Recap / Doctor Who S16 E2 "The Pirate Planet"

"What is it you're really up to, eh? What do you want? You don't want to take over the universe do you? No. You wouldn't know what to do with it beyond shout at it."
The Doctor

The search for the Key to Time takes the Doctor and Romana to Calufrax. The coordinates are right, but it's too warm and inviting a world to be Calufrax. In fact, the TARDIS lands them on Zanak, the World of Ham. But the Tracer is going berserk — it's sensing the second Key to Time segment everywhere.

It turns out that the planet Zanak has been hollowed out and fitted with engines, and is now piloted by the demented Captain. This magnificently Large Ham is a Hollywood Cyborg, always accompanied by a rather stoic nursemaid. His job is to teleport Zanak into position around other planets, suck them dry and mount the shriveled and supercompressed husks in a trophy room.

The nursemaid turns out to be the real brains behind the operation, a holographic projection of Zanak's Queen Xanxia, using time dams and the forces generated by the trophy room to remain young. The Captain announces that Zanak's next target is Earth, and the Doctor enlists the telekinetic help of La Résistance — the native Mentiads — to sabotage the engines by simply throwing a spanner into them. The Captain rebels and is killed by Xanxia, who is in turn killed by one of the natives.

The Doctor realises that the segment of the Key to Time he is after is in fact the entire planet Calufrax, now conveniently shrunk to a rather more manageable size.


  • Animal Mecha: Besides K-9, the Captain has an avian-looking killer robot.
  • Armor-Piercing Question: "Then what's it FOR?"
  • Berserk Button: There are at least two occasions in Four's tenure where he, usually the quirkiest man in the room, becomes someone you don't wanna come across in a dark alley. This is one of those times.
  • Blofeld Ploy: The Captain. "When someone fails me, someone DIES!"
  • Chewing the Scenery: Good God. The Scenery is simply one massive banquet for the entire cast to eat.
  • Continuity Nod: While unconscious on the Bridge, the Doctor mumbles "No more Janis thorns", a reference to Leela.
  • Cuffs Off, Rub Wrists
  • Cyborg: The Captain's left half is almost completely robotic.
  • Deconstructor Fleet: Douglas Adams explicitly gave the Captain some actually specific purpose for his villainy rather than putting it down to some vague "powerlust" or the like.
  • Earth-Shattering Kaboom: The eponymous planet destroys other worlds by materialising around them, stripping them of their resources and shrinking them down to the size of a basketball, after which they are displayed in the captain's trophy room.
  • Eternal Engine: The story features a planet that exploitatively harvests raw materials. The Doctor must undertake some very risky maneuvers in order to shut it down.
  • Even Evil Has Loved Ones: The Captain is very upset by the deaths of his metal death parrot and his favorite Mook, vowing to avenge them.
  • Evil Is Hammy: The captain, of course, but as soon as Queen Xanxia drops her cover, her ham content doubles instantly.
  • Evil Laugh: Subverted. The Doctor is made to Walk the Plank to his apparent death, and the villains all have an evil laugh...only to stop when they hear the Doctor laughing along with them.
  • Explain, Explain... Oh, Crap!: The Captain uses his technology to loot the planet Calufrax and has constructed a psychic-jamming device to defeat the telepathic Mentiads. The Doctor insists that the device can't work because it requires very rare minerals to supply power.
    The Doctor: And as far as I know, they occur naturally on only one planet, and that's...
    Fibuli: Captain, the crystals from Calufrax.
    The Doctor: Calufrax! ...My biorhythms must be at an all-time low.
  • Expy:
  • Failure Is the Only Option: Failure becomes the only option for the villains in the last episode, when the Captain announces that they intend to consume an Insignificant Little Blue Planet...
    • The Doctor tells Xanxia that her ultimate goal is impossible to complete.
  • Flying Car: Aircars!
  • God Save Us from the Queen!: Xanxia.
  • Good Cannot Comprehend Evil: The Mentiads' stated reason for not deposing the Captain sooner.
  • Ham-to-Ham Combat: The Doctor vs. the Captain.
  • He Knows Too Much: Why it is death to enter the mine shafts.
  • Historical In-Joke: In a throwaway gag, the Doctor reveals he told Newton about gravitation after throwing an apple on Newton's head.
  • Hive Mind: The Mentiads.
  • Hollywood Cyborg: The Captain.
  • Incoming Ham: The very first line, in fact.
  • Large Ham: The Captain, gloriously so!
    • The Captain's bluster and braggadocio are part of his gambit to overthrow the Queen and shake off her not-quite-mind control.
  • Life Energy
  • The Man Behind the Man: Xanxia.
  • Mind over Matter: The Mentiads can do telekinesis.
  • Mundane Solution: Hit it with a spanner! (albeit telekinetically)
    • Also taking out the Bridge by blowing it up.
      Romana: Isn't that a bit crude?
      Doctor: Well - it's a bit crude, but immensely satisfying.
  • The Necrocracy: Xanxia is the secretly undead secret ruler of a nation.
  • Not Now, Kiddo: K-9, over and over again.
  • Obfuscating Ham: The Captain.
  • Pin-Pulling Teeth: The Doctor imitates this with a bag of licqourice allsorts.
  • Pirate Booty: In a very... creative way.
  • Pirate Parrot: Of DEATH!
  • Powered by a Forsaken Child: Zanak's resources are gained through the wholesale mining and destruction of other planets. Said planets' inhabitants are collateral damage.
  • Psychic Powers: The Mentiads, thanks to a shared Hive Mind that uses the Life Energy of the dying worlds Xanax engulfs.
  • Rage Breaking Point: The Doctor demonstrates bloodcurdling anger when he is asked to appreciate the idea of mass murder.
  • Rock Beats Laser: When faced with a locked door, the Doctor tries the Sonic Screwdriver, which fails. So he pulls out a bobby-pin, which succeeds. Quoth the Doctor: "The more sophisticated a technology, the more vulnerable it is to primitive attack."
  • Servile Snarker: Mr. Fibuli.
  • Space Pirates: In glorious type 2 fashion.
  • Spanner in the Works: Literally.
  • Symbolic Mutilation: The Pirate Captain. His body is largely robotic and he is gaining material wealth ruthlessly, replacing his humanity with materials.
  • Tele-Frag: This would happen if two spaceships were to try to materialize in the same spot, on the same time. Though it takes a significant time, and does not actually happen during the episode.
  • Trail Of Jellybabies: Used twice to lure a guard away from the Aircar, with mixed results.
  • The Starscream: The Captain.
  • The Woman Behind The Man: That rather nice nurse? She's actually the boss of the operation.
  • Stuff Blowing Up: Lampshaded.
    Romana: What about the Bridge and the time dams?
    Doctor: Bridge and time dams, K9?
    K9: Piece of cake, master. Blow them up.
    Romana: Isn't that a bit crude?
    Doctor: Well - it's a bit crude, but immensely satisfying.
  • Too Fast to Stop: The conveyor floor normally stops inertia to avoid this trope. The Doctor turns it off to stop some pursuing guards.
  • Two-Headed Coin: The Doctor uses one to settle a disagreement; it's legal tender from a planet ruled by two kings.
  • Walk the Plank: But no water at the bottom, but hard rock. The Captain wishes to invoke the Disney Villain Death trope on plank-walkers.
  • Who Wants to Live Forever?: Xanxia's means are both evil and not indefinitely sustainable.
  • Wicked Witch: Xanxia doesn't have any magical powers, but her method of keeping herself alive, her real body's withered, decrepit appearance, and her mannerisms all hit the right notes.
  • Worthless Yellow Rocks: The Doctor has one of the people he's stranded with retrieve a giant yellow crystal suspended in some mundane-looking clamps. He then discards the crystal, because the anti-gravity clamps are what he needed.
  • You Have Failed Me: The Captain's favorite word seems to be "failure", said in varying degrees of pitch and intensity.