23 May 2014

Will Brooks’ 50 Year Diary - watching Doctor Who one episode a day from the very start... 

Day 508: The Pirate Planet, Episode Four

Dear diary,

Well… I’m tempted to say that everything fell into place and started to make sense in this final episode, but actually all I mean is that the bits I phased out for yesterday suddenly make sense to me. The old woman they found in the bowels of the bridge was the evil queen who ruled the planet, and all that stuff about a black hole was the Captain’s cunning plan to dispose of the woman. Right, fine, I’ve got that now, thanks. Where I’m left confused is when this episode starts to descend into the Doctor and Romana spouting various kinds of technobabble at each other, and planning to go pick up the bit of Key later on (after the episode has ended, it seems!)

I also found myself completely lost by the reveal that the real power behind the throne is the nurse! Because - aha! - she’s not a nurse, but the reincarnation of the evil queen, who might be a hologram (but she isn’t really. At least, not any more), and is actually using the Captain as some kind of front. Looking back, there are hints peppered across the tale, and Rosalind Lloyd even points them out during the special features on the DVD, but I can’t say that I really picked up on them as I’ve been watching. I think the fact that I’ve failed to bet interested by The Pirate Planet has led to me missing all the clues that might have made it more interesting!

It’s nice to see the Captain being revealed as more than simply a blustering villain, though. It’s a fairly arch performance throughout, but I think it’s worked for me better than a lot of the story has. The design of the character is interesting, too, and it’s quite fun to watch him doing battle with Tom Baker. There’s little wonder that the Captain is one of the more fondly recalled villains from Doctor Who’s long history.

On the whole, I’m sorry to say that The Pirate Planet has really disappointed me. I don’t know what I was expecting from the tale, but I’ve found myself being mostly bored throughout all four episodes. This tends to happen from time-to-time, and I wonder if it might be that old foe of mine - burnout. Watching Doctor Who at the pace of an episode per day is usually quite a nice way to experience the series, and I’ve found that it’s immeasurably helped a number of stories improve in my estimation. Now and then, though, you just find yourself seeing more and more of the same, and start to tire of it!

I think perhaps the best bit of the episode is the explosion at the end. It feels like quite a long time since we had a really decent exploding model shot to round off a story, and it’s good to see that the effects team haven’t lost their touch in the interim. It’s not all a loss, either - although I’ve not cared all that much for the last few day’s episodes, we’re onto The Stones of Blood next, and I’ve always thought of that one as being my favourite segment from the Key to Time…

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