34 1/2 Cool Things about
“The Curse of Peladon”
(And 15 1/2 Stupid Ones)
(But we're not telling you which is which)
(We're expecting you to work that out for yourselves)
By Alan Stevens and Fiona Moore
Originally published in Celestial Toyroom Issue 478
1. “The delegate from Alpha Centauri has arrived, your Majesty. He will present his credentials to you shortly.” A line which is only funny in connection with the physical appearance of the ambassador in question.
2.At that, any scene involving Alpha Centauri immediately becomes fraught with double entendres, and it is difficult not to smile when King Peladon says “that is my firm intention” or Hepesh offers the delegate the “hands of true friendship”, or Izlyr suggests “perhaps we should withdraw”.
3. “His coming shall be full of terror and darkness. His cry shall be heard in the night.” OK, we’ll stop now.
4. Meanwhile, nobody sees fit to mention that Arcturus’ gun apparently extrudes from its groin.
5. Peladon appear to be on the verge of exhausting the galactic supply of purple cloth and silver trim.
6. We’re trying very hard not to say anything negative about King Peladon’s outfit, since it’s a rather obvious target. Oh, what the hell. Those thigh-boots. Just look at them.
7. It’s normal for reviewers of this story to start going on about it being a metaphor for Britain’s entry into the EEC and developing tortured analogies between the story’s characters and various contemporary politicians. In fact, the only similarity is that the story revolves around a political entity debating whether to join a Federation and eventually deciding to do so.
8. Just to make it clear: King Peladon isn’t Queen Elizabeth II, Hepesh isn’t Harold Wilson, Torbis isn't Edward Heath, Alpha Centauri isn’t Margaret Thatcher, and Aggedor isn’t the Beast of Bolsover.
9. Also: the EEC was formed out of the need, first of all, to stop various neighbouring countries fighting each other, and, second, to provide a trade and political bulwark against the Soviet Union (and latterly the United States). Although there's dialogue in Episode Four about Mars and Arcturus being old enemies, and the Federation holding that conflict in abeyance, the planets in this story are light-years distant from each other, and, while things flare up with Galaxy Five in the sequel story “The Monster of Peladon”, there’s no mention of it here, so the parallel is only partial.
10. And finally: the UK is historically in something of a maverick position relative to Europe, vacillating between closeness to the rest of the union and, when expedient, shifting its interests to the USA. Peladon doesn’t appear to be in that sort of position in either story.
11. World’s longest Tardis landing sequence. No wonder Jo complains about the time it’s taking.
12. “I'm all dolled up for a night out on the town with Mike Yates....” She’s on a hiding to nothing there; the Doctor’s done Jo a favour taking her to Peladon instead.
13. The last time the Tardis fell off a cliff was in “The Romans”. That’s a useless fact to entertain people with at your next fan gathering.
14. One might ask why, if the Tardis was sent to Peladon by interfering Time Lords, they tried to kill the Doctor by landing him halfway up a cliff. However, the answer becomes obvious later on in Episode One: clearly, the Time Lords wanted him to discover the secret passage which allowed Aggedor access to the castle.
15. The Throne of Peladon is singularly pathetic, resembling a directors’ chair with gold knobs on.
16. Once you’ve noticed the resemblance between the statue of Aggedor and 1980s puppet sitcom star ALF, you can’t unsee it.
17. The two delegates taking the names of star systems is a callback to “The Daleks’ Master Plan”, where the delegates all speak on behalf of various galactic powers.
18. Although this is sort of undermined when we learn that King Peladon’s name apparently really is the same as that of his planet, and quite what we’re to assume about Earth delegate Amazonia’s name, we can’t say. And neither of the Ice Warriors is calling themselves “Mars”.
19. Elements of “The Daleks’ Master Plan”-- which, let's recall, was screened only seven years before this story -- also revolved around Mavic Chen’s efforts to spread dissent and suspicion among the other delegates, much as Hepesh is doing here.
20. The idea that the Ice Warriors might be the villains of the piece is emphasised by the fact that the first one we see is found quite close to where Torbis was killed.
21. The Doctor lies through his teeth from his very first conversation with anyone on Peladon. Though Jo is quite happy to play along.
22. Jo does seem to be doing an impression of Queen Elizabeth II.
23. “My mother taught me all she could of justice, compassion and love.” However, she apparently didn’t teach her son anything about her home planet and its aristocratic systems, or he’d’ve figured out Jo wasn’t a princess on fairly short order.
24. Come to think of it, we never actually see any female Peladonians. So it’s a good thing Peladon mentions his mother so often, or we’d be forced to conclude they reproduce by mitosis.
25. At the start of Episode Two, Alpha Centauri appears to be sneezing from dust caused by the masonry fall.
26. The Doctor concludes that the Ice Warriors must be villains because the electronic key is made of trisilicate, which can only be found on Mars. Mobile phones require coltan, a mineral which is mostly extracted from Zaire, but the police don’t go around looking for Zairians any time a mobile is used in the commission of a crime. Or, to put it another way, has the Doctor never considered interplanetary trade, as one might find in, say, a Federation?
27.In “The Monster of Peladon”, we learn that the Federation’s “whole technology is based on [trisilicate]. Electronic circuitry, heat shields, inert microcell fibres, radionic crystals." So the key might belong to any of the Federation delegates. Clearly the Doctor is prejudiced.
28. The Doctor says Arcturus is “only a box of tricks”. Well, he is -- he’s both a box and a sneaky villain.
29. Arcturus says “Memory circuits out of phase”, so the box isn’t just a life-support system, it’s actually part of him.
30. Why doesn’t Jo take her high heels off before climbing out onto the ledge?
31. Also, having windows without glass or shutters, big enough for a grown woman to climb through, opening directly onto the palace’s rooms, must make the place pretty cold and draughty.
33. By the end of Episode Two, it's fairly obvious that it's Arcturus who's the villain: Arcturus hangs back when the statue falls onto the delegation, Hepesh wouldn't know how to disconnect the servo-junction unit on his own, and he also wouldn't have come up with the idea of planting the trisilicate key to implicate the Ice Warriors.
34. Hepesh claims the Doctor is lying about the existence of tunnels under the citadel. However, it doesn't seem to occur to either the Doctor or King Peladon that this should be a pretty easy thing to verify.
35. "But who do I fight?" "You will be held captive in your room until dawn. Then you will be lowered into the pit beneath the citadel, where you will engage in combat to the death with the King's Champion, Grun." Typical Peladonian, thirty-five words where one would do.
36. Whatever the King says about his feelings for Jo, any marriage with her would be, as he himself says, "an interplanetary alliance". So it does all come back to politics, and his personal and public life aren't remotely as separate as he claims.
37. Hepesh says that he doesn't want to see the Doctor killed, because he does not want "to have this planet destroyed in retaliation by the spaceships of the Federation". However, in a prior episode he was perfectly happy to drop a statue on a whole lot of Federation delegates.
38. Hepesh does say earlier that he knows "the Federation cannot override our holy laws. It is forbidden by its charter", and thus that they'd have no legal basis to attack the planet if the Doctor is killed. However, Hepesh does also clearly believe that the Federation is willing to go back on its stated principles. Quantum politics, where things are both legally possible and impossible.
39. Though the idea of enticing the Doctor into the tunnels where he'll be killed by Aggedor is a clever one, since Peladon would hardly be responsible for his death in that case.
40. Less excusable is the fact that Izlyr states that to kill the Doctor "will amount to a declaration of war", when, five scenes earlier, Arcturus was pointing out that it was perfectly allowable under the Galactic Articles of Peace, paragraph twenty nine, subsection two, and Izlyr said nothing. Quantum politics again?
41. In the interests of science, we tried the Venusian lullaby on the cats. It didn't work.
42. The climbing-down-ropes-into-the-pit idea is well done and nicely dramatic.
43. It also establishes the visual theme of shooting the pit from above -- which makes it easier to disguise the sequences where the Doctor is doubled by Terry Walsh.
44. There's a skeleton in the pit. Presumably they just left the last combat loser in there to rot, but nobody remarks on it.
45. Why does Hepesh give Grun the sword after the Doctor disarms him, thereby allowing Grun, potentially, to kill the Doctor? Presumably he doesn't want the Doctor to win because he'll reveal the existence of the tunnels, but if Grun kills him, that will rather spark the diplomatic incident Hepesh was hoping to avoid. Clearly, Hepesh's plan is starting to unravel.
46. If Hepesh does trigger war between Mars and Arcturus, why would Peladon be the first battlefield? Then again, maybe the Doctor is just trying to put the wind up King Peladon by telling him that.
47. Izlyr's remark that the Federation could invoke emergency powers to intervene on Peladon will become a setup for "The Monster of Peladon", when Azaxyr turns up under pretense of being precisely that sort of intervention.
48. "Arcturus was an unattractive person, Princess. But I think I preferred his cold logic to the hysteria of Centauri." As Centauri witters away in the background.
49. Although Hepesh could have instigated the palace coup at any time in the story, he waits until Episode Four and the point at which he has no other options. Clearly he was not seeking power for himself, he genuinely did believe in the monarchy and the old Peladonian system.
50. "The memory of this unhappy day shall be wiped from our history." Except that in "The Monster of Peladon", it clearly hasn't been.