Review: Doctor Who – The Bride of Peladon

The Bride of PeladonThe ‘Peladon’ stories of Doctor Who are held in high regard (by some). It’s not hard to see why. After all, it’s not often that Who ever tries to create entire civilisations of weird aliens with depth and individuality.

The stories are set in the future on the feudal planet of Peladon which has suddenly became very interesting to the rest of the galaxy thanks to the discovery of the mineral ‘trisilicate’ in its mines. An alien delegation, with representatives from Arcturus (spongy blob in a glass box), Alpha Centauri (green, one-eyed giant penis in a cape), Mars (scaly green Ice Warriors with helmets) and Earth (floppy grey-haired dandies – oh wait, it’s the Doctor, incognito), turn up to decide on the planet’s admission into the galactic Federation. Then before you can say “Agatha Christie”, they’re being bumped off one at a time.

At first, suspicion descends on those naughty Ice Warriors, who spent most of the Troughton era trying to invade Earth. But it soon turns out they’re reformed characters and someone else is to blame. The Doctor solves the mystery just in time for brandies and cards, with the hindrance of his useless companion Jo who spends most of her time being romanced by the King of Peladon.

The second story, set a few years on, is typical left-wing agitprop of the time in which the miners of Peladon rebel at being exploited. The morals of the story are that whenever workers strike, you must give in to whatever they demand, because it is just, and that miners are thick and can be manipulated by those deceptive Ice Warriors, who aren’t always good after all. Just you wait, Peladon, you’ll be sorry when your whole planet gets trisilicate induced global warming. It also features new companion Sarah Jane Smith hectoring the Queen of Peladon into standing up for herself and to stop being such a girl.

Now we have Bride of Peladon, the first bit of creative writing by regular Big Finish director Barnaby Edwards since he was at school, and what would appear to be a sequel of sorts to those two Peladon stories, mixing in elements of each. Except, naughtily enough, just like an Ice Warrior trap, it’s all a big bluff and it’s really a sequel to a completely different story.

Oh yes, and Eminem the pikey Pharoah gets thrown overboard. What a shame.

Plot

Peladon will bathe in oceans of blood!

A mysterious voice, a missing girl and a murdered queen. The Royal House of Peladon is once more plunged into intrigue, terror and death. The Doctor, Peri and Erimem must find their way through a treacherous labyrinth of lies if they are to distinguish friend from foe before it is too late.

For deep beneath the Citadel of Peladon, something infinitely ancient and immeasurably powerful is stirring…

Is it any good?

You know, for a first story, it’s not half bad. Certainly better than my first story was oh so many years ago now.

After poaching an opening from Hamlet, in which the new King of Peladon gets egged on by ghosts to find out who murdered his mum, the story continues to nick here and there from the Peladon stories and from elsewhere in the Doctor Who canon (off the top of my head, I spotted references to Mindwarp, The Christmas Invasion and… well that would be spoiling, now wouldn’t it?).

For the first two episodes at least, if you’re familiar with the first two Peladon stories, you’ll not be encountering much new here, since it’s a pretty faithful recreation of the themes and elements of what made those two stories so intriguing, but without the crap costumes and make-up. Peladon’s looking to marry its King off to the royalty of Earth again, and it’s all over that tricky trisilicate stuff.

Then there’s a point where the Doctor says something and suddenly the writing’s on the wall for the Peladon strand: we’re talking a completely different story of all a sudden. Your thought process will probably go something like this: “Who’s he talking about? Only two? Who can he mean? Oh wait… Oh it’s them! Oh that’s interesting.”

This second half, while no less well done than the rest of the story, is surprisingly a little less gripping and requires a colossally unnecessary Deus Ex Doctor to save the day – a DED that would have come in awfully useful on numerous occasions in the past. It’s also dreadfully scientifically illiterate with its concepts of platelets, although no worse than trilsilicate apparently being an allotrope of salt (which is really useful because it has ions in it apparently – also, note, to Big Finish producers: anion rhymes with ‘lie on’ not ‘canyon’). All the same, it does have an adrenaline thrill that many a Big Finish story has lacked and which was also absent in the first half.

The eventual departure of Erimem comes as abruptly as Bonnie Langford’s on-screen departure and has parallels with Son of the Dragon‘s feint, something even Edwards points out. Nevertheless, thank goodness she’s gone. Can we have some more Peri-only stories now, please? Ah, Peri…

Despite a good cast, with Jenny Agutter and Carolyn Seymour being the notable names this time round, and some apt Pertwee-esque silliness, it’s a little shy of being truly memorable and outstanding. But it’s pretty faithful and should keep you both amused and intrigued – as well as off the streets for an hour or two.

How much should you have to pay?

Actual price: £14.99/£12.99 downloads

Actual worth: £10.99

Listen to the trailer (MP3 format)

Cast

Peter Davison (The Doctor)

Nicola Bryant (Peri)

Caroline Morris (Erimem)

Phyllida Law (Belldonia)

Jenny Agutter (Voice)

Christian Coulson (Pelleas)

Yasmin Bannerman (Pandora)

Nicholas Briggs (Zixlyr)

Jane Goddard (Alpha Centauri)

Richard Earl (Frankis)

Peter Sowerbutts (Elkin)

Philip Childs (Foreman)

Thomas Brodie-Sangster (Miner)

Writer: Barnaby Edwards

Director: Barnaby Edwards

Available from Amazon and the error-ridden Big Finish web site

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