Doctor Who and the Pirate Planet

Author's Notes

By David Bishop

This was written in January 1990 and previously appeared as an ‘Appendix’ in the first edition of The Pirate Planet.

This book you are now reading is basically the result of post-Trakon enthusiasm.

After attending the first national Doctor Who convention in July, 1989, I decided I wanted to take on something big and Doctor Who. A fan book seemed the obvious choice, although had I known the amount of work involved when I started I might have never begun. Too late now, of course.

By Trakon it was becoming increasingly obvious virtually every televised Doctor Who story would be available in book form by early 1991, bar four. Two of these four were Daleks stories penned by Eric Saward, who pledged never to allow their translation to book form because the money was so bad (plus there was an artistic reason or two!). The other two stories were written completely or partially by Douglas Hitchhiker's Guide Adams, who now receives such huge advances for his books converting the stories would be an uneconomic waste of time for him and he apparently does not wish others to take on the task either.

This situation leaves only one solution for fans intent on getting a complete set of books - do it yourself. New Zealand fans have lately become quite adept at this - Paul Scoones and Jonathan Preddle produced an excellent version of the infamous lost Douglas Adams six-parter Shada - the very first book published by JPS Books. Since then both have tackled individual projects. Jon's adaptation of Revelation of the Daleks is about to be published as I write this and Paul is hard at work on Resurrection of the Daleks. Australian fans have apparently been working on the David Fisher / Douglas Adams / Graham Williams classic City of Death for some time so that left only one story un-adapted: The Pirate Planet by Douglas Adams.

Choosing what story to do was easy, doing it a bit harder. I borrowed the video tapes from Jon, having only vague memories of the adventure's first screening in the late 70s and missing its repeat completely. A month was spent labouring to come up with a transcription of the story in script form, since I could not quickly get copies of the actual scripts for the show. Then came the hard part - actually writing the book.

I tried doing it by hand as Jon does but abandoned this quickly, opting instead to type first draft on my word processor at home. This went very slowly with many stops and starts over two months. Matters were complicated by my decision to shift to England from mid-January, forcing a hastening of pace in writing and considerable stress too.

The book was written from three main viewpoints - the Captain, Kimus and Romana. I wrote all the scenes involving these characters in a stream; that is all the Captain scenes, then the Kimus scenes and finally Romana's. By late December things were getting desperate. I abandoned my first draft after doing all but the Romana scenes from part four and went straight to typing up my “good” copy of the book on an IBM electric typewriter borrowed from Paul. What you hold in your hands was typed up between December 21 and January 4, tidying up many loose ends in my first draft and ditching a lot of material I had written into the story which proved to be unnecessary, and distracting, slowing up the flow of the narrative. I'm pretty happy with the result, although it's far, far from perfect.

Spot the Difference Dept.

For all you swotty people out there into comparisons, there are differences between this book and what appears on screen in The Pirate Planet but most of the changes are additional material written in rather than wholesale rewrites. I've tried to retain nearly all the original dialogue for all you purists, dropping a few words or repetitive statements to speed things up on the page.

There are two major additions. Biggest of these is the execution of Balaton and the citizens' revolt in the settlement, which is all my own creation (for the reasoning behind this, see Story Analysis next)... The other major addition is the Captain's perception of Xanxia as the angel of death and his reoccurring vision of his own demise. This may annoy some people but it helped me focus a character I found very unappealing on screen.

Other additions are ‘before’ and ‘after’. The first is my own invention, pared down from a massive 2000-word introduction I originally wrote by hand, the first thing I did for this book. It was a nice link to the explanatory bit in 'three' and links to all the hints throughout about the Captain's arrival on Zanak. After is actually pretty much intact straight from the story which followed this one, David Fisher's The Stones of Blood.

Other differences include an attempt to beef up the character of Kimus, who's really a chinless wonder on-screen, and also heighten the romantic interest between him and Mula. Many of the scenes have been jiggled about in order to get a better flow and continuity, instead of constant chopping from one to another which happens in the televised version to keep up viewer interest. So many scenes are collapsed together to improve the flow (hopefully) for the reader.

Citizen Enak (spot the pun, movie buffs!) appears only briefly in the televised story, getting the sweets from Romana then running straight into the guard and is unnamed on screen. The same applies to the guard he meets, whom I have named Monsadi. Likewise the unfortunate Rusoh, who gets wasted by the marching Mentiads. Even the leader of the Mentiads is unnamed onscreen - here he becomes Kintha.

Story Analysis

Douglas Adams wrote The Pirate Planet, his first Doctor Who commission, in early 1978 when his radio series had just been broadcast and was not yet a cult hit that Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy later became. He apparently submitted a very imaginative and technically challenging six-part script which got much cut and rewritten by script editor Anthony Read to convert it to a feasible four-parter. The end result is an average adventure with some ideas that did not quite come off. New Zealand-born actor Bruce Purchase puts in a good performance in the under-written, repulsive role of the Captain and Tom Baker is typically wild-eyed as the Doctor. The flaws in the whole show really show up in the final episode where Baker solves all the problems by reeling off some gobbledygook (as only he could!) and blowing things up - hardly a satisfying conclusion. Despite my best efforts to find a way around this, in the end it pretty much ended up in the book as per show.

The other big flaw is the whole concept of the revolution. The Doctor & co turn up then with the help of a couple of young adults and the outcast Mentiads, turn the planet's economy on its head and blow up the Bridge leaving the whole place leaderless and without any real future, despite a few mouthings at the end... To resolve this, I had the underused Balaton executed to provide the catalyst for a widespread revolt. On screen Balaton just wanders off at the start of episode two muttering “Mentiads, guards, madness...”!!! Instead of just a handful of people, I've tried to have everyone rebelling, making acceptance of the situation the Doctor leaves them with more widespread. The way I see the television version, Kimus and co would probably get lynched when they get back to the settlement for ending the golden age's prosperity!

David Bishop, January 8, 1990.