PopMatters is moving to WordPress in December. We will continue to publish on this site as we work on the move. We aim to make it a seamless experience for readers.


A King's Velvet Shorts, a Giant Green Eyeball -- Must Be Doc Who & 'The Curse of Peladon'

Those who’ve followed the Doctor for years already know how absolutely fun this show can be. For the rest of us, its only the beginning.

Doctor Who

Distributor: BBC Warner
Cast: Jon Pertwee, Katy Manning, David Traughton, Geoffrey Toone
Network: BBC
UK Release Date: 2010-04-05
US Release Date: 2010-04-05

Begin at the beginning. That’s an maxim I’ve always followed and even if it’s years after the fact, I’ve trained myself to ignore the contemporary and embrace the old. In comics, I look for first issues. With music, I’ll get the first album and move ahead from there. Beginnings aren’t always best, though. Sometimes the voice of an artist or a piece of work isn’t found for a while.

With many television shows it’s sometimes necessary to start at the beginning. Imagine picking up Lost in the middle of the fourth season without ever seeing the plane crash or the hatch or the polar bear. Without beginnings the meat of a piece can lose both its context and its dramatic impact.

It’s not impossible to find the beginning of Doctor Who. In the US, there are plenty of DVD and VHS collections of stories from the long-running BBC series available, but the Doctor’s presence isn’t the same in the states as it is in the UK, even with the popularity of the current series. I came to the Doctor late, though he was long known to me. I have vague memories of Tom Baker’s scarf going back to elementary school when I thought anyone with a British accent must be a genius.

It wasn’t until a few years ago that I realized Baker wasn’t the only Doctor. He was the fourth and that’s part of what’s made finding these stories and watching them such a pleasure. There are, of course, the familiar sign posts: the TARDIS, the female companion and strange and sometimes shabby-looking costumes that are as imaginative as they are cheaply made. Then there’s the theme song, which is probably the greatest in science fiction, if not all of television. Seriously – have you heard it? (If not, see below.)

Even without starting at the beginning of the Doctor’s adventures, there is always a new beginning, a new Doctor and a new story.

In The Curse of Peladon, the third Doctor (Jon Pertwee) and his companion Jo Grant (Katy Manning) crash land on the planet Peladon and are mistaken for the Earth delegates of the Galactic Federation. The two soon become involved in the talks regarding Peladon’s entry into the Federation and are suspected of sabotage when one of the King’s advisors is killed and the entire conference is threatened by an ancient curse.

Much of the story centers on the struggle between King Peladon’s (David Traughton, son of the second Doctor, Patrick Traughton) desire to bring his people into the galactic community and Hepesh (Geoffrey Toone) the high priest’s allegiance to the ancient traditions of the planet. This tension was inspired by the real life debate at the time over whether Britain should join the European Community, a fact detailed in the DVD bonus feature “The Peladon Saga-Part One”.

On the surface, the story is like so many other science fiction shows on television. There’s the King’s ridiculous velvet shorts and the giant green eyeball with the high-pitched voice that happens to be the Federation delegate from Alpha Centauri. Despite all this, the story works. The sets, though they obviously did not break the studio’s bank, give the impression of a fully realized world. There is a lot of running around candlelit hallways and hiding in secret caverns, and the details left out of these dark places are filled in by the viewers’ imagination.

Jon Pertwee’s Doctor exudes a natural charm and strength whether he’s dealing with the King, calming the bickering delegates, or fighting the King’s champion, Grun (Gordon St. Clair). Watching Pertwee in action, though, there is a sense that, no matter who plays the part, the actor doesn’t inhabit the role, the role inhabits the actor.

Bonus features include the making-of featurette detailing the story’s production and historical context. Watching the story one doesn’t sense the influence of contemporary politics on the production, but after viewing this feature it gives the story an incredible depth even without a deep knowledge of British politics of the '70s.

“Warriors of Mars” is a history of the Ice Warriors of Mars, seminal villains from earlier serials that make good in this story. Audio commentary by script editor Terrance Dicks and actor Katy Manning is fun but not always engaging and the still photo gallery remains any DVD’s least essential feature.

This is just one of many incarnations of Doctor Who to discover and enjoy. Those who’ve followed the Doctor for years already know how absolutely fun this show can be. For the rest of us, its only the beginning.


Please Donate to Help Save PopMatters

PopMatters have been informed by our current technology provider that we have until December to move off their service. We are moving to WordPress and a new host, but we really need your help to fund the move and further development.





The Power of Restraint in Sophie Yanow, Paco Roca, and Elisa Macellari's New Graphic Novels

The magical quality that makes or breaks a graphic novel lies somewhere in that liminal space in which art and literature intersect.


'People of the City' Is an Unrelenting Critique of Colonial Ideology and Praxis

Cyprian Ekwensi's People of the City is a vivid tale of class struggle and identity reclamation in the shadows of colonialism's reign.


1979's 'This Heat' Remains a Lodestone for Avant-Rock Adventure

On their self-titled debut, available for the first time on digital formats, This Heat delivered an all-time classic stitched together from several years of experiments.


'The Edge of Democracy' and Parallels of Political Crises

Academy Award-nominated documentary The Edge of Democracy, now streaming on Netflix, lays bare the political parallels of the rise of Bolsonaro's Brazil with Trump's America.


The Pogues' 'The BBC Sessions 1984-1986' Honors Working-Class Heroes

The Pogues' BBC Sessions 1984-1986 is a welcome chapter in the musical story of these working-class heroes, who reminded listeners of the beauty and dignity of the strong, sooty backs upon which our industrialized world was built.


Mary Halvorson Creates Cacophony to Aestheticize on 'Artlessly Falling'

Mary Halvorson's Artlessly Falling is a challenging album with tracks comprised of improvisational fragments more than based on compositional theory. Halvorson uses the various elements to aestheticize the confusing world around her.


15 Overlooked and Underrated Albums of the 1990s

With every "Best of the '90s" retrospective comes a predictable list of entries. Here are 15 albums that are often overlooked as worthy of placing in these lists, and are too often underrated as some of the best records from the decade.


'A Peculiar Indifference' Takes on Violence in Black America

Pulitzer Prize finalist Elliott Currie's scrupulous investigation of the impacts of violence on Black Americans, A Peculiar Indifference, shows the damaging effect of widespread suffering and identifies an achievable solution.


20 Songs From the 1990s That Time Forgot

Rather than listening to Spotify's latest playlist, give the tunes from this reminiscence of lost '90s singles a spin.


Delightful 'Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day' Is Good Escapism

Now streaming on Amazon Prime, Bharat Nalluri's 2008 romantic comedy, Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day, provides pleasant respite in these times of doom and gloom.


The 10 Best Horror Movie Remakes

The horror genre has produced some remake junk. In the case of these ten treats, the update delivers something definitive.


Flirting with Demons at Home, or, When TV Movies Were Evil

Just in time for Halloween, a new Blu-ray from Kino Lorber presents sparkling 2K digital restorations of TV movies that have been missing for decades: Fear No Evil (1969) and its sequel, Ritual of Evil (1970).


Magick Mountain Are Having a Party But Is the Audience Invited?

Garage rockers Magick Mountain debut with Weird Feelings, an album big on fuzz but light on hooks.


Aalok Bala Revels in Nature and Contradiction on EP 'Sacred Mirror'

Electronic musician Aalok Bala knows the night is not a simple mirror, "silver and exact"; it phases and echoes back, alive, sacred.


Clipping Take a Stab at Horrorcore with the Fiery 'Visions of Bodies Being Burned'

Clipping's latest album, Visions of Bodies Being Burned, is a terrifying, razor-sharp sequel to their previous ode to the horror film genre.


Call Super's New LP Is a Digital Biosphere of Insectoid and Otherworldly Sounds

Call Super's Every Mouth Teeth Missing is like its own digital biosphere, rife with the sounds of the forest and the sounds of the studio alike.


Laura Veirs Talks to Herself on 'My Echo'

The thematic connections between these 10 Laura Veirs songs and our current situation are somewhat coincidental, or maybe just the result of kismet or karmic or something in the zeitgeist.


15 Classic Horror Films That Just Won't Die

Those lucky enough to be warped by these 15 classic horror films, now available on Blu-ray from The Criterion Collection and Kino Lorber, never got over them.

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.