As promised, here is my first foray into the recent Pertwee episodes I watched for TARDIS Tavern (Terror of the Autons, The Curse of Peladon, and The Time Warrior). Gosh I had fun talking to those guys! I can’t wait for you all to hear it. I have it on very good authority that the episode will drop next Sunday, February 12th. I’ll post a link here for sure. Also, thank you to the boys from Radio Free Skaro for pimping Chris’ appearance, and specifically, for mentioning my name. That was a weird moment there for sure.
So. The first of the three episodes chronologically is Terror of the Autons, but due to the configuration of my Netflix queue, I watched The Curse of Peladon first. And frankly, I think this did a disservice to the other two episodes because this one was by far my favorite. After Curse, the others seemed dry and either boring or silly. (Tantalizing teaser: I may not have found much agreement about this at the Tavern.)
First of all, let me say that I positively loved David Troughton. He was fantastic. Though his sudden romantic interest in Jo seemed a wee bit thin, I adored his clueless intensity. (And to be fair, the “thinness” in that romantic pairing seemed to come more from Katy Manning’s side.) To be clear, I didn’t know it was David Troughton while I was watching, so there was no “Troughton dynasty” bias. I tend to zone out during the credits, though I do watch (or at least listen to) them during every episode. Somehow I missed his name each time until the end of episode four, when I had a “holy crap!” moment.
To give Jo her due, I should point out that not only did she look great in this story (her hair, her dress, her shoes—all fab) but she acquitted herself well to boot. She seemed almost uncharacteristically canny. When the Doctor says that she’s royalty, she pipes right in with a haughty response and really goes to town playing the part. She does a pretty good job of sticking with it for the entire story, too.
I found myself genuinely emotionally involved in this episode right off the bat. When Torbis dies in episode one, I was honestly shocked and saddened. Most of all, I was sucked in. I suddenly wanted to know what was going on, who was behind it all, and how it would all play out. There was a definite whodunit aspect to this episode that I found engaging and delightful. Who doesn’t love a good mystery? And tossing in a healthy dash of political intrigue doesn’t hurt either.
To be fair, I’m not always 100% sucked into political intrigue, but when it’s set against the backdrop of a medieval society with a king and a priest and monsters, well that’s precisely my cup of tea. When you add visitors from other planets, that’s adding sweet sweet honey to my delicious tea. I really enjoyed the delegates. By all rights, I should have hated Alpha Centauri. Though the alliteration of “hermaphroditic hexapod” was music to my ears, it’s voice was less so. For whatever reason, instead of driving me crazy with annoyance, I found Alpha Centauri sweet and charming and yes, adorable. I know it’s a silly costume, but it made me smile. In the annoying voice department, Arcturus was the winner by far, and though his costume was inventive, it was gross. The slime running down the inside of his dome? Eww. But I mean that in a good way. It was certainly effective.
My favorite bit involving the delegates was the fact that the Doctor was so adamant about the Ice Warriors being behind everything. Perhaps it’s my general meh-ness regarding Pertwee talking here, but when he was proved wrong I couldn’t stifle a big grin and an out-loud “Ha!” In addition to the Doctor’s mistake, I did like seeing an old villain redeemed like that. I love the idea that the bad guys can become the good guys.
This episode really did hit a lot of buttons for me. I must admit, I’m a sucker for the religion vs science debate that pops up so often in Doctor Who specifically, and science fiction in general. Clearly it’s not a new idea, but I think it was handled well here. Added to that was another trope of which I’m particularly fond—that of the bewildered, overprotected royal youth, forced to emerge from his insulated world of stuffy, meaningless court functions and deal with the harsh real world for the first time. I loved watching Peladon grapple with the different factions of his government and finally come to terms with the fact that even his closest and most trusted ally could betray him, given the right motivation.
I think that’s the crux of what struck me square in the heart. This story is touching and sad. It’s heartbreaking to watch both Peladon and Hepesh realize that each is never going to come around to the other’s way of thinking. Hepesh’s certainty that the boy he raised would see the light and return to the old ways is eventually crushed. His adherence to the past and his abject fear of losing it causes him to take measures that are shocking and sad for everyone. And eventually he’s killed by the living symbol of the very institution he tried to protect. It’s tragic. Then noble Peladon still mourns Hepesh grievously, as the father-figure he was for most of Peladon’s life. Heart-rending. Episode four nearly brought me to tears. I’m misting up just thinking about it.
The fact that he proceeds to pardon everyone involved illustrates that Peladon has become the strong and wise kingly ruler that his planet needs in such tumultuous times. I really think that this might be my favorite of all the Pertwee stories. Well, of all the ones I’ve seen, anyway. (Admittedly, that’s not many.) Previous, I liked The Three Doctors best, but what I most enjoyed about it was the interplay between Pertwee and Troughton. Here, I enjoyed Pertwee and a different Troughton, but I liked nearly everything else about the story as well. The Curse of Peladon may not be very representative of the Pertwee era, but I suspect that might be why I like it so much more than the rest.