The Curse of Peladon is probably one of the most fondly-remembered of all the Pertwee stories and one that I`d been thinking about tackling for a while but never got round to until now. The impetus to finally edit the story was the imminent return to TV, after nearly 40 years, of The Ice Warriors in Cold War. And so that seemed as good a reason as any to finally get round to doing their last two appearances in the Classic Series – Curse and Monster.
We open with the Tardis scene as we really don`t need the original opener of two beardy old queens bitching about each other, and there`s a slight re-ordering of the material to get the Doctor and Jo into the action a bit quicker. Sometimes you already have an idea of the cuts you want to make before you start, and for this story I knew that the main casualty was going to be King Peladon, mainly `cos he`s such a bloody wimp. And who wants to watch that when there are Ice Warriors about! Certainly not me…
It’s an unusual opening Tardis scene, as there’s no hint that the Timelords are sending the Dr and Jo on another mission. We only get that realisation at the end. Maybe Brian Hayles didn’t know about the Doctor’s exile, but I think the intention was to fool the audience, as well as the Doctor, into thinking that he’d finally fixed the Tardis, which makes Letts and Dicks almost as sneaky as the Timelords if they are happy to let both us and the Doctor think he’s fixed the Tardis when he hasn’t.
And as for Jo being all dolled up for a night on the town with Mike Yates, seriously? Does anyone really buy that Mike Yates fancies Jo? Is anyone really convinced that his disappointment at her marrying Cliff Jones in The Green Death is genuinely because he wanted her too? Nah. If Mike Yates is straight then Alph Centauri isn’t a green cock in frock! And while we’re on the subject, is dear old Alpha where Pixar got Mike Wazowski from? We need to be told!
Episode one was pretty straightforward but there were two problems I wanted this edit to address. The first was that the falling statue would have been more dramatic if we weren’t expecting it. I tried editing it out, but it was impossible to get rid of Grun and his crowbar without it being obvious that cuts had been made so I reluctantly left him in. The second problem was that it was impossible to join the reprise from part two to the original of part one as the music cues were completely different. In the end I was able to reuse a couple of music cues from elsewhere in the story in order to get from the one to the other.
We`re less than fifteen minutes into the edit when we hit part two, which caused me no real problems and cut down quite easily, meaning we cover the first two episodes in just over half an hour. Similarly, we manage to cover part three in about fifteen minutes as well.
Peladon`s speech at the start of Part three was a re-enacment of the original but I preferred the first version so we cut to the third episode with the Doctor`s reaction. The only real editing challenge for this third episode was the fight between the Doctor and Grun, which gets truncated, as you might expect, if nothing else to get rid of some of the less convincing shots of Terry Walsh in a wig.
When we get to part four, the shots making up the cliffhanger reprise are in a slightly different order to those in the original. At the end of part three it`s Arcturus getting his weapon out [!], a crash zoom on the Doctor, Peladon reacting and the Ice Warrior firing his gun. When we get the part four version however, it`s Alpha squealing, Peladon reacting, the crash zoom on the Doctor and the Ice Warrior firing. The way to make sense of the sequence as a compilation was to lose the shot of Peladon acknowledging the Doctor`s victory that comes before the shot of Arcturus. There are also slighty tighter reaction shots from Peladon and the Doctor to make the sequence work smoothly both visually and audibly.
And that takes us up to part four, which is almost all padding and so nearly all of it gets cut. We don`t need to sit through Hepesh`s attempted Palace coup, all we really need from this final episode is about three minutes to tie things up and get the Doctor and Jo out of there before they have to answer any awkward questions. Once Hepesh`s scheme has been exposed it`s hard to believe that they wouldn`t find a way to deal with him, it`s as if Brian Hayles suddenly realised he still had one more episode to fill but had run out of story.
And the story here is all about perceptions versus reality. It’s not about an allegory for the UK going into the EEC and whether Peladon will end up being exploited or losing their culture as a result, it’s about the way perceptions affect and cloud your judgement to the truth. Hepesh can’t see beyond his own prejudices and doesn’t want things to change. The Ice Warriors appear to have changed but can the Doctor really trust that they have? The last time he encountered them, when he was Pat, he wiped out their entire fleet by sending them into the sun to get barbecued. Nice. As for Peladon, he’s a wimp who wants to marry his mother, Hamlet meets Oedipus and Princess Josephine of Tardis is well out of that one!
So Curse of Peladon is really a three part-er that we`ve edited down to the equivalent of a two part story without, I think, losing anything that matters. True, the Jo & Peladon romantic subplot gives the story the kind of emotional depth we wouldn’t see again after Jo`s departure until Rose and the New Series, but this story is really all about the monsters. It’s about how the Doctor reacts to meeting the Bad Guys From The Old Days who aren’t the bad guys for once. That’s a curveball and a half and it works brilliantly here but sadly it’s a trick you can only play once and when we return to Peladon the buggers are up to their old tricks again!