TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 14 June 2016
‘His cry of warning shall be heard in the night, and death shall ride in the land of Peladon!’ The spirit of Aggedor howls through this superb Audiobook version of a true classic from the Pertwee era. 5* (5 CDs, 5 hours 20 minutes)
I am hopelessly biased about this story. It has been among my very favourite ‘Doctor Who’ adventures since I first saw it in 1972 and the novelisation IS my favourite, so no surprise, this review will be positive! But this really is a terrific Audiobook presentation that does Brian Hayles’ classic work full justice.
For me, this ‘Doctor Who’ story has it all; the exciting action and Aikido so typical of the Pertwee years, aliens of every kind, a definitive ‘monster’ and an intelligent, thoughtful plot worthy of the best Hartnell-era historicals.
In the Citadel high on storm-wracked Mount Megeshra, a young king, his nobles and visiting delegates from several alien worlds hold the future of Peladon in their hands (those who *have* hands…) Should the people of Peladon hold fast to their ancient beliefs and reject the Galaxy beyond their world, or should they join the Galactic Federation and accept change as the price of progress?
The ever-dashing Third Doctor and wonderful Jo Grant land (with suspiciously perfect timing) right in the middle of this heated debate, as danger, death, diplomacy and unexpected romance all collide in a power struggle between the old and the new, between religion and technology, between the familiar and the unknown.
‘Our royal host’ for this journey through the smoke-filled throne rooms and secret passages of power is no less than the original King Peladon of Peladon himself, David Troughton. His performance is superb, narrating with energy and feeling, conveying the tension of the story and providing great, individual voices for the full spectrum of species on display.
The noble, passionate young King Peladon, his loyal, ill-fated Chancellor Torbis and proud, haughty Hepesh the High Priest open the story in style, each with their own distinctive tones. Then the aliens begin to show up… David Troughton makes a great Ice Warrior as Ssorg hisses and lumbers around, gives clear distinction to the voice of Ice Lord Izlyr and (with a little post-production), the logical gratings of Arcturus (a neuroplasm floating in a ‘box of tricks’) and the ‘shrill and elegant’ flutings and vacillations of the unforgettable Alpha Centauri! And of course, the debonair Third Doctor (‘my’ Doctor) and feisty, emotive Jo Grant.
The music and sound design are splendid; thunder rolls around Mount Megeshra, footsteps and voices echo in the long stone corridors of the Citadel, swords clash and ring – and Aggedor roars and howls, sounding like a truly terrifying royal beast and several times larger than on screen!
Hayles’ novelisation of his own scripts is excellent, true to his original televised story but with enough subtle expansions to make the novel enjoyable even when you know the story well. Some are small, interesting details; for example, we learn why the king was so smitten by his first sight of Jo – not only did she look beautiful, but she strongly resembled Peladon’s late mother – another young Earthwoman. The pit of combat is specifically not the sandy Romanesque arena we saw on screen, but a complex array of glassy, maybe obsidian pillars and split levels, while Alpha Centauri shimmers with colours that reflect its current level of hysteria!
The prose is excellent, rich and atmospheric and filled with insights into the minds of the characters, which really add to this story about beliefs, loyalties and attitudes to change. Perhaps best of all, we can now fully appreciate the viewpoint of Grun, the ‘ritually mute’ King’s Champion, who illustrates the struggle for power on Peladon as it plays out within him: his devotion to his King who seeks change, his faith in Aggedor and the High Priest of his awesome god who stands for tradition – and a growing faith in this courageous alien known as the Doctor.
The major addition to the text is a sequence of scenes in the build-up to the Doctor’s trial by combat, greatly expanded from the on-screen story. Jo and Hepesh contend for influence over Grun, the Doctor prepares for his combat and the King dares to throws down the gauntlet to his god Aggedor, demanding that the Doctor must live - or he will renounce his faith. When the crisis breaks at the trial by combat, we can clearly see what happens to Arcturus (partly concealed on screen by the episode’s cliff-hanger and partly by tactful editing for teatime viewing.) The Doctor’s ‘Venusian lullaby’ to Aggedor is not specified in detail in the book, but that’s not surprising as producer Barry Letts co-created it in ‘The Daemons’ and recycled it for the television production of this story. (If you want to sing it at the appropriate moment, the CD insert has the words!)
The overall effect of this production is superb and does full justice to a true classic, splendidly novelised by the original author. Finally, I’m looking at the original 1975 Target paperback book on my desk by the new Audiobook version, and it’s pleasing to see the way the design has been faithfully carried over; the cover illustration, the mid-brown colour of the spine, the back cover text and, in the CD insert, along with interesting details of the story, the novel and its author, the same six internal book illustrations from forty years ago.
Most highly recommended, I award this Audiobook five stars and the crown of Peladon! 5*