Blurb: The planet Peladon has joined the Galactic Federation, and has undergone a painful period of change. Still eager to embrace alien culture, King Peladon has welcomed refugee Ice Warriors to his world - innocent creatures that are fleeing the New Martian Republic.
But, as an old friend returns to the capitol, there is murder in the refugee camps. Could the truth lie in an ancient legend?
Format: Limited-cast audio drama, a Companion Chronicle from the point-of-view of King Peladon. Published by Big Finish Productions and released September of 2009.
Setting: The Planet Peladon in the Earth year 3890. King Peladon narrates the story to his daughter from circa 3915.
Continuity: This story takes place between The Green Death and The Time Warrior. There are numerous references to the Doctor's previous trip to Peladon (see The Curse of Peladon).
Canonicity Quotient: This trip to Peladon contradicts the novel Legacy which states that the Doctor has only been to Peladon twice before. 0.98
Discussion: The Prisoner of Peladon was a bit of an experiment with the companion chronicles range. Big Finish wanted to try doing a few stories told from the points of view of major characters whose lives had been touched by the Doctor but who weren't his traveling companions. King Peladon, played by David Troughton is one of those characters. Inspired by the fact that in The Monster of Peladon that Queen Thalira mentions that her father had told "stories" of the Doctor even though we only have one prior Peladon story, Big Finish decided that it would be possible to have another story with the Doctor on Peladon as long as it was after he'd left Jo and before he'd picked up Sarah. It's a clever notion and while it seems like they were reaching a bit to make this work you have to give them credit for at least trying to give their audience a variety of stories.
The premise of this story is interesting and it's surprising that no one had ever exploited the idea of the Doctor traveling on his own after Jo leaves in The Green Death. After all, Jo was his tie to Earth and he'd been trying to get off of Earth for a long time. Once she was gone it's likely that he went into space for a long time. It's nice to see the idea developed here. Cavan Scott and Mark Wright seem to have a very good grasp of the third Doctor as well as his era. Another of their Companion Chronicles, The Many Deaths of Jo Grant also seemed to grasp what made the era great. Here they have distilled the Peladon stories and they give the listener something unique while at the same time making it feel like a Peladon story that we could have seen on TV. Martian politics become the order of the day and while the Ice Warriors have always been important to the Peladon stories it was nice to have them fleshed out further and their role in this period of the future explained. If the story has a flaw it's its brevity. It felt like it was a character or two to short to inject some life into the politics. As a result, there isn't a whole lot of question of what is going on and who is responsible as there are very few suspects. It also doesn't seem right to have a Peladon story without Aggedor showing up. All-in-all the story is satisfying and for its length the writers developed the best story that they possibly could, but it really seems as if another two episodes would have made the whole thing a lot better.
From a character standpoint, it's fascinating to listen to the development of King Peladon in this story. He's still the idealistic leader from Curse of Peladon, but he's struggling to be taken seriously by the more technically advanced Federation members. When he feels as if the Doctor is also patronizing him he just loses it. It's similar to scenes from The Aztecs or the Companion Chronicles The Glorious Revolution, but I really like when people can tell off the Doctor and have a reasonable basis from which to do so. The Doctor came on to Peladon and acted like he was smarter than everyone while leaving the King in the dark. The Doctor was hoping to protect him in some ways but at the same time it wasn't really the Doctor's call to make. The King should have known what was going on in his own planet. The fact that their relationship is left in doubt as the Doctor leaves just leaves you with a sad feeling because those who have seen The Monster of Peladon knows that he'll never see the Doctor again. The narration also clues us in that the King really loves and respects the Doctor and it's nice to have him use the Doctor as the basis for her bedtime stories. It's also really nice that Alpha Centauri is given more to do this time then simply dither in concern. It's a nice departure for the characters and it's nice to see it act proactively for once. There's also a death for a familiar character and that really rocked me to the core. One of the nice things about a story like this which doesn't take place with one of the Doctor's known companions is that we have no idea what happens to any of those people, so anything can happen. Whereas in most companion chronicles we know that if the companion is threatened that they'll get out of it somehow as they didn't die in the TV series.
Voicewise, David Troughton really impressed. He's a fantastic narrator that is able to read the dialog with meaning as if he really is the old King Peladon. The change to the dialog for his younger self is subtle but it doesn't need to be all that great as his voice hasn't changed all that much over the years. Surprisingly he did a very good Jon Pertwee impression for the Doctor's lines although sometimes it seemed to degrade more into his father's tones. Still, he at least had the mannerisms correct, which helps a great deal in this kind of production. The most surprising part, though, was that he played Alpha Centauri perfectly. Nick Briggs doesn't disappointed as three different Ice Warrior characters. Each of them is given completely different tones and mannerisms and it's done well enough that the listener can't tell that it's actually one person voicing all three rather than three different voice actors. The music was good on this one although nothing exceptional. All-in-all the sound on this one was very solidly done with two strong actors and with decent music and sound effects.
Final Rating: 8/10
Recommendation: It's a Peladon story, so I shouldn't have to say anything else. If you want a political thriller set on a medieval world in part of a galactic federation then this is the story for you. I highly recommend it.