I rather like 'The Curse of Peladon'. Well-scripted, acted and directed, it forms an effective story for one of the Third Doctor's comparatively uncommon forays into space during his exile. With this in mind, 'The Monster of Peladon' might be expected to be a similar success, reuniting the same writer, director and designer and featuring the return of the Ice Warriors. The fact that it is both weak and tedious therefore comes as a considerable disappointment.
'The Monster of Peladon' is, at best, a pedestrian runaround. The plot is recycled directly from 'The Curse of Peladon', the only differences being that the Ice Warriors are the villains this time and that the discontent amongst the Pels stems from the poor treatment of the Miners rather than from the unwillingness to join to the Federation represented previously by Hepesh. We have the return of Alpha Centauri, an indecisive leader needing guidance from the Doctor and his companion, a traitor in the midst of things, a series of deaths seemingly caused by the spirit of Aggedor, and the return of the real Aggedor himself. On top of which the Doctor is sentenced to death and thrown into a pit to face his fate again! As though this were not bad enough, a plot which previously nicely filled four episodes is here stretched out to fill six, resulting a story that it bloated and dull. It is a cliché to describe a Doctor Who story as a series of captures and escapes with numerous chases through corridors and tunnels, but this is exactly what we have here. Very little happens before the Ice Warriors make an appearance, resulting in three episodes of derivative swill, in which the Doctor is alternately branded a traitor and forced to prove his innocence, in which Sarah is held captive several times, and in which miners run around tunnels bickering.
Once the Ice Warriors enter the picture, things become mildly interesting, but any weight lent to the story by this new (if wholly predictable) development is undermined by the absurd plot contrivance of the mines of Peladon having a) central heating and b) air conditioning. To add insult to injury, the latter of these we are told is essential to the survival of the miners, which rather raises the question of how the non-technological Pels managed to mine the (apparently very old) tunnels prior to joining the Federation.
Mercifully, we are gifted with two decent villains. Alan Bennion is an old hand at playing Martian warlords by now, and Azaxyr is a commanding presence. He also boasts, in my opinion, the best "Ice Lord" costume to appear in the series and makes great use of his billowing cloak. The return of the Ice Warriors as villains is welcome, and despite their increasingly knackered costumes, they still look pretty effective, as they trudge slowly but menacingly about. Eckersley is also rather effective up to a point, well acted by Donald Gee (making amends for his dodgy accent in 'The Space Pirates'), who gives a laid back but striking performance. Unfortunately, he is rather undermined by the script in Episode Five when the question of his motivation arises. I can buy the idea that he is motivated by greed and seeks to become rich through his dealings with Galaxy Five, but he suddenly gets a horrible line about wanting to rule the world which just doesn't sit very well with his general demeanour and is utterly cringe-worthy.
The other characters are generally rather forgettable, although all of the guest cast are, to be fair, at the very least competent. Nina Thomas' Thalira is so vacuous as to be a non-entity, but this is more a shortcoming of the script rather than her rather endearing wide-eyed portrayal. The return of the likeable Alpha Centauri is also welcome, if somewhat unnecessary. Sadly, the two regulars fare surprisingly poorly. Pertwee is back on autopilot and delivers a muted and unenthusiastic performance. Sladen is fine, but the script gives Sarah very little to do except play the hostage and deliver a woefully feeble monologue on women's lib to Thalira.
Production wise, the story is very sloppy. The notorious close-up shot of Terry Walsh in a silvery wig at the end of Episode Four is diabolical, but isn't the only problem. When the Doctor gains control of "Aggedor" in Episode Six, the first time he uses the weapon the footage of the statue vanishing is recycled from Episode Five, resulting in the hole in the refinery door mysteriously vanishing. And Vega Nexus, a budget-priced Azal, looks terrible. In short, after the excellent 'The Time Warrior' and 'Invasion of the Dinosaurs', and the entertaining 'Death to the Daleks', 'The Monster of Peladon' heralds the down-turn in quality that blights every Pertwee season since the sublime Season Seven. Sadly, for Pertwee's swansong, things don't get any better…