26 January 2014

Will Brooks’ 50 Year Diary - watching Doctor Who one episode a day from the very start... 

Day 391: The Monster of Peladon, Episode Three

Dear diary,

You tend to find, when undertaking a marathon like this, that all sorts of strange coincidences are thrown up. A few years ago, when listening to all the Eighth Doctor audio plays in order for Memoirs of an Edwardian Adventurer, it was often the case that events in the stories would correspond oddly with things happening in the news, and both Nick Courtney and Elisabeth Sladen passed away just a week-or-so before we were due to reach their appearances in the stories for the marathon. With a programme that’s run as long as Doctor Who, there’s connections to pretty much anything you care to mention, so I guess it shouldn’t come as a surprise that sometimes things tie together in a slightly unusual fluke.

Today, for example, I found myself having a conversation with a client about radio series The Archers. I can pin-point exactly where the conversation came from – I was trying to sell them on some Big Finish audios! They’d mentioned about listening to radio plays, citing a lot of the old Paul Temple productions from the BBC, and I’d recommended them the fab new Avengers lost episodes collection, because it sounded right up their street. From there, the conversation shifted to the fact that they’d been an avid listener for the last 40 years of The Archers, and the conversation went on from there.

Because I’m a fan of archive telly, I’ve got a vague idea about archive radio, too. I’m by no means an expert (heck, It’s generous to even call me a novice!), so I find myself falling back on the few things that I do know if I find myself in a conversation about such things. For The Archers, the only thing I really know is that the night ITV launched in 1955, was the same night that the radio serial killed off Grace Archer, one of the main characters. I only know the fact because it’s been a topic of some contention since – was it a clever move by the BBC to overshadow the opening night of their first rival? For all that it matters, in my opinion, of course it was a clever trick!

It was only later on today that I remembered the actress who’d voiced Grace Archer was Ysanne Churchman – who appears in The Monster of Peladon providing the voice of Alpha Centauri! She’ll be back in the next story, too, voicing some of the spiders. As I say, with a programme as long-running as Doctor Who, it’s not great surprise that there’s connections to another long-running BBC programme (there’s loads more, too. Perhaps most famously, 1980s Davros actor Terry Molloy has voiced a regular character in the soap for over 40 years), but it is one of those odd coincidences that I should find myself discussing the work of Churchman while I’m watching this story – and completely out-of-the-blue!

I have to admit, I do love Alpha Centauri. How can you not? The voice is a real highlight (I could listen to it all day long! Time for an audio spin off?), but the whole character is just entirely watchable. Thinking back to The Curse of Peladon, Centauri was high on my list for praise then, too…

””I’ve always assumed that it was a fairly basic creature, with everything pieced together as best they could. Actually, it’s really well made. There’s a few moments when the head has to turn, and it just looks good! Usually things like this would leave me complaining that it doesn’t quite work out, but no! Hooray! I think if this story wants to do better in my estimations, we need more of Centauri!

More Centauri is something this story is giving us in droves, and they’ve even made a few modifications to the costume, so it’s even better here. I think the cape is different, for example, and spending so much time in the creature’s company means that I’m getting to enjoy all the little movements and gestures, too. The blink of the eye, to way the claws pinch and move in unison when gesticulating (an effect achieved, I presume, by the very basic application of a bit of string between the various appendages!)… it really is hard not to love this Hermaphrodite Hexapod, isn’t it?


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