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TOP 50 REVIEWERon 29 March 2016
The Pirate Planet was a four-part story first televised in the ‘classic’ Doctor Who series in 1978, as part of Season 16. The story was one of the few that were never novelised as one of the Target novelisations of the classic Doctor Who stories, as they could not come to an agreement with Douglas Adams as to the novelisation, and Adams had written the script. Apparently James Goss is to undertake a novelisation of the story in 2016, which if it is anything like his novelisation of another Adams story, City of Death, should be brilliant. Being a Douglas Adams story, it’s not surprising to find that the original storyline was apparently extremely complex and too big and broad to be fitted into a four-part BBC Doctor Who story; the original draft had to be simplified by the script editor at the time, Anthony Read.

This version of the story consists of the BBC Full-cast television soundtrack, with a linking narration (to fill in the bits that we can’t see on an audio version) provided by John Leeson, who played the Doctor’s robotic dog companion K9. The soundtrack was digitally remastered for compact disc, and the release was from Audiogo in 2012. The full running time of this is 2 hours, as the four episodes are completed at the end of the second cd with an interview with John Leeson, talking with David Darlington.

The story is the second part of the Key to Time arc, where the Doctor has been teamed up with a Timelady from Gallifrey, Romana; the two of them have been tasked by the White Guardian to find the segmenets of the Key to Time, scattered through time and the universe. The tracer indicates where the second segment is to be found, but when the Tardis materialises, the Doctor is surprised to find that they are not on Calufrax, where the coordinates indicate they should be. They’re in the right place, but somehow they’re on the wrong planet. It’s not long before the Doctor, Romana and K9 find themselves in the midst of the local political troubles, but the Doctor uncovers a much larger, and much more fatal plan on the planet of Zanak.

This is a really entertaining story; there are some typical Douglas Adams funny quips, and larger than life characters. The Captain, played with great verve by Bruce Purchase, is an awesome and awful character, and Mr Fibuli a great comic character. The robotic parrot, the Mentiads, the scheme that the Doctor uncovers; it’s all big and vast and space-epic in its feel, but it plays well in this small cast and set. Tom Baker is in his stride as the Fourth Doctor, and Mary Tamm plays Romana with delightful wit and hauteur. K9 is, as always, K9, and you couldn’t ask for a more loyal or useful robotic dog, as the Doctor reassures him.

The concluding interview with John Leeson is interesting and entertaining. Leeson speaks very well, and with great fondness of his years playing K9, and also of the people he has met along the way. His stories of his early years in acting before getting the role of K9, and his fond memories of Mary Tamm (who had sadly passed away shortly before the interview was recorded, in July 2012) make for a most interesting listen.

(Also available as bonus material on CD1 are pdfs of the original camera scripts for each episode on the cds, when played on a pc or Mac.)
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on 12 November 2012
If only John Leeson's narration for Douglas Adams' 1978 four-parter, DOCTOR WHO - THE PIRATE PLANET had been deployed as part of the original story's broadcast then it would have been both more bearable, detracting from overly witty idiosyncrasies of Adams' script, broadcast.

Kimus: That's the Captain's!
The Doctor: I don't mind travelling First Class, do you?

For AUDIOGO's narrated two-disc original television soundtrack, Leeson confidently and reassuringly, like having your grandfather's comforting arm around your nine-year old shoulder as you delve into his cardigan's voluminous pocket for that final cellophane wrapped blackcurrant liquorice boiled candy, guides the listener through Adams' thrilling & entertaining Fourth Doctor story as the Time Lord and Romana attempt to locate the second segment of the elusive Key To Key.

If you don't know the plotline - "...call yourself a DOCTOR WHO fan..?", I say cheekily - then it's a wonderful dynamic conceit. A space-jumping hollow `planet' (Zanak) under the piloting skill of the a `cyborg' known as the Captain hunts mineral & element rich planets, envelopes the unwitting planetary body, consolidates it and leaves an immensely dense ball of condensed matter (which he lovingly displays like a proud hunting trophy). But why? Is there an ulterior motive for his savaging across the galaxy? And what will be his next `rich' planet? And how is the second segment disguised?

Adam's script, as you would expect, is bunting-like, strung out with unacquainted joy & patriotic fever, celebrating inventiveness, brain-defying conceits and enamoured humour. It's like re-discovering a lost world of neurotic genius, and with Leeson's linking script (penned by John Molyneux - frequently ignored by reviewers but, in this instance, deserves due credit and keyboard applause. Hear me tap away vehemently.

The Doctor (earnestly): A planet of a hundred million souls. `Captain fodder'.

Working with more consistently than with the bluster, pantomime-like demeanour on-screen, the Captain's character, performed like a Bonfire Night firework on Viagra, by Brian Purchase, is deservedly more appreciable as, with just the audio, his terseness and frustration seems more focused and, hence, more explicable. Devoid of his extraneous frivolousness, the character is far more believable and his ambition seemingly acceptable (especially as we understand the reasoning behind his planetary scavenging). In many ways, his character become heroic than vitriolic by its conclusion.

Narration: "...he gives her a dirty look..."

Due to the nature of Douglas Adams' wordy - that's the most accurate phrase - script, delivered with relish & aplomb by both Baker and Mary Tamm, Leeson's time in the AUDIOGO recording booth must have been a fairly relaxed affair, time for copious cups of tea and freshly baked scones, dropping in-and-out for the odd narration linkage, but, when he does, he delivers every line with verve, attention to detail and professionalism.

Additionally, the two-disc release includes an interview with the narrator as he discusses the rehearsals for THE INVISIBLE ENEMY (seeing himself crawling on all fours as he literally fleshes out K9 for which he (still) provides the voice for), working with the volatile Tom Baker and the serene Mary Tamm, and how the K9 character was eventually written out.

Overall, DOCTOR WHO - THE PIRATE PLANET (the narrated original television soundtrack release) is an unqualified success, exploring the deep creative recesses of Douglas Adams' brain whilst being held firmly on course by John Leeson's steady, directional hold on the tiller for which I can, remarkably, say without hesitation is far more enjoyable to listen to than to watch.

And there are not a lot of DOCTOR WHO episodes that you can say that about without incurring the wrath of online fans.

Appropriately, this release is "dedicated to the memory of Mary Tamm".
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on 1 February 2014
I was very disappointing as the last Douglas Adams Dr who story I got on cd was the best one I have in a collection of over 30 Dr who story's, but what I may not like you may love it, we are different and have are own tastes.
I found it to busy if you know what I mean.
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on 2 February 2013
Fantastic a pleasure to listen to and interesting interview. These television soundtracks are great as memories of the TV scenes come to mind when your listening to it. Would definitely recommend.
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