The Pirate Planet

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

099 – The Pirate Planet
Doctor Who serial
Pirate Planet.jpg
Romana discusses the Doctor with the Captain
Directed byPennant Roberts
Written byDouglas Adams
Script editorAnthony Read
Produced byGraham Williams
Executive producer(s)None
Incidental music composerDudley Simpson
Production code5B
SeriesSeason 16
Length4 episodes, 25 minutes each
First broadcast30 September 1978 (1978-09-30)
Last broadcast21 October 1978 (1978-10-21)
← Preceded by
The Ribos Operation
Followed by →
The Stones of Blood
Doctor Who episodes (1963–1989)

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 on BBC1 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 his humour.

In the serial, the tyrant Queen Xanxia (Rosalind Lloyd) and the Captain (Bruce Purchase) use the hollow planet Zanak as a spaceship that surrounds smaller planets, including Calufrax, the second segment of the powerful Key to Time in disguise, to plunder the planets' resources that help keep Xanxia alive.


The Key to Time tracer points the Fourth 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. Her physical body sits between Time Dams, devices that hold back the ravages of time as she is old and near death, and a younger version of her is projected via a sort of solid 3D device. 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. As the people on the planets die, their combined psychic force gives the Mentiads their power.

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. The Captain's plan is to use the gravitational power of all the crushed worlds to essentially drill a hole through the time dams, bypass its fail-safe mechanism, and let time move forward so the queen dies. 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. His plan fails due to a miscalculation. As Calufrax is not a real world, its mass is different. The Doctor, Romana, and the Mentiads destroy Zanak's bridge and Queen Xanxia, ending the devastation caused by Zanak's travels. The Doctor rigs the system to drop the crushed worlds into the center of Zanak where they'll expand and fill it, except for Calufrax. He sends it off into the time/space continuum where they pick it up later.


The original draft for this story was extremely complex: centred on 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

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" (2006) and David Garnier in the audio play The Harvest.

Broadcast and reception

EpisodeTitleRun timeOriginal air dateUK viewers
(millions) [1]
1"Part One"25:0530 September 1978 (1978-09-30)9.1
2"Part Two"25:307 October 1978 (1978-10-07)7.4
3"Part Three"25:4714 October 1978 (1978-10-14)8.2
4"Part Four"25:1621 October 1978 (1978-10-21)8.4

The story was repeated on BBC1 on four consecutive Thursdays from 12 July – 2 August 1979, achieving viewing figures of 2.8, 4.0, 3.3 and 2.9 million respectively.[2]

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."[3] 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".[4] 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.[5] 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.[6] In 2010, Charlie Jane Anders of io9 listed the cliffhanger of the third episode as one of the best cliffhangers in Doctor Who history.[7]

Commercial releases

In print

Doctor Who – The Pirate Planet
AuthorJames Goss
SeriesDoctor Who novelisations
PublisherBBC Books
Publication date
5 January 2017

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. BBC Books published a novelised version of the serial, written by James Goss, on 5 January 2017.[8][9][10] A Target Books edition will be published in paperback 23 July 2020.[11]

Home media

The Pirate Planet was released on VHS on 3 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.[12] 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.


  1. ^ "Ratings Guide". Doctor Who News. Retrieved 28 May 2017.
  2. ^ "Doctor Who Guide: broadcasting for The Pirate Planet".
  3. ^ Cornell, Paul; Day, Martin; Topping, Keith (1995). "The Pirate Planet". The Discontinuity Guide. London: Virgin Books. ISBN 0-426-20442-5.
  4. ^ Howe, David J & Walker, Stephen James (1998). Doctor Who: The Television Companion (1st ed.). London: BBC Books. ISBN 978-0-563-40588-7.CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  5. ^ Braxton, Mark (7 January 2011). "Doctor Who: The Pirate Planet". Radio Times. Retrieved 20 March 2013.
  6. ^ Felix, Justin (22 March 2009). "Doctor Who: The Pirate Planet". DVD Talk. Retrieved 20 March 2013.
  7. ^ Anders, Charlie Jane (31 August 2010). "Greatest Doctor Who cliffhangers of all time!". io9. Retrieved 20 March 2013.
  8. ^ Adams, Douglas; Goss, James (5 January 2017). "Doctor Who: The Pirate Planet". BBC Digital. Retrieved 25 August 2016 – via Amazon.
  9. ^ "Gallifrey Guardian". Doctor Who Magazine. Tunbridge Wells: Panini UK Ltd (486): 7. April 2015.
  10. ^ Dave Golder (30 April 2015). "Doctor Who Pirate Planet Novelisation Announced". GamesRadar+.
  11. ^ "New Target novel collection in July 2020". Doctor
  12. ^ "DVD News". BBC. 18 May 2007. Archived from the original on 24 May 2007. Retrieved 20 March 2013.

External links

Fan novelisation

What is Wiki.RIP There is a free information resource on the Internet. It is open to any user. Wiki is a library that is public and multilingual.

The basis of this page is on Wikipedia. Text licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 Unported License..

Wikipedia® is a registered trademark of Wikimedia Foundation, Inc. is an independent company that is not affiliated with the Wikimedia Foundation (Wikimedia Foundation).

Privacy Policy      Terms of Use      Disclaimer