I’ll be honest – when I bought the Peladon Tales boxset I didn’t have high hopes for either story. Where that was perhaps justified with the relatively lacklustre Monster of Peladon, this four-part adventure from Pertwee’s third season isn’t actually that bad. By now the production team had become the world experts in getting around the Doctor’s exile to Earth – simply sending him off on missions for the Timelords any time they wanted to hold an adventure elsewhere in time and space. This particular story begins with the Doctor believing he’s finally got the TARDIS working again, taking Jo Grant (who is meant to be enjoying a romantic evening with Captain Yates!) for a test flight. It is not until the final episode that the Doctor realises he’d been duped by the Timelords to solve the problem faced on Peladon. Thankfully for the viewers, by the start of Season 10 both the BBC and the Timelords decided to give the Doctor back his travelling privileges!
The story itself is a thinly-veiled commentary on the negotiations by Ted Heath’s government to take the UK into the (then) European Economic Community – rather timely given the present government’s referendum on whether to remain in that community, and making one wonder if the BBC might have a thinly veiled reference in Nu Who! In the story, the planet of Peladon led by merry King Peladon are negotiating entrance to the Galactic Federation, with native naysayer High Priest Hepesh conniving in the background to try to prevent the planet successfully joining, pledging that continuing would bring the curse of the royal beast, Aggador.
The Doctor and Jo land in the middle of this mess, posing as the ambassadors from earth and suspecting (as would most of the viewing public) that returning foes the Ice Warriors are behind the attempts to derail the accession conference. It is one of the greatest twists in Doctor Who for the Ice Warriors to be revealed as on the Doctor’s side, having disavowed warfare and adopted peaceful diplomacy. The affair is happily resolved with the true foes exposed, and only the minimum of embarrassment caused by the delegate from Alpha Centuri, who aside of their extreme cowardice also bears an unfortunate resemblance to an area of human anatomy.
This is a decently paced four parter, and it is the combination of a fast pace and good depth that makes the serial surprisingly watchable. Patrick Troughton’s son David is superb as King Peladon, as is Geoffrey Toone as the Machiavellian Hepesh. Sadly however, there are just a few too many silly scenes and characters to make this a true classic – not least as Aggedor, the supposed titular ‘curse’ transpires to be a rather lovable furry creature! Could have been better – but certainly not as bad as it could have been!