The Pirate Planet


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The Pirate Planet

Serial Code


First Transmitted

30 September 1978

Final Ratings






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Regular Cast

Tom Baker (Doctor Who), Mary Tamm (Romana), John Leeson (K9)

Guest Cast

Bruce Purchase (Captain), Andrew Robertson (Mr Fibuli), Ralph Michael (Balaton) [1-2], David Sibley (Pralix) [1, 3-4]*, David Warwick (Kimus), Primi Townsend (Mula), Clive Bennett (Citizen) [1], Bernard Finch (Mentiad), Adam Kurakin (Guard) [1-3], Rosalind Lloyd (Nurse) [2-4]


Written by Douglas Adams
Directed by Pennant Roberts
Produced by Graham Williams


The Doctor, Romana and K9 continue their search for the six segments that make up the powerful Key to Time. The TARDIS lands on the world of Zanak, despite the Tracer indicating that they seek another planet altogether – Calufrax. On Zanak they find the populace living under the cruel tyranny of the Captain, a bullying, arrogant cyborg who is using the hollow planet as a giant spaceship materialising it around worlds and then mining them dry. Living apart from the other people of Zanak are the Mentiads, a feared group of silent men with heightened extra-sensory powers.

The Doctor tries to rally the Mentiads into attacking the Captain’s base and free the planet from his control. But The Doctor has failed to realise who actually wields the power on Zanak.

Having failed to find the second segment, Romana finds herself put to work on the planet’s massive engines, K9 battles the lethal robot parrot Polyphase Avatron and the Doctor discovers the identity of the next planet targeted for destruction… Earth!


  • At one point, The Doctor tells Kimus, “Don’t panic,” which is the tagline for Adams’s The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.
  • Romana shoots an enemy soldier dead. Although her predecessor, Leela, often used deadly force, this was one of the only on-screen occasions in which Romana did so.Romana’s reaction to doing so leaves it unclear as to whether this is the first time she’s killed someone.
  • Romana states the Fourth Doctor has been travelling in the TARDIS for five hundred twenty-three years. If this is correct and his age is seven hundred fifty-nine, (The Ribos Operation) then this would have made the Fourth Doctor about two hundred thirty-six when he first”borrowed” the TARDIS and left Gallifrey.
  • The Name”Bantraginus V” is likely a reference to “Santraginus V”, the home for one of the key ingredients in Pan Galactic Gargle Blaster in Adams’s The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.
  • Queen Xanxia is held in stasis by two time dams.
  • Vi Delmar, who played the aged Queen Xanxia, demanded an extra fee before she would remove her false teeth for filming of her scenes.
  • Similarly, The Doctor’s attempt to strike up a conversation with the guards escorting him and Romana in the second episode is reminiscent of Ford Prefect’s attempt to talk a Vogon guard out of throwing Ford and Arthur Dent out of an airlock in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.
  • The Fourth Doctor shouts “I’ll never be cruel to an electron in a particle accelerator again.” while being pulled along the linear induction corridor into the mountain reminiscent of Arthur Dent’s statement, “I’ll never be cruel to a gin and tonic again.” the first time he goes into hyperspace in the radio series of the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.
  • The Queen of Zanak is revealed to have been frozen in time at the cusp of death…. as is the Emperor of the Galaxy in the novel and second radio series of the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (although the references to the Emperor are throwaway lines and not plot-points as they are in The Pirate Planet).
  • The Fourth Doctor claims to have met Isaac Newton, and says he dropped the apple that made him discover gravity. Newton is said to have told The Doctor to get out of his tree, and the Doctor later explains gravity to him.
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