Doctor Who Pirate Planet novelisation announced

BBC books has announced that the last Doctor Who story written by Douglas Adams which has yet to be novelised, “The Pirate Planet”, will be adapted for publication next year by James Goss. The writer has also adapted another Adams Doctor Who script, “City Of Death”, which is published on 21 May.

Speaking exclusively to SFX, Goss says that he has one main aim with his version of The Pirate Planet, which was originally screened in 1978 as part of Doctor Who’s Key To Time sequence: “I want people to love The Pirate Planet as much as they love, City Of Death and Shada,” says Goss.

He admits, though, that it’ll be a more difficult task than adapting the much-loved “City Of Death“. “‘The Pirate Planet’ has that sort of slightly, ‘Oh, maybe we can manage to take seven people in loin cloths out to a quarry in Wales’ feel to it,” he says of a story about a cyborg pirate captain (complete with robot parrot) who pilots a world-eating hollow planet around the galaxy. “The script is amazing but you do have this slight feeling that Douglas Adams has ended up in the middle of an episode of Blake’s 7. And it’s a very odd experience watching it.

“I hope that doesn’t make me sound like I’m slagging off ‘The Pirate Planet’ but ‘City Of Death’ is probably the most beautiful-looking the classic series ever managed to pull off. This was Doctor Who being chic and stylish and glamorous. Like everybody has just come in from a Noel Coward play. And it’s just perfect.

“But ‘The Pirate Planet’ just sort of sits there in a season that is trying desperately hard while grappling with incredible financial restraints. And sometimes that season pulls things off marvelously and sometimes that season just makes you go, ‘Ooooh! Ow!’”

If his plans come to fruition, though, Goss may be able to deliver something extra special with the novelisation of The Pirate Planet.

“‘The Pirate Planet’ is very exciting,” he explains “There’s a brilliant researcher called Jem Roberts, who has written a very good biography of Douglas Adams, and he has access to Douglas Adams’s archive at St John’s College in Cambridge. And I’m hoping he’ll help me get into the archive, because when I was researching the Doctor Who 50th Anniversary coffee table book, every single quote that I managed to find about ‘The Pirate Planet’ referred to how much more there was of the story before the BBC turned up and went, ‘No, this is too wild a sky for us.’

“So I’m trying to find out how much there was that got thrown away. And if it did get thrown away is there an early version, or script, or treatment of it in the Adams archive? I could be inferring too much from those quotations, and all I’m going to discover is a few longer scenes here and there or a slightly more ambitious special effects shot. Or maybe, just maybe, there are masses of ideas sitting in a folder somewhere in the college. Ideas that I’ll be able to weave in.”

City Of Death is published by BBC Books on 21 May. A release date for The Pirate Planet is TBC.

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Dave Golder
Freelance Writer

Dave is a TV and film journalist who specializes in the science fiction and fantasy genres. He's written books about film posters and post-apocalypses, alongside writing for SFX Magazine for many years.