The Key to Time season is finally complete in Target novels! When The Pirate Planet was eventually released in novel form in January 2017 it finally completed the story arc of Season 16. It took a while.
Although loyal readers who wished to enjoy The Key to Time storyline in literature have had their collections completed for a few years now, when you saw the six books on the shelf it didn’t look right. The Pirate Planet needed to be a Target novel to sit neatly alongside The Ribos Operation, The Power of Kroll et al. And here it is! Finally!
To necessitate a Target book and to keep it under 200 pages, there are edits to the previously released version. James Goss referred to Douglas Adams‘ original draft scripts for the hardback and later paperback version. As a result it had great depth and detail but made for a lengthy read. Target novels were always pocket sized reads. Ones you could rattle through on a rainy afternoon. For the new Target Collection the story is slimmed down and subsequently makes for a more pacey read. It is therefore unkind to compare the two as they are very different works. So, let’s assess this new version in isolation…
The Pirate Planet by Douglas Adams and James Goss
A new streamlined telling of this particular story is more familiar to the televised product. Free from the excesses of the draft scripts and Adams’ additional ideas, this is the Target novelisation it would have been had it been released in the early 1980’s. This novelisation therefore allows readers to re-experience the episodes that they saw on television. Just with some additional flourishes on top of that iced cake. James Goss keeps things brisk, aided by needing to halve the page count. That isn’t to say there are not the additional details which always make these books so enjoyable.
Goss also remains faithful to the vivid and colourful characters dreamt up by the wild imagination of Douglas Adams. A cybernetic Pirate Captain, complete with deadly parrot, is such a simple idea and yet hugely innovative. His snivelling underling Mr Fibuli. Theirs is a fascinating relationship to explore in print. Similarly, the bold and confident plot of (spoilers!) planet hopping pirating is so creative that it could only have come from the mind of Adams. A wonderfully visionary read is therefore achieved by retaining all of those features. The brutal destruction of planets and innocent lives oddly seems to be more impactful when it is read. Additionally, the electric dialogue, particularly between the Doctor and the Captain, leaps off the page.
This small paperback of Doctor Who: The Pirate Planet is the Douglas Adams Target novelisation we never had. James Goss has maintained the sharpness and humour so synonymous with Adams’ work. Now however it is presented in classic Target novel length making for a rip-roaring adventure alongside the Doctor. Plus, it also slots neatly alongside the other Key to Time novelisations on your bookshelf!
This all-new Target novelisation is based on the televised version of The Pirate Planet
The hugely powerful Key to Time has been split into six segments, all of which have been disguised and hidden throughout time and space. Now the even more powerful White Guardian wants the Doctor to find the pieces. With the first segment successfully retrieved, the Doctor, Romana and K-9 trace the second segment of the Key to the planet Calufrax. But when they arrive at exactly the right point in space, they find themselves on exactly the wrong planet – Zanak.
Ruled by the mysterious ‘Captain’, Zanak is a happy and prosperous planet. Mostly. If the mines run out of valuable minerals and gems then the Captain merely announces a New Golden Age and they fill up again. It’s an economic miracle – so obviously something’s very wrong…
For a much expanded version based on Douglas Adams’ first draft scripts, check out BBC Books’ hardback edition of The Pirate Planet”.