The BBC has released a pair of theme related Doctor Who adventures over here in region one land: The Curse of Peladon (read my review of that story here) and its sequel The Monster of Peladon. The first was a great Pertwee era story that was firing on all cylinders. This follow up doesn't quite live up to the standard set by the first story, but it is a solid entry into the series that would have been helped by cutting it down just a bit.
Two years after his first trip to Peladon, the Doctor (Jon Pertwee) decides to take his new companion, Sarah Jane Smith (Elisabeth Sladen) back for a visit. He plans to land inside the main compound, but the TARDIS, as always, doesn't quite get it right. He ends up on a cliff near the castle but 50 years after he meant to arrive. Peladon is now ruled by King daughter Thalira (Nina Thomas). Like her father, she's weak-willed and easily pushed around by her advisors.
Peladon is now a full-fledged member of the Federation, which is good for the organization since Peladon is rich in 'Trisilicate' and that compound is desperately needed. The Galactic Federation is at war with Galaxy Five and Tirsilicate is what powers the engine of war. Unfortunately the miners on Peladon are distrustful of the new mining technology that the Federation is willing to give them. They're a traditional people and feel that using technology to increase production is wrong. When an image of their god Agador appears and kills a miner, the rest of the workers fear that they've angered Agador and stop working.
Of course it's into this atmosphere of distrust that the Doctor appears. Luckily he's recognized by his old friend, the egg-headed Federation representative Alpha Centauri, and the tale of his earlier visit has become legend. He needs to discover who is behind the sabotage in the mines and get the miners back to work before the Federation sends in troops to force them to dig.
This is an interesting series, with the tone of the adventure changing half way thought. That's a nice touch which keeps the story interesting but even with that plot trick the story is just a bit too long. If they had cut it down to five, or even four, episodes this adventure would be just as strong as the first, but as it is Monster is a bit weaker. The main problems are padding and repetition. It seems like some of the sub-plots are included just to fill in the six-episode schedule and to do that they include several variations on the same theme. The miners attack the citadel a few times, the leader of the minors gives a speech to calm everyone down only to have his rival incite everyone more than once, and there's a lot of time spent in the monitoring room, well... just looking at screens.
The first half of the story also seems to be an exact repeat of the earlier story; the weak ruler is pushed around by his top blood-thirsty priest (who distrusts the Doctor and all outsiders) amidst sightings of the god Agador who is apparently killing people. Yeah, we did that. Luckily the plot takes a swift swerve at the end of episode three and things get mixed up a bit.
The show isn't a total loss however and when all is said and done the positives outweigh the negatives. Jon Pertwee does a good job as always, and Elisabeth Sladen makes a great companion. She's feisty but at the same time she realizes that she's out of her depth dealing with interstellar intrigue and such. The scene where she gives the queen a lecture on Women's Lib dates the show a bit, but it's priceless. It was also nice to see Alpha once again (though you wonder how someone so easily manipulated and lacking in intelligence became an ambassador. I guess it gave a lot of money to the right political campaign.
The action certainly picks up in the second half and the story gets more interesting then too. The battle between the miners and the villains of the story is great, and the conclusion works well. It's just too bad that they couldn't have edited the show a bit tighter. That's the only thing keeping this story from being a classic.
This release is a two-disc affair. The six episode story is on disc one while the second one is reserved for the bulk of the special features.
This show comes with the original mono soundtrack that fits the show just fine. The dynamic range is nothing to write home about, but the dialog is generally crisp and clear and there is no background noise, tape hiss, distortion or dropouts. There are optional subtitles in English.
The full frame image looks good. The Restoration Team did their usual fine job and this story is even a bit sharper than its companion, The Curse of Peladon. (That's because all six episodes of this series still survive on the original VTRs, as where the earlier story's original tapes were wiped and the restoration had to be performed on NTSC tapes from
This disc has some great extras included, as is the standard for Doctor Who releases. There is a commentary track for all episodes, five of which are hosted by Toby Hadoke. He is joined by Terrance Dicks (Script Editor), Barry Letts (Producer), Nina Thomas (Queen Thalira), Donald Gee (Eckersley), Ralph Watson (Ettis) and Stuart Fell (Alpha Centauri). While this wasn't as fun as the track for Curse of Peladon, it was very informative and Hadoke does a good job of keeping the discussion going and lively. There's also a 'fan commentary' four episode four conducted by Rob Shearman, Mark Aldridge, Kate Du-Rose and Philip Newman. While this is certainly a dream come true for the people involved, you can tell they're extremely excited to be recording the track, their comments are a bit obvious. They talk about how exciting, and surprising it was to see the Ice Warriors appear at the end of Chapter Three back when the show was first aired (they're on the cover, so my revelation of that fact isn't much of a spoiler) and discuss what they enjoyed about this story and the show as a whole. It wasn't bad, but afterwards I didn't feel like I had any more knowledge than I did going into the track.
Most of the bonus material is found on disc two. The Peladon Saga - Part Two gives a behind the scenes look at the two Peledon stories (the other one is The Curse of Peledon, which was released on DVD at the same time as this story) and it talks about both stories, and this one focuses on the characters more than production. There's a two-minute deleted scene which only the audio track survives. The video is recreated with stills. There's a 2 ½ minute extract from an interview with Ysanne Churchman (who voiced Alpha Centauri) from a show 'Where are They Now?', and a very nice 20+ minute look at that Doctor Who novelizations that Taraget books released in England. This one focuses on Terrance Dicks who penned many of the books, and I particularly enjoyed this featurette. I remember discovering three of these British paperbacks in a used bookstore back in the mid 70's. It was like discovering gold. Who stories that I had only seen mentioned in passing could now be experience, albeit not in the form that they were originally intended. In those pre-VCR days it was amazing and I spent a lot of time and money tracking down other Target editions. The featurette includes some of the old cast members reading excerpts from these books, and it's well worth watching.
In addition there is a pop-up informational text option which is very informative as always. It does give some dry statistics, like how many people viewed each episode, but there are also some interesting notes such as script changes that were made and background information on the supporting characters. The extras are rounded off with storyboard comparison, a trailer for the story, a photo gallery, and the listing from the Radio Times in .pdf format.
While this isn't as exciting as the first Peladon story, it does have some great moments and is well worth watching. The story is good, though a bit repetitive in parts, and Pertwee does a wonderful job. It was also nice to see Elisabeth Sladen in an early Sarah Jane appearance. Track this one down and check it out. Recommended.