Doctor Who and The Curse of Peladon
Originally starring Jon Pertwee
Written by Brian Hayles
Narrated by David Troughton
Released by BBC AudioGo, May 2013
The Curse of Peladon is one of the highlights of the Jon Pertwee era, seeing the Doctor and Jo taking a rare excursion to another world, and a world which is one of the best defined and realised that Doctor Who had given us up to that point. The story is full of incident and moves along at a fair pace, making the running time of over 5 hours less of an ordeal than some of AudioGo’s other releases. Unlike some of the other early Target novels, Hayles sticks closely to the TV version, making a few additions here and there but mainly sticking to his scripts. However Hayles clearly takes delight in fleshing out his creations, giving us a little more insight into the customs and politics of Peladon and taking the opportunity to make alien delegates Alpha Centauri and Arcturus rather more impressive than they were on screen. Here Alpha’s, octopoid nature is constantly stressed, depicted as a mass of constantly shifting, colour changing tentacles rather than the phallus with hoover attachments we saw on TV.
However, Hayles fails to transcribe much of what worked in the visuals of the TV version. The Curse of Peladon was an unusually lush production for the time and had a distinct visual style. The purple robes, unusual hair pieces and visual iconography of Aggedor which brought the original production to life are not described in the novelisation, with Peladon’s citadel and inhabitants depicted in sparse detail.
Hayles has a rather unusual take on Pertwee’s Doctor, often emphasising the arrogance and egotism of the character (perhaps suggesting a preference for his predecessor). It’s an intriguingly different take on the Doctor, and one of the highlights of novelisations written by authors other than the prolific Terrance Dicks is that they sometimes offer unusual interpretations of familiar characters.
While Hayles’ take on the Doctor is interesting he is less successful in his depiction of Jo. On TV Katy Manning had a tendency to play against lines, managing to show Jo’s intense affection for the Doctor at the same time as chastising him. Here, although her dialogue is the same as the TV version, the narration fails to capture the subtleties of Manning’s performance, meaning she comes across as a constant whinger, who doesn’t seem to like the Doctor or enjoy her adventures at all.
David Troughton, who played King Peladon in the original version, is (as usual) an excellent reader, performing all the alien delegates dialogue with gusto, closely replicating how they sounded on TV, and helped out by some skilful post-production to emphasise their alienness. The story is a sound designer’s dream, filled as it is with crashing thunder, echoing caverns and an assortment of strangely voiced creatures, and is coupled with a subtle yet effective score.
This is an excellently read and produced version of one of Target’s more iconic titles, and will appeal to fans of Pertwee and the early Target novels.