Part One

The Pirate PlanetNicol is a huge fan of Douglas Adams (when she was growing up, her nickname for me was Slartibartfast), so it was inevitable that she would join us for this one; getting people to pester her on Twitter certainly helped.

Sue: How did Doctor Who get their hands on Douglas Adams?
Me: Well, he wasn’t famous at the time, In fact, some of Doctor Who‘s fans were dismayed when they heard that a comedian had been hired to write for the show.
Nicol: Idiots. He’s a genius.

The story begins on the bridge of a spaceship, where a nervous man named Mr Fibuli is reporting to a very impatient Captain.

Sue: It’s Leo Sayer’s dad.

This particular Captain has a robotic parrot on his shoulder.

Sue: I bet Tom Baker was jealous.
Nicol: Why?
Sue: He wanted a parrot for a companion. Neil told me.

I sit back and let Sue take custody of Doctor Who‘s lore for a bit.

Sue: It was either that or a talking cabbage. Tom Baker is a bit mad, you see.
Nicol: You don’t say.

The Captain is very, very angry.

The Pirate PlanetSue: Did he just shout “Balls!” at Mr Sayer?
Me: No, he just shouted “Baubles!” at Mr Fibuli, but you’re close.
Sue: I can’t understand what he’s saying. He’s booming too much.

The Captain turns to the camera, revealing to his cybernetic features to us.

Nicol: No wonder you can’t understand him, he’s chewing on slab of metal.
Sue: He’s the Borg! I thought the Cybermen were a bit like Borg, but this is just taking the piss.

The Captain is obsessed with mining.

Sue: Not mining again! Change the bloody record. Every other week, it’s mine, mine, mine, mine, mine.

The Captain makes a planet-wide announcement to the citizens of Zanak. He tells them to prepare for a new age of prosperity.

The Pirate PlanetNicol: Worst crowd scene ever.
Me: It’s supposed to be a random street corner, not a free concert in Hyde Park.
Nicol: Look, the last time I saw Doctor Who (Underworld Part Four – Ed.) they had loads of extras standing around doing nothing at all, and here, when you need loads of people to do something, they get this shambles instead.
Me: Hooray!
Sue: That woman with the red hair can’t even shout hooray at the right time. She’s way out.

Elsewhere, a group of hooded figures are monitoring one of the faces in this “crowd”.

Sue: They should have got this lot to double up.
Nicol: They probably did. That’s why they’re wearing hoodies – it’s so you don’t notice them standing in the street at the same time.

How did I raise someone so cynical?

Meanwhile, on the TARDIS.

The Pirate PlanetNicol: Whenever I watch an episode of Doctor Who, the Doctor has another companion. He’s really getting through them.

The Doctor and Romana get into a spat about the best way to fly the TARDIS.

Sue: I bloody love Romana. You show him, love.
Nicol: This is very similar to that bit in the new series. You know, when River Song shows the Doctor how to fly his TARDIS properly.
Sue: Are you saying the Moff plagiarised Douglas Adams?
Me: Everybody plagiarises Douglas Adams.
Nicol: Well, if you are going to steal, steal from the best.

The TARDIS materialises on the planet Zanak, when it should have materialised on Calufrax.

Sue: Is K9 only allowed out on planets with flat surfaces? I bet we never see him out on location. He’s an indoor dog, isn’t he? Maybe they should have given the Doctor a robot cat instead; it would have made more sense.

The Doctor investigates the disappearance of an entire planet, but the locals choose to ignore him.

Sue: Is he invisible? Is this a parallel universe? Is he out of phase with time?
Me: No, it’s just a bit of comedy.
Sue: Oh.

Romana has no trouble making contact with the natives; she even offers a jelly baby to one so she can extract information from him.

Sue: I like the role reversal, here. It’s very funny. Is the Doctor going to be the assistant in this one? I bet Tom Baker wasn’t very happy about that.

The Doctor finds handfuls of diamonds and rubies lying around in the street. But that’s nothing compared to the chunk of voolium he finds discarded nearby. It is one of the most precious stones in the entire galaxy.

The Doctor: People have murdered for that beauty.
Sue: Really? It looks like a lump of snot.

The Pirate PlanetAnd then we get our first good look at a Mentiad.

Sue: He’s definitely had a late night. What are this lot called again?
Me: The Mentiads.
Sue: Oh. I thought they said “the men in rags”.

Meanwhile, in nearby house, a young man named Pralix is ranting and raving in his sleep as his grandfather and sister look on helplessly.

Sue: It’s like that scene in Trainspotting where Ewan McGregor’s parents make him go cold turkey.

Nicol: He’s staring at a baby crawling across the ceiling as we speak.

When we encounter the security forces of Zanak for the first time, Nicol and Sue have a one-track mind:

The Pirate PlanetNicol: There’s a very strong S&M vibe here.
Sue: The costume designer on this show was completely obsessed, Nicol. There’s a lot of bondage gear in Doctor Who. You can’t move for it sometimes.

Out on location, the Mentiads and Zanak’s security forces are engaged in a one-sided battle.

Sue: How can they miss their targets from that range? Even UNIT got closer than that and they’re shit.
Nicol: This is rubbish. But you can’t blame Douglas Adams for that. It isn’t his fault. I bet it looked fine on paper.

The Captain continues to browbeat Mr Fibuli.

Sue: They are a great double-act. They spark off each other really well.

The Mentiads break into Pralix’s house, and the episode concludes with the Doctor being subdued by their psychic force.

Sue: That was a terrible cliffhanger. They had two goes at it and it still didn’t work.
Me: How are you both managing so far?
Nicol: It’s alright. It’s not his best work, but it has its moments.
Sue: I’m a bit confused. Actually, I haven’t got the faintest idea what’s going on.


Part Two

The Pirate PlanetRomana is arrested and taken to a waiting air car.

Sue: It’s Bully’s star prize – a speedboat!
Nicol: A mid-life crisis speedboat by the look of it. Look at that red leather interior.

The air car takes off.

Sue: It’s turned into Grease now.

Sue and Nicol start signing “We go together like rama lama lama ka dinga da dinga dong” and I bury my head in my hands.

Sue: This reminds me of Star Wars. The architecture of the city looks like Tunisia, and they definitely had a car like this, it just didn’t go so high.

Romana is brought before the Captain and she introduces herself to him as a Time Lord.

Sue: See, she’s a Time Lord. None of that Time Lady rubbish you came out with the other day.

Romana starts sticking her nose into the Captain’s affairs.

Sue: This isn’t as funny as the last story. There’s far too much going on and I’m very confused.
Nicol: I like the fact that it’s busy. It doesn’t stand still long enough for you to get bored with anything.

The Doctor is accompanied by a young, idealistic rebel named Kimus to the Captain’s lair. At one point, the Doctor uses an inertia corridor to transport him to the bridge.

The Doctor: I’ll never be cruel to an electron in a particle accelerator again!
Nicol: Hitchhikers rip-off!
Me: I think he’s allowed to plagiarise himself.

The Doctor and Romana eventually end up investigating a nearby mine shaft.

The Pirate PlanetSue: It’s Horden colliery! They haven’t made any attempt to make this look futuristic or sci-fi – it’s just a mine that was probably out on strike the day they were filming there.

Our heroes descend into the bowels of Zanak.

Me: Have you worked it out yet?
Sue: Is it something to do with parallel universes? Or do they keep travelling back in time so the mines fill up again, which then creates a time paradox? Am I close?

The Doctor reveals the truth: Zanak eats planets.

Sue: Ooh, I didn’t see that coming. That’s mental.
Nicol: That’s Douglas Adams.

The Doctor and Romana make their way back to the mine’s entrance but they are intercepted by Pralix, who is now a fully fledged Mentiad.

Sue: I still haven’t got a clue what this lot have to do with anything.

The credits roll.

Sue: Well, I could watch another one.
Nicol: I couldn’t. I love Douglas Adams as much as the next person but I’ve had enough for one night, thanks.


Part Three

The Pirate PlanetIf there’s one problem I have watching Doctor Who with Sue and Nicol, it’s the amount of singing that’s involved. All it takes is a character to say something innocent like “good vibrations” and there’s simply no stopping them.

Sue: Why do all the planets in this story sound like pharmaceutical products? Zanak sounds like something you’d take for heartburn, while Calufrax sounds like something you might use to treat thrush.
Nicol: I want to know why they’re playing Connect Four at the back of the ship.

Sue isn’t impressed with Pralix’s new look as Mentiad.

Sue: If you took Dave Hill from Slade and you cut his fringe off after he’d taken loads of speed and hadn’t slept for several days, that’s what you’d be left with. It’s not a great look.

The Doctor tells Romana that each time Zanak mines a planet, there’s a fantastic blast of psychic energy.

Nicol laughs.

Sue: Is that bad science, love?
Nicol: It isn’t bad science, it’s made-up science. There’s a difference.

The Pirate PlanetSue and Nicol can’t agree on who the Captain reminds them of…

Sue: He’s half-man, half-Darth Vader.
Nicol: No, he’s half-man, half-Kanye West.
Me: Eh?
: Sorry, Doctor Who fans probably won’t know who Kanye West is, or what kind of glasses he wears. Look it up.

Thankfully, she draws another parallel to something Doctor Who fans will be familiar with:

Nicol: He is the archetypal Adams’ villain. He reminds me of the Vogon captain from Hitchhiker’s. He just needs some poetry and he’d be away.

An unconscious Doctor is chained to a pillar; in his dreams, he’s scolding his former companion for her penchant for janus thorns.

Sue: Hey, the Doctor is dreaming about Leela. I’m not sure if that’s touching or a bit pervy.

The Pirate PlanetRomana and Mula (Pralix’s sister) join forces with the Mentiads.

Nicol: They look like the women in Abba.
Sue: Benny and Bjorn have really left themselves go, then.

The Captain gives the Doctor a tour of his mummified planet collection. The Doctor is appalled.

Sue: I’ve never seen the Doctor act like this before. I really believe that he’s seriously pissed off. Tom Baker must really love this script.

As the Captain departs, the Doctor starts throwing shapes.

Sue: What the hell is he doing now?
: Vogue!

I’m pretty certain that Doctor Who fans won’t have to look that up.

The Doctor is attacked by the Captain’s Polyphase Avitron. But –

Sue: Yay!
Nicol: K9 to the rescue!

The robotic pets get into a fight.

Nicol: The parrot is spraying the place with electronic bird poo.
Sue: The parrot is the only thing I don’t like about this story. It’s taking the pirate theme a bit too far. Maybe the kids liked it, I don’t know.
Me: Once again, I have very sketchy memories of this one. I can remember the basic imagery but that’s about it.

While K9 keeps the Captain’s pet at bay, the Doctor and Kimus discover that the evil Queen Xanxia has been suspended in time.

The Pirate PlanetMe: They paid this actress extra cash to take her false teeth out.
Nicol: Why?
Me: Compensation for her not looking her best, I suppose.
Sue: Yeah, cos she was a stunner when she had her teeth in, wasn’t she?

And then…

Sue and Nicol: Yay!

K9 returns with the Avitron stuck to his mouth.

Sue: Good boy, K9!
Nicol: He’s a retriever. Why can’t you do that, Buffy? Our front lawn is covered with stupid birds and you barely even notice them.

The Doctor returns the inert weapon to the Captain.

Sue: But it’s electronic. Surely he could just fix it?
Me: It is an ex-parrot. This parrot is no more! He has ceased to be!
Nicol: He’s joined the choir invisible!
Sue: I walked straight into that.

Talking of walking, the episode concludes with the Doctor being forced to walk the plank.

Sue: This is getting a bit silly, now.
Nicol: That’s Douglas Adams, too.

The Doctor plunges a thousand feet to his death.

Sue: On second thoughts, that was a pretty good cliffhanger. How he is going to get out of that?
Nicol: Romana will catch him in her air car. It’s just like Star Wars, this.


Part Four

The Pirate PlanetThe Doctor – who was using a holographic projector to fake his own death – reveals that the Captain’s nurse isn’t what she appears to be.

Sue: I knew there was something funny about her.
Me: Of course you did, dear.

Outside, the Mentiads get into a fight with some guards. The Mentiad’s leader uses his powers to throw rocks at them.

Nicol: He is well pleased with that. Hey, look at me, I can throw rocks with the power of my mind! How cool am I?

Unfortunately, one of these guards has the audacity to not only to avoid the rocks, but to shoot straight, as well. The Mentiads take their eye off the ball and one of their number pays the ultimate price.

Sue: Bloody hell, someone actually hit something. There’s a first.

Romana grabs a gun and shoots the guard in the face.

Sue: Doctor Who shouldn’t really do gun fights. They never work and it doesn’t really suit the programme.

It becomes clear that the Captain is nothing more than a puppet dictator, controlled by his nurse, who is actually a projection of Queen Xanxia.

Me: You must admit that it’s a very clever twist.
Nicol: Yeah, make the woman evil, why don’t you.
Sue: I didn’t see it coming. But then again, I can’t see anything coming in this story.

The rest of the episode is punctuated with laughter – the scene where some guards are thrown out of an inertia corridor goes down particularly well, as does the Doctor’s tall tale which includes him dropping apples on Isaac Newtons’ head.

Nicol: I love how the apple in that story was insignificant when it came to the discovery of gravity. Thank God.

The Doctor spouts some technobabble, which Sue can’t follow and Nicol can’t take seriously, and this eventually results in the screen pulsing rapidly as the TARDIS and Zanak attempt to materialise around planet Earth at the same time.

The Pirate PlanetNicol: This is starting to hurt my eyes. Tell me when it’s over.

She doesn’t miss the psychic spanner, though.

Nicol: Oh dear. That is really bad.
Sue: It’s shit!
Me: You think? You should have seen the original.
Sue: Is this a new special effect? Was the original effect worse? How could it have been worse? Show me the original.
Me: I can’t. They didn’t include it on the DVD.
Sue: WHAT? I bet the fans went mental.

The bridge explodes and Mr Fibuli is killed. The Captain is completely devastated.

Sue: This happened in the last story. Do all the villains this season have love affairs with their right-hand men?
Nicol: I thought homoeroticism only came into Doctor Who when Russell T Davies took over?
Me: Ha!

The Captain is killed by his nurse before he can turn on her.

Sue: I can’t believe I actually feel sorry for the big oaf.

The Doctor comes up with a cunning plan which involves hyperspatial force fields and inverted gravity fields.

Sue: Okay, I am completely lost. Nicol, what does this all mean?
Nicol: Don’t look at me!
Sue: It sounds plausible.
Nicol: It sounds like he’s up against a deadline and he’s making it up.

The Pirate PlanetWhatever the Doctor’s plan entails, it works perfectly, and the episode concludes with the Doctor rigging up the Captain’s ship with high explosives.

Sue: That felt like a very gratuitous explosion. Is the Queen dead, then?

The Doctor punches the air and the theme music kicks in.

Sue: Hey! I want to see them turn the planet into the Key to Time!
Nicol: What the hell is the Key to Time?


The Score

Sue: I’m disappointed. It started well but in the end it was too confusing. The ending felt like a massive cop-out, like they’d run out of time and they had to make sometime up, and while some of the ideas were great, there were far too many of them. It was a bit of a mess, really. An imaginative mess. The acting was all over the place, too, but I did like the Captain and his mate. It was above average, I suppose. But only just.


Me: Nicol?
Nicol: Six sounds about right. It was more entertaining than the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy film, I’ll give it that. Did Douglas Adams have anything else to do with Doctor Who?
Me: Meet us back here in a fortnight.




  1. Dave Sanders  July 11, 2012

    ‘Sue: Are you saying the Moff plagiarised Douglas Adams?

    Me: Everybody plagiarises Douglas Adams.

    Nicol: Well, if you are going to steal, steal from the best.’

    And Douglas Adams should know, the amount of ideas he actually nicked off Robert Holmes. 🙂

    • Dave Sanders  July 11, 2012

      ‘Sue: The costume designer on this show was completely obsessed, Nicol. There’s a lot of bondage gear in Doctor Who. You can’t move for it sometimes.’

      Ooh, just you wait till we get to the Tripods years…

    • Philip Ayres  July 12, 2012

      I refer the honourable gentleman to the comparison between the cricket match in Dalek Masterplan: Volcano and the cricket match in Life, The Universe & Everything

      • Dave Sanders  July 13, 2012

        Could have been worse. Could have been Blake’s 7: Volcano.

  2. John S. Hall  July 11, 2012

    Yeah, that’s about what I expected this story to get…

    But whenever I’m in a bad mood, if I pop this story in the DVD player and listen to Bruce Purchase declaim and fulminate about “dross and baubles” and “Mooooooooons of madness!!!,” I end up with a silly grin on my face. 🙂

  3. SparkyMarky  July 11, 2012

    “Beware the Men in Rags!”

  4. Dave Sanders  July 11, 2012

    First person to do the Kanye West joke gets slapped. I’mma not gonna let them finish.

  5. John S. Hall  July 11, 2012

    And if Sue thinks the story is over-complicated as-transmitted, try explaining to her what the original submission looked like before Anthony Read had a go at it — makes the Bristol Boys’ efforts look positively straight-forward! 😉

  6. John S. Hall  July 11, 2012

    I just hope that my beloved “Stones of Blood” doesn’t get mangled, is all…

    • Dave Sanders  July 11, 2012

      Putting out The Styrofoams Of Blood right after The Peter Pan Planet is probably unfortunate, when Sue will be watching them both in quick succession; she can’t fail to notice how empty the latter feels in comparison with the business of the former.

      • John S. Hall  July 11, 2012

        I bet she’ll enjoy Professor Rumford, though — especially her rapport with K-9.

        • PolarityReversed  July 11, 2012

          Stones of Blood at least allows its perfectly adequate complement of concepts to breathe, and allows room for some characterisation and pacing. Delightfully bonkers switch of genres too – but we’re ahead of ourselves here.

          • encyclops  July 11, 2012

            I’m glad to hear I’m not the only Stones of Blood fan. I’m racing to rewatch these to keep up with Neil and Sue (and sometimes Nicol) — halfway through Androids of Tara, will finish tonight — and last night I watched it again to try and see why it has so many detractors. I did come up with a few reasons (more about which in a day or two, I’m sure) but I still adore it. In fact, I noticed something new about it last night which I’d never have picked up on in the past, and I’m intensely curious about what that fact will do to Sue’s enthusiasm for it. Could go either way, but her positive response to Romana is encouraging.

    • DPC  July 11, 2012

      If it does, it’ll still be fun to read!

      (I adore “Stones” and “Pirate Planet”, but it’s fun to read differing opinions. It’s like having a new set of eyes, but I didn’t have to gouge my current ones out or anything beforehand… 😀 )

      • DPC  July 11, 2012

        Oops. Grammar-blunder on my part:

        “If (the story) does (get mangled), (the review) will still be fun to read!” One “it” recursively referencing the other “it” without first defining the “it” can be quite exasperating… especially when two completely disparate “its” are being referenced independently of the other…

        • PolarityReversed  July 11, 2012

          Don’t worry about it.


  7. SparkyMarky  July 11, 2012

    OK ignore me I’ve obviously been blasted with some form of psychic energy….and my brain has gone haywire.

  8. BWT  July 11, 2012

    “It’s not his best work, but it has its moments.”

    Nicol wins.

    Douglas Adams, meanwhile, doesn’t.

  9. chris-too-old-to-watch  July 11, 2012

    I always wondered why we had to wait ages for this to be released on VHS, when all the others had been. And the disappointment when it appeared. Well done Sue for a very fair and comprehensive score. Too many ideas, not carried through properly.
    Does this mean Nicol will be joining the experiment when we get to the next season?

    • Jamie  July 11, 2012

      It was released along with The Ribos Operation on VHS in April 1995.
      The subsequent Series 16 stories were available soon afterwards.

      • chris-too-old-to-watch  July 12, 2012

        Apologies: my withered mind was thinking of the novelisation – all we had in the beginning of entertainment repeats……

  10. Jazza1971  July 11, 2012

    I remember watching this as a kid. The parts that stick out for me was the trail of liquorice allsorts to the flying ship/speed boat, the battle between K9 and the parrot, the Doctor being made to walk the plank and the big explosion towards the end. I loved it!

    Of course, I totally failed to be enthralled by the “what’s it for” speech.

    With adult eyes I realise it isn’t as good as I remember, but the aforementioned speech is great! Still, I would probably give it a 7, or maybe even an 8, because when it comes down to it, it is fun.

  11. Matthew Kilburn  July 11, 2012

    Hooray for Horden! Seat of the drapery branch of the family. Though pit wheels always make me think of Thornley Colliery as that was the pit head we passed on the way to my grandparents when I was very small – and then one week it wasn’t there (though not before time as the colliery had been closed for six or seven years).

    What was that Sue was saying about mining…? Oh, yes. It is interesting that pits of one sort or another become a motif of Doctor Who in the Williams era, as if some sort of commentary on Britain’s industrial decline is forcing its way through the shrinking budgets and uncertain tone and quality control.

  12. Marty  July 11, 2012

    “There’s a lot of bondage gear in Doctor Who. You can’t move for it sometimes.”
    Was that deliberately a joke?

    “It sounds like he’s up against a deadline and he’s making it up.”
    That sounds exactly like Douglas Adams.

    “An imaginative mess.” I kinda like that definition.

    It’s great to see Nicol join Sue and Neil for a story.

  13. PolarityReversed  July 11, 2012

    Second lowest point of the season for me – no prizes for guessing my lowest.

    I’m as much an Adams fan as the next person (well, if the next person isn’t Nicol), and I appreciate that he brought some pizazz to the show as Script Editor. But this story just shows what can happen when he gets his hands on the console. His strength can often be his weakness, and there are just too many ideas crowbarred in.

    Okay, vampire planet – great concept. Unexpected psychic side-effects of devouring entire populations – perfectly fine. But by the time we’re into holographic projections, the ancient queen, time dams, the Captain as surprise hero, Earth as the next victim planet, etc I’m afraid I just wind up feeling like I’ve been clubbed by the kitchen sink. Then the resolution – an intense burst of gobbledegook from out of nowhere and they blow everything up.

    Consider this too – in the midst of this hyperactive splurge of ideas, the threat to Earth loses a lot of its potency (I reckon it’s actually unnecessary). Let’s just say Adams wasn’t really one for “less is more”. The pitch for this one must have read like a 1,400-line Vogon sonnet…

  14. phuzz  July 11, 2012

    “Nicol: There’s a very strong S&M vibe here.”
    So that’s where Farscape got it’s costume ideas from!

  15. Stuart Ian Burns  July 11, 2012

    “Well, I could watch another one.”

    Which reminds me. Are you going to watch the Tom Baker years at the end of this. That’d be meta, plus I’d love to know what Sue thinks of that.

    On a related theme, Shada!?! SHAAAADAAAA!

    • Neil Perryman  July 11, 2012

      The Tom Baker Years sounds like fun but we are *not* doing Shada. Well, not in season 17 we ain’t.

      • Charles Norton  July 11, 2012

        Why skip Shada? The VHS is far from perfect, but it’s certainly watchable.

        • Neil Perryman  July 11, 2012

          Because it was never transmitted? If we do it, we’ll do it between Survival and the TV Movie. After all, that’s how we saw it.

          • Charles Norton  July 11, 2012

            Fair enough, but does that mean you can’t watch The Five Doctors and The Curse of Fenric special editions either?

          • Neil Perryman  July 11, 2012

            Yes, we are going to stick to ‘as broadcast’ as much as possible.

          • Jazza1971  July 11, 2012

            But for the love of all that is sacred, please show her “Kinda” with the new snake effects! PLEASE!

          • John G  July 11, 2012

            “Because it was never transmitted? If we do it, we’ll do it between Survival and the TV Movie. After all, that’s how we saw it.”

            Fair enough. It will be good for Leisure Hive to follow straight on from Nimon anyway, just to emphasise the glaring shift in tone.

          • DPC  July 11, 2012

            Thanks for keeping it real, via watching the broadcast stuff.

            The special editions often do make events (better), but it’s not fair to how they were presented at original airing.

            Having said that, many of the McCoy-era stories do seem to fare better with the extra material glued back in… his era deserved so much more… the first time since the 1960s when a story actually made use of having more than 4 parts… 😮

          • encyclops  July 11, 2012

            DPC, you’ve confused me. Weren’t all the McCoy stories either 3 or 4 episodes?

          • Frankymole  July 12, 2012

            The Kinda snake is meant to be unreal anyway, it’s a manifestation of the subconscious not a literal snake. And the old one has some nice “blurry light” effects which the new one doesn’t. I’d say stick to broadcast – very few of the CGi-whiized-up “special” editions are very special, they just look like cheap CGI in many cases (the new Invisible Enemy actually looks slightly less good than Ian Scoones’s 1978 work)! Only Dalek Invasion of Earth really benefits.

        • PolarityReversed  July 11, 2012

          I would guess for the same reason as skipping every post-factum fanfic elaboration featuring Hartnell, Troughton, Pertwee, etc.

          It wasn’t finished or broadcast in the original run of the series. Industrial action be praised.

          • Roderick T. Long  July 12, 2012

            many of the McCoy-era stories do seem to fare better with the extra material glued back in…

            Strongly agree. I hope Neil at least shows Sue the deleted scenes.

  16. Simon Harries  July 11, 2012

    I think Sue would find The Tom Baker Years rather amusing to watch after this…. Or maybe not…!!

  17. Richard Lyth  July 11, 2012

    I remember being really excited about getting the Key To Time DVD just so I could see this story – I’d been waiting years to see this, without even a novelisation to give me some idea what it was like, and it turned out to be a massive disappointment, especially the overacting captain and his stupid parrot. There are some good ideas and nice twists, but the execution ruins it really. Wonder if they’ll get Gareth Roberts to novelise this one next?

  18. django  July 11, 2012

    “There’s a lot of bondage gear in Doctor Who. You can’t move for it sometimes.” would be a perfect quote for a mug!

  19. trav28  July 11, 2012

    I am loving this blog as much as life itself right now! Keep up the fab work and Sue, you’re the best! Keep this dude in check and make sure you say it as it is.



    • DPC  July 11, 2012


  20. Bob Dillon  July 11, 2012

    I’m very disapointed with Nicol; Douglas had clearly heard of the equipartition theorem/ Black Body, and applied it (correctly) to the imaginary concept of psychic energy. If something releases a massive amount of energy, and if psychic energy exists, some of it is bound to be released in the psychic range. Contrast this with the Creature from the pit. There someone had heard about Gauss’s Theorem in gravity and quite badly applied it. If you could arrange for Nicol to see the last 10 minutes of Creature I’d enjoy seeing her screams of laughter transcribed.

    • Neil Perryman  July 11, 2012

      Yeah, but as you say, it’s an imaginary concept. Hence the fact it’s completely made up. 😉

      • Bob Dillon  July 11, 2012

        yeah, but he *applied* it well, surely he gets points for that!

        • Dave Sanders  July 11, 2012

          Douglas Adams’ made-up science does what all good fantasy worldbuilding should do; establishes the ground rules at the beginning, and sticks to them. This early on in his career the actual story has a whiff of ‘first draft’ about it, but the genius is in how it blindsides us later on about how the world works and totally flips the story on its head, without changing the rules to do so. If Stephen Moffat did crib one thing from Douglas Adams, then this was it.

          • PolarityReversed  July 12, 2012

            Hold up there Dave. How are we supposed to twig that “the nurse” is anything other than just another spear carrier?
            So Tom discovers a funny box and stares down the camera meaningfully. Sorry, it may be consistent world-building, but it’s lazy cheap writing re the cliffhanger.
            As with detective fiction – you can’t just say: “it was all in plain view all along, but we didn’t tell you about that bit.” An audience enjoys being conned. Not mugged.

      • chris-too-old-to-watch  July 12, 2012

        Hate to break it to you Neil, but time travel and Time Lords/Ladies/Persons of Either Gender are made up as well….

  21. davros01  July 11, 2012

    I am sorry , but I loved this when it first went out. I was 8 years old, and I thought the Captain and parrot was great, and K9 got something to do. Yes it goes techno babble, but it IS FUN. The ideas and concepts on a limited budget are great. I loved the flying air car, and the fact it felt like full on Sci Fi, all be it with little money. I remember going and building my own robot parrot from lego afterwards….happy days. Stones of Blood is great too…the last creepy , dark atmospheric gothic horror…Stones that drink Blood! You cant get more Hammer Horror than that. The Tom Baker era of the show rules, no matter what season you are watching or how much Tom turns up the silly factor. Its not his fault, it was all down to Mary blasted Whitehouse moaning the show was too dark….hence it all had to be toned down, what else could they do? I bet this post does not go up..lets see eh?

    • Jazza1971  July 11, 2012

      I have to agree with you, Davros my man, this story is fun.

  22. encyclops  July 11, 2012

    6/10 seems generous, even. I rewatched this yesterday for the first time in years and I must say this story felt just as tedious to me then as it did when I was a kid. I’m not sure I can put my finger on why, since I certainly was a Douglas Adams fan then as now, and since I love City of Death as much as anyone.

    Partly it’s that I don’t see much humor in it, I suppose. There’s the business with Romana out-Doctoring the Doctor at accosting passersby, which is pleasant. There are the jelly baby gambits with the guards,
    which are straight out of Looney Tunes. And then there’s the relationship between the unbearable Captain (knowing his bluster is a cover doesn’t make it any easier to sit through, and we never really see it drop the way we ought to) and Mr. Fibuli, which can’t help feeling a little trite after the splendid double acts of The Ribos Operation.

    So then we’re left with the planet-mining scheme, whose consequences are never made visceral and are simply left as an exercise for the reader, and the revelation of which is difficult (for me, at least) to
    enjoy on a repeat viewing. And what we see of Zanak’s society is tissue-thin; you’d barely know anyone lived there, let alone that they were both rich and repressed. With a bit more budget for extras and a
    few more scenes of prosperity to contrast with the means of achieving it, it might be a story I could enjoy watching as much as thinking about. As is, I doubt I’ll ever put it on again.

    • PolarityReversed  July 11, 2012

      I had no idea that City of Death had Douglas’s dabs so prominently on it.
      On reflection, I think that rather supports my opinions above that he was best deployed in Who as an editor.

      • encyclops  July 11, 2012

        I always forget that it had anyone else’s on it, especially given how much of it later went into one of his novels. I shouldn’t be too surprised, since I finally made the connection last night between a few plot elements of City of Death and those of Stones of Blood, and since the latter (well, both, really) are a lot funnier than The Pirate Planet.

        • PolarityReversed  July 11, 2012

          Hidden paintings, do you mean? (And all that implies.)
          Oscar Wilde, mate…

          Nothing new under the sun, really. My problem with Douglas Adams is that while he had a dazzling talent for scientifically grounded absurdist pastiche, he didn’t have much else. His fiction is very enjoyable, but it tends to result in a madcap cavalcade of very clever puzzles and jokes giving precious little room for the thinly sketched characters to do anything more than react to, let alone engage with or develop through.

          Apply that wit and those instincts to a well conceived dramatic structure and it adds a beautiful lustre. On its own, it’s glassy and flat. For me, at least.

          • encyclops  July 12, 2012

            Yes, that was the main thing. The tone and style of the jokes seem really similar too, which is odd considering how much Adams apparently rewrote City of Death.

            I don’t think of Adams as a science fiction writer as such — more science comedy, really. His M.O. in Hitchhiker’s is to take an ordinary situation, exaggerate it, and explore the consequences, which is right at the intersection of SF and comedy. But you’re right that he’s not really doing characters (attitudes, mostly) or plots, which is why I love the first two Hitchhiker’s books a little more than the third (which has some great bits but also some tedium around the Key to Time-ish quest narrative) and the fourth (which asks us to care about two attitudes in love) and definitely the fifth (yikes). I’ll always love him, though, not only for his involvement in no less than three formative elements of my childhood (the geeky triumvirate of Python, Hitchhiker’s, and of course Doctor Who) but also for stuff like Last Chance to See and the essays in Salmon of Doubt.

            Unfortunately I just can’t get behind this story. The pieces just never quite click for me and the wit just doesn’t seem apparent to me. My heart sinks as soon as I hear the Captain bellow the first time and the whole thing is just a chore for me after that. Oh well.

    • encyclops  July 12, 2012

      Actually, I may have spoken too soon. In an effort to get ahead of Wife In Space, I’ve just finished Androids of Tara. For now I’ll just say I’d watch The Pirate Planet ten times in a row rather than sit through that again.

      • DPC  July 13, 2012

        I’m looking forward to her response on that story as well, but – yeah – “The Pirate Planet”, to me as well, is rather better… but there are many who do seem to prefer “Tara” over “Pirate”… it’s amazing, the wide range of styles that can change between the span of two stories…

        • encyclops  July 13, 2012

          Yeah. Actually now that the immediate pain is over, I can see that they both have their virtues and faults. I’m just reminded that I generally prefer a flagrantly flawed story that’s ambitious over a mildly inoffensive story that doesn’t even try to be about anything.

    • chris-too-old-to-watch  July 12, 2012

      I always feel that the Captain/Mr Fibuli relationship is someone attempting to out-Holmes Holmes (unsuccessfully). Let’s face it they’re hardly Jago & Litefoot are they?

  23. John G  July 11, 2012

    “Did Douglas Adams have anything else to do with Doctor Who?”

    I do hope you can get Nicol to sit through Season 17 – I’m sure she would have plenty of choice comments to make!

    This one is a real Marmite story, isn’t it? Personally I think it’s very enjoyable, bursting with big ideas, imaginative concepts, a memorable guest cast and a top class TARDIS crew, plus a decent helping of Adams wit. It even manages to pack all this in without the lack of budget becoming overtly obvious, which is an achievement in itself! Just a shame a more dynamic director than Pennant Roberts wasn’t in charge, but you can’t have everything.

    My favourite bit has to be the K9/parrot battle, particularly when he brings his defeated foe back to his master, which is one of the main reasons I am quite fond of the faithful hound. I’m loving Sue’s obvious affection for K9, though I am anticipating plenty of indignation when we get to Season 18. I’m sure there will also be some expressions of concern for his welfare in the next story…

    • Dave Sanders  July 11, 2012

      Oh right, I forgot Pennant Roberts did this one. Should have guessed – same wonky gun battles in the second half.

      • Thomas  July 12, 2012

        Someone pointed out, though, if you’re familiar with Roberts’ direction, it makes the misdirection of the nurse all the more surprising- on the surface, it just looks like another instance of “Roberts changes a character to female” that goes on his stories.

    • Frankymole  July 12, 2012

      Nicol’s views on the “wrapping a neutron star in aluminium to neutralise its gravity” would be interesting. Adams and Williams talked to a university astrophydicist to get that gem!

      • Frankymole  July 12, 2012

        …or even an astrophysicist… 9_9

      • Bob Dillon  July 12, 2012

        it was Andy Fabian of the Cavendish ( he lectured me on General Relativity – and the fact that they got the wrong end of the stick is not at all a surprize)

        • Frankymole  July 12, 2012

          Yes it’s fairly clear that they weren’t taking accurate notes, at the very least!

          • PolarityReversed  July 14, 2012

            Always thought that one was more an in-joke about low-budget Who’s reliance on tinfoil…
            Blue Peter had sticky-backed plastic, Who had bacofoil.

  24. P.Sanders  July 11, 2012

    So what’s the craic with the re-edited spanner? I enjoy this because it’s never boring, and surprisingly colourful visually compared to much of the era. However it does suffer from another great failing of the Williams years (and Who in general): rubbish extras, especially crowds. But brimming with ideas. Love the next story too…

  25. InfoJockey  July 11, 2012

    “Well, if you are going to steal, steal from the best.”
    Funny that. The parrot in this always reminded me of the the Lost In Space episode The Sky Pirate

    Reliving the stories via this blog is a much more pleasant pastime than actually rewatching them. Thanks – keep up the great work!

  26. M.Lawrenson  July 11, 2012

    The problem with Stones Of Blood is that I can’t see Nicholas McArdle in that chair without thinking he’s going to eat a bowl of Harvest Crunch, beat his chest and sing “Hubba hubba num num!”

  27. Glen Allen  July 11, 2012

    Next time….
    (cant work out how to link to the trail thing directly)

  28. Glen Allen  July 11, 2012

    I just found this…an old trail for Pirate Planet…minus effects and voiceover

  29. Pur Linden  July 12, 2012

    I never liked this one – I think I’ve only ever sat through the whole thing once. Full of ideas it might be, but it’s so gaudy, shouty and cheap-looking. It gives me a headache, quite frankly. It has no texture. Thank heavens for City of Death.

  30. BWT  July 12, 2012

    “Hey, the Doctor is dreaming about Leela. I’m not sure if that’s touching or a bit pervy.”

    It depends on how much touching is involved.

    🙂 Now there’s a t-shirt for you…

  31. Piers Johnson  July 12, 2012

    I love Douglas Adams, even if he was a producer’s and editor’s nightmare (“the sound of deadlines whizzing past overhead”) – this however, is not his finest hour.
    Interestingly, Adams had a mechanical bird in “Starship Titanic” as well; he does love to reuse an idea. I suspect we could track down every Moff line to an Adams piece somewhere, if we had enough trained monekys.

  32. Wholahoop  July 12, 2012

    Slightly generous score I reckon but only for at least one of the reasons mentioned, i.e. too much shoehorned into the story

  33. solar penguin  July 12, 2012

    Over half my childhood memories of the Tom Baker era come from this story and Androids of Tara. Between them, they set my idea of what this Doctor _should_ be like.

    I especially remember all the psychic “life force dying” stuff near the start, and worrying that this was going to be a dull, pretentious story of incomprehensible inner-space mysticism (not that I would’ve known those words when I was a kid, but I knew I didn’t want another story like Image of the Fendhal!) and was very relieved when it wasn’t.

  34. Jon Clarke  July 14, 2012

    I must agree the the comments about Adams – great jokes, but a good story needs more than gags, even a comedy. It also needs plot and character development that the reader/watcher can invest in. Adams was bad at both.

    Still, I liked this story, 6-7/10 seems fair.

    Still amazed by what some people see that I don’t. Homoeroticism? S&M? Really? Oh well….