I suspect my episode-a-day approach may do a disservice to The Monster of Peladon: while it’s only a couple of months since I saw The Curse of Peladon, viewers in 1974 would have had to think back two years to recall the Doctor’s first visit. And so what feels like a tiresome re-tread to me might have felt pleasingly nostalgic to them (or even brand new, to kids who’d started watching in the intervening years). That said, even if the original story isn’t fresh in your mind I think it’s hard to get very inspired by this: it’s so linear, with loads of wandering back and forth between gloomy locations while the poshest miners in the universe orate at each other, Queen Thalira pouts and Chancellor Ortron gets fruitier by the moment.
Most of Elisabeth Sladen’s dialogue is excruciating (‘You’ve got to show them that progress will give them a better life’), and Sarah Jane is especially useless, rushing off rashly, getting lost, falling victim to a security alarm, and getting taken hostage in the most boring way imaginable. At least her jumper is great, making her look like the detective in a Nordic Noir. She’s clearly meant to be a contrast to the pathetic Queen (played with all the charisma of a glass of tap water), but this idea falls down because apart from being outspoken and impetuous, Sarah doesn’t achieve anything worthwhile.
It’s left to the Doctor to have beer and sandwiches with the miners, trying to convince them to call off their strike and help him to investigate what he suspects is sabotage. He fails to convince Ettis, and later fails to convince Ortron. This isn’t a good day for him, especially when he gets chucked in another pit (presumably the citadel is filled with them) to face the justice of Aggedor.
I’m struggling with this one: everyone is written exactly the same, with the same cadence. There’s no attempt made to distinguish the voices of the lowly miners, complaining about their lot in the most grammatically correct terms (‘Our lives have always been the same, Doctor. Work and sleep. Little else. We earn barely enough to feed our families’), with the elevated nobles in the court of Peladon, or the alien visitors. Everyone sounds like they’re in a Shakespeare pastiche. The hot-headed rebel leader Ettis says things like, ‘Hurry, alien! Must I prove that I mean what I say?’ I’m just waiting for someone to proclaim, ‘They must think us fools!’ like they’re in an Eric Saward story. I take it back. I’m not doing The Monster of Peladon a disservice. This is painful.
Next episode: The Monster of Peladon – Part Three