|The Doctor and Romana arrive on Zanak.|
Douglas Adams is a pretty famous author, but it comes as a surprise to many that he ever wrote for Doctor Who. ‘The Pirate Planet’ came at a time just before he became properly famous. He would go on to be script editor for season 17 just as he exploded onto the scene with his classic book ‘Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy’ which would become a radio drama and a TV hit. Who fans though will always claim him though! Because Who came, kinda at least, first!
‘The Pirate Planet’ is perhaps the most ‘barmy’ story I have seen so far since I started watching Doctor Who. The concepts are the driving force behind just how ‘out there’ it his, with larger than
|Bruce Purchase and Andrew Robertson|
|It's the Mentiads!|
The planet jumps from world to world, encompassing that world where they suck all the mineral wealth from it before moving onto another world, by way of a giant dematerialisation circuit. It turns out that Calufrax, the world they are surrounding during this story, is actually the second segment to the Key to Time.
Got all that? Then there’s the Mentiads – a gestalt, again a sort of group being, with amazing psychic powers derived from the deaths of all the worlds the Captain has pillaged. The natives to Zanak are portrayed as pretty much morons afraid to ask questions, who have gem stones thrown at them every so often when the planet moves and the Captain announces a new ‘Golden Age of Prosperity’.
|Purchase, Roaslind Lloyd and Robertson.|
However, the Captain hates Xanxia, and has derived some sort of plan to kill her involving balancing the compounded remains of all the planets he’s pillaged in perfect harmony. So basically, this is not a story for the easily distracted!
How does it come up? Some parts are very good, some so-so, and some don’t work. Adams through in a lot of strange and weird ideas on top of the plot. Pennant Roberts is a good director but I think he found this all a bit of a challenge. The writer certainly asked a hell of a lot from the production team. The city – which was a little bit middle eastern in design, nice as it made a change from any city we’ve seen on another planet, then the ‘bridge’, a pretty good model from which the planet was controlled from. There was a lot of location footage, flying cars, a corridor which moves people along without walking, inside mines, outside mines, and finally the machinery for moving the planet which was shot at a power station.
|The Doctor finds the real remains of Queen Xanxia.|
To be honest, it doesn’t all work that well. It is a mish-mash of locations, models and studio, of film and video. This might have been one case when shooting on OB video equipment may have helped the look of the story, but alas it was done on film. The power station didn’t look like it belonged as part of the mountain where it was housed, the city model was a nice idea but doesn’t convince, and the city streets are clearly studio floors. But the team must have been stretched to the limit.
The story also ends far too abruptly. Why? Well they appear to just have run out time. ‘Oh, no time we’ll just blow up the bridge’. The explanation of how the Doctor planned to convert the crushed Calufrax into the second segment was poor too, and audiences, (well at least me!) were dying to SEE him do it. Also, wouldn’t blowing the bridge up release the energies of the crushed planets, therefore creating a massive black hole?
The hair cuts are wonderfully seventies. The show looks dated. Oh and we have wonderfully stupid guards with very dumb helmets again covering most of the face for apparently little reason. Some of the acting is a little poor too, which is unusual for a Pennant Roberts story, but then I expect he had his hands full trying to realise everything.
Nevertheless, this is a good, challenging, clever and different story. It’s quite a breath of fresh air to be honest. The Key to Time is off to a good start after the first two tales and I look forward to more!