Released January 2008
Big Finish delves into the depths of Doctor Who by offering a return journey to the planet of Peladon, a planet not visited since the Third Doctor era on television. This story will best be remembered for departure of Erimem from the TARDIS, but ‘The Bride of Peladon’ is a very rich story on its own merits, full of intriguing characters and celebrating the vibrant history of the programme.
An arranged marriage has been proposed between Peladon and Earth in order to form an alliance in order to ensure the safety and continued success of Peladon, but Peladon is soaked in internal confusion and strife as the King’s mother has recently died in a riding incident and the trisilicate miners are threatening to stop work after several strange deaths. The original ‘The Curse of Peladon’ is regarded as somewhat of a classic, full of interesting concepts, a strong script and atmosphere, and plenty of unique alien species. While the sequel ‘The Monster of Peladon’ fails to live up to those lofty standards, often recycling similar ideas, ‘The Bride of Peladon’ learns from both of those previous stories to offer something similar but unique at the same time.
As would only be expected, the delegate from Alpha Centauri makes a return, this time nearing the end of his career and initially found waiting for the new Ice Warrior diplomat Zixlyr who will be investigating the previous delegate’s mysterious death, Zixlyr also having had a near brush with death before being rescued by the Doctor and his companions. There are several subplots throughout ‘The Bride of Peladon involving monsters, ghosts, deaths, and the aliens, but writer Barnaby Edwards does a superb job of devoting enough time to each of them and fully fleshing out each character in order to bring everything together for a satisfying climax.
Surprisingly, though, Edwards does not limit his script simply to the world and events already created in the previous two serials. As an intriguing tread, Erimem discovers that certain symbols she has found are actually Egyptian hieroglyphics, leading to the fascinating revelation that an Osirian named Sekmet is actually behind the murderous intrigue. Sekmet had been imprisoned in a trisilicate prison until the miners broke the seal and allowed her mental presence to escape to wreak havoc once more. The homage to ‘The Pyramids of Mars’ is perhaps not a necessary one, but it brings together two classic eras wonderfully.
All of the leads offer their very typical strong performances throughout the runtime. Peri, in particular, is allowed to showcase her natural curiosity and bravery as she spends the majority of the time alongside the crashed Zixlyr as he tries to find out who killed his sister and how to get revenge. Nicholas Briggs does great work as the Ice Warrior, and the script once more portrays the noble Martian race as one full of insight and reason, a great foil for Peri to work both with and against. However, as Erimem’s final story, Caroline Morris is naturally thrust into the spotlight, and she shows an easy chemistry with the regal King Pelleas. She is able to handle the internal politics of Peladon with ease due to her own royal upbringing, and though her decision to stay on Peladon does feel a bit rushed like so many classic companions’ departures in the original series, it has also been foreshadowed for quite a while in previous stories, bringing her story to a logical and fulfilling conclusion.
The biggest issue with ‘The Bride of Peladon’ is a plot contrivance that comes out of nowhere and feels quite out of place in the mythology of the show given how many times a companion has been placed in mortal danger, especially Peri herself in ‘The Caves of Androzani.’ Near the beginning of the story, the Doctor is injured while being chased but recovers quickly with no lingering issues. At the story’s conclusion, though, Erimem must sacrifice herself by poisoning her blood with Mandrake root in order to stop the Osirian threat. While this would have made a truly spectacular- if heartbreaking- ending for Erimem, the Doctor’s regenerative process had apparently been triggered to some degree, allowing him to transfuse some of his blood into Erimem to save her. Davison brings his natural energy and charm, and the Fifth Doctor is, as always, ready to sacrifice himself, but that one aspect of the script is certainly a weak point narratively.
As a whole, though, ‘The Bride of Peladon’ is a great story that successfully wraps up Erimem’s travels with the Doctor and Peri. Drawing on a lot of previous tales without overwhelming audiences and featuring very strong performances and direction to bring a solid script to life, this is certainly a highlight for Big Finish and proof that classic serials still have plenty of potential to be revisited.