There’s a well-intentioned if patronising message to the episode that Peladon is well overdue a dose of Women’s Lib, and Sarah Jane is the woman to administer it (just in case there’s any doubt, Ortron outs himself as a horrid old sexist with lines like, ‘Since she is only a female, her activities are of little importance’). I like the Doctor’s recognition that the planet is in need of some fresh thinking, and the trust he places in Sarah to educate the Queen, and it results in the best line of the episode: ‘There’s nothing only about being a girl.’ However, I fear she’s onto a loser with Thalira, who has all the majesty of a mousey suburban spouse, and whose main contribution to the episode is calling for ‘chairs and refreshments for our guests’ as if she’s organising an afternoon tea.
More promising is Sarah prompting the Doctor and Alpha Centauri to pay attention to the refinery, which triggers Eckersley to suddenly flip into full-on melodramatic villain mode, gurning sinisterly at the camera to make sure no-one is left in any doubt that he’s a wrong ‘un. Again, though, Sarah’s activities seem to be in vain as Alpha Centauri turns out to be utterly unreliable: it’s easily manipulated into summoning in Federation troops, and after championing the Doctor it’s all too ready to believe he’s joined the rebel miners.
The former point does at least create a bit of drama different from anything in The Curse of Peladon, when both factions on Peladon have to play Happy Families in a desperate attempt to persuade the Federation security troops that everything is fine here, and leads to a nice scene of Ortron, now more ham than man, parleying with the miners. Otherwise, barring one hilarious shot of the Queen, Ortron and Alpha Centauri peering into the pit, this is all as much of a re-tread as the previous story (right down to the Doctor calming Aggedor and tickling him behind the ear). And then the Ice Warriors turn up.
Next episode: The Monster of Peladon – Part Four