‘THE PIRATE PLANET’
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“MOONS OF MADNESS!”
‘The Pirate Planet’ by Douglas Adams is the second story of ‘The Key to Time’ series. It is a four-part adventure on 1 disc. This is a wacky, bonkers and mind-boggling story from ‘The Key to Time’ season. This is one of my favourite stories!
This is Douglas Adams’ first contribution to ‘Doctor Who’ before he became script-editor of the series. Douglas is also the author of ‘The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy’ and of the ‘Dirk Gently’ novels.
The Doctor; Romana and K9 head for the planet Calufrax to collect the second segment of the Key to Time. But they end up on Zanak and soon come up against the menace of the very loud Pirate Captain.
Here Douglas delivers a story full of mad ideas and laugh-out-loud humour. I always enjoy Douglas Adams’ stories in ‘Doctor Who’. I love his humour and he does come up with some fantastic ideas.
I liked the ideas in this story about a planet devouring other planets and mining for its minerals. The effects are impressive, including the particle acceleration corridors; the air cars and holo-projection.
This story almost never got made, as Graeme MacDonald, the Head of BBC Drama, said this ‘won’t do’. But director Pennant Roberts was determined to make this work and it was very brave of him.
I really like Tom Baker’s Doctor and Mary Tamm’s Romana. Romana’s control of the TARDIS and giving out jelly babies to people in the streets with the Doctor getting annoyed were very hilarious to see.
Tom Baker clearly loves Douglas Adams’ lines. I enjoyed watching Tom’s Doctor in this adventure, as he’s so bonkers and funny. That scene where he’s angry with the Pirate Captain was so mesmerizing.
Mary Tamm does well as Romana too. I loved it when she’s not bothered by the guards threatening her or being intimidated by the Pirate Captain. Romana gets to explain things as well as the Doctor.
K-9 (voiced by John Leeson) shines here. I liked it when K-9 tries to tell the Doctor that Romana has been arrested, but the Doctor doesn’t listen to him. K-9’s fight with the robot parrot was so defining.
Bruce Purchase guest stars as the Pirate Captain. The Captain is funny to watch, as he shouts out loud a lot. He insults people and has his own robot parrot. But the Captain’s shouting isn’t what it seems.
The guest cast are all so excellent in this story. There’s also Andrew Robertson as Mr Fibuli; Rosalind Lloyd as the Nurse; David Warwick as Kimus; David Sibley as Pralix and Primi Townsend as Mula.
It turns out that the planet Calufrax happens to be the second segment of the Key to Time. I like how the plot unfolds with what’s with the pirate planet; the Pirate Captain and how the Key is involved.
The DVD special features are as follows. There’s the making-of documentary called ‘Parrot Fashion’ with cast and crew interviews. There’s also some film inserts; deleted scenes & outtakes; there’s a ‘Weird Science’ spoof starring David Graham and Mat Irvine and there are ‘continuities’ of the story.
There are two commentaries on this story. The first is with Bruce Purchase and director Pennant Roberts and the second is with Tom Baker; Mary Tamm and script editor Anthony Read. There’s an info-text commentary option to enjoy; a photo gallery of the story and a ‘Radio Times Listings’ PDF of the story.
There’s a coming soon trailer for ‘Planet of Evil’ with Tom Baker and Elisabeth Sladen.
‘The Pirate Planet’ quickly became one of my favourite ‘Doctor Who’ stories from ‘The Key to Time’ season. It’s funny; it’s bonkers; it’s got Tom Baker and it has a Pirate Captain who is hilarious to watch.
‘The Pirate Planet’ rating – 10/10
‘DOCTOR WHO – THE PIRATE PLANET’
Please feel free to comment on my review.
“BY THE SKY DEMON…!”
THIS ‘DOCTOR WHO’ BOOK IS AMAZING!!!
‘The Pirate Planet’ novelization/audiobook has been a worthwhile and engrossing experience! I was looking forward to reading/listening to this novelization of Douglas Adams’ first ‘Doctor Who’ story by James Goss. I wasn’t disappointed and it turned out to be more impressive than I ever imagined!
This story is one of my favourites from ‘The Key To Time‘ season with Tom Baker’s Doctor and Mary Tamm’s Romana. I wondered how this book was going to be novelized and what newness would be in it. I had faith in James Goss’ writing and was so convinced he would deliver a faithful novelization.
James Goss previously novelized Douglas Adams’ other TV story ‘City of Death’ which was released in 2015. Having enjoyed that as well as Gareth Roberts’ novelization of ‘Shada’, I was looking forward to purchasing both the book and the audiobook, which I did achieve whilst I was shopping in Cardiff.
The book and audiobook was released in January 2017. I purchased both in April of that year, but eventually read/listened to the book/audiobook from July to August. I took my time with reading/listening to this story. It turned out to be so engrossing delving into ‘The Pirate Planet’ itself.
The audiobook is read by Jon Culshaw, not John Leeson as I was expecting. For those of you who don’t know him, Jon Culshaw is an actor and voice impressionist. In fact, he does a really good impersonation of Tom Baker’s Doctor in various productions, such as ‘The Five(ish) Doctors Reboot’.
I’ve had the audiobook cover of ‘Doctor Who – The Pirate Planet’ signed by Jon Culshaw himself when I met him at ‘The Capitol II’ convention at the Arora Hotel in Gatwick, May 2017. It was great to meet and talk to him. I also enjoyed his panel with writer Terrance Dicks whilst at the convention.
It was great to have the audiobook to listen to in the background whilst reading the book. By the way, ‘The Pirate Planet’ book is ginormous! Much like with the ‘City of Death’ and ‘Shada’ novelizations, BBC Books make a big meal out of the story by having the books to be long and so big!
Jon Culshaw reads the audiobook very well and does a superb variety of voices for the characters in the book, due to his expertise in voice work. As well as doing Tom Baker’s voice superbly as the Doctor, I was convinced and enjoyed Jon’s intepretation of Bruce Purchase’s booming Pirate Captain.
This is how the book works. The first title page bears the two following footnotes. These are ‘THE CHANING FACE OF DOCTOR WHO’ and ‘THE CHANGING FACE OF THE KEY OF TIME’. Not sure why these are supposed to be there, but this does make it feel like a Target novelization and feel amusing.
The second title page bears this footnote. ‘This novelisation is based on the first draft scripts by Douglas Adams. So it probably isn’t what you’re expecting.’ Now this surprised me before I actually started reading the story. But I was looking forward to reading it and finding out what differences there were.
I think it’s pretty clear to most people that Douglas Adams’ original TV scripts for ‘The Pirate Planet’ didn’t go through at first. This was because Graeme MacDonald, the Head of BBC Drama, said that the scripts ‘won’t do’. The scripts changed to accommodate the budget and make the story possible.
So it was nice to find out what could have been in the actual TV story had the original scripts been used. The ideas by Douglas Adams are ‘bonkers’ in the TV story and they’re even more ‘bonkers’ in the novelization. These included mostly technological and visual imagery featured through the story.
The story is divided into four episodes, much like what James Goss did for his ‘City of Death’ novelization as well as what Gareth Roberts did for his ‘Shada’ novelization. The book is divided into 29 chapters with an epilogue at the end. I took my time with reading the book within mostly 29 days.
The audiobook is a 10-CD set, matching to the ginormousness of ‘The Pirate Planet’ book. Much like with the ‘City of Death’ and ‘Shada’ novelizations, you’ll need plenty of hours to read/listen to this ‘Doctor Who’ book. Thankfully I took one chapter at a time whilst reading and listening to the audio.
Like with the ‘City of Death’ novelization, each episode of ‘The Pirate Planet’ begins with a quotation in the book. These quotes range from texts and people such as Girls Aloud; William Shakespeare and William Blake. There’s even a quotation by the Pirate Captain himself when Jon Culshaw read it.
The first two chapters of the book act as a prologue to the story. In the first chapter, we have Mr. Fibuli working in his office under piles of paperwork. During the story, he wishes to be dead especially with being shouted at by the Captain. This was interesting to discover as I read the novel.
There are also moments in the book when it happens to be raining on the planet Zanak. But it turns out that it’s raining diamonds instead of raining ‘rain’. I wonder how that would have worked in the TV story. Also there seemed to be more people on the planet Zanak compared to the actual TV tale.
The third chapter begins where the TV story started with the Pirate Captain shouting for Mr. Fibuli. It was fun to read how the Captain developed from being a straight-forward space pirate captain on his own spaceship to becoming a cyborg when he was being repaired by Queen Xanxia as the Nurse.
The Pirate Captain’s robot parrot, the Polyphase Avatron also gets an enhancement in the book. It turns out the robot captain can actually talk like a proper pirate’s parrot. This was surprising to read/hear in the story and a little disturbing, especially when the robot parrot wanted to kill people.
Queen Xanxia’s development as a character was interesting to read in the book. James Goss had the Nurse appear more in the background early on in ‘Part One’ rather than make her first appearance in ‘Part Two’. It was interesting how she developed from being meek and mild before becoming so evil.
It was also fun to read how the Pirate Captain was plotting to destroy Queen Xanxia with the astronomical sources he had in the destroyed planets that Zanak had been harvesting. This was implied in the TV version of the story, but it’s made clearer in the novel as the Doctor works this out.
There were also hints of the Black Guardian making an appearance in the story, through his contact with the Pirate Captain and Queen Xanxia. This was unusual but thrilling to read. It seems the Black Guardian is moving things forward to allow the Doctor to collect the six segments of the Key to Time.
In the epilogue, the Black Guardian’s appearance in the book is confirmed, although he’s simply referred to as ‘the Guardian’. This is based on Douglas Adams’ involvement in ‘The Armageddon Factor’. There are also glimpses of the Black Guardian seeing the Doctor’s future ‘Key To Time’ tales in the epilogue.
The relationship between the Doctor and Romana in the book was fun to read as well. It was interesting how the Doctor and Romana developed as a duo early on in ‘The Key To Time’ season and it’s nice that it’s touched upon with the two clearly disapproving each other to liking each other.
It also seems that Romana wants to impress the Doctor and not to be ignored by him. This is clear when she attempts to do things by the book when piloting the TARDIS to Callufrax. It’s also explored when Romana works out the Nurse is Queen Xanxia and is determined to show off the Doctor that.
But the thing is, the Doctor has seen Queen Xanxia and worked it out himself. This is before Romana works out, despite not seeing Queen Xanxia herself. Yet, when Romana tries to show off her deduction to the Doctor, he’s rather impressed. It was surprisingly refreshing and enjoyable to read.
I also liked how K-9 was developed in the book. I wish John Leeson voiced K-9 in the audiobook, but Jon Culshaw seems to do a fairly good voice impersonation of him anyway. It was funny reading how K-9 worked things out, especially when trying to escape out of an air-car as he arrived at the Citadel.
The supporting characters are well-handled in the novelization of ‘The Pirate Planet’. First of all, Pralix develops well from being a Zanak citizen to being a leader of the Mourners. This is touched upon when Mula reflects on her brother’s change of behaviour once he’s become Mourner leader.
Stop! Yes, you heard me! The Mentiads aren’t called Mentiads in this story. They’re called the Mourners. I’m not sure why James Goss decided to revert naming them Mourners instead of Mentiads, although that was what Douglas Adam originally named them. I suppose it sounds better.
Mula develops from being a meek mild-mannered woman in the story to being a gun-ho fighter during the story. I felt sorry for Kimus, since he seemed to be disregarded by the Doctor on his outspoken views for overthrowing the Pirate Captain. I wonder if James Goss didn’t like Kimus at all.
There’s also an extended appearance of Balaton, Mula and Pralix’s grandfather in the story. Balaton even appears when Mula, Pralix and Romana gather together the crowds of Zanak to listen to them in overthrowing the Captain. Balaton is also one of the victims influenced by the Captain’s goodness.
The scenes where Romana, Mula and Pralix are gathering the Zanak people together to form a rebellion was interesting to read and very different to the TV version. It seems everyone on Zanak is rebelling as they come to the Citadel, contrasting to with it being Romana, Mula and the ‘Mentiads’.
There are also some new scenes where the Doctor and Romana are being subject to a holographic chamber of torture by the Pirate Planet. This includes a sequence where the Doctor faces his fear of meeting a Dalek. Yes! That’s right! A Dalek appears in this story. Even Jon Culshaw voices the Dalek.
The Pirate Captain’s trophy room of planets is also different in the book compared to the TV version. When the Doctor’s in the trophy room, he sees the planets spiralling around him rather than just been encased in glass chamber. This would have been visually difficult to do had it been made on TV.
In ‘Part Four’, the resolution of how the Doctor survived his ‘death’ by walking the plank is very different in the book compared to the TV version. In the book, we have the first chapter of ‘Part Four’ where the Doctor is falling through into the heart of Zanak. He seems to be falling forever here.
But it turns out that the Doctor was rescued by Romana, who pilots the TARDIS and eventually decides to not do it by the book. This was intriguing to read and provides a whole new interpretation of how the Doctor managed to escape death and meet up with the Captain and everyone else again.
Also in the book, when Zanak is attempting to smother itself around the Earth and crush it, we get to have the Earth people’s point of view of this happening. This is reminiscent of when the Earth was being destroyed by the Vogans from ‘The Hitch-Hiker’s Guide To The Galaxy’, also by Douglas Adams.
The story ends with the Doctor and Romana defeating Queen Xanxia by having her hold the Key to Time Tracer and bring the planet Callufrax to full-size at the end. This was interesting to read and would have been more difficult to film had it been made for TV. It also made the ending less rushed.
It also allows the Doctor and Romana to pick up the second segment of the Key to Time easily on Zanak compared to us not seeing it happen during the TV story. As with the TV story, the story ends with the Zanak people overjoyed. Pralix and the Mourners use the detonator to blow up the Citadel.
The book ends with an epilogue that provides a whole new conclusion to the story. As well as paying their respects to the planet Callufrax before it gets gobbled up by Zanak, the Doctor and Romana also re-enter the TARDIS, which has now been re-designed and become a lush garden console room.
This was…interesting. As I read in the afterword by James Goss and the notes by Douglas Adams, it seems that Douglas was coming up with a brand-new TARDIS console room after it got wrecked from stopping Zanak gobbling Earth. This was thankfully abandoned, as I prefer the original console room.
At the end of the book, there’s an afterword by James Goss which was interesting and enjoyable to read about the making of the book. There’s also ‘Doctor Who Blanket Theme: The Six Keys’ notes by Douglas Adams and ‘Doctor Who and the Perfect Planet’, the original treatment by Douglas Adams.
One thing I must mention about ‘The Pirate Planet’ novelization is the atmosphere of humour and wit by Douglas Adams in the story. I could pick this up in the chapter titles as well some of the humorous dialogue, especially between Romana and the Pirate Captain when they meet on the Bridge.
I’m pleased that James Goss went to great lengths in adapting plenty of original materials for ‘The Pirate Planet’ from the first draft scripts to the final TV scripts. He maintains the witty atmosphere of the story as well as embellishing new scenes and elements to make the story exciting and enjoyable.
‘Doctor Who – The Pirate Planet’ has been a great novelization/audiobook for me to read/listen to. I enjoyed every chapter of the book and every minute of the audiobook. I’m pleased with how James Goss novelized the story with Douglas Adams’ wit and Jon Culshaw’s reading of the story was great!
I’m sure I’ve more to say about ‘The Pirate Planet’ novelization, but this is the best place to stop.
‘Doctor Who – The Pirate Planet’ rating – 9/10
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