Doctor Who – The Monster of Peladon Review (or ‘Not As Bad As Received Wisdom Would Have You Believe’)

“I can’t really think of much good to say about it. It was rubbish.

Lazy writing, hammy performances, poor costumes and put together on the cheap; there was even a token, groan inducing “Doctor? Doctor who?” gag towards the end. The only good thing about it is Jon Pertwee’s coat.

I’d avoid it. Certainly this is the worst Pertwee story I’ve reviewed so far, and by some considerable distance.”

Doctor Who fans around the world lament the early death of the brilliant Vega Nexos.

That was what I had to say about the Curse of Peladon. Doesn’t make for positive reading does it?

In the comments section of the review there’s an opinion from my most regular comment-leaver, Zaphod, who said that he felt that the follow-up story – The Monster of Peladon – is far worse.

Could that be possible? Going in to watching it I was sceptical…

Doctor Who – The Monster of Peladon: What’s This One About?

While the Curse of Peladon was about Britain entering the Common Market…in Space, it’s often thought that this one is about the British miner’s strike…in Space.

And it is, and yet it’s not. The first half of the story features that almost exclusively, but in the latter section it’s more about the Ice Warriors, who have turned heel again for the purposes of this Peladonian get-together.

Is It As Bad As The Curse of Peladon?

In many ways, The Monster of Peladon seems to be a lazy re-run of its predecessor.

You’ve got the same sets and an appearance by Agador, as well as the young monarch – this time King Pelad0n’s daughter (who thankfully is named more imaginatively as Queen Tharila rather than Queen Peladon) – who is influenced by a bloke who looks and acts exactly like Hepesh, and you’ve also got Alpha Centauri and The Ice Warriors.

Either they are a low budget or couldn’t be arsed making a new costume but as you can see, the Ice Warrior with the stupid giant head is back loitering in the background.

And then on top of that you’ve got a rather dull tale of Miners and two extra episodes on top.

So on the face of it, it doesn’t look good.

But I actually think this story is better than the Curse of Peladon and I’ll tell you why…

Better Performances

Like for like, the standard of performance in the Monster of Peladon is higher than in Curse, both in the way the characters are realised on paper and how they are brought to the screen by the actors.

There’s a better companion, in that Sarah is at this stage a more interesting character and Sladen puts in a good performance, while Katy Manning was at her absolute worst – both in writing and execution – in the previous story.

The Ice Warriors are performed better, in that Alan Bennion gets to act as a stronger more forceful villain rather than like the host of Playschool and that his Ice Warrior chums get more to do than just stand around looking bored.

There’s Donald Gee with his spectacularly slim body shape, mesmerising bin bag costume and face like something out of Star Fox

Nina Stevens’ Queen Tharila is more likeable and better written than David Troughton’s King Peladon.

Alpha Centauri actually has some humorous lines of dialogue (although you’re reaching if you think I’m going to go back and find out what they were. Just be comfortable in the knowledge that I chuckled a few times) and is far less irritating than in Curse.

Rex Robinson – dreadfully miscast as Dr Tyler in the Three Doctors – is not half bad as the leader of the miners. He seems far more suited to a role like this.

There’s a cameo by the lead contender for ‘Character I Wish Had More Time Devoted to Him But Was Sadly Killed Off At The Start’ in the wonderfully well spoken Vega Nexos

And you’ve got Donald Gee as Eckersley.

Donald Gee

I don’t really know why, but I have a strange fascination with Donald Gee.

I think it’s to do with his shape. He has a face that makes him look like he’s a character out of Star Fox and a body with all the mass and tone of a lollipop stick. And that’s accentuated by the skin-tight bin-bag he’s wearing as costume throughout the story.

He stands out as looking more alien than any other character or actor to appear in this show (or any) and yet the irony is he’s playing one of only two humans in it.

And he’s got such a laid back style of acting. Throughout the story, he just portrays Eckersley as a single-minded mining expert who wants nothing to do with all the shit that’s going down on Peladon.

Do a Barrel Roll!

And then when he turns out he’s the villain behind it all (something that is mildly telegraphed at the start when Vege Nexos is killed but isn’t too obvious beyond that) he plays an absolute master-stroke in that he doesn’t change his acting style at all.

You watch any other TV show where someone is revealed to be the villain and you’ll see that once the reveal is made, the person in question suddenly acts completely differently to how they acted before, as if to accentuate their villainy and hammer the point home in a very unsubtle way. Gee doesn’t bother with that. He remains slumped in his chair still not giving too much of a toss about what’s going on and by doing that – even if it’s not intentional on his part – it just feels so much more refreshing.

Not All Good

Of course, it’s not all good. In terms of the actors, two stick out as being absolutely horrendous.

First of all there’s Ralph Watson as Ettis. Absolute shite.

Turns out that Watson has appeared in the show before as Captain Knight in the Web of Fear and he was fine in that, but in this he’s excruciating. While Donald Gee played it cool all the way through, Watson seems to have picked up on the character brief as ‘Oooh, he’s a bit mad this one’ and so plays it with bulging eyes and a cartoon voice. Every scene he’s in he ruins.

The other notable example of ropey acting is by – I assume – Terry Walsh as the Guard Captain. Walsh, as you might

Terry Walsh is half way through his big moment – delivering a simple line of dialogue worse than you would think humanly possible. Rex Robinson is aghast.

know was the stunt coordinator and stuntman for hire for the who for many a year, and – seemingly out of gratitude for that – they gave him a speaking role in this one.

They shouldn’t have bothered.

Towards the end of Episode 1 he gets his big moment where he has to interupt a meeting to let the Queen and Ortron know that the armoury has been invaded and he somehow manages to deliver the line “You’re Majesty! Lord Ortron! The Miners have attacked the Federation Armoury. They have escaped in to the tunnels” worse than I would have thought humanly possible.

If you’ve got the DVD, watch it. It’s 19:30 into Episode 1.

Everything about it is wrong. He doesn’t pause for breath or allow for punctuation (thus delivering the line as a string of quickly rushed words in succession in a monotone voice before suddenly accentuating the word ‘tunnels’)

He presents the line in a physically awkward manner which makes it look like he’s choreographed it badly.

And in a show where everyone speaks in that wonderfully pronounced BBC English, Walsh delivers lines like a proper ‘Apples & Pears’ cockney.

It’s truly incredible how badly someone can do something so simple. But there you go.

I would say it’s the worst delivered line in Doctor Who history, but there’s an even worse one in the next story.

The Story Itself

As to the story itself, I won’t kid you by saying it’s a classic because it’s not. But it’s not that bad and at least has a few twists and turns along the way.

They make the mistake of telegraphing the Ice Warriors being in it by having one of them clearly standing behind the frosted glass of the refinery, although I suppose one could argue that by heavily hinting they are in it, anticipation would build among fans for when they arrive properly.

The stuff with the Miners is mostly boring – and their hairpieces are just stupid.

And the whole scheme of Eckersly & the Ice Warriors doesn’t make much sense anyway; not least why they bother to have ‘Agador’ kill Vega Nexos or even how they – or the Doctor later on in the story – manage to direct the stone statue about.

But it’s still better than Curse.

Random Observations

  • With each passing story, Alan Bennion’s ‘Ice Lord’ character seems to get louder and louder. In the Seeds of Death he speaks with a sinister whisper, in Curse he’s a little bit louder, but here he’s just shouting. It ruins the character to an extent.
  • I maintain that the Ice Warriors look far better in black & white.
  • They’ve brought back the Ice Warrior with the giant helmet for this one. Obviously they were running out of costumes.
  • But speaking of the Ice Warriors, how come there are so many of them? Loads of them end up being killed off and yet Azaxyr always has one by his side. And yet when he dies – just like in the Seeds of Death – suddenly there are no more Warriors to be found. Maybe they respawn as long as he’s alive?
  • Terry The Terrible Actor appears to get killed off even more times than the Ice Warriors though. I think I counted his character being killed off by Agador or Ice Warriors at least seven times.
  • Somehow Jon Pertwee manages to look particularly young in this story. I’m not sure how.
  • One aspect of the writing which I found lazy was that they did the whole ‘Sarah thinks the Doctor is dead’ thing twice in quick succession. I suspect they were running out of plot.
  • Going back to Donald Gee, I love some of his turns of phrase; the way he calls people ‘Chum’ all the time and in particular his line to the Doctor “You’re quite handy aren’t you”
  • Incidental and unnecessary to the plot was the real Agador. It had no purpose within the story and the way it was killed off at the end just seemed to be there for the sake of it.
  • The people of the planet Nexos are apparently a practical race of mining engineers. Talk about regional specialisation on a global scale. What if one of them wanted to open a shop? Or become a gym instructor?

Doctor Who – The Monster of Peladon Review: Final Thoughts

Sometimes I write these reviews and realise half way through that I really didn’t like the story all that much at all.

That was certainly true of the Curse of Peladon.

But with the Monster of Peladon it’s the opposite. It’s actually not that bad a story, but the received wisdom is that it is, and so people automatically think bad of it.

That is typified by its position in the always debatable ‘Top 200 Stories’ as voted for by the readers of Dr Who Magazine.

They rate Monster of Peladon as the 179th best story, meaning that there are only 21 stories worse than it, while Curse of Peladon is all the way up in 82nd.

Monster of Peladon is far from a classic, I’ll grant you. I’ve detailed the stuff that’s wrong with it above, but in amongst that there’s plenty to enjoy, which is more than can be said for some stories, including Curse. It certainly deserves to be ranked higher than that one.

But then it’s only an opinion…

3 Responses to Doctor Who – The Monster of Peladon Review (or ‘Not As Bad As Received Wisdom Would Have You Believe’)

  1. Zaphod says:

    Ho, ho! Fame at last!
    I think that I wrote that the ‘ Monster’ was worse than ‘ Curse’ because of the rather odd caste system which appears to be based on hairstyles. Plus the fact that the hairstyles the miners have are just so ridiculous. They look like badgers.
    The only way that you could advance socially on Peladon is if everyone agreed to be bald.
    Superb review though, as always. I thoroughly enjoy reading your blog.
    Thanks.

  2. [...] Planet Of The Daleks The Green Death The Time Warrior Invasion Of The Dinosaurs Death To The Daleks The Monster Of Peladon Planet Of The [...]

  3. Didn’t really like this story at all. Always wondered why they bothered going back to Peladon when there is so much repetition from the first story. The things that stood out for me was this not very secret passage hidden behind a curtain/tapestry, the miners with awful ginger badger haircuts and Jon Pertwee singing ‘Agru Agru’ to some bloke in a monster suit (Aggedor). Athough as a kid, Aggedor was quite scary though. No wonder the BBC bundled the two Peladon stories together in a DVD boxset.

    However having said that I remember being in Bristol at the time 1974 (40 years ago) visiting my grand parents and rushing home having watched Bristol Rovers as a kid with my dad to watch the final episode of this story so perhaps it did have more impact at the time.

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