The plot involves a sinister Captain who brings prosperity to his people by doing something really evil -- and I won't tell you what it is for fear of giving away the plot.
The budget for special effects and sets for this series must have been about fifty pounds per episode (makes the original Star Trek series look slick in comparison) but for a true Dr. Who fan, the cheesiness of the sets only adds to the charm. This video has a classic laughably funny scene, with a ride in an "air car" that is obviously a cheaply constructed prop tilted to one side, with a blue back drop, and a fan blowing on the characters to imitate flight. But there are also some very witty lines, beautifully delivered by Tom Baker and others in the cast.
If you collect Dr. Who videos, this one is a "must have."
"Pirate Planet" is indeed prototypical Adams -- it's his first DW script and was written contemporaneously with the original Hitchhiker's radio serial. There's a brilliant sci-fi concept at the heart of the story: a hollow planet with the power to materialize around other worlds, and crush the minerals and fuels right out of them. Overlaid on that is Adams' trademark satire. I enjoyed how the planet's villagers (exactly 4 speaking parts) are all ciphers with silly haircuts, while the villain is a full-blown pirate Captain: a cyborg with a mechanical bird on his shoulder, and a "plank" at the top of a mountain, off which his victims must walk. There are black leather-clad guards and earnest yellow-clad telepathic rebels. And then Tom Baker's Doctor shows up to smirk at it all, and trade barbs (alternately funny and profound) with the Captain. The story's powerhouse moments come when the Doctor and the Captain square off, and in the end, the Captain is far more than just a one-dimensional villain.
The DVD edition is a good showcase for the story.Read more ›
Bruce Purchase has the thankless task of playing a villain who actually has a legitimate reason for being a seemingly over-the-top, screaming, raving lunatic. His Pirate Captain plays very well off of Andrew Robertson's Mr. Fibuli, and the two of them make for hilarious viewing no matter what else happens to be going on in the scene. The Captain's dialog is particularly wonderful, and Purchase obviously relishes the task of stomping through the BBC sets screaming such energetic nonsense. "By the left frontal lobe of the Sky Demon", indeed. "Obliterable!"
The balance between drama and comedy becomes a little strained at times, with the story not quite knowing which direction to go. The example that leaps to mind is the Doctor's passionate confrontation with the Pirate Captain as he expresses the absolute horror at the destruction that has been unleashed. And the moment his speech is over, Tom Baker goes straight back to into ham mode. It's been said that surrounding the sudden seriousness with humor (as these sequence did) helps to emphasize the horror that the Doctor feels, but I just don't see it.Read more ›