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Tom Baker
The Pirate Planet
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Synopsis


The Captain with The Nurse
The Captain with The Nurse
 The Doctor, Romana and K9 continue their search for the six segments that make up the powerful Key to Time.

 The TARDIS lands on the world of Zanak, despite the Tracer indicating that they seek another planet altogether - Calufrax. On Zanak they find the populace living under the cruel tyranny of the Captain; a bullying, arrogant cyborg who is using the hollow planet as a giant spaceship materialising it around worlds and then mining them dry.

 Living apart from the other people of Zanak are the Mentiads, a feared group of silent men with heightened extra-sensory powers. The Doctor tries to rally the Mentiads into attacking the Captain's base and free the planet from his control. But The Doctor has failed to realise who actually wields the power on Zanak…

 Having failed to find the second segment, Romana finds herself put to work on the planet's massive engines, K9 battles the lethal robot parrot Polyphase Avatron and The Doctor discovers the identity of the next planet targeted for destruction... Earth!

Source: BBC VHS Video


General Information

Season: Sixteen
Production Code: 5B
Story Number: 99
Episode Numbers:484 - 487
Number of Episodes: 4
Percentage of Episodes Held:100%
Working Titles:"The Pirates"
Production Dates: May - June 1978
Broadcast Started: 30 September 1978
Broadcast Finished: 21 October 1978
Colour Status: Colour
Studio: Shepperton Studios, Middlesex and BBC Television Centre (TC6)
Location: Gwent ,Wales: Coity Mountain, Gellifelen Railway Tunnels (Clydach , Daren-Felen), Monmouthshire Golf Course (Llanfoist), Big Pit (Blaenavon), Bwlch y Garn (Ebbw Vale).
Others: Dan-yr-Ogof caves (Powys ,Wales), Abercrave Caves (Dan-yr-Ogof, Swansea), Berkeley Power Station (Gloucestershire).
Writer:Douglas Adams
Director:Pennant Roberts
Producer:Graham Williams
Script Editor:Anthony Read
Editor:John Dunstan
Production Assistant:Michael Owen Morris
Production Unit Manager:John Nathan-Turner
Assistant Floor Manager:Ruth Mayorcas
Designer:Jon Pusey
Costume Designer:L Rowland Warne
Make-Up Designer:Janis Gould
Cameraman:Elmer Cossey
Incidental Music:Dudley Simpson
Special Sounds (SFX Editor):Dick Mills
Studio Sounds:Mike Jones
Lighting:Mike Jefferies
Visual Effects:Colin Mapson
Title Sequence:Bernard Lodge
Title Music:Ron Grainer and the BBC Radiophonic Workshop. Arranged by Delia Derbyshire
Number of Doctors: 1
The Doctor: Tom Baker (The Fourth Doctor)
Number of Companions: 2The Companions: Mary Tamm (Romana 1) and John Leeson (voice only) (K9 Mk II) Additional Cast: Bruce Purchase (The Captain), Andrew Robertson (Mr. Fibuli), Rosalind Lloyd (Nurse/Queen Xanxia), Ralph Michael (Balaton), David Sibley (Pralix), David Warwick (Kimus), Primi Townsend (Mula), Clive Bennett (Citizen), Bernard Finch (Mentiad), Adam Kurakin (Guard), Vi Delmar (Old Xanxia)Setting: Planets Zanak and Callufrax Villains: Queen Xanxia and The Captain

The Episodes

No. Episodes Broadcast
(UK)
Duration Viewers
(Millions)
In Archive
484Part 130 September 197825'05"9.1PAL 2" colour videotape
485Part 207 October 197825'30"7.4PAL 2" colour videotape
486Part 314 October 197825'47"8.2PAL 2" colour videotape
487Part 421 October 197825'16"8.4PAL 2" colour videotape

Total Duration 1 Hour 42 Minutes


Audience Appreciation

Average Viewers (Millions) 8.3
Doctor Who Magazine Poll (1998)68.27%  (Position = 77 out of 159)
Doctor Who Magazine Poll (2009)69.41% Higher (Position = 109 out of 200)
Doctor Who Magazine Poll (2014)71.57% Higher (Position = 114 out of 241)


Archives


 All four episodes exist as PAL 2" colour videotapes.



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Notes


This story is the first ever contribution to the show by Douglas Adams who is better known as the author of the world-renowned series The Hitchhikers’ Guide to the Galaxy and it was while working on this story that he sold his radio play for The Hitchhikers’ Guide to the Galaxy to the BBC, resulting in him working on both projects at the same time.

This was actually Douglas Adams’ second submission to Doctor Who, his first being "The Krikketmen" which would live on as the third The Hitchhikers’ Guide to the Galaxy book, "Life, The Universe and Evertything".

"The Pirate Planet" is the second of six linked stories that comprise the whole of Season Sixteen, known collectively as The Key to Time.

The story was a combination of two concepts, one involving a Time Lord trapped inside a giant aggression-absorbing machine, the other a drug parable about a company that slows down time for people who fear death. The original draft though turned out to be extremely complex and so had to be heavily simplified by Script Editor, Anthony Read.

David Warwick, who played Kimus, later played the police commissioner in the Tenth Doctor 2006 story "Army of Ghosts/Doomsday".

The scenes in the engine room were filmed at the Berkeley Nuclear Power Station. It has been rumoured that this made many of the cast and crew rather nervous.

The Doctor’s accident with the console early in the story, when the TARDIS makes a bumpy landing on Zanak, was staged to explain Tom Baker’s real-life lip injury, which occurred while the preceding story "The Ribos Operation" was being recorded.

Zanak is the ‘pirate planet’. Planets that The Captain has in his collection include: Bandraginus V, Calufrax, Collactin, Granados and Qualactin.

Bantraginus V is likely a reference to Santraginus V, the home for one of the key ingredients in Pan Galactic Gargle Blaster in Douglas Adams’s The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.

Calufrax Minor is one of the planets stolen by Davros and the Daleks in the 2008 Tenth Doctor story "The Stolen Earth/Journey's End".

This story is renowned for featuring some of Douglas Adams style of humour as well as many other elements that also appear in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.

At one point, The Doctor is heard telling Kimus, ‘Don't panic’, which is the tagline for Douglas Adams’s The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.

The Doctor’s attempt to strike up a conversation with the guards escorting him and Romana in the second episode is reminiscent of Ford Prefect’s attempt to talk a Vogon guard out of throwing Ford and Arthur Dent out of an airlock in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. And The Doctor’s line - ‘Standing around all day looking tough must be very wearing on the nerves’ - was later used in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy radio series.

The Queen of Zanak is revealed to have been frozen in time at the cusp of death.... as is the Emperor of the Galaxy in the novel and second radio series of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (although the references to the Emperor are throwaway lines and not plot-points as they are in "The Pirate Planet").

The Doctor shouts ‘I’ll never be cruel to an electron in a particle accelerator again’. while being pulled along the linear induction corridor into the mountain - reminiscent of Arthur Dent’s statement, ’I’ll never be cruel to a gin and tonic again’, the first time he goes into hyperspace in the radio series of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.

It is revealed that The Doctor does not use the synchronic feedback circuit or the multi-loop stabiliser when landing the TARDIS (both of which are, according to Romana, essential for a smooth materialisation).

Interestingly Romana pilots the TARDIS at the start of this story (and during times later on in this show) by the book, and the TARDIS makes the usual materialisation noise, which happens every time she pilots it. However, in the 2010 Eleventh Doctor story "The Time of Angels/Flesh and Stone", when River Song pilots the TARDIS to follow the Byzantium, the TARDIS does not make the noise, saying that it is due to The Doctor leaving the breaks on, yet other TARDISes (i.e. The Master’s, or The Rani’s) piloted by experienced and trained pilots still make this noise, contradicting what River Song said.

This story appears to begin the day after the conclusion of "The Ribos Operation". The Doctor is seen about to put away the newly acquired first segment, and talking to K9 about the success of the earlier mission. He then proceeds to say ‘good morning’ to Romana, suggesting at least an evening has passed, but not much more.

In the first episode, The Doctor is heard directly referring to Romana as having ‘good looks’, one of the few times in the original run of the show that The Doctor made such a remark regarding one of his companions. Ironically, Douglas Adams’ later story, "City of Death" in 1979, included the line ‘You’re a good looking woman, probably’ another rare reference to the physical appearance of his companions.

The Doctor is heard once again telling Romana not to trust ‘gimmicky gadgets’. (see "The Ribos Operation").

Romana and The Doctor are seen looking inside the TARDIS Instruction Manual, where The Doctor tears a page out. The Eleventh Doctor later states, in "Amy's Choice", he had thrown the Manual into a supernova because he ‘disagreed with it’.

Romana is heard stating The Doctor has been travelling in the TARDIS for 523 years. If this is correct and his age is 759 (as he stated in "The Ribos Operation"), then this would have made The Doctor about 236 when he first ‘borrowed’ the TARDIS and left Gallifrey.

Romana in this story is wearing pink and white despite in early production it was said she should always wear white as she did in "The Ribos Operation" and "The Armageddon Factor".

At one point, Romana is seen shooting an enemy soldier dead. Although her predecessor, Leela, often used deadly force, this was one of the only on-screen occasions in which Romana did so. Romana’s reaction to doing so leaves it unclear as to whether this is the first time she had killed someone.

Whilst unconscious on The Bridge, The Doctor is heard to mumble ‘no more Janis Thorns’, the admonishment he used several times on former companion Leela, particularly in her debut story "The Face of Evil".

Featured in this story are a linear induction corridor, a macro-mac field integrator, an amblicyclic photon bridge, a magnifactoid eccentricolometer, a counter jamming frequency projector and a warp oscilloscope.

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

BBC Head of Serials Graeme McDonald complained that the story was too camp, directly in contradiction to the lighter tone the BBC demanded of the production team this year.

This story was repeated on BBC One in July/August 1979.

The Pirate Captain appears in the regeneration montage in "Logopolis".

This is one of four of the televised Doctor Who stories that were never novelised by Target Books as they were unable to come to an agreement with Douglas Adams that would have allowed him or another writer to adapt the script. An unsanctioned fan novelisation was written in 1990, by David Bishop, and titled "Doctor Who and the Pirate Planet". It was first published by a fan group in New Zealand and then re-released later by TSV Books with a cover by Alistair Hughes. It was later republished as an online eBook. An official version of this story, written by James Goss, was finally published, by BBC Books, in January 2017.



First and Last

The Firsts:

 The first Doctor Who story to be written by Douglas Adams.


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The Plot

WARNING: May Contain SpoilersHide Text
The Captain and his Polyphase Avatron
The Captain and his Polyphase Avatron

The tracer detects that the second segment of The Key to Time is on the planet Calufrax - somewhere that The Doctor is less than enamoured with.

The TARDIS makes a very bumpy landing and when The Doctor, Romana and K9 leave to find the segment they soon discover that they are not on Calufrax at all. They have landed on a planet called Zanak instead.

As they explore The Doctor and Romana find that Zanak has 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.

The Doctor
The Doctor

The Doctor and Romana soon discover, when they explore the mine workings under Zanak, that this planet has in fact been hollowed out and fitted with engines so that it can transmat through space and materialise around others - such as Calufrax - to drain them of their energy and to plunder their mineral wealth, leaving them as shrunken husks held by gravitational forces in a ‘trophy room’ on Zanak.

Zanak is governed from a complex known as The Bridge by The Captain, whose body has been partially replaced with robotic parts following a near-fatal crash. This half-man half-robot though is merely a puppet controlled by his nurse - a projection of Zanak’s original ruler, the aged Queen Xanxia whose real body is held in stasis by a time dam.

Romana with a Guard
Romana with a Guard

Queen Xanxia is using the time dam, powered by the forces generated in the trophy room from the plundered planets to keep the dam operational, to keep her body alive until her new, younger form has stabilised and has become permanent.

Unbeknown to The Doctor just as the TARDIS arrives The Captain prepares Zanak to ‘jump’ again - this time the target is a planet rich in PJX18 (quartz) which can be used to repair the engines. The planet chosen is Terra, otherwise known as Earth…

On learning the truth about Xanxia - that there is no amount of energy that will give her a permanent new form - The Doctor attempts to thwart The Captain’s plans and to stop Zanak from destroying Earth. In this he is aided by the Mentiads, a gestalt of telepaths amongst Zanak's indigenous population who are sensitive to the life force of the planets that are destroyed. Under The Doctor’s supervision they damage the engines by using telekinesis literally to put a spanner in the works.

Meeting the Mentiads
Meeting the Mentiads

Meanwhile The Captain rebels against the nurse, by trying to assert his independence, and tries to free himself from the Nurse’s control but she kills him instead. The nurse herself is then destroyed by Kimus, a young member of Zanak’ civilisation whom The Doctor, Romana and K9 have befriended.

It is then that The Doctor realises that the second segment of The Key to Time comprises the whole of the planet Calufrax. On learning this he contrives to drop the compressed husks from the trophy room into a space-time vortex created by the TARDIS in the centre of Zanak, and is then able to pick up and convert the segment at his leisure.

Before departing, in the TARDIS, The Doctor helps to set up some explosives for the Mentiads, who then operate the detonator telepathically. Zanak’s control centre, The Bridge, is totally destroyed in a spectacular explosion.

 
The Bridge
The Bridge
The Doctor and Kimus
The Doctor and Kimus
Mula and Balaton Tend to Pralix
Mula and Balaton Tend to Pralix
A Guard Faces the Mentiads
A Guard Faces the Mentiads
 
Mr. Fibuli with The Captain
Mr. Fibuli with The Captain
K9
K9
The Nurse Takes Aim
The Nurse Takes Aim
Queen Xanxia
Queen Xanxia




Quote of the Story


 'You commit mass destruction and murder on a scale that's almost inconceivable and you ask me to appreciate it! Just because you happen to have made a brilliantly-conceived toy out of the mummified remains of planets.'

The Doctor



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Release Information

FormatTitleRelease Date (UK)Code NumberCover ArtRemarks
Video
VHS
The Tom Baker YearsSeptember 1992BBCV 4839PhotoClip only Introduced and commented on by Tom Baker Double cassette release
Video
VHS
The Pirate PlanetApril 1995BBCV 5608Colin Howard with spine art by Andrew Skilleter
Video
DVD
The Pirate PlanetSeptember 2007BBCDVD 2335 (B)Photo-montagePart of the "Key to Time" limited edition box set (15,000)
Video
DVD
The Pirate PlanetNovember 2009BBCDVD 2335 (B)Photo-montagePart of the re-released "Key to Time" box set
Audio
CD
The Pirate PlanetOctober 2012Photo-montageNarrated by John Leeson (K9)
Audio
CD
Classic TV Adventures - Collection OneApril 2017Photo-montagePart of the "Classic TV Adventures Collection One" Box Set Narrated by John Leeson (K9)


In Print

FormatTitleRelease Date (UK)PublisherAuthorCover ArtRemarks
Novel
Novel
The Pirate PlanetJanuary 2017BBC BooksDouglas Adams and James GossISBN: 978-1-849-90677-7
CD
CD
The Pirate PlanetJanuary 2017BBC AudioDouglas Adams and James GossAudio version of the BBC Books novel read by Jon Culshaw
Novel
Novel
The Pirate PlanetMarch 2021BBC BooksDouglas Adams and James GossTarget Collection. ISBN: 978-1-78594-530-4
Doctor Who CMS Magazine (In Vision)Issue 33 (Released: September 1991)
Doctor Who Monthly - ArchiveIssue 75 (Released: April 1983)
Doctor Who Magazine - ArchiveIssue 253 (Released: July 1997)
Doctor Who Magazine - Time TeamIssue 361 (Released: October 2005)
Doctor Who Magazine - The Fact of FictionIssue 415 (Released: December 2009)
Doctor Who DVD FilesVolume 112 (Released: April 2013)

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Photo Gallery


The Doctor and Companions

 
Tom Baker
The Fourth Doctor

   

Mary Tamm
Romana 1
 
John Leeson (voice only)
K9 Mk II
   




On Release

Tom Baker Years VHS Video Cover
Tom Baker Years VHS Video Cover

BBC
VIDEO
VHS Video Cover
VHS Video Cover

BBC
VIDEO
DVD Cover
DVD Cover

BBC
VIDEO
   
Re-released DVD Box Set
Re-released DVD Box Set

BBC
VIDEO
Soundtrack CD Cover
Soundtrack CD Cover

BBC
AUDIO
Classic TV Adventures Collection One CD Cover
Classic TV Adventures Collection One CD Cover

BBC
AUDIO
   


In Print

BBC Book Cover
BBC Book Cover

BBC
NOVEL
Audio CD Cover
Audio CD Cover

BBC
CD
BBC Books Target Collection Cover
BBC Books Target Collection Cover

BBC
NOVEL
   


Magazines

Doctor Who CMS Magazine (In Vision): Issue 33
Doctor Who CMS Magazine (In Vision): Issue 33

CMS
Doctor Who Monthly - Archive: Issue 75
Doctor Who Monthly - Archive: Issue 75

Marvel Comics
Doctor Who Magazine - Archive: Issue 253
Doctor Who Magazine - Archive: Issue 253

Marvel Comics
   
Doctor Who Magazine - Time Team: Issue 361
Doctor Who Magazine - Time Team: Issue 361

Marvel Comics
Doctor Who Magazine - The Fact of Fiction: Issue 415
Doctor Who Magazine - The Fact of Fiction: Issue 415

Marvel Comics
Doctor Who DVD Files: Volume 112
Doctor Who DVD Files: Volume 112

GE Fabbri
   

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