Continuing their releases of restored Doctor Who stories, the BBC put out a couple of adventures staring Jon Pertwee, the third person to play the long-lived time-traveler that are linked: The Curse of Peladon and the follow up story (made a couple of years later) The Monster of Peladon. I'll tackle the first one in this review, and should have the other one up in a week or so.
Taking a test flight in the TARDIS, the Doctor and Jo think they've landed on Earth, but when they leave their vessel they discover that they're actually on Peladon, a mineral-rich planet that has a middle-ages level of technology but a forward looking king who wants to join the Galactic Federation. The only problem is that the high priest, Hepesh, fears that the Federation is going to rape the planet for its minerals and that the people, seduced by cheap technological gadgets, will abandon their culture and way of life.
When the Doctor and Jo show up, the King assumes that he's the representative of the Galactic Federation from Earth. Along with a pair of Ice Warriors from Mars, a head encased in a glass bowl from Arcturus, and a giant eye-headed insect from Alpha Centauri, the Doctor has to determine if Peladon qualifies for membership.
The King's chief advisor is killed mysteriously and soon after the Doctor arrives a large statue of the local god, Aggedor, falls and nearly kills a representative. Hepesh says these are signs that Aggedor is angry with the people and that they shouldn't join the Federation. The king isn't sure. He wants to join, but he doesn't want to anger his old friend Hepesh (and the fact that the King has a crush on Jo just confuses him even more.) The Doctor suspects that one of the representatives is actually behind the attacks, and he's pretty sure that his old nemesis the Ice Warriors are to blame.
This was a great Who adventure. It has everything that a fan could want: some interesting aliens, old adversaries, a solid mystery, a good amount of action, and a healthy dollop of humor. It's not secret that Pertwee is 'my' Doctor, and this story is a prime example of why. Pertwee is a bit arrogant in parts, humorous in others, and comes across as realistic yet alien at the same time. Katy Manning is excellent as Jo, as always. She's bubbly and cheerful, not to mention cute as a button, yet she's willing to do dangerous things when the circumstances require it.
As for the other characters, I really disliked the King (played by Patrick Troughton's son David) and though he was the weakest element in the story. He's too much of a wimp to be an effective leader and indecisive to boot. There was supposed to be a budding romance between he and Jo, like the one that occurred Planet of the Daleks, but it just wasn't believable. I just never bought that she was really interesting in the wet rag.
Hepesh, on the other hand, was an excellent character. He wasn't undermining the talks just to be a villain or evil, he honestly thought his planet and especially his people's culture was in dire danger. You could see his point, and understand why he took the steps that he did. The story as a whole can be seen as an allegory between the constant conflict between religion and science, something that is still plaguing the
Another highlight of this story was the many alien creatures that appeared. Yeah, I know, the classic Doctor Who monsters always look silly, and that's true here to some extent, but they went the extra distance to make them be a bit more alien than some of the creatures that the Doctor has run across. Arcturus was the most interesting, being a head on top of a box, sort of a cross between a Dalek and Commander Pike for the original Star Trek. He was definitely not a six foot tall biped, as many of the Who creatures turn out to be. They also put some effort into making Alpha Centauri look alien with the huge eye-head, multiple arms, and especially the high-pitched voice. It was an admirable attempt and made the story more interesting.
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, with the Restoration Team performing more magic. The original video tapes for these episodes were wiped in the 70's, so the Team worked with color NTSC broadcast tapes that turned up in
This disc has some great extras included, as is the standard for Doctor Who releases. There is a commentary track with Katy Manning (Jo Grant), Barry Letts (Producer), Terrance Dicks (Script Editor) and Chris D'Oyly-John (Production Assistant) which is hosted by Toby Hadoke. It was informative and chatty.
The Peladon Saga - Part One gives a behind the scenes look at the two Peledon stories (the other one is The Monster of Peledon, which was released on DVD at the same time as this story) and it focuses on the first adventure though the second one is mentioned a few times. Warriors of Mars is a short history of the Ice Warriors. The featurette also talks with the people who helped design and bring the creatures to life. Jon and Katy is a short (I wish it were longer) featurette that discusses the two actors and how the interacted. It was especially fun to hear Katy Manning talking about her relationship with Pertwee. It sounds like he was a great guy.
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.
This wouldn't be a great introduction to the world of Doctor Who, but if you have at least a little bit of knowledge about the show this adventure comes Highly Recommended. It's witty, action packed and filled with some great monsters. I really liked the villain too. In a lot of ways he was the most sympathetic and well rounded characters in the story. Who fans will really enjoy this one.