Wednesday, March 2, 2011

"Has anyone here seen a planet called Calufrax!"

Jelly babies are probably the solution.
So we've all got the plot now, right? There's a Key which we have to find; the Guardian who wants it found; and the Doctor who gets given a new companion in order to find it. It's all pretty simple, really. Of course, the Key is split into six segments and scattered throughout time and space which is a bit of a problem.

We got the first segment in pretty good shape and now we move on to number two -- the only issue here is that the second segment of the Key seems to be dodging about a bit. The Doctor and the Romana get a fix on it -- only to have it vanish and reappear on another planet. Unusual to say the least: the Key isn't meant to be self-motive, but the Guardian did make it pretty clear that the Key could be anything and you may wish to keep that in mind.

Repairs under pressure.
The Pirate Planet was written, largely under the influence of a locked hotel door and a lot of black coffee, Scotch, and possibly bath salts, by Douglas Adams. If you're an Adams fan -- and if you're not, please cease reading this blog immediately -- you'll recognize the touches: there's lunatic dialogue that really makes sense (Tom Baker has a lot of fun with this); a semi-robotic pirate captain with a robot parrot and a tendency towards existential crises; and an Evil Queen who may or may not be dead.

And then there's the wittering mechanic Mr. Fibuli, the Mentiads, and the odd behavior of the planet Calufrax. Oh, and Bandraginus V may have been reduced to rubble which will chill the hearts of those of us who were hoping to have a genuine Pan Galactic Gargle Blaster before we die.

It's all just a lot of fun, really; Planet isn't serious -- I think maybe there was meant to be a moral lesson about environmental destruction or possibly responsible mining? somewhere in there, but it got lost. There's manaically colorful costumes; ridiculous plot twists; and a general sense of everyone having an excellent time and making lots and lots of bad jokes -- including terribly geeky ones about the importance of upholding basic laws of physics.

Yes, the season-long arc of the Key story does move forward -- there's another segment safely in the TARDIS by the end of the episode -- but I don't know if a lot else happens that is of great moment. The Doctor and Romana are clearly learning to work together more comfortably and Romana is a pleasure to have about the place as a companion: she's self-reliant, intelligent, generally unafraid, and deeply snarky to villains. Or quasi-villains since the poor old Captain ends up to be not as bad as you might think -- or at least more sinned against than sinning.

I've seen a lot of people complain about middle Tom Baker-era stories, including the Key arc, because they're "jokey" and "flippant" and to these people I say: have a jelly baby. And relax. Our fandom involves lots of spaceships made out of tin-foil and flying on string; aliens who are, somehow, always humanoid and speak perfect RP English; an alien hero who often behaves like a cross between a sulky child and the worst Oxbridge don you can imagine; and a spaceship which is, fundamentally, broken ...while at the same time, of course, being bigger on the inside. It's all okay, guys; a couple of jokes won't break us.

Tune in next time for --- Stones of Blood! One of my personal favorites and my second favorite episode in the Key season.

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