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15 September 2016 @ 08:20 pm
The Randomiser: Monster of Peladon  
We've never had much luck with The Monster of Peladon. At some point in the 1990s I was seized with the urge to watch it and we ordered it from Amazon on VHS. The first time we tried this, we were sent a Seven of Nine boxset, which we much enjoyed watching and wondered idly if whoever had received our Monster of Peladon video had enjoyed it as much. We then re-ordered Monster of Peladon and this time received the right VHS tape only to discover that it was blank after episode 2. Having found the first two episodes rather dull we, at that point, gave up on the attempt.

It was with some trepidation, therefore, that I purchased the DVD from Amazon at the behest of the Randomiser. This time all the episodes were present and correct.

Traditionally, Doctor Who stories (especially six parters) tend to start and end well, or at least competently but can sag in the middle - particularly the notorious capture-escape sequences of the early second half episodes. Monster of Peladon actually improves as the story progresses. It has a very slow start which consists mostly of the court of Peladon, the Federation representatives and miscellaneous miners talking earnestly with each other while the Doctor and Sarah wander through the tunnels below the citadel. I have some sympathy with the story since it is attempting to set up a, for Doctor Who, moderately complex set of characters and agendas but one wishes they could have done it with less exposition.

It does have the benefit of making the inevitable capture-escape malarkey in episodes three to five seem pretty fast-paced by comparison. The time taken at the start in setting up several factions and viewpoints allows perils to arise from a number of different quarters. Even if the traffic through the secret entrance to the citadel is comically busy and the endlessly rioting miners do get a little repetitive. In fact I was surprised, having only previously encountered the story in book form, how quickly events moved from acceptance of the Ice Warriors as legitimate representatives of the federation to an understanding that they were definitely up to something - I had expected that to take a lot longer and be somewhat tedious with a great deal of arguing and disagreement. The character work is, in general, well done even if a lot of the characters are under-pinned by Doctor Who staples like the hot-headed revolutionary. Tame Layman mourned the death of Aggedor at the end and felt in need of a fixit.

Sarah Jane's speech to Queen Thalira about there being "nothing only" about being a woman is, from a script point of view, somewhat odd. It's easy enough to imagine someone like Sarah, who is presented in this season as something of a hectoring feminst, deciding it was a good idea to lecture Queen Thalira about standing up for herself. What is odd is that actually the script has been showing the Queen doing just this all along. There are plenty of moments where she stands up to, out-maneuvers or undermines Chancellor Ortron, who clearly aspires to be real power at the court of Peladon. We are obviously supposed to assume that, having recieved a pep talk from Sarah, she then decides to take charge but I'm not sure the rest of the story really supports that. If I weren't aware of the production team's pride in their "feminist" companion, and Nina Thomas' decision to make Queen Thalira quite so frequently look anxious and confused, I would suspect a deliberate criticism of the kind of blunt force approach to the issue that fails to see how someone in a very different society may be perfectly aware of her own worth and power and excercising it very competently if one but looks. At any rate, I'm glad in later seasons that they kept Sarah's independance and resourcefulness but toned down her tendency to lecture all and sundry about feminism.

Monster of Peladon is interesting in lots of ways, not the least its status as sequel to the earlier Curse of Peladon. I have always been of the impression that it is the lesser of the two stories, but the longuers of the first couple of episodes aside, I enjoyed this considerably.

This entry was originally posted at http://purplecat.dreamwidth.org/209260.html.
philmophlegm: cyberleaderphilmophlegm on September 15th, 2016 07:40 pm (UTC)
Haven't seen it in ages, so may need to rewatch and see if I similarly reconsider...
louisedennis: Doctor Wholouisedennis on September 16th, 2016 09:12 am (UTC)
It almost certainly helped that we went in with low expectations, and watched it episodically rather than in one sitting...
daniel_saunders: Leekleydaniel_saunders on September 15th, 2016 08:28 pm (UTC)
I tend to find this is one of those stories where I think, "It's better than fandom says" and watch it occasionally, only to end up thinking, "Hmm, maybe it's not that much better." I find it rather slow, which is a shame as it's trying to be worthy. It would probably have worked better as a four parter, like Curse.
louisedennis: Doctor Wholouisedennis on September 16th, 2016 09:13 am (UTC)
I think the first couple of episodes are definitely quite slow, and I suspect the next three are more repetitive than was obvious to us, given we didn't attempt to watch more than one episode at a time.
liadtbunny: DW War & Claraliadtbunny on September 16th, 2016 03:19 pm (UTC)
VHS from Amazon. I used to send them cheques!

I think it's been 15 years since I've seen 'Monster' and can't say I'm much encouraged.
louisedennislouisedennis on September 18th, 2016 03:32 pm (UTC)
One feels so old, talking about VHS tapes. I'm not sure you can even give them to charity these days!
liadtbunny: Zodiac TV watchingliadtbunny on September 19th, 2016 02:22 pm (UTC)
Some of my local charity shops do for about 10p each. Some people prefer them to DVD. I think Oxfam is the only charity shop still selling cassette tapes.