Friday 23 March 2012

487 The Pirate Planet Part Four

EPISODE: The Pirate Planet Part Four
TRANSMITTED: 21 October 1978
WRITER: Douglas Adams
DIRECTOR: Pennant Roberts
PRODUCER: Graham Williams
FORMAT: DVD: Doctor Who - The Key to Time Box Set (Ribos Operation/Pirate Planet/Stones of Blood/Androids of Tara/Power of Kroll/The Armageddon Factor)

The Doctor stands in the doorway laughing, proclaiming he has discovered the secret, demonstrating a solid hologram oprojector he used to duplicate himself. He tries to turn the Nurse off but she says she has nearly achieved corporeal form. The Mentiads gain entry to the Bridge allowing Romana to get inside. Under the Nurse's instruction Mr Fibuli finishes creating the machine to block the Mentiads powers leaving them vulnerable to the guards. The Doctor identifies the Nurse as Queen Xanxia, but tells her that her new body is unstable and will never achieve full corporeal form. She takes control of the Captain and seals the Bridge. The Doctor is appalled that they intend to jump to Earth next, and engineers his escape. K-9 sets up an interference wave against the jamming machine allowing the Mentiads to try to get into the engine room. The Doctor returns to the Tardis and prevents Zanak from materialising on Earth. He directs the Mentiads to use their Psychic powers to lift a spanner, destroying equipment in the engine room and damaging the bridge, killing Mr Fibuli. The Tardis materialises in the Bridge. The Doctor explains that Calufrax is the second segment of the Key to Time. The Captain tries to kill Xanxia but she kills him, and her new body is shot by Kimus. The Doctor sends everyone away, Romana returning to the Tardis with K-9. The Doctor frees the shrunken planets inflating them inside Zanak's hollow shell flinging Calufrax into the space/time vortex to be retrieved later. He and Romana lay explosives, which the Mentiads detonate destroying the the Bridge & Time Dams.

Ah that was good. Fast moving, lots of the Doctor being very clever and a satisfying resolution to the story. The Nurse, Rosalind Lloyd, isn't even in the first episode and as the story goes on her role gets larger & develops until it's revealed she's the reincarnation of Queen Xanxia and she takes full charge. We get the Captain revealed to be just her puppet, but a puppet that's trying to rebel against his mistress. And then, right at the end, we get a nice large explosion. Fabulous stuff, one of my favourite Doctor Who stories.

The Pirate Planet is the first story we've watched not to be novelised for Target Books. Douglas Adams was keen to novelise his three stories himself and wouldn't let anyone else do them. But then he became busy, and then became famous and the fees Target books would need to pay for his services shot up waaaay beyond the budgets for the range. So Pirate Planet, City of Death & Shada went un-novelised, alongside Resurrection of the Daleks & Revelation of the Daleks, Eric Saward's two Dalek stories allegedly due to the cut of the fees demanded by Terry Nation for the use of his creations. A fan adaptation of Pirate Planet exists and can be found at The New Zealand Doctor Who Fan Club.

I mentioned during the first episode of the story that Pirate Planet was the first Doctor Who story I saw all the way through aged 5 and a bit. A few days after watching it for the blog I discovered my DVD was missing, taken off the shelf by my 5 year old son Jonathan. After he remembered where he'd put it (and the Invisible Enemy & Hand of Fear) we put it on and he watched it right the way through, the first whole story he's watched!

The Pirate Planet was released on video in April 1995 on the same day as the Ribos Operation, with Stones of Blood & Androids of Tara following the next month and finally Power of Kroll & Armageddon Factor in June completing the Key To Time season, a set of releases which came with a specially designed spine picture that ran over all six title. While there has never been a video boxset release of the Key To Time, it's only ever been available as a boxset on DVD. In October 2002 all six Key To Time stories were released in Region 1 with minimal extras & restoration to help satisfy the American demand for Tom Baker stories. The Key to Time was then released as a special edition, numbered & limited to 15,000 with brand new extras in Region 2 on the 24th September 2007, which sold out very quickly with this set commanding a premium price on eBay for quite some time. The Key to Time Box Set was reissued in a non limited edition in November 2009 and can now be had for a very reasonable price.

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