Doctor Who episode 486: The Pirate Planet – Part Three (14/10/1978)
Again, the dialogue makes this sing. The Captain has a poetic turn of phrase that hints he isn’t simply the bellowing bully he appears to be: ‘I built [the ship] with technology so far advanced you would not be able to distinguish it from magic’; ‘Do you not see how my heart burns for the dangerous liberty of the skies?’; ‘I come in here to dream of freedom’. His confrontation with the Doctor in the trophy room is rightly celebrated, but it’s only part of an ongoing verbal duel between the two of them.
Tom Baker seems to enjoy opportunities to spar with the baddie: Davros; Morbius; Greel, and the Collector. After being slightly sidelined in The Ribos Operation, he dominates this without resorting to some of the tricks he uses when he’s bored by the script. He’s listening to the Captain, repeating some of the lines to himself, reacting. I think he’s absolutely on top form in this. He’s annoyed that the Mentiads haven’t already dealt with the Captain, and willing to let Romana do the tiresome explanations.
The concepts here are simply staggering. Adams has actually thought about what a good nemesis for K9 might be and inserted a battle between a robot dog and a robot parrot (and its bird-poo laser). He’s extended the pirate theme to have the Doctor walk the plank off the edge of a cliff. And he reveals there’s a villain behind the villain: the much-loathed Queen Xanxia, preserved in the final moments of her decrepitude (in a chamber that looks like it’s made from repurposed bits of the Panopticon). Only the sudden introduction of Earth as Zanak’s next target feels a bit cheap and contrived.
Next episode: The Pirate Planet – Part Four