Doctor Who: Peladon – The Death of Peladon & The Truth of Peladon Review

The second half of Big Finish’s Peladon boxset is far more straight forward in that they very much feel like stand-alone Sixth and Eighth Doctor stories that just happen to be set on Peladon. They also take place further in the planet’s timeline than we’ve ever gone before, which is something I was hoping for from the boxset but didn’t get in the first half. So… let’s take a look!

Synopsis (of Episode 3 “The Death of Peladon”):

The Sixth Doctor and Mel arrive on Peladon to discover a world on the brink of environmental disaster. Civil war looms and a dark plot brews in the shadows of the court. Unless they can help avert catastrophe, there seems to be little hope left for one of the Doctor’s favourite planets.

*spoilers appear from here on out!*

The Good:

“The Death of Peladon” was a perfectly fine story, though it may not blow you away. The Doctor and Mel appear in the Peladon mines and get caught in a set-up explosion that causes a large sink hole in the small town above. Mel ends up being taken back to the Citadel and meets Queen Minaris (Sara Powell) and her disinterested bitch of a Princess Isabelda (Remmie Milner) while The Doctor recovers in the town, or what’s left of it, which is led by the charismatic Helais (Liz White). What follows is your classic class struggle as the remnants of the town rise up after the Queen visits the disaster site and seemingly has no interest in helping, even when The Doctor points out that the water is contaminated which is causing early death among the general populace. To be fair the Queen is more inclined to help but is often stopped by her daughter, who is clearly a spoiled upper-class person to the nth degree. I’ll also mention that Alpha Centauri (Jane Goddard, of course!) is present on the planet and is also horrified at the living conditions and the Peladon Royal Family’s attitude towards it.

The peasants revolt, but revolt with powerful energy weapons Helais somehow got a hold of, and they assault the castle. Isabelda tries to convince her mother to evacuate the planet on a ship she has prepared with the help of the Arcturans but she refuses, leading to her own daughter taking her hostage as she tries to escape. The Doctor and Helais eventually catch up to them and Isabelda is shot by the latter when she gets desperate enough to raise her gun against her own mum. Queen Minaris decides to make Helais her chancellor in hopes to better understand the plight of her people as The Doctor and Mel leave. Again, it was fine, even if the whole “upper-class ignoring the plight of the common man as they suffer through harsh conditions and environmental damage” thing, which in true Peladon fashion is a rather on-the-nose look at current Britain…

A second look at the overall box set cover. The Eighth Doctor being in his “Dark Eyes” era outfit is interesting, and makes it harder to fit in!

The final episode of the box, “The Truth of Peladon”, is great so long as you don’t mind further obvious political comparisons (which again, given the first Peladon story was just an analogy of the Britain entering the EU it certainly fits!) as this time the Eighth Doctor arrives on Peladon and finds it under the rule of a corrupt Chancellor (shocker!) who is making deals with Arcturas (double shocker!) behind the people of Peladon’s back and secretly allowing them to run the planet in order to get sole access to the remaining Tricilicate resource. This is all revealed later mind you as the story starts off with The Doctor becoming assistant to Peladon’s seamstress Arla Decanto (Meera Syal) and eventually landing her in prison when The Doctor weaves the pattern of Arcturas’ night sky into a special cape rather than Peladon’s, making the aforementioned corrupt Chancellor Barok (Jason Watkins) think she knows things or at very least is a revolutionary. While in prison The Doctor visits her over three nights, each night showing her, a woman of the upper-class, how badly the common man are being treated, especially in the loomhouse she used to get apprentices.

It seemingly doesn’t work and she remains spoiled and arrogant but by the end of the story Arla sides with The Doctor, Ice Warrior Ambassador Ssilas and the other revolutionaries, all of whom make a big spectacle at the new young puppet King’s coronation by showing the planet the dishevelled state of the now dying Aggador race (which The Doctor used the classic Venusian Lullaby to calm earlier in the story!) Just after this crowd-rising victory Arla straight up kills Barok via a laser gun, which The Doctor isn’t too pleased about, it goes without saying. As a mob of Pels head towards the two of them The Doctor says he told them everything she did before she flipped sides and it’s up to her to face up to her past actions and hope they forgive her. It’s a good story, and The Doctor acting like a ghost of Christmas present to show the close-minded Arla the true state of the world was fun. Well, as fun as a story can get that shines a light on a very real problem, anyway…

The Bad:

Not a lot, again unless you’re not in the mood for “preachy Who”, which is definitely a sub-genre of the series that I completely understand if it doesn’t appeal. I also watch/listen/read the series because I like escapism from the very real political and social state my country is in right now so seeing it laid out here in a way that wasn’t very subtle can be a bit… annoying. Luckily the two stories were perfectly well done and well acted, plus it’s pretty much what I expect from a Peladon story anyway…

That being said, four Peladon stories and three of them feature corrupt Chancellors, three of them feature Arcturans as the villainous race behind the events and three of them feature Ambassador Alpha Centauri being involved in some way (two of which see Alpha hurt at a meeting, now that I think about it)… that’s a surprising lack of imagination! I get appealing to nostalgia but you can do a story on Peladon that doesn’t include one of those things!

The Continuity:

Well, again, there are unsurprisingly strong connections to the other Peladon stories! Helais is the descendant of Hepesh from Third Doctor TV story and original Peladon serial “The Curse of Peladon”, and there are mentions of the events of its sequel “The Monster of Peladon” as well as talk of a Golden Age brought about by Queen Erimem, making this take place after Fifth Doctor audio “The Bride of Peladon”. The idea of the water being poisoned is also a call back to the first half of this boxset, so really the only story that doesn’t get a direct mention is “The Prisoner of Peladon”, well, beyond taking place on Peladon.

… PELADON!

Overall Thoughts:

This was a fun double bill of full-on Doctor-filled Peladon stories, set at a time after the original TV stories, which is good. You may not like the more obvious and on-the-nose political side of things and if that’s the case you can knock a point of the score, opinion being subjective and all that. Overall though I liked them!

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