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The Pirate Planet was a novelisation based on the 1978 television serial The Pirate Planet. It was written by James Goss and released by BBC Books on 5 January 2017.

A different version of the novelisation was published again by Target Books on 11 March 2021 under the new title of Doctor Who and the Pirate Planet. Unlike the 2017 edition, which is based Douglas Adams' first draft scripts, the 2021 release adapts the televised version.

Publisher's summary[]

2017 Hardback edition[]

Back cover[]

'Yes, it was the supreme fragment of the precious universe, yes, it could restore the balance between good and evil in this one, but really ... did there have to be six pieces of it?'

Inside front cover[]

The classic DOCTOR WHO adventure by Douglas Adams, novelised by James Goss.

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...

2018 Paperback edition[]

Aboard the TARDIS: The Doctor, Romana, and K-9 scour the galaxy in search of six seemingly lost pieces of the incredibly powerful Key to Time.

They soon locate a fragment in the outer reaches of the universe on the happy and prosperous planet of Zanak. Once outside, however, they quickly realise they're in the wrong place at exactly the right time.

The planet is entering yet another New Golden Age with enough gems and minerals for every residents. So, obviously, something is very, very wrong.

Chapter Titles[]

Part One[]

  1. The Sky with Diamonds
  2. The Dead Planets
  3. Life Force
  4. Have You Ever Seen an Arcturan Mega-Chicken?
  5. Mourning Sickness
  6. That New Planet Smell
  7. Has Anyone Seen Calufrax?
  8. There Are No Other Worlds

Part Two[]

  1. The 5,000-Mile Teacup
  2. The Kings of Alderbaran III Make a Decision
  3. The Fastest Corridor
  4. The Astromobile Association'
  5. Try Not to Think of Anything Annoying
  6. The Waters of Calufrax

Part Three[]

  1. Bad Omens
  2. Guilt Futures
  3. Nothing Like a Plan
  4. The Sky Demon Can Wait
  5. Memento Mori
  6. Dog Fight
  7. A Leap of Faith

Part Four[]

  1. Journey to the Centre of the Earth
  2. Playing the Queen
  3. Small Print Is Not for Eternity
  4. Newton's Revenge
  5. A Spanner in the Works
  6. Mr Fibuli Gets His Wish
  7. The Heart of Zanak
  8. The Captain's Plan


rest to be added


  • The Doctor finds the Key to Time boring, due to its six parts.


  • This was the third serial novelisation published by BBC Books, the first two also being adaptations of Douglas Adams's scripts.
  • The first title page bears the following footnotes:
THE CHANGING FACE OF DOCTOR WHO - This book portrays the Fourth Doctor, whose physical appearance later transformed as the Black Guardian finally caught up with him.
THE CHANGING FACE OF THE KEY TO TIME - This book portrays the Second Segment of the Key to Time, which has been waiting for the Doctor for a very long while.
  • The second title page bears the footnote This novelisation is based on the first draft scripts by Douglas Adams. / So it probably isn't what you're expecting.

Deviations from televised story[]

  • The novel repeatedly states that this is Romana's second day and second trip in the TARDIS.
  • The Nurse wears a pale green dress rather than a white one.
  • The Captain has a beard, half of which is robotic. His backstory is explained, including that he has been on Zanak for 200 years.
  • It's hinted that the Black Guardian is behind some events, including saving the Captain from dying when the Vantarialis crashed.
  • Calufrax, in the Calufrax system with six other planets, has two suns.
  • The Doctor, Romana, and Kimus are tortured in the Knowhere.
  • Rather than being a hologram, the Doctor actually walks the plank and is saved by Romana in the TARDIS materialising around him as he falls.
  • As he's falling, the Doctor imagines the Dalek Supreme and the Cyber-Controller being notified of how he died via the space-time telegraph.
  • It is said that Zanak has destroyed "dozens of planets" and a "dozen dozen" planets.
  • Xanxia purchased her time dams from a corporation that the Time Lords shut down 500 years ago, indicating that she has lived at least that long.
  • The young and old Queen Xanxias meet briefly.
  • Earth watches the effects of Zanak trying to materialise around the planet.
  • Rather than bouncing Calufrax into the vortex to retrieve later, it reconfigures itself into the segment, attached to the tracer.
  • The Doctor and Romana go back in time and visit Calufrax to pay their respects just before Zanak arrives.
  • As the TARDIS is repairing itself, the console room becomes an English garden with a conservatory, the control console appearing as a sundial.


Additional cover images[]

Editions published outside Britain[]

  • Published in Germany by Cross Cult in 2017 as a paperback edition, translated by Andrea Blendl and published as Der Piratenplanet, it was one of five books published by them in the 2010's.
  • Published in Italy by Mondadori in 2017 as a paperback edition, translated by Alessandro Vezzoli and published as Pianeta Pirata, it was one of three books published by them in the 2010's.
  • Published in the Czech Republic by Argo in 2018 as a hardback edition, translated by Pavel Cernovsky and published as Piratska Planeta, it was one of three novelisations published in the 2010's.
  • Published in Russia by AST in 2018 as a hardback edition and published as Доктор Кто. Пиратская планета, it was one of eight books published in the 2010s.


This novel was released as an audiobook on 5 January 2017 complete and unabridged by BBC Audio and read by Jon Culshaw.

The cover blurb and thumbnail illustrations were retained in the accompanying booklet with sleevenotes by David J. Howe. Music and sound effects by Simon Power.

External links[]