I didn’t like this one as much as I was hoping I would. “The Curse of Peladon” was a good story and a highlight in an era where the majority of the Doctor’s stories were Earth-bound. I was excited to return to Peladon and see how the planet had changed. Instead the story follows the same plot points as “The Curse of Peladon” for the first three or so episodes and never truly offers anything new.
The Doctor brings Sarah to Peladon because he wants to check in on the King and show Sarah the wonders of the planet. Instead, he winds up fifty years in the future with the King dead and his daughter Thalira is queen. Not only that, but the Galactic Federation is at war with Galaxy 5 and a rare mineral that the Federation needs is located on Peladon. This has lead to harsh conditions for the miners who are ready to revolt. Not only that, but many people, including Chancellor Ortron, want to leave the Federation. It seems that King Peladon’s wish to join the Federation to better the lives of his people has not come true.
There is a lot of good stuff here. I like the focus on the politics on Peladon and how the war has made things worse. The miners have serious grievances and the Doctor and Sarah both argue that the Peladon government and the Federation needs to address their needs instead of just brushing them aside. The tension between Peladon and the Federation also makes for some good drama. While Queen Thalira generally likes the Federation and wants to honor the wishes of her father she does think that being part of the Federation hasn’t done enough to help her people. Ortron is a lot like the previous Chancellor in that he hates all aliens equally and wants them all off Peladon. He has a lot of power too since Peladon is a patriarchal society and Thalira is only queen because her father had no other children.
Sarah Jane gets loads to do here, including teaching Thalira about women’s’ lib. Towards the end of the story she truly believes that the Doctor is dead and rushes to his side. Sladen is amazing in this scene and really sells it, even though viewers know the Doctor is fine. She also gets to put her investigative reporter instincts to use when she discovers that someone is hiding out in a supposedly deserted refinery and helps to uncover the conspiracy that exists.
The plot moves at a pretty brisk pace, mainly because so much is going on. There’s all the politics involving Peladon and the Federation, the miners wanting to start a revolution, the Ice Warriors arriving and declaring martial law on Peladon, and a conspiracy orchestrated by Galaxy 5 to steal the mineral the Federation needs.
Once the Ice Warriors get involved things do pick up and the plot stops being a simple copy and paste job. In the original story the Ice Warriors were believed to be the bad guys but turned out that they were trustworthy and were the good guys. Here they are back to being the villains. On one hand, I hate that what was a good plot point and a commentary on blind hatred is seemingly undone here by showing the Ice Warriors as being evil. On the other hand this group are said to be a splinter group that doesn’t like the way the Ice Warrior culture is changing and hope that their actions will bring their people back to a more bloodthirsty state of being.
They arrive, declare martial law, and threaten to kill any miner that doesn’t cooperate. This actually causes all of the Peladon factions to unite against the Ice Warriors. It isn’t long before it is revealed that the Ice Warrior leader, Azaxyr, is in league with Galaxy 5 and declaring martial law was just a ruse so that he can ship the mineral to Galaxy 5. He is helped by the lead Peladon scientist.
Oh, Alpha Centauri returns. I guess his species is long lived. It seems he has more or less stayed on Peladon and helped the planet as it joined the Federation. He still has a low opinion of the people and says that the miners are basically dumb barbarians. He does redeem himself by helping the Doctor and Sarah Jane defeat the bad guys. He also vouches for the Doctor when Ortron says that the Doctor can’t be the Doctor because he hasn’t changed in 50 years. To which I reply, neither has Alpha Centauri.
Aggedor, the monster of Peladon, also returns. Ortron throws the Doctor and Sarah Jane into the beast’s pit as part of a ritual to determine if they are truly there to help Peladon. The Doctor obviously has a relationship with the monster and uses his lullaby to calm the beast and win the ritual.
Look, there are some good ideas here. I love all the political plot lines but they are never fleshed out as much as I wanted. I like the idea of returning to Peladon and seeing how the planet has changed but they did the same plot from the original just with new characters. This was a strong showing for Sarah Jane and I loved that she used her investigative skills to figure out the conspiracy.
I can’t believe I only have one more story in the 3rd Doctor era. While I liked the 5th Doctor I have really come to love the 3rd Doctor and it is going to be sad to see him go.