The Curse of Peladon
The Curse of Peladon was the second story of the ninth season of Doctor Who. It introduced the planet of Peladon and the Galactic Federation, both of which would feature in additional stories on television and in other media, as would Alpha Centauri, one of its delegates.
The serial featured David Troughton, the son of Patrick Troughton, formerly the Second Doctor, in his second appearance guest starring on the programme. He would reappear three decades later in Midnight playing a different, older character, Professor Hobbes.
From a production standpoint, Curse switched broadcast order with the previously-produced Sea Devils. This made it the first Doctor Who story broadcast in a different order from which it was made. Though a common enough occurrence in the years that would follow, it had been impossible to broadcast out of production order in the 1960s, due the narrow gap of time between production and broadcast.
During a stormy night on the planet Peladon, the King witnesses an argument between his two advisers, Chancellor Torbis and High Priest Hepesh, over an application for his planet’s membership of the Galactic Federation. As the pro-federation Torbis leaves the throne room, he is attacked and killed by a large, savage creature.
The TARDIS materializes on the same mountain as the Royal Citadel. The Doctor has taken a dolled-up Jo on a short trip to run the TARDIS in before she goes on a date with Mike Yates – he’s finally got it working. As they exit, the TARDIS topples off the ledge and plummets down the cliff, leaving them with little choice but to climb to the Citadel for help. They find a small tunnel that leads past a Shrine and enter the Citadel.
Meanwhile, King Peladon tries to reassure the Federation delegates, assembled for a summit on the planet’s application for admission to the Federation, that Torbis’ death is nothing to worry about. Delegates include Arcturus, Alpha Centauri, and the Ice Warriors Lord Izlyr and his henchman Ssorg. When the Doctor sees Ice Warriors among the delegates, he is immediately suspicious of their motives. When he and Jo are discovered, he manages to convince the King that he is the Earth delegate and Jo is a princess sent to observe the summit (only females of royal blood are allowed in the throne room).
Peladon explains to the delegates, the Doctor and Jo that Hepesh believes Torbis was killed by the spirit of Aggedor, a mythical beast said to protect the royal family. As the delegates withdraw to consider how to proceed, the King’s mute champion, Grun, slips away and tries to kill the delegates by dropping a statue of Aggedor on them as they pass…
The Doctor spots the statue just in time and gives the delegates time to jump out of the way. Hepesh again blames the spirit of Aggedor, while the delegates insist the conference be cancelled. King Peladon pleads with the delegates, giving Jo the opportunity to investigate the tunnel behind his throne. She finds large footprints and a small piece of technology next to the statue’s plinth. These suggest the Ice Warriors were responsible. As the delegates retire to consider Peladon’s request, he asks Jo to stay and talk. He explains his half-human heritage and the loneliness of his position. He hopes Jo will intercede with the other delegates. Jo is annoyed that all he wants is an ally, not a friend.
In the Shrine, Hepesh orders Grun to kill the Doctor in Aggedor’s name. Jo wants to leave Peladon, but the Doctor insists on staying to keep an eye on the Ice Warriors. An alarm rings out and the Doctor finds Arcturus in distress because someone has sabotaged his life support apparatus. After repairing the damage, the Doctor dismisses Hepesh’s supernatural explanation and blames Izlyr. Izlyr retaliates by stating that the Doctor may have done it to foster Earth’s own interests. Jo searches the delegates’ rooms for evidence, finding Arcturus’ life support circuitry in the Ice Warrior’s chamber. Ssorg denies any guilt and locks in Jo until he can discover the truth.
The Doctor is led away by Grun, into the tunnels. He flees when he hears a roar. Jo climbs out of Ssorg’s window and into a corridor, where she encounters the very real Aggedor. She runs into the Ice Warriors, but they do not believe her story. Izlyr explains that Arcturus was never in danger because his life support has a redundancy, nor was he responsible, since the Ice Warriors foreswore their violent ways long ago. The Doctor escapes the tunnels into the Shrine, where Hepesh arrests him for trespassing on sacred ground. The King has no choice. He sentences the Doctor to death…
The Doctor tries to explain that he was trying to escape the tunnels and stumbled into the temple, but Peladon is unaware of the tunnel’s existence. Jo urges the King to be flexible, given the Doctor’s “diplomatic” status, and he agrees to a compromise – trial by combat against Grun in the ceremonial pit. Jo argues with Peladon over his clinging to ridiculous superstitions, but is surprised when he proposes to her and asks her to help him change his planet for the better.
Hepesh offers to help the Doctor escape before the combat, drawing him a map. He explains he is afraid of the progress Federation membership may bring, then admits he has a powerful ally assisting him. For their part, the delegates must obey Federation law and not interfere with local customs. However, Izlyr tells Jo that, since the Doctor saved him from the statue, he must do everything in his power to repay the debt. Arcturus listens to this conversation with a bug.
The Doctor escapes into the tunnels. He finds Aggedor and uses a spinning mirror and a Venusian lullaby to hypnotize him. Just as it seems to be working, Jo arrives and frightens the beast away. The Doctor goes back and tries to explain to everyone that Aggedor is an animal trained to attack anything living beneath the citadel, but Hepesh insists that he be taken to the combat pit. There, he faces Grun with halberds, swords and in hand-to-hand combat. After a long struggle, the Doctor is victorious but refuses to kill Grun. Watching from the edge of the pit, Arcturus and Ssorg draw their weapons and fire…
Ssorg is quicker on the trigger and kills Arcturus, who was trying to shoot the Doctor. Hepesh flees, and the others deduce he was in league with Arcturus and sabotaged the life support with his directions. The planet Arcturus is poor in mineral wealth, and he had hoped to arrange a separate mining treaty. Peladon asks the delegates to help him avert a civil war with Hepesh. While they discuss the situation, Grun slips into the tunnels and attacks Hepesh to atone for having been manipulated. Hepesh’s guards manage to overpower Grun and leave him for the Doctor to find, whereupon the two put aside their differences and pursue Hepesh.
Jo and the Ice Warriors finally convince Alpha Centauri to bend the rules and support King Peladon, but find that all their transmitters have been sabotaged and they are cut off from their orbiting spacecraft. Hepesh leads his followers in a revolt, quickly defeating the royal guards and capturing the King. The Doctor and Grun find Aggedor and hypnotize him again. As Hepesh gives the delegates a chance to leave the planet peacefully, the Doctor leads Aggedor into the throne room. He explains that, although they were thought extinct, Hepesh found one Aggedor and trained it to do his bidding. Aggedor attacks and kills Hepesh in a rage after being controlled for so long. Peladon now has no problem ordering the rebels to lay down their arms.
Although the TARDIS has been dragged up from the valley below, the Doctor and Jo decide to stay for Peladon’s coronation.
The Doctor reminisces about other coronations he has witnessed and speculates that their journey to Peladon was no accident, but a contrivance by the Time Lords to have the Doctor deal with this crisis – he didn’t get the TARDIS working after all. Aggedor then wanders in to see the Doctor; he has become rather fond of the Time Lord. The Doctor leads Aggedor off to his enclosure as Peladon comes in to ask Jo for an answer to his proposal. She tells him that she can’t marry him and she is not really a princess. Peladon says that he never cared about her rank, but accepts her decision.
As the Doctor and Jo head to the throne room, they encounter an embarrassing visitor – Amazonia, the realEarth delegate, delayed and indignant. They decide to slip away and watch some other coronation instead. As Amazonia, Ssorg and Izlyr come into the room where the TARDIS is stored, they see it dematerialize; Amazonia is left gaping and speechless.