Sunday, 21 October 2018

487 The Pirate Planet: Part Four

EPISODE: The Pirate Planet: Part Four
TRANSMITTED: Saturday 21 October 1978
WRITER: Douglas Adams
DIRECTOR: Pennant Roberts
PRODUCER: Graham Williams
RATINGS: 8.4 million viewers
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)

"Xanxia shall live!"

The Doctor stands in the doorway laughing, proclaiming he has discovered the secret, demonstrating a solid hologram projector 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.

First there's the cliffhanger, solved by "The Doctor" going off the end of the plank being a sort of holographic projection.

DOCTOR: Hello, everybody.
CAPTAIN: Doctor!
DOCTOR: Sorry I couldn't make the jump myself. I've got a terrible head for heights.
CAPTAIN: Then who?
DOCTOR 2: I've discovered your little secret. We're not all quite as we seem.
DOCTOR: Neat little machine, isn't it. And the image it projects might almost be real.
DOCTOR 2: Hello, Doctor.
DOCTOR: Hello. How are you?
DOCTOR 2: Oh, terribly well. Can't complain.
DOCTOR: Goodbye.
DOCTOR 2: Bye, bye.

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This in turn leads to the next revelation that the Nurse, Rosalind Lloyd, is the the reincarnation of Queen Xanxia!

DOCTOR: And just as I can switch off that image of myself, I can also switch off the image of another apparently real person.

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NURSE: Try all you like, Doctor, it won't work on me. My new body has almost attained fully corporeal form. It can no longer simply be turned off. Guards, seize him!

The Nurse isn't even in the first episode As the story goes on her role gets larger & develops until the reveal of her true identity and then she takes full charge and we find out the reason that Xanxia's aged body is being held in the time dams:
DOCTOR: So, Xanxia, the tyrant queen of Zanak.
NURSE: Bring the manifest.
DOCTOR: What about the real you? That wizened old body in the time dams back there.
NURSE: That thing is not me. This is now the real Queen Xanxia.
DOCTOR: Oh, no, no, no, not yet it isn't. Your new body's based on a cell projection system, I think.
NURSE: Permanent regeneration based on cells in my old body, and thus containing all the memory patterns and all the brilliance built up over the centuries.
DOCTOR: Ah, but it's still unstable, isn't it? You're still dependant on the last few seconds of life in the old body.
NURSE: I'm nearly complete. My molecular structure has almost bound together, finally and forever. That is why you could not turn me off.
DOCTOR: It won't work, you know. Believe me. I'm an old hand at regenerations. It can't be done that way. Those time dams back there, they just won't work.
NURSE: I have calculated every detail. I shall live for ever.
DOCTOR: Bafflegab, my dear. I've never heard such bafflegab in all my lives.
NURSE: You dare to mock me?
DOCTOR: Ow! Ah, now we're getting somewhere, aren't we.
NURSE: You shall die now for your insolence.
DOCTOR: No, Captain. Captain, listen to me. This concerns you. You're being used, you know. You're being used by her just to do her dirty work. And what's your reward, Captain? Eternal life?
NURSE: What do you know of eternal life?
DOCTOR: Enough to know it can't be sustained by those time dams back there.
NURSE: When this body becomes fully corporeal
DOCTOR: It never will. Not ever.
NURSE: My calculations
DOCTOR: Are wrong.
NURSE: No, impossible!
DOCTOR: Inevitable, because they are based on a false promise.
NURSE: I gutted my own planet Zanak for all the energy it contained. I've ransacked planets from Bandraginus to Calufrax. Do you think I'm going to stop now?
DOCTOR: What next, suns? It's no good. The energy needs of the time dams increase exponentially. There just isn't enough energy in the universe to keep them going for ever. In the end, you'll die.
NURSE: You're lying, trying to save your worthless neck.
Then to spice things up a bit, the threat moves somewhat closer to home:
NURSE: We are impregnable. The Mentiads are powerless. The guards will pick them off at will. Captain, is Calufrax now entirely rendered?
CAPTAIN: Mister Fibuli?
FIBULI: Oh, er, yes, sir. All operations on Calufrax are now complete.
NURSE: And you have located a planet where we can find the mineral PJX one eight?
DOCTOR: PJX one eight? But, well, that's quartz.
DOCTOR: Yes, but from where? Where?
FIBULI: It's the planet Terra in the star system Sol.
NURSE: Captain, we will mine that planet immediately. Prepare to make the jump.
DOCTOR: Earth? Earth? Do you really mean to go on with this madness? But Captain, Earth is an inhabited planet.
DOCTOR: Billions and billions of people. You can't be that insane.
Douglas Adams' The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy came from an idea originally called The Ends Of The Earth, about the Earth being destroyed in a multitude of ways. I wonder if the concept of a planet "eating" the Earth, the core of the Pirate Planet story, was a left overt idea from that?

Some Adams' humour follows later:

ROMANA: Come on, Doctor.
DOCTOR: No, no, no, wait a minute. The inertia neutraliser. You know, I think the conservation of momentum is a very important law in physics, don't you?
DOCTOR: I don't think anyone should tamper with it, do you?
DOCTOR: No, nor do I.
(The Doctor pulls out a control unit, yanks a wire and puts it back. The guards come hurtling out of the corridor straight into the opposite wall.)
DOCTOR: Newton's revenge. Come on.

ROMANA: Newton? Who's Newton?
DOCTOR: Old Isaac? Friend of mine on Earth. He discovered gravity. Well, I say he discovered gravity. I had to give him a bit of a prod.
ROMANA: What did you do?
DOCTOR: Climbed up a tree.
DOCTOR: Dropped an apple on his head.
ROMANA: Ah, and so he discovered gravity.
DOCTOR: No, no, he told me to clear off out of his tree. I explained it to him afterwards at dinner.
Adams evidentially admired Isaac Newton: he gets a mention in the later Doctor Who story Shada and then pops up in Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency as the inventor of the catflap!

And, incredibly, in amongst all this we get to return to the Key To Time plot!

DOCTOR: The Captain's trophy room. Well, what do you think?
ROMANA: Incredible. A masterpiece of gravitic geometry.
DOCTOR: Yes, obviously. All the forces cancel each other perfectly, otherwise Poof!
ROMANA: So all that shouting and blustering was just an act to lull Xanxia into a false sense of security while he built this.
DOCTOR: Yes. Let that be a lesson to you, my girl. Never take anything at its face value.
DOCTOR: The Captain's plan, we must be able to use it.
ROMANA: But he'll have the controls on the Bridge.
ROMANA: Wait a minute. The only way the Captain could destroy Xanxia without blowing himself and this whole mountain to atoms would be to get inside the perimeter of the time dams without disturbing it, right?
DOCTOR: Right.
ROMANA: Which would require astronomic energy sources.
DOCTOR: Here they are, all perfectly balanced out.
ROMANA: So when he has enough of them, all he has to do is alter the balance slightly and create a standing vortex in the middle of the time field, so time starts up at the normal speed and the Queen dies.
DOCTOR: Right.
ROMANA: Brilliant! But I don't see how it helps us.
DOCTOR: And it wouldn't have worked anyway.
ROMANA: Why not? The theory's sound enough.
DOCTOR: Yes, but Calufrax isn't.
ROMANA: Calufrax?
DOCTOR: Is not a normal planet. It's an artificially metricised structure consisting of a substance with a variable atomic weight.
ROMANA: So that means Calufrax, the entire planet
DOCTOR: Is the second segment of the Key to Time.
ROMANA: Of course. No wonder the tracer kept going mad.
DOCTOR: Try it now.
DOCTOR: The tracer. You have still got it?
ROMANA: I thought you had it.
DOCTOR: There.
ROMANA: But we can't move that. We can't move anything here. If we do, we'll just upset the whole system and create a gravity whirlpool.
DOCTOR: Not if I do something immensely clever.
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ROMANA: What did you do on the Bridge, Doctor?
DOCTOR: You'll never believe it.
ROMANA: Try me.
DOCTOR: All right, I will. I've switched the Captain's circuits around to create a hyperspatial force shield around the shrunken planets, then I put his dematerialisation control into remote mode.
ROMANA: So we can operate them from here.
DOCTOR: Precisely.
ROMANA: But I don't see how that helps.
DOCTOR: What? Well, first I dematerialise the Tardis, then I make Zanak dematerialise for a millisecond or two, then I invert the gravity field of the hyperspatial forceshield and drop the shrunken planets
ROMANA: Into the hollow centre of Zanak!
DOCTOR: Exactly.
ROMANA: What then?
DOCTOR: Well, I would have thought that was perfectly obvious. They expand in an instant to fill a hollow space and bang.
ROMANA: But what about Calufrax? How do we get hold of Calufrax?
DOCTOR: Well, naturally, Calufrax is flung off into the space time vortex and we pick it up later in the Tardis.
ROMANA: Well, naturally. Oh, that's quite ingenious.
DOCTOR: Quite ingenious? It's brilliant. It's fantastic!
ROMANA: All right, it's fantastic.
DOCTOR: Fantastic. Right. Here we go then. There.
I feel rather sorry for The Captain this episode. He's been such a larger than life force in the first three episodes but here he's revealed to be just a puppet, albeit one that's trying to rebel. He cuts as somewhat forlorn figure cradling Polyphasavatron, slain by K-9 last episode and then loose Mr Fibuli who, for all The Captain's shouting and bluster, was his one actual friend.

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CAPTAIN: Mister Fibuli, dead. Dead. He was a good man.
NURSE: Pull yourself together, Captain. We can still defeat the rabble out there.
CAPTAIN: Somehow, somehow, Mister Fibuli, my friend, you shall be avenged.
Bruce Purchase & Andrew Robertson have been pure gold right the way through this story and really helped make it memorable when I saw it as a child.

Unfortunately The Captain's attempts to take revenge on Xanxia prove to be his undoing:

NURSE: Have you done it? Is it ready?
CAPTAIN: Yes, Xanxia. At last I am ready.
NURSE: Captain, look.
CAPTAIN: I shall be free from you, you hag!
NURSE: What are you doing?
DOCTOR: No, Captain, don't! Don't do it! It won't work!
NURSE: Die, you fool! Die!
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Having dealt with the Queen and the shrunken planets the Doctor has some loose ends to tie up:to do:

ROMANA: Congratulations.
DOCTOR: Clever, eh?
ROMANA: Fantastic.
ROMANA: But Doctor, haven't you forgotten something?
ROMANA: What about the Bridge, and the time dams?
DOCTOR: Bridge and time. K9?
K9: Piece of cake, master. Blow them up.
ROMANA: Oh, isn't that rather crude?
DOCTOR: Oh, it's a bit crude, but immensely satisfying.

DOCTOR: Come on, Romana.
KIMUS: Doctor, when all this is over, will we really be free?
DOCTOR: I don't see why not. It's entirely up to you. You've got to make this world a better place to live in. You've got plenty of material wealth, but there are other things. The other lead, Romana.
ROMANA: I'll do it.
DOCTOR: Thank you. Now, I think this is a good place in the universe to settle down. You've got reasonable sun, good neighbours and some quite convenient stars for when you get round to ordinary space travel. I think you're going to be all right here.
ROMANA: Ready, Doctor.

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DOCTOR: Good. Next. What I want to know is, am I going to blow up that Bridge, or are you?
PRALIX: We will.
DOCTOR: Good. I'll get out of the way while you concentrate.
DOCTOR: That was very satisfying. Come on, Romana, we've got a job to do.

These final exterior scenes are once again filmed at Gellifelen Railway Tunnels, where the entranceway to The Bridge was located.

So then, right at the end, we get a nice large explosion. I'm little sad to see that fabulous model of The Bridge go up in flames but it needed to be done.

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Fabulous stuff, one of my favourite Doctor Who stories. Some really interesting and big ideas being thrown around here. Even if they're going over your head it's still wonderfully entertaining stuff, The Captain especially. Although he dies here I was so pleased that he gets a brief cameo as one of the Fourth Doctor's greatest foes in Logopolis!

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. Following BBC Books adaptations of Douglas Adams' other two Doctor who stories, Shada & City of Death, The Pirate Planet was finally released as an official book in early 2017.

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 the first time 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 so it's the first whole story he's watched too!

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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