Serial MMM:
The Curse Of Peladon

Plot

The planet Peladon is attempting the join the interstellar Federation. Delegates from several worlds have come to meet with King Peladon -- including the Ice Warriors, led by Lord Izlyr. However, the high priest Hepesh warns that the King's plans are risking the anger of the mythical beast Aggedor. The delegates are saved from a falling statue only by the intervention of the Doctor and Jo, whom the Time Lords have sent to Peladon. When the life support system of delegate Arcturus is sabotaged, the Doctor suspects Izlyr. But are his past experiences with the Ice Warriors blinding him to the real villains?

Production

In early 1971, Brian Hayles submitted two story ideas -- “The Brain-Dead” and “The Shape Of Terror” -- to the Doctor Who production office. Hayles' last contribution to the programme had been the troubled The Seeds Of Death in late 1968. Although script editor Terrance Dicks was underwhelmed by both of Hayles' proposals, he liked certain aspects of them, such as the presence of the Ice Warriors in “The Brain-Dead” and the “locked-room mystery” nature of “The Shape Of Terror”. Following a March 1st meeting between Hayles, Dicks and producer Barry Letts, a new storyline was devised which incorporated these elements. Apparently called “The Curse” and then “Curse Of The Peladons” at a preliminary stage, the scripts were commissioned as The Curse Of Peladon on May 14th.

The Curse Of Peladon saw Letts and Dicks taking another step towards reestablishing the Doctor as a traveller in space and time, moving away from the Earthbound format which had been introduced in 1970. Having included a single trip to an alien planet during Doctor Who's eighth season -- in Colony In Space -- Hayles' tale would be one of two far-future serials for Season Nine, alongside The Mutants. The involvement of the Ice Warriors was part of the production team's decision to embrace more of the programme's past -- as would also be evidenced by the return of the Daleks, originally in “The Daleks In London” but ultimately in Day Of The Daleks. However, it was decided to confound audience expectations by having someone other than the heretofore villainous Ice Warriors turn out to be the Doctor's adversary. For his part, Hayles drew upon the premise of Arthur Conan Doyle's 1902 Sherlock Holmes novel The Hound Of The Baskervilles, by having a seemingly mythical beast ultimately revealed to be a hoax perpetrated by the antagonist.

The Curse Of Peladon would be the first story since 1969 to feature no location shooting

Hayles was asked to avoid a requirement for location filming, since The Curse Of Peladon was scheduled to be the third serial into production for Doctor Who's ninth season, and hence would be recorded in early winter. The cast and crew had suffered while making The Claws Of Axos on location in January 1971, and Letts was determined to avoid the same kind of situation in the future. As such, The Curse Of Peladon would be the first story since 1969's The Space Pirates to feature no location shooting whatsoever.

However, Letts and Dicks also wanted Season Nine to alternate between adventures set on Earth and those on alien worlds. Consequently, they decided that The Curse Of Peladon would be the second story in transmission order: made after The Sea Devils but airing before it. This would be the first example of serials being recorded out of sequence in Doctor Who's history. Their studiobound nature was just one example of the budget-conscious approach Hayles was told to apply to his scripts. The production team was anticipating that The Sea Devils would be a very expensive story to make, and so money would have to be saved on The Curse Of Peladon.

The director assigned to The Curse Of Peladon was Lennie Mayne, who was working on Doctor Who for the first time. One of his key casting decisions was to hire David Troughton to play King Peladon. Troughton was the son of Patrick Troughton, who had played the Second Doctor; he had previously enjoyed small roles in two of his father's stories, The Enemy Of The World and The War Games. At the time he made The Curse Of Peladon, Troughton's roommate was actor Colin Baker -- who would become the Sixth Doctor more than a decade later.

Work on The Curse Of Peladon began with three days of model filming, from December 15th to 17th, at the BBC Television Centre Puppet Theatre in White City, London. The 16th and 17th also saw filming take place at the BBC Television Film Studios in Ealing, London, for material on the cliffs as well as the fight between the Doctor and Grun. Subsequently it was noted that Katy Manning's dress was more formal than Jo's usual garb. Dicks added dialogue to Episode One which explained that Jo was getting ready for a date with Mike Yates -- a rare vestige of the romantic relationship which had originally been contemplated for the pair when they were being developed.

As usual, studio recording took place in fortnightly two-day blocks on Mondays and Tuesdays, with each day devoted to an individual installment. Episodes One and Two were taped on January 17th and 18th. During rehearsals, Mayne was appalled to discover what the costume department had constructed for Alpha Centauri, which he believed to be unambiguously phallic. To compensate, costume designer Barbara Lane outfitted the hexapod with a yellow cloak. For Aggedor, Hayles had envisaged an ape-like creature, but the finished costume was more akin to a bear.

Jon Pertwee sang the Venusian nursery rhyme to the tune of God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen

The concluding installments were recorded on January 31st and February 1st, this time in TC3. As scripted, Episode Three featured the Doctor soothing Aggedor by intoning the Tibetan chant “Om mane padme hum”. Instead, it was decided to use an extended version of the Venusian nursery rhyme “Kokleda partha mennin klatch” introduced in 1971's The Daemons. Pertwee sang the nonsense words to the tune of the Christmas carol God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen.

The first two parts of The Curse Of Peladon continued to attract the large audiences which had watched Day Of The Daleks. With Episode Three on February 12th, however, large-scale industrial action caused periodic power outages to affect various areas. As a result, viewing figures were significantly lower for the last two installments, although some regions tried to compensate by prefacing Episode Four on February 19th with a short summary of Episode Three. The same night, the BBC dropped the Disney Parade cartoon short which had been airing between the news and Doctor Who since the start of the season.

Sources
  • Doctor Who Magazine #215, 3rd August 1994, “Archive: The Curse Of Peladon” by Andrew Pixley, Marvel Comics UK Ltd.
  • Doctor Who Magazine Special Edition #2, 5th September 2002, “Family Affair” by Andrew Pixley, Panini Publishing Ltd.
  • Doctor Who: The Complete History #18, 2018, “Story 61: The Curse Of Peladon”, edited by John Ainsworth, Hachette Partworks Ltd.
  • Doctor Who: The Handbook: The Third Doctor by David J Howe and Stephen James Walker (1996), Virgin Publishing.
  • Doctor Who: The Seventies by David J Howe, Mark Stammers and Stephen James Walker (1994), Virgin Publishing.

Original Transmission
Episode 1
Date 29th Jan 1972
Time 5.52pm
Duration 24'32"
Viewers (more) 10.3m (36th)
· BBC1 10.3m
Episode 2
Date 5th Feb 1972
Time 5.52pm
Duration 24'33"
Viewers (more) 11.0m (20th)
· BBC1 11.0m
Episode 3
Date 12th Feb 1972
Time 5.53pm
Duration 24'21"
Viewers (more) 7.8m (49th)
· BBC1 7.8m
Episode 4
Date 19th Feb 1972
Time 5.50pm
Duration 24'16"
Viewers (more) 8.4m (27th)
· BBC1 8.4m


Cast
Doctor Who
Jon Pertwee (bio)
Jo Grant
Katy Manning (bio)
Peladon
David Troughton
(more)
Hepesh
Geoffrey Toone
Torbis
Henry Gilbert
Izlyr
Alan Bennion
Ssorg
Sonny Caldinez
Alpha Centauri
Stuart Fell
Voice of Alpha Centauri
Ysanne Churchman
Arcturus
Murphy Grumbar
Voice of Arcturus
Terry Bale
Grun
Gordon St Clair
Aggedor
Nick Hobbs
Guard Captain
George Giles
Amazonia
Wendy Danvers


Crew
Written by
Brian Hayles (bio)
Directed by
Lennie Mayne (bio)
(more)

Title Music by
Ron Grainer and
BBC Radiophonic Workshop
Incidental music by
Dudley Simpson
Special Sounds by
Brian Hodgson
Fight arranger
Terry Walsh
Fight Arranged by
Profile
Film Cameramen
Fred Hamilton
Peter Sargent
Film Editor
Michael Sha-Dyan
Visual Effects
Ian Scoones
Bernard Wilkie
Costume Designer
Barbara Lane
Make Up
Sylvia James
Lighting
Howard King
Sound
Tony Millier
Script Editor
Terrance Dicks (bio)
Designer
Gloria Clayton
Producer
Barry Letts (bio)


Working Titles
The Curse
Curse Of The Peladons

Updated 11th August 2020