The Full Wiki

The Pirate Planet: Misc


Dr Who

Up to date as of January 31, 2010

From TARDIS Index File, the free Doctor Who reference.

The Pirate Planet
Series: Doctor Who -
TV Stories
Season Number: Season 16
Story Number: 99
Doctor: Fourth Doctor
Companions: K-9 Mark II
Romana I
Enemy: The Captain, Queen Xanxia
Setting: Zanak
Writer: Douglas Adams
Director: Pennant Roberts
Broadcast: 30th September - 21st October 1978
Format: 4 25-minute Episodes
Previous Story: The Ribos Operation
Following Story: The Stones of Blood
"Destroy everything!"
The Captain

The Pirate Planet was the second story of Season 16 of Doctor Who. It was the first contribution to the series of writer Douglas Adams.



The Doctor and Romana find that the second segment to the Key to Time is on the planet Calufrax. Yet they arrive on a planet called Zanak, which has been hollowed out and fitted with hyperspace engines, allowing its insane half-robot Captain to materialise it around other smaller planets and plunder their resources.


Part 1

The power of thought grants the Mentiads invulnerability

On a mountain base, the nervous Mr. Fibuli informs the impatient Captain that a new source has been found for Vasilium. Immediate orders to mine it follow. Speaking to the people of the planet, the Captain declares a new golden age. As the people celebrate, a different group, dressed in yellow robes, mentally watch Pralix, who doesn't appear as thrilled with the Captain's announcement as everybody else.

In the TARDIS, the Doctor is securing the first segment of the Key to Time by tucking it in a boot and sticking it in the fridge. The tracer points the Doctor and Romana to the cold and boring planet of Calufrax. The TARDIS is at first unable to materialise, (causing damage to the engines of Zanak as well), until Romana guides it in to a landing and the pair soon discover that they are not on Calufrax at all.

Meanwhile, Pralix is now delirious, watched over by his grandfather Balaton, sister Mula, and friend Kimus. Balaton is concerned that his rantings will be overheard,

The area the Doctor and his entourage have landed in is deserted until they meet a local who tells them that the people of his planet are going to be rich because of the Captain and his latest "golden age of prosperity". He gives Romana some diamonds and rubies, saying they can be found everywhere, and warns her and the Doctor about the Mentiads, though he leaves before he can elaborate. The Doctor finds more precious stones all around, including the extremely rare Oolion.

Balaton is terrified that Pralix will be taken by the Mentiads. Kimus is sceptical, and Mula remembers the death of her father at the hands of the Captain's guards, ostensibly to save him from the Mentiads. Meanwhile, the Mentiads are declaring their "harvest" of Pralix is imminent. As they march across the fields of Zanak, the Doctor hears Pralix and sets off to investigate. Romana waits behind, surveying the Captain's fortress with a telescope, only to be arrested for that forbidden item, and her asking of the forbidden question: "Why?"

The Captain sends more of his soldiers to stop the Mentiads, but their weapons are useless against their psychic powers. Instead, the Captain sends troops to find the telepath and eliminate him. They burst in on the Doctor in Pralix's home, but K-9 quickly stuns them. The Mentiads enter soon after, and strike down the Doctor with a blast of mental energy...

Part 2

Not quite a linear induction corridor moves the Doctor along at a steady pace

When the Doctor wakes up, Pralix and the Mentiads are gone. K-9 tells the Doctor about Romana's arrest, giving him an incentive to try to get the Bridge atop the mountain, where she has been taken by the guard. Kimus accompanies him, hoping to find a way to rescue Pralix from the Mentiads. They get up to the mountain using an air car, which moves upwards to its destination.

On the Bridge, Fibuli breaks the news to the Captain that the macromat field integrator has burnt out, and they cannot replace it themselves. He suggests one more jump to find mineral PJX 1-8, which would do the same job as the integrator. Romana is brought up to the Bridge, and the Doctor also finds his way up. The Captain isn't taking any chances, and has guns trained on them as he encourages them to lend technical assistance. Romana is confused that the tracer gives out a continuous signal wherever they go. This makes the Doctor realise what's going on. After they escape with Kimus and make their way underground, they find the ground beneath them is frozen. The Doctor explains the planet they are on, Zanak, has been hollowed out and fitted with engines so that it can transmat through space and materialise around others - such as Calufrax - to plunder their mineral wealth.

They have no time to pause however as the Captain's guards give chase from behind, but as they run, they face a group of Mentiads in front.

Part 3

The Doctor and Kimus find the (almost) dead Queen Xanxia

The danger is nonexistent; the Mentiads are friendly, and have come to save the Doctor and his friends from the guards. The Mentiads, now including Pralix, create a force field using their psychic powers. This power the Mentiads have will not last much longer, because Zanak has come to Calufrax for its crystals which when refined can be used to block their psychic abilities. The Doctor doesn't know it yet, but the Captain is planning to materialise Zanak around Earth after mining on Calufrax is finished, because mineral PJX 1-8 (quartz) has been located there.

The Mentiads tell the Doctor that Zanak was a prosperous planet until the reign of Queen Xanxia, who supposedly had mysterious powers and galactic wars she staged were the ruin of Zanak and its people.

The Doctor and Kimus try to steal an air car but fail and are taken to the bridge. The Captain shows the Doctor his trophy room of crushed remains of planets; the Doctor's secret plan however is to break into the engine room, but while looking for it he and Kimus find a room with an old body connected to a time dam, used to slow down the flow of time, in this case just before death, using the energy Zanak acquires to keep Queen Xanxia alive. The Doctor returns to the bridge, but he is thrown overboard for his troubles.

Part 4

Zanak tries to materialize around Earth

The Doctor survives because it was only a projection of him that walked the plank; he has figured out the final piece of Queen Xanxia's puzzle using the device he found in the room with the body. Xanxia has been using the device to create an image for herself, disguised as the Captain's nurse. Xanxia is close to immortality because of the power of Zanak, which she is using to give permanent form to her image.

The Mentiads are getting close to the bridge, expecting the Doctor to have taken control of the engine room by now, but because of the psychic interference transmitter they are disadvantaged. The Captain seals the bridge as Zanak prepares to make the jump to Earth. Since Zanak's engines were damaged when the planet materialised in the same place as the TARDIS, the Doctor escapes and tries to employ the same trick again to prevent Zanak from materialising, while the Mentiads do their best to sabotage Zanak's engines. Xanxia kills the Captain when he finally turns against her. The Doctor, Romana, and the Mentiads destroy Zanak's bridge and Queen Xanxia, ending the devastation caused by Zanak's travels. In the aftermath, the Doctor and Romana collect the second segment of the Key to Time, the remains of Calufrax, and set off to search for the next segment.


Production Crew


  • Romana was given an air car for her 70th birthday.
  • Romana studied the life cycle of the Gallifreyan flutterwing.
  • The Doctor has been operating his TARDIS for 523 years. Since the previous story established the Doctor's exact age, this reference made it possible to determine how old he was when he left Gallifrey (or at least took possession of the TARDIS).
  • Oolion can only be found on Bandranginus V and Qualactin.
  • Earth is rich in PJX18 (Quartz).
  • Calufrax (the planet) was the second piece of the Key to Time.
  • The synchronic feedback circuit or the multi-loop stabiliser are both essential for a smooth rematerialisation of the TARDIS (according to Romana), the Doctor uses neither.
  • The unconscious Doctor mumbles 'no more janis thorns', (a reference to Leela).


  • Bandraginus V
  • Calufrax was rich in voolium and madranite one-five.
  • Collactin
  • Granados
  • Qualactin
  • Zanak

Story Notes

  • This is Douglas Adams' first contribution to Doctor Who. According to the documentary A Matter of Time, included in the 2009 special edition DVD of The Key to Time, it was while working on The Pirate Planet that Adams sold his radio play for The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy to the BBC, and he worked on both projects at the same time.
  • The original draft for this story was extremely complex, centered around a Time Lord trapped in a giant aggression-absorbing machine and several paradoxes; it had to be heavily simplified by the script editor, Anthony Read.
  • Vi Delmar (who played the aged Queen Xanxia) demanded an extra fee before she would remove her false teeth for filming.
  • According to the DVD commentary, the Doctor's accident with the console early in the story was staged to explain Baker's real-life cut lip, which was due to a dog bite. However, due to the stories being filmed out of order, the wound was already visible in the preceding story, The Ribos Operation.
  • This story had a working title of The Pirates.
  • At one point, the Doctor tells Kimus "Don't panic," which is the tagline for Douglas Adams's The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.
  • The Name "Bantraginus V" is likely a reference to "Santraginus V", the home for one of the key ingredients in Pan Galactic Gargle Blaster in Adams's The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.
  • This is the second of six linked serials that comprise the whole of Season 16, known collectively as The Key to Time.
  • At one point, Romana is shown shooting an enemy soldier dead. Although her predecessor, Leela, often used deadly force, this was one of the only on-screen occasions in which Romana did so. Romana's reaction to doing so leaves it unclear as to whether this is the first time she's killed someone.
  • Episode 1 appears to begin the day after the conclusion of The Ribos Operation. The Doctor is about to put away the newly acquired first segment, and talking to K-9 about the success of the mission. He then proceeds to say "good morning" to Romana, suggesting at least an evening has passed, but not much more.
  • In episode 1, the Doctor actually directly refers to Romana as having "good looks", one of the few times in the original series that the Doctor made such a remark regarding one of his companions. Ironically, Adams' later story, City of Death included the line "You're a good looking woman, probably" which has been used in some aspects of fandom to suggest that the Doctor doesn't (or shouldn't) consider the physical appearance of his companions.


  • Part One - 9.1 million viewers
  • Part Two - 7.4 million viewers
  • Part Three - 8.2 million viewers
  • Part Four - 8.4 million viewers

Filming Locations

  • Dan-yr-Ogof caves in Powys, Wales
  • Berkeley Power Station, Berkeley, Gloucestershire
  • Coity Mountain, Gwent
  • Gellifelen Railway Tunnels, Daren-felen, Gwent
  • Monmouthshire Golf Course, Llanfoist, Gwent
  • Big Pit, Blaenavon, Gwent
  • Bwlch y Garn, Ebbw Vale, Gwent
  • National Showcaves Centre for Wales, Dan-yr-Ogof, Swansea
  • Shepperton Studios, Littleton, Middlesex
  • BBC Television Centre (TC6), Shepherd's Bush, London

Discontinuity, Plot Holes, Errors

to be added

DVD, Video and Other Releases

DVD Releases

  • Also released with same stories as Doctor Who: The Key to Time, an extras-laden box set limited to 15,000 in its initial UK release on 24th September 2007, later followed by wide release in Region 1 on 3rd March 2009 as The Key to Time - Special Edition.

Contents (2007/2009 version):

  • Commentary by Tom Baker, Mary Tamm and Anthony Read
  • Commentary by Bruce Purchase and Pennant Roberts (carried over from the 2002 set)
  • Parrot Fashion - A 30-minute documentary featuring an archive interview with writer Douglas Adams, plus cast and crew including Mary Tamm, John Leeson, Bruce Purchase and Rosalind Lloyd.
  • Film Inserts, Deleted Scenes & Outtakes - Raw footage and alternate takes from the filming of the serial, plus a couple of bloopers.
  • Weird Science - A spoof of late-1970s-style school programmes, poking fun at some of the science seen during Season 16.
  • Continuities - Off-air continuity links from the story's original transmissions.
  • Radio Times Billings - Listings from Radio Times (DVD-ROM PC/Mac).
  • Coming Soon Trailer - Planet of Evil. (2007 UK version only)
  • Photo Gallery
  • Production Subtitles



Due to Douglas Adams reserving the novelization rights for himself, The Pirate Planet is one of only a half-dozen original-series serials to have never been officially novelised.

See also

External Links

  • BBC Episode Guide for The Pirate Planet
  • Doctor Who Reference Guide: Detailed Synopsis - The Pirate Planet
  • A Brief History of Time (Travel): The Invasion of Time
  • The Locations Guide to Doctor Who - The Pirate Planet
Season 16
The Ribos Operation  • The Pirate Planet  • The Stones of Blood  • The Androids of Tara  • The Power of Kroll  • The Armageddon Factor

This article uses material from the "The Pirate Planet" article on the Dr Who wiki at Wikia and is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike License.

Got something to say? Make a comment.
Your name
Your email address