What’s it about: 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…
An English Gentleman: The Doctor, Peri and Erimem are working together very well at this stage – go and listen to their interaction as they save Zixlyr from his burning ship and then try and steer the crashing ship into an area of the planet that will soften their sudden landing. It’s a dazzling mixture of intelligence, guts and pizzazz! Unfortunately the fifth Doctor isn’t quite the showman that his third incarnation was and whereas Pertwee sang his heart out when taming the Great Beast of Peladon Davison sounds a little embarrassed and apologetic as he mumbles the words. He has a quotation for every occasion apparently. He objects to the redecoration of the throne room into something bright, modern and utterly soulless and uses the fact that he once kept the same console room for nearly 300 years as an example of staying power. A shame that his argument is lacking weight considering that his very own console room is the most bright, modern and utterly soulless room to step out of the eighties! It’s very cute when the Doctor tells Peri that he worries about her and she returns the compliment. Science not superstition has always been his motto and it has seen him through so far (touch wood). He happily gives Erimem his consent to leave and says she is making the right choice. Now he will have even more reason to visit Peladon. The Doctor running after Peri exasperated into the TARDIS could happily lead to the beginning of Caves of Androzani. Whilst this run of stories has been unrealistically crow barred between two televised stories (with the latter hinging on the fact that the Doctor has just met Peri to give it emotional weight) I think the experiment was more the justified by the strong run of stories and the fact that this trio brought the best out in each other.
Busty Babe: The girl guides have nothing on her! There is a nice reminder of the events of Red Dawn when the Doctor took Peri to Mars. Peri completely understands her role in this story and as soon a guard is knocked unconscious she takes up the mantle of Nancy Drew and starts investigating. She even starts a sentence ‘My curiosity was piqued as soon as…’ Peri has a strong dislike of thieves and an even stronger set of lungs – don’t get this broad unhappy or she will scream the citadel down! When Peri pushes Zixlyr too far with her gobby racism he claps her around the face and prepares to kill her to get things sorted. Somehow Nicola Bryant manages to make the line ‘you are a petty ignoble criminal! The lowest of the low!’ sound like the most disgusting insult she has ever hurled. Death, destruction and tragedy, Peri wonders why they never see the wonderful things in the universe (the Doctor says they do but they never notice them). The symbols on the walls match the symbol on Erimem’s ring – the sign of Sekmet. Peri’s relationship with Zixlyr turns out to be one of the highlights of this adventure; it is one that is built on suspicion that turns into trust and then respect.
Dusky Queen: Erimem’s departure has been foreshadowed since Three’s a Crowd and more recently was brought up in both Son of the Dragon and The Mind’s Eye. She was brought up amongst sandstone and marble and she finds the citadel on Peladon comforting. Even the highest amongst the people need reminding that they are ultimately nothing but a breath in the wind of time. The Doctor has taught her that history is like a great tree and you may snap of a twig here or cut off a branch there but the tree keeps growing. From a distance it is the same tree despite all their efforts. Erimem finds the surface of Peladon wild, savage and beautiful and she has never seen a suns set like it. With all the bravery of her ancestors behind her Erimem stands up to the awesome power of Sekmet and tells her proudly that she comes from the people who defeated her. Erimem is the last royal female needed to free Sekmet from her prison, a Pharaoh out of time brought to Peladon by the Doctor. She offers herself to Sekmet and the Last of the Pharaoh’s sacrificing herself for the Last of the Osirans has a gleeful ring of irony to the murderous Goddess. She poisoned her own blood with distilled Mandrake root to kill the murderess. She has loved travelling with the Doctor and Peri but all the time she has been evading her true destiny to rule. She understands Peladon’s society, its traditions and politics. It is a world that needs a strong ruler and she feels she can show Pelleas how to be a good ruler as his mentor and wife. It’s basically the Leela departure done right with Erimem staying in character.
Standout Performance: Its another very strong cast assembled by director supremo Barnaby Edwards and this is one story where the performances have to be pitch perfect to magic up the atmosphere of those Peladon stories from the seventies. For once we have a role for squeaky voiced Jane Goddard that perfectly suits her shrill delivery and she does a very good take on Ysanne Churchman in bringing alive the uber-cute Alpha Centuri. Much criticised Nicholas Briggs is wonderful as the Ice Lord Zixlyr, imbuing the character with the right sense of honour and menace. I cannot fail to spot the quality of Phyllida Law’s rich voice in the role of Belldonia, she was a revelation in the SJA story Eye of the Gorgon and she is just as impressive here. I was very pleased that she wasn’t written as stubbornly as Hepesh in Curse of Peladon (for she plays the same role) and Law gives the character a sense of decency even when she is acting against our heroes best interests. Jenny Agutter is billed as ‘the voice’ to keep the surprise about the nature of her character and she is a seducing disembodied spirit for the most part before unleashing all the laughter and madness of hell upon Peladon.
Sparkling Dialogue: ‘There is a dark secret at the heart of Peladon. A secret that kills…’
‘Revenge isn’t justice, Zixlyr! If you truly wanted to put right your sisters death you’d find out for certain who killed her and expose the villains! That way you come out a hero and not just some maniac with a bomb!’ – Wowza, this is another brilliant performance from Nicola Bryant. She has been fiery before but she is sublimely ranging with fury in this tale.
‘The raging lioness had developed a taste for blood and began slaughtering every living thing in an orgy of killing!’
‘The universe will be my plaything once more.’
‘I think you can beat anyone, Doctor.’
‘When I leave Doctor I promise…it wont be because I am going to marry some alien King!’ – agreat last line.
Great Ideas: The witching hour is when the people of Peladon are said to have pledged themselves to the dark beast. The TARDIS has picked up a distress signal and rushed to the rescue, an Ice Lord was enroute to take up his new post on Peladon when the ship was attacked and the pilot killed as they passed close to the border of Arcturus. Peladon and Earth are about to be uniting once again by a royal marriage (of convenience). The awkward scenes between Pelleas and Pandora feel very natural as the two halves of an arranged marriage try and feel each other out (she is brutally honest about being in love with somebody else and I really admired the admission). The item that Zixlyr stole was not merely a necklace but a memory hub from the Martian warrior that he has replaced. Zixlyr carried a volatiser from the crash (pretending it was a survival kit) to avenge the death of his sister who has died on Peladon. He detonated a device that was enough to cripple but not destroy his ship because he needed to reach Peladon without going through the standard security steps. Elkin is such a gloriously deceptive character you cannot help but cheer him on – he doesn’t want to split the trisillicate profits 50/50 with Arctos but take them all for himself and nab his spaceship off of Peladon while he is there. He gets murdered by his cohort for his troubles! Pandora manages to score points with her new mother in law by pushing her out of the way of the tumbling statue of Aggedor when the explosion rips through the citadel. Jars holding the viscera of female leaders guarded over by Sekmet who has been imprisoned in a crystal tomb for countless millennia. Only the blood of four royal females can unlock her prison and Pandora is the third after Pelleas’ mother and Alixyr. Sekmet was an Osiran, a member of a noble race of super beings who ruled the universe millions of years ago. Trisillicate is the hardest form of salt in the galaxy and it made up Sekmet’s prison ship, which crash-landed on Peladon thousands of years before the citadel was even built.
Audio Landscape: After the cinematic The Girl Who Never Was, the first episode of Bride of Peladon is similarly immersive with some fantastically visual action and a real sense of gothic mood created within a science fiction setting. Footsteps, church bell ringing, Ice Warrior hissing over the crackling intercom, drilling into Mount Megashra, stone falling and breaking, Peri and her fire extinguisher, a hull breach, the raising pitch of the engines as the spacecraft enters the atmosphere, the awesome level of destruction as they crash into the planet, sizzling blood in the fire, the burning ship buckling and then exploding, the cries of Aggedor, the charging beast, purring after being seduced by the Venusian lullaby, squeaky wooden doors to Peladon’s system of caves, crackling flames, the wind drifting down the tunnels, the bomb exploding, stabbings and blood flowing, the juice of pomegranates flowing, encased in a tomb of salt, Aggedor bashing through a wooden door.
Musical Cues: Another decent ERS score with some pleasing vocals that enhance the evocation of religion on Peladon. The dramatic score at the end of episode is particularly good.
Standout Scene: Part three sees all of the plot threads dovetailing together with precision with bridges made between characters, double crosses exposed and characters murdered. My favourite moment came when Arctos had killed his co-conspirator and escaped to his ship with the trisillicate only to be confronted by a silent assailant. He screams ‘you!’ in shock before he is shot and suddenly the whole piece is an Agatha Christie style mystery to discover who is behind this whole crazy affair. It turns out to be…Alpha Centuri! Hahaha! I love Erimem’s dramatic telling of the rise and fall of Sekmet at the beginning of episode four.
Notes: Within the first fifteen minutes we have heard Ice Warriors, an Arcturan and Alpha Centuri and it is amazing how quickly the atmosphere of the Peladon stories is conjured up with the delightful voices of the various alien races involved. Since this is the end of the road for the team of the fifth Doctor, Peri and Erimem (we wont even have any adventures for the fifth Doctor and Peri after this aside from Mission of the Viyrans) it is worth noting their last handful of stories are The Council of Nicaea (9/10), The Kingmaker (10/10), Son of the Dragon (10/10) and The Mind’s Eye (8/10. An incredible run of stories for this trio to go out on.
Result: Barnaby Edwards’ first script for the main range is an exciting reminiscence of past adventures on Peladon but with a darkly intelligent new take on the planet. The script is remarkably clear and full of incident and Edwards matches the quality of the dialogue and plotting with a futuristic gothic atmosphere that pervades the entire production. There is plenty here that will remind you of the seventies Peladon adventures but this is not simply a nostalgia fest because it continues the legacy of those tales by bringing it bang up to date and marrying it to some fascinating mythology from Earth. Of course this is where we wave goodbye to Erimem and it feels like it is too soon to say goodbye to such a strong character but at least she goes out on a high with her fans wanting more. Her decision to leave is perfectly understandable (and well built up in a number of her previous adventures) but that doesn’t mean that saying goodbye is any less upsetting. Another very strong story in what is turning into a splendid run of adventures: 9/10
Buy it from Big Finish here: http://www.bigfinish.com/104-Doctor-Who-The-Bride-of-Peladon