Hepesh and his loyal soldiers who have just staged a coup, but the Aggedor attacks the man who kept it captive, and the threat is defeated.
Jo comes clean to the king about her lineage and refuses his offer to be his consort. Jo and the Doctor hightail it off Peladon when the real Earth delegate arrives (bearing humorous gifts of a “Doctor who?” gag), and the Doctor realizes just how convenient is was that they arrived in the right spot at the right time to stop this exact plot.
Time Lords, man. Puppet-string-pulling, meddling-in-time-and-space-without-leaving-their-ivory-tower Time Lords.
I can’t say much more on this one. I liked seeing David Troughton again, especially in a bigger role than either The War Games or The Enemy of the World offered him. I also adored Jo in this story, as she has become a better companion with the re-introduction of traveling in the TARDIS. She really carried this serial.
I also really loved that the Ice Warriors weren’t the bad guys. It’s a good misdirection, and one that wouldn’t work with a higher profile baddie like the Cybermen or the Daleks.
Rating: 5/5 – “Fantastic!”
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