THIS STORY TAKES
PLACE BETWEEN THE BIG
"THE MIND'S EYE" AND
BIG FINISH CD#104
RELEASED IN JANUARY
A mysterious voice, a
missing girl and a
murdered queen. The
Royal House of
Peladon is once more
plunged into intrigue,
terror and death. The
Doctor, Peri and
Erimem must find
their way through a
labyrinth of lies if
they are to
from foe before it is
For deep beneath the
Citadel of Peladon,
powerful is stirring...
2008’s first Big Finish release, “The Bride of Peladon”, is doubtlessly destined to become a fan favourite. Brian Hayles’ two 1970s Peladon serials are still very highly regarded in most fan circles; indeed, the original “Curse of Peladon” four-parter is often ranked amongst Jon Pertwee’s very best. More than that though, “The Bride of Peladon” is also of note for being Erimem’s departure story. The young Pharaoh first hooked up with the fifth Doctor and Peri in 2001’s “The Eye of the Scorpion”, but now – just like her fellow Big Finish companions Charley and C’rizz – her days are numbered.
Barnaby Edwards has been given pretty much free reign with “The Bride of Peladon” in that he not only wrote the script but he also directed the entire production. The result is exactly what Edwards set out to make – the sort of story that would have excited his four year-old self. That is not to say that “The Bride of Peladon” is in any way dumbed-down though; quite the opposite in fact. Edwards’ multifaceted and really quite mature tale is in my opinion
more compelling than the 1970s television serials which spawned it, yet it is still also littered with so much action and peril that you could easily imagine the four year-olds scuttling for the back of the sofa were this a television story not an audio drama. For example, the first episode contains a lengthy Star Trek: Generations-style spaceship crash sequence which
is in no way essential to the plot, but it helps to keep the pace up in an episode which otherwise would have been all exposition and scene-setting. Throw stuff like that into the mix together with the Doctor singing (badly) to Aggedor and Peri being threatened by a marauding Ice Warrior, and straight away you have all those key ‘Peladon’ ingredients in place for the former four year-old selves listening.
What I liked the most about the story though was that, in spite of the above, “The Bride of Peladon” is not just an audio reworking of the classic television stories. Firstly, this story is no allegory. Considering how topical the first two Peladon stories were when they were originally broadcast, part of me expected Edwards to set this Peladon story against a backdrop of impending recession! Secondly, the serial’s structure is quite distinctive. Whilst the first episode is fairly traditional in almost every way, the last three each open with a pre-title sequence and none of them fully reprise their preceding episode’s cliffhanger endings. This makes the play feel even more special and extraordinary. However, thirdly and most remarkably, “The Bride of Peladon” goes off on one hell of a tangent. Set approximately one hundred years after the events of “The Monster of Peladon” (about fifty years after Gary Russell’s Peladon novel, “Legacy”, for those that care), Edwards’ story begins much like all the other Peladon stories do. There is political unrest and trouble in the mines, and this time even an arranged marriage has been cooked up by the Pel nobles. But as the plot progresses, the writer pulls out some real surprises – and trust me, we are talking the “Seasons of Fear” calibre of surprises - including the return of a race seldom seen in Doctor Who. And with hindsight, this race just had to be the protagonists in Erimem’s last story.
Turning to Erimem’s departure itself, I have to say that whilst it is very well handled, it does lack the emotional resonance that both C’rizz’s and Charley’s final stories had. I think that this is because there was a certain degree of tragedy inherent in C’rizz’s and Charley’s respective departures, yet Erimem’s fate is far more pleasant. It may not be ‘happy ever after’ for her in the traditional sense, but considering who that she is and how she was raised, her fate is entirely appropriate: she becomes the eponymous ‘Bride of Peladon’, marrying King Pelleas and thus helping to steer the oft-troubled planet towards a brighter future. Peri, as one might expect, is appalled at Erimem for marrying a man that she does not love, but the Doctor understands her choice completely. And, quite amusingly I feel, the Doctor also understands that without Erimem’s calming influence, Peri is going to become “uncontrollable.” How prophetic.
As for the quality of the production itself, as is almost always the case Big Finish cannot be faulted. Andy Hardwick’s score really evokes that characteristic Peladon atmosphere, especially when offset by Jane Goddard’s textbook Alpha Centauri voice; the perfectly-replicated Arcturun voice; and of course Nicholas Briggs’ flawless Ice Warrior, Zixlyr. The cast here is exceptionally good, not only in terms of the actors’ respective performances but also by their collective repute. “The Bride of Peladon” is populated with characters brought
to life by the likes of Yasmin Bannerman, Jenny Agutter, and even Thomas Brodie-Sangster, who I presume was still lurking about on set after having recorded “The Mind’s Eye” and subsequently got roped into playing the young miner when Briggs was called away to
market some Judoon voice changers for the BBC!
THE DOCTOR I miss them all Peri. Everybody leaves.
PERI (changing back into her “Planet of Fire” / “Caves of Androzani”
costume) Yeah, well when I do Doctor I can promise you this - it won’t
be ‘cos I’m gonna marry some alien king.
All told “The Bride of Peladon” wonderfully evokes the dark and claustrophobic atmosphere of the original 1970s serials whilst telling a very modern story in a very exciting way. There are shocks aplenty and, providing that you are prepared to indulge the writers’ shameless (and bloody inspired!) continuity joke right at the death, there is little not to like here.
Copyright © E.G. Wolverson 2008
E.G. Wolverson has asserted his right under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act, 1988 to be identified as the author of this work.
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