THE PIRATE PLANET
September – October 1978
“You commit mass destruction and murder on a scale that’s almost inconceivable, and you ask me to appreciate it!”
Doctor to the pirate planet’s Captain, episode 4
The locator steers the Doctor, Romana and K-9 to Zanak, a hollowed out planet capable of materialising around other worlds, crushing them and plundering their wealth in spectacular acts of piracy.
Tom as the Doctor communicating telepathically with the Mentiads in The Pirate Planet.
Picture © BBC
Nominally Zanak's ruler is its technical engineer, the Pirate Captain (Bruce Purchase), a blustering half-man, half-machine cyborg who commands his largely innocent people with an iron fist. However, even in this decadent society there are dissenters to the Captain’s will – psychic Mentiads who can telepathically ‘feel’ the death throes of whole populations annihilated by Zanak’s machinery.
The Doctor deduces the Captain is simply a programmed automaton, still controlled by the planet's original monarch, Queen Xanxia (Rosalind Lloyd), who is using the energy from these crushed worlds to power a bank of time dams holding back her (long overdue) moment of death.
Zanak's latest quarry is the planet Calufrax. To his astonishment the Doctor learns Calufrax is not a real planet but the disguised second Key to Time segment. The trick will be transforming this planet back into its original form without triggering a space warping implosion that will kill Zanak’s entire population.
With help from the Mentiads, the Doctor puts paid to the Captain and his regal puppet-master, but saving Zanak requires some very delicate re-engineering of both the pirate planet and the TARDIS’s engines.