The Pirate Planet – 1978 – S16 – E2/6

imageNumber : Season 16, episode 2 of 6.

Which One : Half pirate – half cyborg, with a robotic parrot.

Cast : The Doctor : Tom Baker
Romana : Mary Tamm
K9 MK-II : John Leeson (voice)
Pirate Captain : Bruce Purchase
Mr Fibuli : Andrew Robertson
Nurse : Rosalind Lloyd
Kimus : David Warwick
Pralix : David Sibley
Balaton : Ralph Michael
Mula : Primi Townsend
Citizen : Clive Bennett
Mentiad : Bernard Finch

Written By : Douglas Adams

Produced By : Graeme Williams

First UK Broadcast : 30 September 1978 – 20 October 1978.

Length : 4 x 25 minute parts.

Plot : The Doctor visits (what he believes is) the planet of Calufrax, looking for the second segment of the Key-To-Time. Calufrax is different from what the Doctor remembers and precious stones litter the streets, of this strange world. Yet the locals dop not seem bothered to steal them.

Whats good : Adams high concept episode. Plenty of good twists & ideas here. The Cyborg Pirate Captain and his metal bird. Mr Fibuli.

Whats bad : The budget is not enough to realise the scripts potential. The Mentiads are under-developed – as side characters.

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Review With Spoilers : The Pirate Planet is the 2nd episode of season 16 and is a high concept episode of Who, written by Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy author; Douglas Adams.

It marks the second Key-To-Time episode, following The Ribos Operation – in which, the Doctor retrieved the first piece of the key and is now attempting to locate the second.

Adams script is brimming with opportunity and good ideas. Everything you would expect from a quality Sci-Fi writer. It’s a shame though, that Who couldn’t assemble the budget to really go to town, on what was still the showcase episode of the Key-To-Time season.

We have a huge hollow planet which time shifts around other worlds and then mines them out of existence, until nothing is left. The locals of this hollow world do not know why their star patterns change, every night – only that they do.

No one, that is – apart from a group of Psychics; called the Mentiads. The Mentiads gain a form of second-sight when a world is being mined in the centre of their planet and suspect something is going on.

As a result of the plundering, precious gems line the streets of this hollow world, untouched by the locals who view them as valueless rocks.

Overseeing all of this, in his mountain fortress. Is the blustering mad cyborg Pirate Captain; who has a deadly robotic parrot, which he uses to dispatch enemies and blundering allies.

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“BY THE RAGING FURY OF THE SKY DEMON! You [The Doctor] ask too many questions. You have seen, you have admired; be satisfied and ask no more!” The Captain

It takes an actor of some stature to match up to Tom Baker, happily – Bruce Purchase is the right man for the job and his turn as the Captain is remembered, as a highpoint in the old series.

Additionally, Mr Fibuli is an effective snivelling foil to the Captain and invokes the relationship between Captain Hook and Smee from Peter Pan.

The cliffhanger from episode 3, where the Doctor is forced to walk the plank and plunges to his doom, has to reign as one of the hardest for the Doctor to pull back from. Maybe not bettered until Peter Davison and Peri were gunned down by Uzi-toating death squad, in The Caves Of Androzani.

The only part of The Pirate Planet which is lacking, is the Mentiad characters – who are rather under-developed in this, probably due to so many other elements going on.

The Pirate Planet marks a high point in the Key-To-Time series, which wasn’t bettered – as the season progressed.

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ (5/5)

Old Doctor Who


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