Doctor Who: The Monster of Peladon
(6 episodes, s11e15-e20, 1974)
The Doctor returns to Peladon, and that means we get more Aggedor! Well, kind of.
As this serial gets rolling, I hadn’t noticed before now that the opening credits have a glitch. When the Third Doctor transforms into a silhouette and joins the wormhole effect, the zooming leaves an artifact in the lower left corner of the screen until the Doctor Who logo appears. I can’t un-see it now.
Anyway, back to Peladon. Three miners are moving a device called the sonic lance when they are attacked by something called the “Spirit of Aggdeor”. It’s no surprise that the miners are afraid and refuse to work any longer, and it’s also no surprise that it’s time for the Doctor to arrive. Right on cue, the Doctor brings Sarah Jane to Peladon to show her “one of the most interesting places” he knows, and they are almost immediately apprehended.
They are taken before the queen, the daughter of the king we saw on the Doctor’s last trip to Peladon, who is working with the Federation delegates to keep mining production moving. Our travelers arrived in the height of war between the Federation and Galaxy Five, and their appearance correlates with fears of enemy spies being implanted in the Federation. It’s been fifty years since the Doctor was last on Peladon, but the queen knows the legends of the Doctor, and his life is saved by old friend Alpha Centauri, who vouches for the Doctor.
Sarah Jane is fiery. So awesome!
The miners are extracting a mineral for the war effort, and are upset with their way of life which hasn’t improved in the last fifty years. Their leadership is split between Gebek (who negotiates with the queen for improvement) and Ettis (who relies on violence, including taking over a Federation armory), and they have some unintentionally hilarious hairstyles.
After the Spirit attacks again, the Doctor appeals to the queen to let him investigate before she takes rash action against the rebels. The queen sends her champion with the Doctor to investigate the last site of the Spirit’s appearance when Ettis sets off an explosion. The Spirit appears, kills the champion, and then vanishes. Gebek uses the sonic lance to free the Doctor, who escapes just before the Spirit attacks again, and the Doctor and Gebek strike a deal for the good of Peladon to continue the investigation. The Doctor promises to convince the queen to improve conditions and the miners can get back to work. As the guards attack, the miners and the Doctor escape together.
Sarah Jane has gone to find the Doctor and gets lost, tripping a defense system near the refinery after seeing someone sneaking about inside. She is rescued by Alpha Centauri and Eckersley, a human miner. Meanwhile, Chancellor Ortron (mirroring High Priest Hepesh from the last Peladon adventure) convinces the queen that the Doctor is in league with the miners, and recommends that the Doctor be executed.
Ettis attacks Eckersley and forces Alpha Centauri and Sarah Jane to open the armory. After Alpha Centauri sounds the alarm, Ettis escapes with Sarah Jane, who then is captured by the palace guards. Ortron orders her taken to the temple and pins the rebellion on her and the Doctor. He throws them both into the pit to be disposed of by the real Aggedor.
Oh, Aggedor, I have missed you.
The Doctor uses the “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen” lullabye on Aggedor, which works just like it did fifty years before, and they are released by the queen. Thank the Maker that the queen is finally standing up for herself! She asks the Doctor to have Gebek meet with her and discuss the miners’ grievances. The Doctor departs on his mission, but asks Sarah Jane to remain and advise the queen in how to stand up for herself. Her advice: “There’s nothing ‘only’ about being a girl.”
Yes! She’s like Jo turned up to eleven.
Gebek tries to rally the miners to a peaceful situation, but Alpha Centauri has requested Federation military support, which may exacerbate the situation. As the Doctor gets ready to assuage that problem, Ortron orders the Doctor to remain in the Citadel, and when he tries to sneak out to meet with Gebek, Ortron has him arrested. Alpha Centauri and the queen lobby for his release, but Ortron declines. The queen orders that Sarah Jane is to remain free, and Ortron agrees since, as a female, Sarah Jane cannot be a problem.
When Ortron talks about the Doctor’s “rebel friends,” he rolls the R and enunciates much like Peter Cushing as Grand Moff Tarkin in Star Wars: A New Hope. It must be part of classical British acting classes.
Sarah Jane relays the Doctor’s message to Gebek, whose men have just secured the sonic lance by force. She later confers with the queen in the presence of Alpha Centauri and Ortron on how to dissuade the incoming Federation troops, who (by procedure) cannot be recalled once summoned. Sarah Jane heads for the dungeon to release the Doctor, but Gebek offers to go in her stead. Once free, the Doctor accompanies Gebek to the refinery as the miners set up the sonic lance and prepare to lay siege on the Citadel. During all of that, Alpha Centauri contacts the Federation troops, who sound a lot like Ice Warriors, and gets an update on their deployment.
Ortron puts the plan in action by appealing to the miners to return to work and promises that after the troops leave, the queen will listen to their grievances. They agree, but are immediately attacked by the Spirit. As they run, the Doctor finishes hotwiring the refinery door and reveals two Ice Warriors.
Wait. Aren’t the Ice Warriors supposed to be friendly on Peladon? Not anymore, it seems. They take the Doctor and Gebek captive and impose martial law on Peladon. All of the players are taken to the throne room, and the Ice Warrior commander, Azaxyr, summarizes the entire affair so that he has a clear picture. He returns the miners to work under Peladonian armed guards: If the miners fail to work, they will be killed, and if the miners and guards fail to follow the plan, the Ice Warriors will execute the hostages they have taken as collateral. The Ice Warriors claim to be a Federation force operating under wartime rules of engagement.
Ettis and his miner army storm the throne room to rescue Gebek, but are immediately slain by the Ice Warriors. Only Ettis escapes, and Azaxyr decides to execute the Doctor, but is convinced by Sarah Jane, Alpha Centauri, and Eckersley that only the Doctor can convince the miners to return to work. After the Ice Warriors leave to inspect the worksite, the Doctor reasons with Sarah Jane that the figure she saw in the refinery must have been the Ice Warrior guard Sskel, and that Azaxyr and Sskel must have been on the planet before the Federation troops arrived.
The Doctor returns to the throne room and asks the miners to return to work, but the Peladonians are united as a whole against the Ice Warriors. So he asks them to pretend to work until he can solve the problem, and they agree. The miners return to work as asked: They cooperate with Azaxyr exactly as they did with Ortron. Meanwhile, the Doctor raises the temperature in the mines to weaken the Ice Warriors and give the miners a fighting chance against them. The miners attack, but Gebek learns of Ettis’s plan to destroy the Citadel with the sonic lance. The Doctor goes after Ettis while Gebek keeps Sarah Jane safe, but Sarah Jane is captured by Sskel and interrogated by Azaxyr.
The Doctor fights Ettis and is defeated, but when Ettis tries to activate the sonic lance, a self-destruct circuit — one that Azaxyr enabled when he detected the rebels moving the machine into position — destroys the machine. Ettis is killed, and the Doctor is presumed dead. Azaxyr returns the mines to normal temperature and disables the ventilation system. The Doctor wakes up from the explosion and returns to the mines. He catches Gebek up on the situation, and the Doctor heads to the refinery to restore ventilation.
Sarah Jane stages a diversion to free the queen, Ortron, Alpha Centauri, and herself from the throne room, but only Alpha Centauri and Sarah Jane escape. Ortron is killed in the attempt while trying to protect the queen. Alpha Centauri and Sarah Jane take refuge in the communication room where the ambassador sends a general distress call and Sarah Jane discovers that Eckersley is conspiring with Azaxyr to corner the market on the minerals and ship it all to Galaxy Five. Eckersley is also controlling the Spirit of Aggedor, which is a matter projection of a statue with a directional heat ray. Sarah Jane sees the Doctor on the screen and runs to join him at the refinery.
That’s two serials in a row to use the combination of a galactic emergency, essential minerals, and cornering of markets to leverage power.
Eckersley and Azaxyr return to the Citadel, and Sarah Jane distracts the refinery guard long enough for the Doctor and Gebek to incapacitate him. Azaxyr discovers Alpha Centauri in the communications room, and the ambassador is sent back to the throne room where Azaxyr intimidates the queen and Alpha Centauri reveals the truth about Eckersley and Azaxyr. The ambassador is forced to reveal Sarah Jane’s whereabouts, and Sskel is dispatched to apprehend the team at the refinery. The Doctor defeats the Ice Warriors at the refinery door with the Spirit of Aggedor, and Sskel returns to Azaxyr.
Gebek rallies the miners and the guards while the Doctor controls the Spirit from the refinery, but Eckersley amplifies the security system until it drives Sarah Jane out of the refinery and overpowers the Doctor. The miners storm the Citadel with help from the Spirit of Aggedor. Sarah Jane returns to the Citadel and holds Eckersley at gunpoint until he disables the security system. He disarms her when she sees the unconscious Doctor on the screen, and Eckersley locks her in the communications room.
The miners storm the throne room to find Azaxyr holding the queen at gunpoint. The miners lay down their swords, but then attack the Ice Warriors hand-to-hand and kill them all. The queen sends Alpha Centauri to send a message to the Federation, where the ambassador frees a morose Sarah Jane who goes to the refinery. Meanwhile, Eckersley takes the queen hostage.
The Doctor wakes up, having placed himself in a sensory withdrawl trance, and shocks Sarah Jane. He mocks her for her concern, but they return together to the throne room and learn of the queen’s peril. The Doctor dispatches the real Aggedor like a bloodhound, and the creature finds and kills Eckersley. Sadly, it dies in the assault, and the Doctor mourns his friend’s death.
I mourn as well. I’m going to miss that critter.
A short time later, the Doctor, Sarah Jane, and the queen are gathered in the throne room where Gebek is named as the new chancellor and Alpha Centauri brings news of Galaxy Five’s surrender. As the Doctor and Sarah Jane leave, she ribs him over the queen’s offer to remain as her advisor, and he playfully pushes her into the TARDIS as they head off to the next adventure.
Rating: 4/5 – “Would you care for a jelly baby?”
UP NEXT – Doctor Who: Planet of the Spiders
The Timestamps Project is an adventure through the televised universe of Doctor Who, story by story, from the beginning of the franchise. For more reviews like this one, please visit the project’s page at Creative Criticality.