Books & Literature

Audiobook Review: Doctor Who: Peladon, by Big Finish

SCI-FI: Journey to Peladon, member world of the Galactic Federation and home to intrigue and adventure. With each passing generation, the toll of industrial exploitation and deadly political games is taking its toll on the planet.

A glorious return to the famed planet Peladon that spans four generations and multiple Doctors.

Fifty years ago, viewers of Doctor Who were introduced to the planet Peladon in the now classic Third Doctor adventure The Curse of Peladon. Starring Michael Troughton, the son of second Doctor Patrick Troughton, it presented the planet and its struggles as an allegory for the political climate of the UK at the time. Three years later, this allegory would be ramped up a notch with The Monster of Peladon. The planet and its problems have enamoured novel writers for decades and then Big Finish—who have set a number of adventures on this planet prior to this boxset—joined in as well.

This set, which spans four generations of Peladonian history, is an audacious undertaking by the production company. To help broaden the set’s appeal, they have brought back a number of characters from the original serials and added a couple of different Doctors into the mix

The Ordeal of Peladon by Jonathan Barnes and Robert Valentine opens the set and sees King Peladon (played once more by Troughton) nearing the end of his reign. The King is hearing about a man with great healing powers and resolves to speak to the man even if it means leaving the sanctuary of his castle. His chief advisor, Raarlan, however seems not too keen on him finding the man known as Skarn. Along the way he encounters an ageing Ice Warrior determined to carry out on inspection on behalf of the Galactic Federation.

This is a fun story with many wonderful moments and it is great to hear Michael Troughton return to his role from half a century ago. His voice has obviously aged enormously but it is amazing how well he still pulls the character off. The supporting cast are all excellent, including an almost unrecognisable performance by Nicholas Briggs as Ice Warrior Ixmari. David Sturzaker (Raarlan) and Moyo Akandé (Harfair) milk their roles superbly. There is also a surprise cameo towards the end that will surprise and delight many fans.

We move to the reign of Peladon’s daughter Thalira for The Poison of Peladon by Lizzie Hopley. Originally played by Nina Thomas on TV, Thalira is now played by Deborah Findlay and sees the welcome return of Alpha Centauri (the intersex hexapod with the giant eye). In this story River Song (played with her usual brilliance by Alex Kingston) infiltrates the court to find out what has been poisoning the queen’s daughter and uncovers a conspiracy from deep within the Federation ranks. Sadly, Centauri is not very well written (although charmingly played by Jane Goddard) and their constant giggling grates on the nerves after a while.

Sixth Doctor Colin Baker and companion Mel (Bonnie Langford) roll up for episode three, The Death of Peladon by Mark Wright, to help prevent an environmental catastrophe on the planet which is now under the reign of Queen Menaris (daughter of Thalira). Goddard reprises her role as Centauri and does a stellar job here with the now aged alien. Sara Powell brings some worthy nobility to her role as the Queen while Baker and Langford both enjoy the meaty material they are given. There is even a cheeky nod to audio companion Erimem who departed the TARDIS in an earlier audio adventure.

Finally Eighth Doctor, Paul McGann, helps the planet become a better and stronger place by helping dressmaker Arlo Decanter uncover the major players who are trying to undermine the planet and stop it from reaching its full potential in The Truth of Peladon by Tim Foley. Meera Syal is a wonderful foil to the laid-back presence of McGann’s Doctor throughout and the remaining cast of Jason Watkins (Chancellor Barok) and Nicholas Briggs (Ssilas) help make this four-hander work as a quiet coda to the previous outings.

Controlling things from the director’s chair is Barnaby Kay (normally in front of the microphone but now showing his versatility behind it). He does a wonderful job of the various locations and casts while Howard Carter’s sound and music design is up to his incredibly high standards. There are also bonus interviews with cast, crew and writers to help round out the set.

This may not be Big Finish’s greatest set ever but it is still enjoyable for the most part and will provide some welcome nostalgia for fans of the Third Doctor era.

Reviewed by Rodney Hrvatin
Twitter: @Wagnerfan74

This review is the opinion of the reviewer and not Glam Adelaide.

Distributed by: Big Finish Productions
Released: January 2022
Approx RRP: $48 CD, $20 Digital Download

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