The Pirate Planet

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The Pirate Planet

Postby John on November 7th, 2009, 4:32 pm

In 1978, as the show was celebrating its fifteenth anniversary, and with producer Graham Williams -- who had taken over from Philip Hinchcliffe the previous season --- now firmly established in the Doctor Who production office, it was decided that the show should take a different direction. Under Hinchcliffe, the show had consistently enjoyed the highest audience viewing figure since its conception, but had come under immense media scrutiny due to the heightened levels of violence.

The BBC’s Head of Drama Graeme McDonald, had decreed that the show should take a more humour based approach, so when Douglas Adams, who had previously -- albeit unsuccessfully -- submitted ideas to Robert Holmes, forwarded his script for the pilot episode of radio drama The Hitch-Hikers Guide to the Galaxy to Anthony Read, it was agreed that Adams should prepare a storyline for inclusion that following season.

What Adams came up with was possibly one of the most original, witty and entertaining scripts in the shows history, which is why it’s such a tragedy that The Pirate Planet, in spite of it’s respectable eight million viewers, is generally held in such low regard amongst fans.

With his tongue firmly in his cheek, Adams dreamt up some of the most bizarre concepts ever seen in Doctor Who; the most off the wall being the hollow, space jumping, world swallowing planet Zanak. But it wasn’t just his versatile imagination that was larger than life, the real triumph of The Pirate Planet is in Adams characters, the most notable, of course being the vociferous Pirate Captain.

If there was anyone who could give Tom a run for his money in the theatrical department, it was the irrepressible Bruce Purchase, whose voluminous performance is joyous to behold. His unceasing and vocal persecution of the craven Mr Fibuli gives rise to a rather curious double act, and some of Adams best dialogue can be found during their exchanges. But, despite the Captains active maltreatment of his subordinate, there exists between them a bond which doesn’t really become apparent until a rather touching scene in the final episode, where the Captain kneels over Mr Fibuli’s body, and vows vengeance for his dead friend. Top marks for both Purchase and Andrew Robertson.

Another typically out of the ordinary scene in the story is the duel between K9 and the Captain’s Polyphase Avatron, whose ultimate destruction at the hands of the Doctor’s robot companion exposed another facet of the Captain’s almost child like vulnerability.

It’s well known that Tom was largely dissatisfied with the violent nature of many of his past adventures, so Adams involvement in the show met with great personal approval, indeed The Pirate Planet would prove to be the perfect vehicle for Tom’s animated, quirky performance. Although it goes without saying that much of the story is overtly humorous, it wasn’t all jokes. The stories grave subject matter demanded a certain amount of seriousness, and indeed there is a very good exchange on the bridge where the Doctor challenges the Captain to explain and justify the mass slaughter of countless millions.

I think that The Pirate Planet is a fantastic story, and a worthy addition to the Key to Time season. It’s all of Douglas Adams creative genius brought to life by some terrific performances from Tom Baker and Mary Tamm, who, in a relatively short space of time, developed a terrific on screen rapport, in fact it is their scenes together that are some of the stories funniest, but for me it’s the late Bruce Purchase’s captivating performance that steals the show.
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Re: The Pirate Planet

Postby merlinsseer on November 7th, 2009, 5:15 pm

John wrote:In 1978, as the show was celebrating its fifteenth anniversary, and with producer Graham Williams -- who had taken over from Philip Hinchcliffe the previous season --- now firmly established in the Doctor Who production office, it was decided that the show should take a different direction. Under Hinchcliffe, the show had consistently enjoyed the highest audience viewing figure since its conception, but had come under immense media scrutiny due to the heightened levels of violence.

The BBC’s Head of Drama Graeme McDonald, had decreed that the show should take a more humour based approach, so when Douglas Adams, who had previously -- albeit unsuccessfully -- submitted ideas to Robert Holmes, forwarded his script for the pilot episode of radio drama The Hitch-Hikers Guide to the Galaxy to Anthony Read, it was agreed that Adams should prepare a storyline for inclusion that following season.

What Adams came up with was possibly one of the most original, witty and entertaining scripts in the shows history, which is why it’s such a tragedy that The Pirate Planet, in spite of it’s respectable eight million viewers, is generally held in such low regard amongst fans.

With his tongue firmly in his cheek, Adams dreamt up some of the most bizarre concepts ever seen in Doctor Who; the most off the wall being the hollow, space jumping, world swallowing planet Zanak. But it wasn’t just his versatile imagination that was larger than life, the real triumph of The Pirate Planet is in Adams characters, the most notable, of course being the vociferous Pirate Captain.

If there was anyone who could give Tom a run for his money in the theatrical department, it was the irrepressible Bruce Purchase, whose voluminous performance is joyous to behold. His unceasing and vocal persecution of the craven Mr Fibuli gives rise to a rather curious double act, and some of Adams best dialogue can be found during their exchanges. But, despite the Captains active maltreatment of his subordinate, there exists between them a bond which doesn’t really become apparent until a rather touching scene in the final episode, where the Captain kneels over Mr Fibuli’s body, and vows vengeance for his dead friend. Top marks for both Purchase and Andrew Robertson.

Another typically out of the ordinary scene in the story is the duel between K9 and the Captain’s Polyphase Avatron, whose ultimate destruction at the hands of the Doctor’s robot companion exposed another facet of the Captain’s almost child like vulnerability.

It’s well known that Tom was largely dissatisfied with the violent nature of many of his past adventures, so Adams involvement in the show met with great personal approval, indeed The Pirate Planet would prove to be the perfect vehicle for Tom’s animated, quirky performance. Although it goes without saying that much of the story is overtly humorous, it wasn’t all jokes. The stories grave subject matter demanded a certain amount of seriousness, and indeed there is a very good exchange on the bridge where the Doctor challenges the Captain to explain and justify the mass slaughter of countless millions.

I think that The Pirate Planet is a fantastic story, and a worthy addition to the Key to Time season. It’s all of Douglas Adams creative genius brought to life by some terrific performances from Tom Baker and Mary Tamm, who, in a relatively short space of time, developed a terrific on screen rapport, in fact it is their scenes together that are some of the stories funniest, but for me it’s the late Bruce Purchase’s captivating performance that steals the show.

I haven't watched this one yet, but Douglas Adams, what a loss. I so looked foreward to anything he wrote. That wonderful, quirky, off-the-wall humour that managed to have such depth.There will never be a another like him.
Are you suggesting coconuts migrate?
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Re: The Pirate Planet

Postby bcm77 on November 9th, 2009, 11:14 pm

Douglas Adams + Doctor Who = magic.

It's clear that Adams knew how to get the best out of Tom and whilst I don't begrudge him any of the success he so deservedly got with "Hitchiker's Guide to the Galaxy" I have to wonder what other classics we would have got with him devoting his time soley to Doctor Who, maybe the prospect of having more Adams material to work with would have been enough to persuade Tom to stay on a year or so longer?
"I'm not a human being........I'm a Time Lord. I walk in eternity"
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Re: The Pirate Planet

Postby Jedi Princess on November 9th, 2009, 11:47 pm

The Pirate Captain reminded me of a Borg......well, at least he looked like one. A more human one :D Something Doctor Who stole from Star Trek! :D
"The universe has to move forward. Pain and loss, they define us as much as happiness or love. Whether it's a world, or a relationship... Everything has its time. And everything ends." - Sarah Jane, School Reunion
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Re: The Pirate Planet

Postby John on November 9th, 2009, 11:58 pm

Hardly, old girl. The Borg weren't even thought of in 1978. It was over ten years after The Pirate Planet that the Borg first appeared.

Where's the tongue out smilie when you need it...? :lol:
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Re: The Pirate Planet

Postby Jedi Princess on November 10th, 2009, 12:52 am

well........I saw Star Trek first. So to me, DW stole it from Star Trek. So there :D
"The universe has to move forward. Pain and loss, they define us as much as happiness or love. Whether it's a world, or a relationship... Everything has its time. And everything ends." - Sarah Jane, School Reunion
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Re: The Pirate Planet

Postby merlinsseer on November 10th, 2009, 9:44 am

On the subject of stolen, was it just me or did anyone else that watched the movie "The MATRIX " get the impression that they had seen this idea long before in " The Deadly Assassin " ?
Are you suggesting coconuts migrate?
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Re: The Pirate Planet

Postby Jedi Princess on November 10th, 2009, 2:08 pm

Oooooh, me, me!!!!!! I remarked to my mum on the similarities. It turns out that they did actually get the idea from Doctor Who!!!
"The universe has to move forward. Pain and loss, they define us as much as happiness or love. Whether it's a world, or a relationship... Everything has its time. And everything ends." - Sarah Jane, School Reunion
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Re: The Pirate Planet

Postby Toothy Grin on November 10th, 2009, 2:13 pm

Star Trek actually stole their idea from the Borg from Doctor Who's Cybermen! (Star Trek is a load of rubbish, anyway.)
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Re: The Pirate Planet

Postby Jedi Princess on November 10th, 2009, 11:26 pm

Oy!!! Diehard Trekkie here!!!!!!!
"The universe has to move forward. Pain and loss, they define us as much as happiness or love. Whether it's a world, or a relationship... Everything has its time. And everything ends." - Sarah Jane, School Reunion
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