CRRRaSh! 320 Doctor Who: The Monster of Peladon

By Roy Mathur, on 2020-06-21, at 18:08:03--18:36:58 BST, for Captain Roy's Rocket Radio Show, Listen

Cast and Production Notes

Third Doctor: Jon Pertwee
Sarah Jane Smith: Elisabeth Sladen
Director: Lennie Mayne
Writer: Brian Hayles
Producer: Barry Letts
Serial four of season eleven, following Death to the Daleks covered in 318, 6 x 25 minutes, first broadcast from 23 March to 27 April 1974.

On this Day in the UK

Paper Lace were at number one in the UK pop charts with Billy---Don't be a Hero on the Bus Stop label.

I remember the some of the song's words and the tune, though for copyright reasons that's all I can say. Future historians will listen to this one day and say, "What the hell is he talking about?" Then they'd say, "They've destroyed their history. They must have been right berks back in the 2020s with this copyright malarkey." Don't blame me future historians, blame the lawyers. This is an argument I've made before, so I'll shut up now, but will someone somewhere in all time and space do something about it?

I read that it was mistaken for a protest song about the Vietnam War, when it was really about the American Civil War. However, it's timing can't have been harmed by the spiralling collapse of the Vietnam War, which would come to an abrupt and inglorious end a year later.

Although not on the same day, in April, the USSR's Lada 1200, a ruggedised saloon, based on a Fiat 124, started to be sold in the UK for 999 GBP, which was still a lot back then. Hell it's still a lot today. I have actually a driven a Lada, though similar, Lada Riva before and they're not terrible compared to many other cars of that era.

What Happens

We're back on Peladon fifty years in its future. The Doctor has returned, by mistake a little late, and this time with Sarah not Jo. (We covered his last adventure The Curse of Peladon (1972) in 271).

Our friends, the Doctor and Sarah, are seized, but vouched for by Galactic Federation ambassador Alpha Centauri, who we first met in The Curse of Peladon, to King Peladon's daughter Queen Thalira now the ruler.

The Royal Beast Aggedor, the monster that lurks in the tunnels and who the people worship, is appearing randomly to terrorise and disintegrate miners. The miners are extracting trisilicate for use in the Federation's war with Galaxy 5.

The Doctor discovers that this is really a statue of Aggedor, with a beam cannon built into it's mouth, matter transported to different locations within the tunnels by a traitorous Federation engineer, Eckersley, working on behalf Galaxy 5. Renegade Martian Ice Warrior Commander Azaxyr is also working with him to control Peladon.

The Doctor takes control of the matter transporter and helps the miners fight the Ice Warriors. Eckersley, flees with Queen Thalira as hostage, but is tracked through the maze of tunnels by the Doctor using the real Aggedor, who he has again befriended. They catch Eckersley, but both Eckersley and Aggedor are killed.

Queen Thalira offer the Doctor a Chancellorship, which he declines, instead recommending Gebek, the leader of the miners and the Doctor and Sarah depart on good terms.

What I Thought

Nina Thomas does an excellent job of portraying a young and naive Queen Thalira as David Troughton did portraying a young and naive King Peladon. (Oh, and yes, David Troughton is the son of second Doctor Patrick Troughton). Both actors manage to pull off a sort of light vacant expression, without straying into simply looking stupid.

I like Elizabeth Sladen, but I must say her quirky ambiguous smile is confusing as it can mean anything from abject terror, to anger, to actual amusement. On the other hand, I did enjoy her brief summary of feminism to Queen Thalira.

I think the serial sags a little in the middle with a lot of needless to'ing and fro'ing, as seems to be the case for all stories longer than four episodes.

There's a prominent allegorical vein (sorry) regarding miners versus the rich nobility. From around 1972 there were constant disputes and strikes by the National Union of Mineworkers, an energy crisis, and even three-day week to conserve electricity; in brief, the UK was in a mess. Shortly before the transmission a four month miners' strike had come to an end, though since the serial was filmed the year before, I don't think that significant. However, the years of economic chaos and social unrest absolutely influenced genre media.


The plot device of disguising a weapon as a monster to fool superstitious locals was also used in Colony in Space, covered in 248.

Trisilicate was named after an magnesium trisilicate, an abrasive ingredient in toothpaste.

Director Lennie Mayne, an ex-dancer from Australia. He mostly worked for the BBC and is best known for directing several Doctor Who serials; The Curse of Peladon (1972), The Three Doctors (1972), The Monster of Peladon (1974), and The Hand of Fear (1976). He died in a sailing accident in 1977.

The cute, single eyed, and tentacled ambassador, Alpha Centauri, was voiced by Ysanne Churchman in all of its three Doctor Who appearances, including the "Empress of Mars" in 2017.

Writer Brian Hayles wrote six scripts for Doctor Who. He also wrote several novelisations for the show.

Producer Barry Leopold Letts was an English actor, television director, writer, and producer, best known for producing Doctor Who from 1969 to 1974. This spans Patrick Troughton and Jon Pertwee's time as the Doctor, which is why I've mentioned him so many times in this podcast.

When I talked about my sources for research in 318, I didn't mention any physical non-fiction books about the show because there are so many and I'm not sure what to buy. It's also difficult to ascertain whether books covering the TV series spanning 1963 to 1989, given that so much information in online, will have anything further to add at this stage. Still, I am looking to buy a few, not least for nostalgic reasons, so please let me know if you have any recommendations. Regarding the fiction; I used to own several of the novelisations and spin-off books, as well as all the spin-offs of Blakes 7; all of which are sadly lost after many moves. I do look at reacquiring them, but the prices are a little too high right now. I put it down to greedy speculative dealers, rather than genuine fans. That reprehensible behaviour persists throughout genre media, like it has done for years in the world of high art.

Last time I also said how the current credits (1974) are reminiscent of those of Sapphire and Steel. I fact-checked my memory and they are only similar in the vaguest sense. So much for memory. I reiterate that it is the fault of Joanna Lumley (Sapphire) for distracting me.

While we're talking about the credits, I haven't mentioned it yet, but Season 11 saw the first use of the diamond logo, as opposed to the previous letters spelling "Doctor Who" presented in a variety of fonts. The diamond is my favourite Doctor Who logo.