Doctor Who – The Monster of Peladon

Doctor Who Story 073 – The Monster of Peladon

screen capture from The Monster of Peladon
Source: Wikipedia. Copyright 1974 by BBC.

Written By: Brian Hayles

What’s It About: Because everyone was itching to see it, The Doctor returns to Peladon, with Sarah in tow. They find a planet on the verge of revolt as miners are convinced that the ghost of Aggedor is stalking the mines and killing workers.

I didn’t care for the first Peladon story. I don’t think this one is much better, although I will give the Hayles credit for trying to be topical, and the production gets credit for recreating Peladon. It looks and feels like the same planet. But this also works against the story because it doesn’t seem to add much. We have a plotting Chancellor, we have dealings with the Federation, and we have Alpha Centauri squealing. Apart from the Ice Warriors being the villains and the mining plot, this would seem to be the same story. I just can’t really bring myself to care. Maybe I could have enjoyed this as a three part story, but anything more—especially six parts—is just too much. And I was enjoying this season so much. Peladon is certainly the low point of the season for me. I have no desire to revisit either Peladon stories if I ever watch the show all the way through again.

Sadly, writing about it only seems to prolong the irritation.

My Rating: 1/5

Doctor Who Story Number 048 – The Seeds of Death

Written by Brian Hayles
Directed by Michael Ferguson

From the back: In the late 21st century, the human race has become totally dependent on T-Mat, a revolutionary form of instant travel. The Doctor, Jamie and Zoe arrive on Earth just as T-Mat is suffering a malfunction. Sinister Ice Warriors from Mars have seized the lunar T-Mat station to launch an invasion of Earth.

“Your leader will be angry if you kill me!  I’m a genius.”

Here we have our second meeting with The Ice Warriors, only this time the Martians are operating from a stronger position. Unfortunately, I didn’t find this story as engaging as The Ice Warriors, which, if you recall, I was conflicted over.  In the original story, the Earth was slowly being covered in glaciers and a band of scientists were attempting to find a way to push the ice back.  In The Seeds of Death, humanity is somewhat better off, merely having food supply issues–as if that is a minor problem in comparison. More so than previous Doctor Who stories, I had difficulty with the chronological placement of this conflict Ice Warrior history. Was this after The Ice Warriors? Before? If the former, has it been long enough that humanity has forgotten about the previous Ice Warrior encounter? These questions continually popped up as I watched this story, which means I wasn’t entirely engaged.  Following the tight pacing of The Invasion, this story drags quite a bit. It would have been interesting to see what Camfield would have done with it. Not that Michael Ferguson does a bad job. His camera-work is quite inventive in a number of scenes.

The performances, however, work quite well. I enjoyed the bickering between Radnor and Eldred. Many of the secondary characters were interesting in their own way, Fewsham being standout because he comes across as a fully-conflicted human.  He wants to do the right thing, but is afraid of death. It also helps that he looks a bit like Robert Carlyle. Even Slaar comes across as a chilling villain in this piece, the make-up being quite effective in particular. The only problems I had with characters, and this surprised me, is that Jamie is starting to feel a bit old and tired. It would be nice to see a bit of growth from him as the performance is becoming a bit rote. Gone is the character that challenged The Doctor with regard to rescuing Victoria from The Daleks. This Jamie almost comes across as an intellectual child in the presence of The Doctor and Zoe. He doesn’t connect as he once did.

In all, this is a good enough story. It is a straight-forward adventure without too much depth. It certainly isn’t one of my favorites, but it is still enjoyable.

Doctor who Story Number 39 – The Ice Warriors

Written by Brian Hayles
Directed by Derek Martinus

During a glacier melting project, something living is found in the ice.

“He didn’t come by shetland pony, Jamie.”
Conceptually, I think this story is amazing.  The Doctor, Jamie, and Victoria arrive in Earth’s future and discover a planet being destroyed by glaciers.  We learn that as humanity progressed, they began to significantly decrease the plant life of the planet, which caused a catastrophic shift in climate.  It seems that the Earth’s scientists underestimated the effect of plants on the climate.  Now, humanity is evacuating to Africa and other warm continents as science outposts work to drive back the glaciers with specialized equipment that should be able to melt the ice.  Science destroyed the world, and now science plans to save it.

At the European base, a scientist named Arden makes a trip to the glacier on a general scouting run.  He discovers something unexpected in the ice.  It appears to be a humanoid wearing a helmet, and Arden quickly hypothesizes that it is a Viking.  He returns to the base, the creature in ice in tow, electrodes hooked to the ice and slowly thawing it.  Much to everyone’s dismay, the creature is not a Viking.

I love the starting point of this story.  England is under siege by nature and few people remain.  Like all great post-apocalyptic stories, images of desolate wastes and abandoned civilization haunt this story.  The European base is in an old mansion, mixing historic with futuristic technology and clothing.  A scavenger and ex-scientist Penley take their refuge in an abandoned botanical building.  And the typical base-under-siege format is turned slightly on its head as Ice Warriors are held under siege by the European base’s ioniser, the European base is held under siege by the Ice Warriors’ sonic weapons, and both parties are under constant threat from the glacier.  No one has it safe in this story.

Penley and Clent exchange words.

“You’re not a man.  You’re just a machine slave.”
Possibly the concept that I have the most difficulty with is that of the computer.  In this futuristic society, computers are deferred to for just about every decision.  The scientists feed data to the computer and consult it before taking any action.  Penley left his post due in part to this blind allegiance.

Now I don’t have a problem with the concept, per se.  I’m sure we have all seen people who do not seem to function without their smart phones.  How many people these days can read a simple map without having to rely on their GPS?  These are smaller examples of the point this story is trying to make, but I take issue with how heavy-handed the story portrays the society.  Miss Garrett in particular seems to view the machine with the reverence some people pay to celebrities or deities.  In the end, the scientists face the decision to either be destroyed by the glacier (or ceaseless confrontations with The Ice Warriors) or destroy The Ice Warrior ship and risk an atomic explosion that would kill everyone.  Essentially, this is an impossible decision where either option could result in the death of everyone in this story.  The computer is unable to make a decision that would result in its own destruction, and it malfunctions, rendering Miss Garrett and Clent unable to decide.  Penley must make the final call to act, to use the ioniser against The Ice Warriors.  It is hard for me to envision people becoming so blind in their dependence, but perhaps I’m just too hopeful for the power of human competence.

“I refuse to let you go!”
“Splendid!  You go instead.”
There are some great bits to this story.  Again, I love the dire view of the future.  I enjoyed Clent, the leader of the project.  I found him at once irritating and sympathetic.  I’m glad that most of the scientists at the base survived and that Clent recognized his own weaknesses in the end. But working against the story, for me, were the aforementioned computer worship and the six-episode format.  I think this story could have been told quite well in two.  That said, I think Hayles did a good job of creating enough characters to fill the space, but sub-plots such as Jamie’s temporary paralysis and Storr’s attempt to ally himself with The Ice Warriors were unnecessary.  But, as is usually the case, the episode count probably preceded the scripts, so it wasn’t necessarily Brian Hayles’ fault.

As for The Ice Warriors themselves, they are compelling, but I don’t necessarily see much depth here.  They are your standard alien monsters.  Granted, Varga is more interested in survival and freeing his warriors than imparting great swaths of Martian history and culture.  As such, he is less likely to trust, but seeing him quickly go so quickly to distrust and superiority toward the humans with little real reason was a bit disappointing.  Sure, the Ioniser could be seen as a threat, but Victoria and The Doctor both attempted to reason with him, and he hardly listened.  That said, knowing The Ice Warriors will be back, possibly with more depth, is something to look forward to.

Click here for Doctor Who – The Ice Warriors [VHS]

The Ice Warriors – Opening Shots

With The Ice Warriors I am now in the second Doctor Who story in a row that I haven’t previously seen. Not only that, but this is the first story with The Ice Warriors that I have seen.  I keep reading about them here and there, I even read Lance Parkin’s Dying Days a long time ago (in which The Ice Warriors invade Earth), but I have never watched them, I have never seen what made them so compelling as to bring them back a handful of times.  And like many other people, I thought Waters of Mars would see the return of the Mars natives.

This story sees the return of Brian Hayles having previously written The Smugglers for William Hartnell’s Doctor.  This story was yet another attempt to create a monster who could return time and again.  It seems to have worked because The Ice Warriors continue to capture the imagination.  The Ice Warriors appeared in a total of four televised stories as well as a handful of novels and Big Finish adventures.  I’m looking forward to this introduction to them.

So, as Doctor Who monsters, how do the Ice Warriors rank?  What are your favorite stories?