Number : Season 16, serial 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 episodes.

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 street of this strange world. Yet the locals do 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 a useful concept but under-developed, as side-characters.

Review With Spoilers : The Pirate Planet is the second serial of season 16 and marks – the second Key-To-Time story. It follows, The Ribos Operation; in which, the Doctor retrieved the first piece of the Key-To-Time; written by Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy author; Douglas Adams.

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

Here, 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, night – after night.

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 stripped within the centre of their own planet. The Mentiads also suspect, that something nefarious – is going on.

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

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

“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 immense stature, to match up – to Tom Baker. Happily, that actor is Bruce Purchase – and his turn as the Pirate Captain is remembered, as a highpoint – in the Tom baker era.

Additionally, Mr Fibuli – is an effective snivelling foil to the Pirate 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 element of The Pirate Planet lacking, is the psychic Mentiad characters; who are rather under-developed. Probably due to so many other good ideas, fighting for screen-time.

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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