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DVD Review: Doctor Who – The Monster of Peladon

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Doctor Who is a long-running British science fiction television series featuring The Doctor, a Time Lord from the planet Gallifrey whose adventures see him travel through time and space. Over the years, different actors have starred in the role, and to compensate for the realities of the television business Time Lords were given the ingenious ability to regenerate their bodies when they die.

The Monster of Peladon is the 73rd story of the Doctor. First broadcast in six weekly parts from March 23 to April 27, 1974, it is a sequel to The Curse of Peladon, which aired two years earlier and occurred 50 years previously in the planet's timeline as it was on the verge of joining the Galactic Federation. The Third Doctor (Jon Pertwee) returns to Peladon, this time with companion Sarah Jane Smith (Elisabeth Sladen).

The Federation and Galaxy Five are at war. Peladon is now ruled by the King's daughter, Queen Thalira, though the real power behind the throne is Chancellor Ortron. The planet is rich in trisilicate and mining the substance will bring victory to the Federation; however, efforts are sabotaged. The spirit of Aggedor appears and frightens the miners who refuse to continue their work. The Doctor doesn't believe in the spirit and searches for the true culprit. Galaxy Five spies are suspected but disgruntled miners unhappy with their treatment over the years are also likely. The Federation sends Commander Azaxyr and his Ice Warriors to take command of the situation. Martial law is enacted but the Peladons revolt, all of which complicates matters for the Doctor.

The Monster of Peladon is a very good episode. The plot is well written. There are a number of characters with conflicting ambitions. Their actions are believably motivated and some suffer for the choices they make. The sets and the special effects reveal a low budget, but they don't detract from the story.

Pertwee's Doctor is reminiscent of a charming grandfather. He has gray locks and offers a wink or a humorous remark when trying to create calm in dangerous situations. The character is intelligent and a better fighter, whether with a sword or bare hands, than expected for his age. Sladen's Sarah Jane is frequently a damsel-in-distress, needing rescue more often than she helps matters. The remainder of the cast are all believable in their roles, though Ysanne Churchman, who voiced Federation Ambassador Alpha Centauri, has an extremely annoying, high-pitched voice.

The DVD contains a great many extras sure to entertain and educate Who fans. All six parts contain audio commentary. Five of them are moderated by Toby Hadoke and feature producer Barry Letts, script editor Terrance Dicks and actors Nina Thomas (Queen Thalira), Donald Gee (Eckersley), Ralph Watson (Ettis), and Stuart Fell (Alpha Centauri). Part Four is a fan commentary with Rob Shearman, Mark Aldridge, Kate Du-Rose and Philip Newman.

Disc 2 contains the remainder of the extras. "The Peladon Saga: Part Two – The Monsters and The Monarchs" (22 min) is a making-of documentary with interviews about both Peladon stories. Those who haven't seen Curse will be slightly in the dark in parts, but should still find the entire feature informative and interesting. An audio recording of a deleted scene (2 min) is augmented visually through stills. "Where Are They Now?" (2 min) from 9/17/1980 finds David Jacobs interviewing Ysanne Churchman. "On Target: Terrance Dicks" (21 min) examines his work on the Doctor Who novelizations. A photo gallery (8 mins) runs with music and effects. Putting the disc into a DVD-ROM drive will access PDF files of BBC Enterprises sales literature, Radio Times Listings, and a studio floor plan.

Doctor Who fans would be wise to spend some time with The Monster of Peladon.

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About Gordon S. Miller

Gordon S. Miller is the artist formerly known as El Bicho, the nom de plume he used when he first began reviewing movies online for The Masked Movie Snobs in 2003. Before the year was out, he became that site's publisher. Over the years, he has also contributed to a number of other sites as a writer and editor, such as FilmRadar, Film School Rejects, High Def Digest, and Blogcritics. He is the Publisher of Cinema Sentries. Some of his random thoughts can be found at twitter.com/ElBicho_CS