The Pirate Planet

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099 – The Pirate Planet
Doctor Who serial
Pirate Planet.jpg
Romana, while examining the damaged field integrator, talks about the Doctor to the Captain.
Cast
Others
Production
Writer Douglas Adams
Director Pennant Roberts
Script editor Anthony Read
Producer Graham Williams
Executive producer(s) None
Incidental music composer Dudley Simpson
Production code 5B
Series Season 16
Length 4 episodes, 25 minutes each
Date started 30 September 1978
Date ended 21 October 1978
Chronology
← Preceded by Followed by →
The Ribos Operation The Stones of Blood

The Pirate Planet is the second serial of the 16th season in the British science fiction television series Doctor Who, which was first broadcast in four weekly parts from 30 September to 21 October 1978. It forms the second serial of the Key to Time story arc. It was written by Douglas Adams, and featured some of Adams' humour.

Plot[edit]

The Key to Time tracer points the Doctor and Romana to the cold and boring planet of Calufrax, but when they arrive they find an unusual civilisation that lives in perpetual prosperity. A strange band of people with mysterious powers known as the Mentiads are feared by the society, but the Doctor discovers that they are good people but with an unknown purpose. He instead fears the Captain, the planet's leader and benefactor. After meeting the Captain on the bridge he learns that they are actually on a hollowed-out planet named Zanak, which has been materialising around other planets to plunder their resources.

After repairing Zanak's engines, which were damaged when the planet materialised in the same place as the TARDIS, the Captain plans to take Zanak to Earth. The Doctor finds the true menace controlling the Captain is the ancient tyrant Queen Xanxia, disguised as the Captain's nurse, who uses the resources mined from planets in an attempt to gain immortality. Despite the Captain's apparent insanity, he is a calculating person who plans to destroy Xanxia. The Mentiads learn that their psychic powers are strengthened by the destruction of entire worlds beneath their feet.

Throughout Zanak, the Key to Time locator has been giving odd signals that seem to indicate that the segment is everywhere. Once the Doctor and Romana see the Captain's trophy room of planets, they conclude that Calufrax is the segment that they are looking for. They use the TARDIS to once again disrupt Zanak's materialisation around Earth while the Mentiads sabotage the engines. Xanxia kills the Captain when he finally turns against her. The Doctor, Romana, and the Mentiads destroy Zanak's bridge and Queen Xanxia, ending the devastation caused by Zanak's travels.

Continuity[edit]

This is the second of six linked serials that comprise the whole of Season 16, known collectively as The Key to Time.

While unconscious on the Bridge, the Doctor mumbles "No more Janis thorns", the admonishment he used several times on former companion Leela, particularly in The Face of Evil. The Pirate Captain appears in the regeneration montage in Logopolis. The Tenth Doctor mentions Calufrax Minor as being one of the missing planets in "The Stolen Earth".

Production[edit]

The original draft for this story was extremely complex: centred around a Time Lord trapped in a giant aggression-absorbing machine and several paradoxes, it had to be heavily simplified by the script editor, Anthony Read.

According to the DVD commentary, the Doctor's accident with the console early in the story was staged to explain Baker's real-life cut lip, which was due to a dog bite. The scenes in the engine room were filmed at the Berkeley nuclear power station, which made many of the cast and crew rather nervous.

Cast notes[edit]

Vi Delmar, who played Queen Xanxia (uncredited), asked for extra payment to remove her false teeth in her scenes. David Warwick later played the police commissioner in "Army of Ghosts" and David Garnier in the audio play The Harvest.

Outside references[edit]

The Doctor claims to have met Isaac Newton, and says he dropped the apple that made him discover gravity. Newton is said to have told the Doctor to get out of his tree, and the Doctor later explains gravity to him.

Broadcast and reception[edit]

Serial details by episode
Episode Broadcast date Run time Viewers
(in millions)
"Part One" 30 September 1978 (1978-09-30) 25:05 9.1
"Part Two" 7 October 1978 (1978-10-07) 25:30 7.4
"Part Three" 14 October 1978 (1978-10-14) 25:47 8.2
"Part Four" 21 October 1978 (1978-10-21) 25:16 8.4
[1][2][3]

Paul Cornell, Martin Day, and Keith Topping wrote of the serial in The Discontinuity Guide (1995), "An inventive story, The Pirate Planet has matured into a satisfying mixture of the clever and the absurd."[4] In The Television Companion (1998), David J. Howe and Stephen James Walker described the serial as "enjoyable", especially due to Baker and Tamm's performances as well as the Captain and Mr Fibuli. However, they wrote that the other supporting characters were "simply awful".[5] In 2011, Mark Braxton of Radio Times noted a few plot holes and that the budget could not convey the scope of ideas, but he praised the performances and the story's playful tone.[6] DVD Talk's Justin Felix gave The Pirate Planet three and a half out of four stars, describing the story as "quite clever" and "fun", but felt that it was let down by over-the-top acting.[7] In 2010, Charlie Jane Anders of io9 listed the cliffhanger of the third episode as one of the best cliffhangers in Doctor Who history.[8]

Commercial releases[edit]

In print[edit]

This is one of five Doctor Who serials that were never novelised by Target Books (the others being City of Death, Shada, Resurrection of the Daleks, and Revelation of the Daleks), in this case because they were unable to come to an agreement with Douglas Adams that would have allowed him or another writer to adapt the script.

Home media[edit]

The Pirate Planet was released on VHS in April 1995. This serial, along with the rest of season sixteen, was released in North America as part of the Key to Time box set, and as an individually available title, on 1 October 2002; the remastered Key To Time Boxset was released in Region 1 on 3 March 2009. A Limited Edition of the Key to Time box set (with additional clean-up and extras over the North American release) containing this serial, was released in Region 2 on 24 September 2007.[9] The same set, though not in Limited Edition guise was released in Region 4 on 7 November 2007. The serial is not available separately on DVD in Regions 2 or 4. This serial was also released as part of the Doctor Who DVD Files in Issue 112 on 17 April 2013.

References[edit]

  1. ^ Shaun Lyon et al. (31 March 2007). "The Pirate Planet". Outpost Gallifrey. Archived from the original on 31 July 2008. Retrieved 30 August 2008. 
  2. ^ "The Pirate Planet". Doctor Who Reference Guide. Retrieved 30 August 2008. 
  3. ^ Sullivan, Shannon (7 August 2007). "The Pirate Planet". A Brief History of Time Travel. Retrieved 30 August 2008. 
  4. ^ Cornell, Paul; Day, Martin; Topping, Keith (1995). "The Pirate Planet". The Discontinuity Guide. London: Virgin Books. ISBN 0-426-20442-5. 
  5. ^ Howe, David J & Walker, Stephen James (1998). Doctor Who: The Television Companion (1st ed. ed.). London: BBC Books. ISBN 978-0-563-40588-7. 
  6. ^ Braxton, Mark (7 January 2011). "Doctor Who: The Pirate Planet". Radio Times. Retrieved 20 March 2013. 
  7. ^ Felix, Justin (22 March 2009). "Doctor Who: The Pirate Planet". DVD Talk. Retrieved 20 March 2013. 
  8. ^ Anders, Charlie Jane (31 August 2010). "Greatest Doctor Who cliffhangers of all time!". io9. Retrieved 20 March 2013. 
  9. ^ "DVD News". BBC. 18 May 2007. Archived from the original on 24 May 2007. Retrieved 20 March 2013. 

External links[edit]

Fan reviews