Browse the WBW Podcast
Browse the WBW Podcast
Browse Classic Who reviews
Browse Classic Who reviews

A robot parrot, condensed planets and another piece of The Key To Time… ish. By the left frontal lobe of the sky demon, what a totally bananas serial this is!

In Douglas Adams’ first Doctor Who serial, The Fourth Doctor and Romana I continue their quest to find all the pieces of the Key to Time and head to the planet Calufrax. When they materialise, however, it seems they are in the right place at the right time but on the wrong planet. Rather than a desolate and cold surface they find the pleasant homestead of a people predisposed to the proffering of precious pebbles.

Capitalist kook and cyborg corsair, The Captain, rules with a literal iron fist and a robot parrot on his shoulder, materialising his hollow planet shell around unsuspecting worlds to mine them for minerals, gemstones and a precious life force. Polly wants a crackpot scheme? You got it, Polly. If only there were a band of marauding telepath monks, and some poorly educated diamond-obsessed yokels to add more bananas to this fresh, cold smoothie of an episode.

Here's what we think of C099 The Pirate Planet

We rate Doctor Who stories on a scale from 0.0 to 5.0. For context, very few are excellent enough to merit a 5.0 in our minds, and we'd take a 0.0 Doctor Who story over a lot of other, non-Whovian stuff out there.

Leon | @ponken

3.4

Jim | @jimmythewho

3.6

Here's what we think of C099 The Pirate Planet

We rate Doctor Who stories on a scale from 0.0 to 5.0. For context, very few are excellent enough to merit a 5.0 in our minds, and we'd take a 0.0 Doctor Who story over a lot of other, non-Whovian stuff out there.

Leon | @ponken

3.4

Jim | @jimmythewho

3.6

Here's what you think 4 Responses to “C099 The Pirate Planet”
  1. Kristaps Paddock

    Heresy to say this, but I actually don’t like this story that much. It’s Douglas Adams, and there are jokes, but it’s not really that funny. Also, the anarchy that would later make Hitchhiker’s an absurdist masterpiece just comes across as chaos.

    The dynamics between the Captain, Fibuli, and the Nurse/Xanxia aren’t funny so much as they’re cartoonish, casually abusive and one-dimensional. For this reason it feels a lot like a Sixth Doctor story.

    What I will say for this story is that there’s a lot to sink your teeth into here. Douglas Adams was clearly trying to write an interesting script and story, which is unfortunately more than can be said for some serials. Three point six.

  2. Peter Zunitch

    The Doctor himself says it better with the last line of this story, “That was very satisfying”. One of the most watched episodes and it never gets boring for me. It is perhaps the quintessential Douglas Adams-esque story, with absurd comedic moments, all arrived at rather logically, showing just how twisted a serious moment is.
    Tom Baker is in perfect form here and the Doctor is in control of everything from the moment they land on the planet to the moment he blows up the bridge. At every step he’s out-thunk everyone by so many steps he might as well have been Sylvester McCoy.

    The concepts are mind blowing and the sets are eye-catching, but as is often the case, it’s the characters and performers that drive the story over the top. Fibbuli’s scene-stealing subtlety is so brilliant, it can only be offset by the blustering over the top scene-stealing performance of the captain. Just when you thought you had figured out all there is to know, the character appearing first as a simple and meager aide turns out to be the most over the top baddie of them all.

    It could be said that Romana and K-9 are left a little bit in the dust, but even they have their moments and Mary Tamm’s combination of innocence and level-headedness enables her to shine in scenes when no one else is even talking.

    Moons of madness how I love this story. It gets a, “long live the Queen” 4.9

  3. Michael Ridgway | @bad_movie_club

    Likes:

    • The looney nut-job Captain. Hilarious yet scarily insane. Not unlike a certain candy-coated villain who faces off against the Seventh Doctor.
    • The wacky plot. The predatory planet was a great concept – but it got even weirder with the Mentiads, shrunken planets, and a mad queen in a time bubble. I gather Mr Adams is now on the production team.
    • The killer robot parrot and it’s duel with K-9.
    • Great cliffhangers – particularly the Doctor walking the plank.
    • Great sets. You see that Underworld? a REAL cave.
    • Bring out the gimp-clad baddies (again).

    Beefs:

    • Wait a minute. If all it took to trash the bridge was to tap a console with a spanner, why didn’t our heroes do that in the first place?
    • How was this story resolved again? It felt like it was wrapped up in minutes. I wanted to see the old hag mad queen wake for her final moments.
    • If the Pirate Planet hadn’t taken Calufrax, how would the Doctor and Romana have secured the fragment, given it was a massive planet and (presumably) populated?

    Summary: Ridiculous, highly entertaining insanity.

    Rating: 4.4/5 gimp foot-soldiers being tricked with jelly babies, mentally mauled by Mentiads, zapped with guns, crushed with rocks, flung down moving walkways, and blown up.

  4. Paul Waring | @pwaring

    Thirty seconds into The Pirate Planet and it’s clear that this is a Douglas Adams story. From the Captain’s dialogue (‘By all the x-ray storms of Vega, where is that nincompoop?’) to the interactions between the Doctor and K9, there’s a very Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy feel.

    Romana is full of sass in this story, and seems more confident than in The Ribos Operation. I like how she verbally spars with the Doctor, and the way she suggest that the Captain should listen to him ‘if you have the stamina’. She gets plenty of agency, solves problems, casually guns down a guard, and executes a perfect TARDIS landing on her first attempt – quite a contrast to some other female companions.

    The Captain’s guards on the other hand are a strong contender for ‘worst shots of Classic Who’. Combined with the Captain executing one of them every time he loses his temper means it’s a wonder there are any left. I adore the robot parrot though and would like one myself, but it does look cute rather than terrifying.

    Overall, this is another hilarious story with over the top acting, a novel enemy and some quotable dialogue. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to bleach the bones of my enemies, but not before awarding this: 3.5/5.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

If you haven't already... Subscribe now!

Subscribe to us on iTunes now! We're dropping a new episode every week (pretty much), reviewing Classic Who, New Who and all kinds of bonus stuff from spin-offs and conventions to Doctor Who comic books.

We last reviewed...

N115 Dark Water