The Curse of Peladon

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061 – The Curse of Peladon
Doctor Who serial
Curse of Peladon.jpg
The Doctor examines the statue of Aggedor, the legendary Royal Beast of Peladon
Writer Brian Hayles
Director Lennie Mayne
Script editor Terrance Dicks
Producer Barry Letts
Executive producer(s) None
Incidental music composer Dudley Simpson
Production code MMM
Series Season 9
Length 4 episodes, 25 minutes each
Originally broadcast 29 January–19 February 1972
← Preceded by Followed by →
Day of the Daleks The Sea Devils

The Curse of Peladon is the second serial of the ninth season of the British science fiction television series Doctor Who, which was first broadcast in four weekly parts from 29 January to 19 February 1972. It is the first of two serials to be set on the planet Peladon, in which Alpha Centauri appears and the Ice Warriors.


The planet Peladon, led by its young King, is on the verge of joining the Galactic Federation, with the delegates ready to make the final decision. However, High Priest Hepesh is opposed to the change, warning that the curse of Aggedor — the Royal Beast of Peladon, whose spirit is worshipped by the people — will visit doom upon them all if they give up the old ways. As he is about to inform the other delegates of the arrival of the delegate from Alpha Centauri, Chancellor Torbis leaves is killed in the corridor by a large, ferocious beast that vanishes as quickly as it appears; the killing is witnessed only by Grun, the mute King's Champion.

The TARDIS materialises on the edge of a cliff below the castle, the surprising result of a test flight. The Doctor and Jo Grant barely leave the ship before it tumbles over the edge of the cliff; The Doctor reassures Jo that the TARDIS is indestructible, but they will need help to retrieve her so they begin a climb towards the castle above.

Meanwhile, the delegate from Alpha Centauri, a hermaphroditic presents itself in the throne room, where Peladon informs it of Torbis' death. This news agitates the highly-excitable alien, who wants to cancel the conference. On the side of the mountain, the Doctor and Jo find an entrance which leads to a network of tunnels beneath the castle. They hear the distant roar of an animal, and find a shrine containing the statue of a giant, fur-covered creature with a single horn and wicked-looking claws.

Alpha Centauri meets the delegate from Arcturus, a tentacled head in a glass dome mounted on a mechanised life-support box. When told of the potential danger, Arcturus warns Hepesh that, although the Federation eschews violence, they are capable of using it in self-defence. To demonstrate, Arcturus destroys a vase with an energy weapon mounted on its box. Hepesh says that Peladon only desires their friendship, and returns to the king.

Peladon reminds Hepesh that when his father died, the boy king refused to take the throne but Torbis and Hepesh convinced him to, and his mother, an Earth woman, allowed it. It was Torbis' dream for their planet to join the Federation, and Peladon asks for Hepesh's support to fulfil it, but Hepesh says he will not trust the aliens. Peladon asks for the delegates to be brought to him, so he can convince them that his people are not the primitives the Federation think they are.

The Doctor and Jo find a concealed way out of the tunnels.Once through, the Doctor spots a familiar, hulking shape, an Ice Warrior, and ducks back to hide. The two are discovered by the palace guards, who take them to the throne room, where the other delegates are gathered: Alpha Centauri, Arcturus, the Ice Lord Izlyr and the Ice Warrior Ssorg. The delegates had been discussing the curse, based on Aggedor. The prophecy says that when Aggedor's spirit returns, a stranger would also appear who would bring great tribulation to the planet. As this is said, the Doctor and Jo are brought before the King. Izlyr mistakes the Doctor for the delegate from Earth, and the Doctor does not disabuse him of the notion. The Doctor claims that his "shuttle" crashed, and his credentials lost as a result. He asks for help in recovering his ship, and Hepesh says that it will be arranged. When Hepesh points out Jo, saying that only men of rank or noble personages are allowed in the throne room, the Doctor introduces Jo as the "Princess Josephine of TARDIS", a neutral royal observer from Earth. The young King seems quite taken with Jo.

As the assembly brings the Doctor up to date on what has transpired, Grun surreptitiously starts to loosen a heavy statue of Aggedor placed above the corridor outside the throne room. When the Doctor is taken to the conference room to debate further, the statue topples over. The Doctor manages to push Alpha Centauri and the Ice Warriors ahead of him, saving their lives. Arcturus and Jo were lagging behind. Grun gets away unnoticed as the delegates discuss once more if the conference should continue. Hepesh blames the ghost of Aggedor, but Peladon reminds him who is king. Jo, at a nod from the Doctor, finds her way to the ledge where the statue once stood, and finds a small electronic component there.

Peladon assure the delegates that there is no plot. The Doctor takes them away, but Peladon asks Jo to stay behind. He tells Jo it is difficult to find someone in whom he can confide and that his mother was from Earth. Peladon asks her to believe him, and she replies that she does. He asks Jo to speak to the delegates on his behalf. Jo accuses Peladon of only wanting a political ally and leaves. Hepesh tells Grun that the failure of the sabotage with the statue was not his fault, merely Aggedor's mercy. Hepesh prays to Aggedor and tells Grun to destroy the Doctor.

The Doctor examines the component Jo found and identifies it as an electronic key, possibly for a spaceship. It's made of trisilicate, which is only found on Mars, the home world of the Ice Warriors. His previous experience with the Ice Warriors makes him suspect that they are behind the sabotage; Ssorg's strength could have easily shifted the statue. At that moment, an alarm sounds; rushing to investigate, the Doctor and Jo find Arcturus, his box smoking. Someone has removed the servo mechanism to his life support system, and while the Doctor tries to repair the damage, Jo goes to look for the missing mechanism in the delegates' quarters. Arcturus recovers, but cannot remember who attacked him. Grun comes along and motions for the Doctor to follow him, while Hepesh secretly watches.

Jo locates the mechanism in the Ice Warriors' chamber, but is found by Ssorg. He locks her in and goes to tell Izlyr, who is speculating to Alpha Centauri that perhaps the Doctor is responsible, cementing a secret alliance between Earth and Peladon for its mineral deposits by means of a royal marriage. His suspicions appear confirmed when Ssorg tells him that the missing mechanism has been found with the "Princess". Jo, in the meantime, has climbed out a window and is working her way along a ledge. She moves back into the corridors, and, frightened when she sees the Aggedor beast, runs straight into Izlyr and Ssorg.

Grun leads the Doctor to a secret passage to the tunnels, but runs away when they hear the roars of the beast, which starts to pursue the Doctor. The beast having now vanished from the corridors, Izlyr does not believe Jo when she says she saw it. Jo accuses Izlyr of the sabotage, but he points out that removing the mechanism would only have induced a metabolic coma in Arcturus, not kill him. He explains to Jo that the Ice Warriors were a warrior race once, but no longer believe in violence except in self-defence.

The Doctor finds another way out of the tunnels, into the room which holds the shrine of Aggedor, where he is discovered by Hepesh and Grun. They forcibly escort him to the throne room, where Hepesh accuses the Doctor of sacrilege. Peladon, although distressed, has no choice but to sentence the Doctor to death. Unfortunately, Federation articles state that the delegates cannot interfere with local laws, so they are powerless to intervene. Izlyr suggests a royal pardon, but Peladon cannot pardon sacrilege. However, over Hepesh's protests, the king offers an alternative: as the Doctor is a delegate and thus a man of rank, he can undergo trial by combat, a duel to the death with the King's Champion. The Doctor, now knowing Hepesh is behind it all, is taken away to await the combat at dawn.

When the delegates leave, Jo pleads with Peladon once again to pardon the Doctor, but Peladon maintains it was his duty to sentence the Doctor. Peladon proposes marriage to Jo, who greets the proposal with incredulity. Jo does not understand how Peladon can condemn the Doctor one minute and ask her to marry him the next, and leaves. In the Doctor's cell, Hepesh tells the Doctor that his "shuttle" has been recovered. Hepesh has no wish to see him dead, and offers him an escape route. The Doctor is sceptical, believing Hepesh just wants an excuse to kill him while escaping. Hepesh draws the Doctor a map, and in answer to the Doctor's questions, explains that he believes the Federation will exploit Peladon for its minerals. The Doctor says that joining the Federation will free them from superstition, but Hepesh counters that he is not alone in this.

Jo also tries to convince the delegates to intervene, but although Izlyr agrees that the death of the Doctor (as the delegate from Earth) will mean war, they cannot. Alpha Centauri and Arcturus both want to leave, in case hostilities do break out. Jo leaves in disgust, but Izlyr explains to her in private that all votes must be unanimous by Federation law, and Izlyr has voted to stay and save the Doctor, to repay him for saving Izlyr's life outside the throne room earlier. However, Arcturus has used a listening device to eavesdrop on the conversation.

In his cell, the Doctor fixes a spinning mirror to his sonic screwdriver and pockets Hepesh's map. He leaves, following the marked route to the tunnels. Izlyr and Ssorg find the Doctor gone, and suspect he has been eliminated. In the tunnels, the Doctor encounters the beast again, and using the mirror as a hypnosis device and singing the strains of a Venusian lullaby, calms "Aggedor" down. However, Jo finds him at this point and uses a torch to frighten the beast away, to the Doctor's frustration.

In the throne room, Hepesh tells the King that the Doctor's absence is proof of guilt, and he will hunt the Doctor down. The Doctor and Jo appear, and the Doctor tries to tell the King about the reality of Aggedor and how it is being used to sabotage the conference. Hepesh dismisses the talk of secret tunnels, and orders that the Doctor be taken away to face Grun in combat. The fight in the pit starts with spears and ends with hand-to-hand combat, but eventually the Doctor is victorious, and spares Grun's life. Arcturus powers up his energy weapon, preparing to fire. Ssorg opens fire with his own rifle, killing Arcturus, as Hepesh slips away with another guard. The others now realise what is going on: Hepesh was behind the planting of the trisilicate key on the ledge and the placing of Arcturus' servo mechanism in the Ice Warriors' quarters. The attack on Arcturus was faked, and Aggedor is one of the few remaining wild beasts that were the source of the legend, trained by Hepesh to pose as the "spirit of Aggedor" when Hepesh needed it. As Arcturus and the Ice Warriors are ancient enemies, it would be simple now to accuse the latter of murdering the former's delegate. Hepesh must have made an agreement with Arcturus for Peladon's mineral deposits in exchange for his help, as Arcturus' planet lacks minerals. However, to replace Hepesh might result in civil war. The Federation allows for interference in crisis situations, but Alpha Centauri is still uncertain. While the delegates argue, Hepesh is gathering his own forces to take the throne room by force, but reminds them that the king must not be harmed. Grun tries to persuade Hepesh from this course of action, but is defeated by Hepesh's men. Eventually, the delegates vote unanimously for intervention, with Alpha Centauri's vote under protest. However, they are unable to communicate this vote to their orbiting ships, as their communicators in their rooms have been smashed by Hepesh and his men. The Doctor finds Grun, and they make their way into the tunnels to find the Aggedor beast. There, the Doctor tames Aggedor again, and leads it away by its horn.

Hepesh's forces have taken the throne room, and hold the king hostage. Hepesh tells the king that he will live, as long as he goes back to the old ways. Hepesh then leaves to fetch the delegates to the throne room. Once gathered, Hepesh tells them to leave the planet and tell their governments that Peladon does not want to be part of the Federation. Suddenly, the Doctor arrives with Aggedor, accusing Hepesh of betraying the king. The guards are awed by the appearance of the legendary beast, but Hepesh denounces it. To prove that it is not the spirit of Aggedor and it is he who controls it, Hepesh orders Aggedor to kill the Doctor. However, the beast turns on Hepesh instead, inflicting a fatal wound before the Doctor manages to call it off. The High Priest dies in the king's arms, murmuring that he might have been wrong, but that all he wanted to do was save Peladon. The king weeps, but pulls himself together. He pardons the rebel guards, and drapes a cloth to cover Hepesh's face.

As the court prepares for the king's coronation, the Doctor shows Jo where the TARDIS is being kept after its recovery by Hepesh's men. He muses that it was no coincidence that they landed here at this crucial moment in Peladon's history; the Time Lords must have steered the TARDIS here, so the ship is still not within the Doctor's control. Aggedor arrives, having grown attached to the Doctor, and he leads the beast away as Peladon himself comes to speak with Jo. He asks Jo to stay, but she protests she is not even a real princess. This does not matter to him, however, and he will talk to her again after the coronation; he does not intend to give up.

The Doctor returns as Peladon goes to be crowned king. He asks Jo if she really wants to leave, and Jo says sadly that she had better. They will watch the coronation then quietly make their exit. On their way, however, they nearly stumble on the real delegate from Earth, who is being told by the other delegates what has happened. "What Doctor? Doctor who?", the Earth delegate asks, as the Doctor and Jo decide that it would be best if they left quickly. They rush back to the TARDIS with the delegates following close behind. Before the delegates' amazed eyes, the police box-shaped time machine dematerialises.


In The Monster of Peladon, the Doctor returns to Peladon with a new companion Sarah Jane Smith, 50 years after the events of Curse. The Doctor has also returned to Peladon in spin-off media. In the Fifth Doctor audio The Bride of Peladon, the Doctor's companion Erimem marries the new king of Peladon. In the Seventh Doctor novel Legacy, the Seventh Doctor manipulates events to convince Peladon to temporarily withdraw from the Galactic Federation to keep it safe during an upcoming war with the Daleks. The Third Doctor Companion Chronicles story The Prisoner of Peladon is told by King Peladon, with David Troughton reprising his role for the first time.

The Doctor sings a Venusian lullaby to Aggedor (the words first used in The Dæmons) to the tune of the Christmas carol, "God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen";[1] a 1994 Virgin Missing Adventures novel by Paul Leonard featuring the First Doctor was titled Venusian Lullaby. Iris Wildthyme also uses the Venusian Lullaby to little effect in The Claws of Santa.


The story was broadcast during the 1972 UK Miner's Strike, which led to many parts of the UK undergoing scheduled power cuts. This may account for the drop in viewers for the last two episodes. According to the DVD notes for The Peladon Tales this industrial action partly inspired the sequel The Monster of Peladon.

During production it was noted that Alpha Centauri had a somewhat phallic appearance. So director Lennie Mayne insisted on the addition of a yellow cape to the costume in an attempt to rectify this.[2]

Working titles for this story included The Curse and Curse of the Peladons. The original 625-line master videotapes of the serial were wiped around 1975. In the late 1970s, 525-line NTSC copies were returned to the BBC from Canada. The tape of Episode Three was in a very poor condition and a salvage transfer to 625-line was made in 1982 for a repeat of the story; the NTSC tape was then reported junked. As a result it was feared that it might not have been possible to make a new Reverse Standards Conversion (RSC) of the episode. However, the tape of Episode Three had not been lost but had instead been given to Ian Levine; Levine then lent the tape to the restoration team. After heat treatment, the tape was used to create a new RSC 625-line videotape digital copy.[3]

Cast notes[edit]

David Troughton is the son of Second Doctor actor Patrick Troughton.[4] He had previously appeared in Doctor Who as Moor in The War Games (1969), and he would appear in the revived series episode entitled "Midnight" (2008). Geoffrey Toone previously appeared as Temmosus in the film Dr. Who and the Daleks.


The story can be seen as a "political satire" about the real-world issue whether Britain should join the European Economic Community, with the alien delegates representing foreigners, King Peladon representing a younger generation of hope in agreement with joining the Federation, and Hepesh, who wants to preserve the status quo, representing the decision to not join.[4] An allegory can also be drawn to the conflict of religion and science.[5]

Broadcast and reception[edit]

Serial details by episode
Episode Broadcast date Run time Viewers
(in millions)
"Episode One" 29 January 1972 (1972-01-29) 24:32 10.3 PAL colour conversion
"Episode Two" 5 February 1972 (1972-02-05) 24:33 11.0 PAL colour conversion
"Episode Three" 12 February 1972 (1972-02-12) 24:21 7.8 PAL colour conversion
"Episode Four" 19 February 1972 (1972-02-19) 24:16 8.4 PAL colour conversion

Paul Cornell, Martin Day, and Keith Topping, in The Discontinuity Guide (1995), described The Curse of Peladon as "dull, but worthy".[9] In The Television Companion (1998), David J. Howe and Stephen James Walker praised the inventiveness and individuality of the aliens, as well as the change of the Ice Warriors from evil to good. They concluded that it was "a hugely enjoyable story, and one of the real gems of the third Doctor's era".[10] In 2009, Mark Braxton of Radio Times called the story an "exciting, elegant four-parter". He praised Jo and the various aliens, though he felt Aggredor was less successful and would have been better if he was bigger.[1] DVD Talk's John Sinnott gave the serial four and a half out of five stars, writing that it "has everything that a fan could want: some interesting aliens, old adversaries, a solid mystery, a good amount of action, and a healthy dollop of humor". He praised the character of Hepesh and effort gone into making the aliens unique, but felt that the King was the weakest aspect as he was not a good leader, which made the romance with Jo not as believable.[5] The A.V. Club reviewer Christopher Bahn stated that the serial was a success in returning to an "old-fashioned" format, but the murder-mystery genre was not fully realised, with the Doctor not figuring it out and Hepesh taking up most of the fourth episode.[4]

This story was repeated on BBC One (excluding BBC Wales) as two 50min compilation episodes on 12 and 19 July 1982 as part of "Doctor Who and the Monsters".

Commercial releases[edit]

In print[edit]

Doctor Who and the Curse of Peladon
Doctor Who and the Curse of Peladon.jpg
Author Brian Hayles
Cover artist Chris Achilleos
Series Doctor Who book:
Target novelisations
Release number
Publisher Target Books
Publication date
January 1975
ISBN 0-426-10452-8

A novelisation of this serial, written by Brian Hayles, was published by Target Books in January 1975. In 1995 the novel was also issued by BBC Audio as an audio book, read by Jon Pertwee, an unabridged reading of Brian Hayles novel was released in 2013 on CD by AudioGo, this time read by David Troughton who played King Peladon in the TV serial.

Home Media[edit]

The Curse of Peladon was released on VHS in August 1993 for the series' 30th Anniversary. The story's original soundtrack was released in the UK in November 2007 and linking narration was provided by Katy Manning. The CD also featured a bonus interview with the actress. The serial was released on DVD on 18 January 2010 in a boxset entitled 'Peladon Tales', along with The Monster of Peladon.


  1. ^ a b Braxton, Mark (7 December 2009). "Doctor Who: The Curse of Peladon". Radio Times. Retrieved 26 February 2013. 
  2. ^ "The Peladon Saga - Part Two" - DVD Extra for the Peladon Tales boxset
  3. ^ DVD releases Peladon Tales
  4. ^ a b c Bahn, Christopher (1 April 2012). "The Curse of Peladon". The A.V. Club. Retrieved 26 February 2013. 
  5. ^ a b Sinnott, John (18 May 2010). "Doctor Who: The Curse of Peladon". DVD Talk. Retrieved 26 February 2013. 
  6. ^ Shaun Lyon et al. (2007-03-31). "The Curse of Peladon". Outpost Gallifrey. Archived from the original on 2008-05-18. Retrieved 2008-08-30. 
  7. ^ "The Curse of Peladon". Doctor Who Reference Guide. Retrieved 2008-08-30. 
  8. ^ Sullivan, Shannon (2007-08-07). "The Curse of Peladon". A Brief History of Time Travel. Retrieved 2008-08-30. 
  9. ^ Cornell, Paul; Day, Martin; Topping, Keith (1995). "The Curse of Peladon". The Discontinuity Guide. London: Virgin Books. ISBN 0-426-20442-5. 
  10. ^ Howe, David J & Walker, Stephen James (1998). Doctor Who: The Television Companion (1st ed. ed.). London: BBC Books. ISBN 978-0-563-40588-7. 

External links[edit]

Target novelisation