Posting this for something to do. It’s a tweaked version of something I originally wrote for Shockeye’s Kitchen. It’s been rewritten to be more politically correct.
Several of the characters in ‘Planet of Fire’ are orphans (either literally or figuratively). Turlough and Malkon are literal orphans. You can look at the Sarns as the orphans of the vanished Trion colony. Peri also seems like an orphan in some ways. Her father is absent (dead?). She tells her stepfather Howard of her plan to travel to Morocco but doesn’t appear to have any plans to tell her mother about it. She goes to Howard for support and money, not to her mother. But Howard is too close to Peri’s age to properly serve as a father figure. Moreover, Peri seems attracted to him; she flirts with him by talking about “the God of love and fertility” and obliquely refers to the fact that he goes around displaying his washboard. Her decision to bunk off to North Africa with a couple of guys she’s just met is obviously a bid for Howard’s attention. Feverish after her brush with death, Peri has an intense dream about Howard abandoning her – a dream so powerful that it causes Kamelion to adopt Howard’s form.
(BTW, I dunno where this thing about Howard abusing her came from but there’s precisely zilch in the televised story that either suggests or supports that reading.)
Talking of Kamelion, he’s actually a kind of nexus where the story’s themes meet.
He’s another orphan. Like the ancient artefacts that Howard and Curt dredge up from the sea, like the crumbling buildings and technology of the Trion colony on Sarn, Kamelion is an artefact left behind by a decaying civilisation riven with internal conflict. Kamelion is being torn apart from within by conflicting influences and allegiances… just like Turlough and Malkon. Just as Turlough fights his inner tendencies towards cowardice and selfishness, just as Malkon fights the orthodox conditioning of Timanov, so Kamelion fights his connection to the Master. Kamelion’s inner struggle takes the outer form of a literal struggle for identity, for form.
The fractured families depicted in the story mirror the fractured social connections. Sarn is a decayed Trion colony. The planet’s society and geology are both running amok because the Trions are no longer there to control either. The Trions used technology to control the volcano and siphon off the power of the numismaton gas (just like all colonial masters, their primary interest was in the theft of natural resources). Without this control the volcano becomes periodically unstable and the Sarns use myth to explain it. Sarn was a convenient place for the Trions to dump their unwanted elements (like Australia for the British Empire). Religion was probably used by the Trions from the outset. The tales of Logar took on their own life in the ruins left by the Trion withdrawal, much as Roman religious practices degenerated into new cults once the legions departed Britain. The Sarn legends of Logar, the Chosen Ones and the Outsiders are corrupted memories of Trion activity – vulcanology, arriving spaceships, etc.…