Tuesday, 5 July 2011

The Prisoner of Peladon written by Cavan Scott & Mark Wright and directed by Nicola Bryant

What’s it about: "Tonight, I am going to tell you the story of the Prisoner of Peladon, and of the time when a friend and protector returned to our planet. A man called… the Doctor." The planet Peladon has joined the Galactic Federation, and has undergone a painful period of change. Still eager to embrace alien culture, King Peladon has welcomed refugee Ice Warriors to his world - innocent creatures that are fleeing the New Martian Republic. But, as an old friend returns to the capitol, there is murder in the refugee camps. Could the truth lie in an ancient legend?

Mature King: The Prisoner of Peladon marks another departure from the norm for the Companion Chronicles following in the footsteps of Jago & Litefoot in the last season and whilst I don’t think this has potential as an entire spin off series like its predecessor it is still an intriguing one off and a worthwhile experiment. Quite aside from David Troughton being an extraordinary performer, Peladon was a rich character and a return to the planet a few years after the events of Curse of Peladon is very welcome. When he was a boy, Peladon used to listen to the rain lashing and the violent storms safe under his furs in his bedroom. A ruler of a planet must listen to his people, to his High Priest and his Chancellor and above he must listen to his heart. Peladon and Alpha Centuri have developed a firm friendship over the years and he has come to rely on the Hexapods consul. He admires the fierce, proud and resilient Martians. Not a man to shirk his responsibilities, King Peladon heads straight to the grieving family of the murdered Martian mother to offer his condolences and see what he can do. He likes to think that he tried to save Axlaar when he fell down the mountain but the scream haunts him every night suggests otherwise.

Good Grief: The same careworn face, the same piercing eyes. The Doctor came and went like the ghost of Aggedor in the time of the planets greatest need, an almost mythical figure to the people of Peladon. When asking the Doctor about Princess Josephine of TARDIS, Peladon can see there is a sorrow weighing down his heart when he admits that she has moved on. He could never resist a locked door but since this one has myths and puzzles to solve before opening he wonders if they should leave it too the past and return to the present. Rather than surrender to the gravity of the situation of a war between the Martians and the Pels the Doctor uses his mind to unpiece the mystery of the death to prevent it. Peladon constantly felt whenever the Doctor was close that everybody knew what was going on except him! He wonders what sort of lifestyle the Doctor must lead where he can treat tragedy and danger with such levity. Peladon accuses the Doctor of treating this whole thing like a game and rather than just revealing the truth he had to play the magician and reveal his deductive prowess instead. Destruction hangs over his head like a broiling cloud.

Standout Performance: David Troughton’s talents never cease to amaze me. Quite aside from his various roles on television and audio away from Doctor Who that I have enjoyed over the years, his two performances on the show could be more different. And yet it is his audio work that impresses me the most – he has a marvellously deep, rich voice that is very easy to listen to and I was thrilled when I heard he was bringing some of his fathers stories to life in the Target audio range. In The Prisoner of Peladon he runs the show with ease, his narration is crisp and guiding, his take on Pertwee’s Doctor sublime (with just a few ‘good grief’s’ and ‘old chaps’ he was whisked before my eyes), Alpha Centuri is chirpily evoked and he brings King Peladon back to life almost as if he has never been away. Clearly he is older but there is still the same youthful enthusiasm and angry naiveté that stood out in Curse of Peladon.

Sparkling Dialogue: ‘Many still called the Martians Ice Warriors. A xenophobic throwback to a violent heritage. A heritage some sought to resurrect.’
‘When you have a nose like this its wise to follow it sometimes.’
‘You have a choice, Doctor. The deaths of thousands of Pels…or my prey.’

Great Ideas: Five years after Peladon had been accepted into the Federation and the planet had flourished. It had been a struggle but they had become much more than the barbarous planet of repute and an influential voice in the Federation. Any worlds harbouring political prisoners from New Mars will be considered enemies of the Martian State. This doesn’t frighten Peladon however and he sets up a refugee camp on Mount Megeshra and his decision didn’t go down well with some of the courts of the planet. A Martian mother is slaughtered by a Pel weapon whilst she was trying to protect her young. She was stabbed after being murdered by a sonic disruptor – the suggestion of both Martian and Pel weaponry brews up mistrust amongst the two species and proves that perhaps there are still race issues to be resolved between them. The woman died because of an act of kindness, taking in an orphan girl after her own child had been killed. Axlaar came to Peladon to find such a child and murdered the old woman when he suspected she was harbouring her. Alpha Centuri is very loyal but hardly the first person you would call upon to head a murder investigation. It is Centuri that has been concealing the prisoner of Peladon - Princess Lyxgar, daughter of the true King and heir to the throne. She is last of the line that Axlaar believes threw away the might of the Martian race and turned them into intergalactic policemen and her death will see that regime end today. Centuri wanted to tell Peladon but the Galactic Federation thought it would be best to conceal the child’s location – it was only ever intended as a bolthole until they could safely smuggle the child back into Federation territory.

Audio Landscape: Peladon always had a fantastic stormy atmosphere which is ripe for recreating on audio. Chilly winds, crackling fires, violent thunder and lashing rain all combine to evoke of the medieval planet. A spacecraft roaring overhead and striking the mountain, screaming voices amongst the wreckage, a hypnotising view of the madness from King Peladon, a baby gurgling, a flash of metal as Axlaar unsheathes his dagger, creaking doors opening,

Notes: A common problem with the main range and Companion Chronicles is that they try and sell danger to characters that we know wont be affect them that badly by their audio adventures because there was no sign of it in their television appearances. However with characters like King Peladon who never returned to the screen after his first appearance all bets are off which adds a little more tension to the cliffhanger that sees him literally on a knifes edge. The same was true of Jago & Litefoot and Sara Kingdom and I do wonder if there should perhaps be more experiments of this nature. Certainly Grun’s death comes from nowhere and makes an impact.

Result: There is something about the wistful way in which King Peladon recounts this tale that reminds me pleasingly of a dark fairytale and it has all the magic and sinister atmosphere I would expect from such a story. Pleasingly this was the evening I decided to put some candles on rather than the light and listened in a haze of moody flickering light which just seemed to enhance the mood. In episode two the lyrical nature of the piece surrenders to Martian politics but this serves to build a powerful image of Martin culture at this time and there is still the mystery of the prisoner of Peladon to solve to see you through to the conclusion. The answers are very satisfying when they come and it once again sees an important galactic event taking place on Peladon – a planet can get a terrible reputation you know! The dramatic confrontation between Peladon and the Doctor at the climax is exceptional and ends the piece on a dramatic high. Nicely done indeed: 8/10

Buy it from Big Finish here: http://www.bigfinish.com/403-Doctor-Who-The-Companion-Chronicles-The-Prisoner-of-Peladonhttp://

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