This is the first Third Doctor story that doesn’t feature UNIT at all. The action all takes place on the titular planet of Peladon. There is a conference about to take place there between delegates from various planets. Peladon joining the Galactic Federation was designed to parallel the UK joining the Common Market in the ’70s.
When I started watching this story I had briefly forgotten that the Ice Warriors make a reappearance here and it was a lovely surprise for me. It’s lovely to see them in all their green glory as opposed to black and white. Throughout the story there are mysterious deaths and dodgy goings-on but you never find out until near the end that the Ice Warriors were actually completely innocent here. They admit that they were once a warrior race but now only fight in self defence. What a great twist and it adds a whole other dimension to the Martians.
The Doctor and Jo are mistaken as the delegates from Earth. This means that for a large amount of the story, Jo has to pretend to be royalty and the Doctor has to be her advisor. I must say that the writer of this story, Brian Hayles does a very good job of making Jo more proactive in this story than usual. She is less of the damsel in distress than usual in these episodes. She accepts that she has to pretend to be royalty and does a pretty good job of it as well as holding her own against the Ice Warriors. She even gets to have a little bit of a flirt with King Peladon.
The baddies of the piece is actually the High Priest, Hapesh. It’s not too much of a shocker to find this out but never mind. He attempted to use an Aggedor to do his killings for him. The Aggedors used to live in the caves of the planet but were treated like deities by the people of Peladon. The Doctor encounters the Aggedor and manages to hypnotise it multiple times and breaks it free of Hapesh’s orders. He does this by using a small spinning mirror and recounting a Venusian lullaby. We don’t find out what this one translates into; but the one that he uses on Bok in The Dæmons translated roughly into “Close your eyes my darling, well three of them at least”.
Also one of the delegates is Alpha Centauri from Alpha Centauri. It is a hermaphroditic hexapod and prefers to be addressed as ‘it’ rather than ‘he’ or ‘she’. I love they way that it looks and is voiced by Ysanne Churchman perfectly. It is one of the good guys but is often excitable and prone to hysterics. When it waddles across the screen it always made me smile. Very good idea for the production team to put a cape on it to make it look less like a penis. Still a brilliant design though.
Hapesh is eventually killed by the Aggedor and the Galactic Federation is allowed to continue with the other delegates. The story takes a while to wrap up which makes me think that the final episode might have been under-running. The Doctor and Jo prepare to see the coronation of Peladon but then encounter the real delegate from Earth and fly back home. It is assumed that the Time Lords were responsible for their visit to Peladon since the Doctor knows he still hasn’t really got control over his ship yet.
I hadn’t seen this story before and I enjoyed it a fair amount. I slightly wish that the Ice Warriors had been given more to do. I’m aware that there is a sequel to this story further down the line and I look forward to seeing what develops there. I give The Curse of Peladon seven Arcturan delegates out of ten.