Sue: So what’s Peladon, then? Is it a person or a place? Or an oil painting? Is it a cursed oil painting? Am I close?
She’s pointing at the model shot, which begins this story before the image eventually dissolves to…
Sue: And these are the corridors we’ll be running down later. I’ve seen better.
In Peladon’s throne room, the king is moderating an argument between two royal advisers.
Me: (Pointing at the king) Does this guy ring any bells?
Sue: Er… Roger Daltrey?
And then the TARDIS arrives.
Sue: So the Doctor’s allowed to pop off for a quick adventure, but he has to return to Earth when it’s over. What’s so terrible about that? Ian and Barbara would have loved that. He’s basically on parole, I guess.
Oh look, it’s Alpha Centauri.
Sue: Oh, purlease! What’s that supposed to be?
She’s struck dumb while her mind attempts to process the image. But she gets there in the end.
Sue: It’s a giant penis. No, wait. It’s a giant penis in a shower curtain.
Me: Just be thankful Alpha Centuari wasn’t pink. And imagine what it must have looked like without the shower curtain. That almost happened, believe it or not.
Sue: Please, Neil, don’t. Just don’t.
Me: At least the production team are trying to create something truly alien, and they aren’t just sticking bits of plastic on somebody’s forehead.
Sue perks up as soon as we go ‘outside’.
Sue: You’d never believe this was filmed in a TV studio. At first, I thought they’d gone to Mount Snowdon, or somewhere like that. I wish they’d filmed all the studio scenes like this. Film makes all the difference. And the sound effects are amazing, too.
The Doctor’s new outfit is subjected to Sue’s critical gaze.
Sue: The Doctor is beginning to remind me of John McCririck, and that can’t be a good thing. At least his cloak could double as a picnic blanket if he ever lands on a planet with some decent weather.
As the political situation on Peladon becomes clearer, Sue spots a parallel with events closer to home.
Sue: This is basically a story about the European Union.
Me: It would have been a big talking point in the early 1970s when this was broadcast.
Sue: I’m not talking about the 1970s, silly. I’m talking about right now. Peladon’s basically Greece.
The Doctor and Jo are drawn to a statue of Aggedor.
Sue: What’s that supposed to represent? A giant pig?
Me: A giant boar.
Sue: How appropriate.
But Sue, on the other hand, is drawn to the Pel’s costumes.
Sue: A purple skirt and thigh-length boots. Is he appearing in a pantomime later?
Me: Oh no he isn’t.
Sue: I like Jo’s dress, though. It’s a lot more modest than we’re used to, so we won’t be seeing her knickers this week.
Me: Although we might get to see the King’s, if we’re lucky.
And then the Ice Warriors turn up.
Sue: It’s all go this week! All these aliens squabbling among themselves reminds me of Babylon 5. Yes, it’s basically Babylon 5 meets Game of Thrones. But with less incest.
The episode concludes as Aggedor’s statue topples towards the Doctor.
Sue: That wasn’t a great cliffhanger. I can’t say I’m very impressed with this story so far.
The delegates are arguing about the pros and cons of Peladon joining the Federation.
Sue: I hope the Federation have brought the gift of trousers to Peladon.
At one point, the king declares: “There is no plot!”
Sue: I wouldn’t brag about that if I were you.
When he isn’t running down the script, King Peladon is flirting outrageously with Jo.
Sue: She could do a lot worse. She’s supposed to be on a date with Mike Yates right now, and that obviously isn’t going to go anywhere, so why not? Is this Jo’s last story? Does she marry the king and stay on Peladon? I’m not sure how I feel about that.
But there is an upside:
Sue: The Doctor is a lot nicer to Jo this week. I can’t believe it’s taken him this long to thaw. Maybe he’s jealous?
Who tried to assassinate Arcturus? If only the delegates knew for sure…
Sue: Just ask the head in a box!
So they do. Repeatedly.
Sue: Arcturus reminds me of Davros. He even sounds like Davros. Is this where they got the idea from? And why are all the aliens green? Are they supposed to be colour coordinated? Or has the BBC bought a job lot of green paint?
Me: Like I said, just be thankful Alpha Centauri wasn’t pink.
Sue: At least Jo has plenty to do this week. It’s her last chance to shine, I suppose. I’m not convinced she’s actually doing this stunt, though. Her ankles are very fat in this close-up.
As Aggedor pursues Jo through Peladon’s catacombs, a trailing leg makes contact with the set and a ‘stone’ wall slides across the floor. Sue makes me rewind the DVD so she can watch it again.
Sue: It’s a bloody good job that wasn’t a supporting wall. They’d be dead if it was.
The Doctor assumes the Ice Warriors must be the bad guys, and when it turns out they aren’t, Sue isn’t very happy to put it mildly.
Sue: That makes the Doctor a little bit racist, doesn’t it? I expect a lot more from him, frankly. It should be him convincing everyone else that they’re prejudiced, not the other way round. That’s not good at all.
Me: I don’t care what you say, this episode is still very important to me. This is the episode that was playing on UK Gold the night you brought me home to meet Nicol. It was Tuesday April 13th 1993.
Sue: What was she wearing?
Me: I beg your pardon?
Sue: What was Nicol wearing?
Me: I have no idea.
Sue: So you can remember which episode of Doctor Who was on telly that night, but you can’t remember what Nicol was wearing when you met her. Why am I not surprised?
Sue still can’t get her head around the Pel’s costumes.
Sue: I can imagine Eddie Izzard walking around in the king’s outfit. Or maybe Pat Butcher. It’s a difficult look to pull off.
Me: This story is very Christmassy, don’t you think? All those reds, greens and purples…
Sue: Well, it’s a pantomime, I suppose.
Me: Oh no it isn’t.
Sue: Why is the guard who can’t talk called Grunt? Isn’t that a bit insensitive?
Me: He’s called Grun.
Sue: Oh, well, then. That’s much better.
It’s Aggedor’s turn to take the stage.
Sue: They were getting away with it when it was hidden in the shadows, but now that it’s out in the open… Oh dear. It’s too fluffy, like a huge teddy bear. They should have roughed it up a bit. It should be caked in shit. It shouldn’t look like it’s just been blow-dried.
The Doctor advances on Aggedor, armed with a spinning mirror and a Venusian lullaby.
Sue: Just stick your fingers on its chest! Hang on, is the Doctor singing God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen?
Me: I told you this was Christmassy. I’ve been planning this for months.
Sue: Have you really?
Aggedor falls under the Doctor’s spell.
Sue: He’s cute. Is he housetrained?
The Doctor is sentenced to trial by combat, and King Peladon isn’t swayed by Jo pleas for clemency.
Sue: She’s never going to sleep with him now. He’s blown it.
The Doctor is lowered into a pit to face the mighty Grun.
Sue: Is that Jon Pertwee? I don’t think it is, you know. His hair looks even more fake than usual.
Grun and the Doctor fight to the death.
Sue: Just stick your finger on his ****ing chest!
The episode concludes with Arcturus and the Ice Warriors simultaneously drawing their weapons and firing.
Sue: That was a very confusing cliffhanger. What the hell?
Immediately prior to watching this episode, we appeared on Bob Fischer’s radio show on BBC Tees to talk about our increasingly ridiculous quest to watch every episode of Doctor Who together. Here’s how we prepared for that encounter…
Sue: What do you think Bob will ask me?
Me: Well, he’ll probably ask you about the episode you’ve just seen.
Sue: I didn’t know I’d have to revise for this. I’ve been busy.
Me: We only saw it last night! Come on, Sue – The Curse of…?
Sue: Peladon. Yes, that’s right. Anything else?
Me: It would be great if you could slip the words ‘hermaphrodite hexapod’ into the conversation. That might get a laugh.
Sue: And how am I supposed to do that, exactly?
Me: Alpha Centauri, remember?
Sue: That’s a planet, isn’t it?
Me: It’s a giant penis!
Sue: Oh yes, the penis in the shower curtain. Okay, I’ll try….
Me: I told you to drop ‘hermaphrodite hexapod’ into the conversation, not ‘penis in a shower curtain’!
Sue: Sorry, I was confused!
And then we drove home in silence to watch the final episode of The Curse of Peladon.
Sue: Nice rugs.
At first I think she’s referring to the Pels’ wigs, but no, it’s the fabric on the citadel’s walls that’s grabbed her attention. She’s also noticed the sets have become very smoky indeed, and when I tell her the production team got a bollocking for bringing burning torches into the studio, and the cameras had to be stripped down later so all the soot could be removed, she still thinks it was a price worth paying.
Sue: It’s the only realistic thing about this story.
Grun slips into the tunnels to attack Hepesh for betraying his people, but the old man manages to overpower him.
Sue: How did Hepesh pick up that boulder? That’s ridiculous. Jon Pertwee struggled to pick a rock that was less than half that size. Do the people of Peladon have superhuman strength? Have I missed something important?
The Ice Warriors, Jo and Alpha Centauri take a vote on whether to side with King Peladon or not. Alpha Centauri prevaricates (“Just poke her in her eye!”), but the others finally persuade it to raise its hand(s) in agreement.
Sue: Does that count as one vote or three?
Civil war breaks out on Peladon, but even scantily clad men fighting each other to the death can’t stir Sue.
Sue: This isn’t exactly 300. In fact, it’s probably closer to 30.
King Peladon is heartbroken when Aggedor kills Hepesh in a fit of pique.
Sue: Where’s the music gone? I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I really miss the music when it isn’t there. It doesn’t feel right. Is Dudley on a three-day week or something?
And then the real delegates from Earth turn up.
Sue: Good. I was beginning to worry about them. I thought they’d been smashed to pieces on the side of the mountain… Ooh, nice use of the ‘Doctor who?’ joke, there. It takes a lot of skill to do that without it sounding shit.
The Doctor believes the Time Lords were behind his trip to Peladon.
Sue: A likely bloody story. They’re just trying to make this seem more important than it really was.
Me: How do you feel about Jo not staying behind with the king?
Sue: I’m relieved. He was a bit wet. And who’d want to live on a shit hole like Peladon?
Sue: That was definitely below average. The production values weren’t very good – some of it was very cheap, actually. Except for that bit on the mountain. They should have filmed the whole thing like that. Some of the alien costumes were a joke, the direction was flat, and the plot didn’t excite me. The only good thing I can say about the story is that at least Jo had something to do for a change. And it was only four parts; I can’t imagine what it would have been like if they’d dragged it out to six.