The Pirate Planet

Doctor WhoThe Doctor and Romana learn that the second segment of the Key to Time is on Calufrax, a planet described by the Doctor as an uninviting place. After the TARDIS inexplicably fails to land, it brings them to a world which is nothing like Calufrax – instead, it’s inhabited, prosperous (at least on first glance), and unbelievably rich. But the prosperity is a thin charade; the Captain lords over the planet with an iron fist, while repeatedly bringing his subjects new epochs of prosperity with alarming regularity. And a group of rogue telepaths called Mentiads wander the wilds of the planet, drawing the wrath of the Captain and suspicion from everyone else. The Doctor discovers that this world is hollow. And whether it is by his own hand in the name of restoring the Key to Time, or by the hand of the Captain – who isn’t as in charge of the situation as it appears – the planet Calufrax is doomed.

Order the DVDDownload this episodewritten by Douglas Adams
directed by Pennant Roberts
music by Dudley Simpson

Guest Cast: Bruce Purchase (Captain), Andrew Robertson (Mr. Fibuli), Rosalind Lloyd (Nurse), David Sibley (Pralix), Bernard Finch (Mentiad), Ralph Michael (Balaton), Primi Townsend (Mula), David Warwick (Kimus), Clive Bennett (Citizen), Adam Kurkin (Guard), Vi Delmar (Queen Xanxia)

Broadcast from September 30 through October 21, 1978

LogBook entry & review by Earl Green

Review: Douglas Adams’ first contribution to Doctor Who can’t quite decide if it’s going to be serious or comical, though this problem may be one caused by the actors and director instead of the writer. Tom Baker in particular plays the Doctor as if he’s virtually invulnerable to anything, which goes a long way in destroying any dramatic tension in the script. Mary Tamm also picked up some of this tone, and plays Romana so casually that she seems almost not to care about what’s happening around her. And I, for one, find it annoying when K-9, the only character responding to any sense of danger, is repeatedly shushed by the Doctor, who then falls victim to whatever danger K-9 tried to warn him of.

Since this script hails from the same period during which Douglas Adams wrote the original radio scripts for The Hitchhikers’ Guide to the Galaxy, there was a prerequisite crossover between the two fictional universes in the form of throwaway dialogue: the Doctor mentions the planet Bandraginus Five, which in Hitchhikers’ lore is fabled for its mineral water. The plot point of Queen Xanxia’s last moments of life being held at bay by a “time dam” was also lifted – right down to the character’s name – in the first Hitchhiker’s Guide novel.