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DVD Review: Doctor Who – The Curse of Peladon

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Though not often necessarily discussed these days, John Pertwee's portrayal of the Third Doctor on Doctor Who still ranks among fan favorites.  A poll available on the BBC's website indicates that Pertwee ranks number four, with 11% of the total vote (he is currently behind David Tennant, Tom Baker, and Christopher Eccleston).  Pertwee's Doctor was the first one whose episodes were in color, and despite (or maybe because of) the fact that the Doctor was stuck on Earth for an extended period of time during his tenure, his stories seem to have resonated with the audience.

Released at the beginning of May of this year, a classic Pertwee Doctor story, "The Curse of Peladon" has been digitally remastered and released to DVD.  The first of two Peladon tales in the television series (the other, "The Monster of Peladon," is also a Pertwee tale). 

The story, like so many other Doctor stories, finds the Time Lord along with his current companion, Jo Grant (Katy Manning), landing in a completely unexpected location – in this case halfway up the side of a mountain on Peladon.  Again, as happens just about every go-round, the Doctor finds himself in the midst of a crisis on the planet.  Specifically, this time, the King of Peladon wishes to enter the Galactic Federation, and members of the Federation council are present to evaluate the planet's request.  All is not well in the kingdom however as an ancient mythical beast, Aggedor, has surfaced and killed one of the King's trusted advisors.  It falls – again, as it always does – to the Doctor and his companion to work out just what is happening and save the day.

Essentially, the story boils down to one about the fear of change, the fear of progress.  One faction of Peladon is not for joining the Galactic Federation, believing that the kingdom should follow the traditional ways and those alone, whereas the other believes that for the people and kingdom to reach their full potential they need to expand their horizons.

In short, it is a classic Doctor Who story.  Told over the course of four episodes, the tale features both obvious bad guys and less than obvious ones as well as some great Who aliens like the Ice Warriors (aliens from Mars).  Pertwee and Manning make the trip to Peladon an enjoyable one, although it is not spectacular.  Fans of the Whoniverse will most likely find "The Curse of Peladon" more of a comfort-food tale than anything hugely brilliant.  The number of common tropes of Who stories contained within it are numerous, but if those tropes didn't work, Doctor Who wouldn't be the long-running, incredibly popular juggernaut that it is today.

The most disappointing aspect of the release is not the well worn (at least, well worn decades later) aspects of the storyline, but instead the rather disappointing look of the transfer.  As with many old television shows, there are often odd colors seen as a shadow when a character moves or surrounding a light source.  There are also some annoying horizontal lines in some episodes.  Certainly none of this makes "The Curse of Peladon" unwatchable; it simply shows its age – it originally aired on the BBC in January and February of 1972.

The release does contain a lot of extras, including a commentary by Katy Manning, producer Barry Letts, script editor Terrance Dicks, and others.  There is also a featurette entitled "The Peladon Saga – Part One," which is a behind-the-scenes piece on the Peladon tales (May 4 also saw the release of the "The Monster of Peladon" which contains part two to this featurette) as well as a piece on the Ice Warriors and one on Pertwee and Manning.  Finally, there is a photo gallery, some printable listings on the original broadcasts, and a comparison piece juxtaposing hand drawn storyboards on the opening sequence and the final sequence as shot.

Doctor Who: The Curse of Peladon, features some good old-fashioned Who storytelling – there are aliens, death rays, political intrigue, and incredibly cheesy costumes and effects. It will, however, do absolutely nothing to convince people who aren't already fans that they ought to become ones.  Jon Pertwee, while not everyone's favorite Doctor, unquestionably has a certain charm to him, and it is fun to watch him at turns use both diplomatic and moderately more aggressive means to pursue his goals.

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About Josh Lasser

Josh has deftly segued from a life of being pre-med to film school to television production to writing about the media in general. And by 'deftly' he means with agonizing second thoughts and the formation of an ulcer.