PRODUCTION CODE

YY

 

WRITTEN BY

ROBERT HOLMES

 

DIRECTED BY

MICHAEL HART

 

RATINGS

5.9 MILLION

 

RECOMMENDED 

PURCHASES

'LOST IN TIME' DVD BOX SET (BBCDVD1353)

RELEASED IN NOVEMBER 2004;

 

CLICK HERE TO READ THE "LOST IN TIME" DVD REVIEW

 

AND 'THE SPACE PIRATES' AUDIO CD (ISBN 0-563-53505-9) RELEASED IN FEBRUARY 2003.

 

CLICK TO ENLARGE IN COLOUR

 

BLURB

The Doctor, Jamie and Zoe become victims of piracy when they materialise on a space beacon, minutes before it is literally blown to pieces. So begins their quest to be reunited with the TARDIS, whilst treading perilously across the paths of the Interstellar Space Corps and a gang of murderous bandits.

 

The eccentric prospector Milo Clancey gives the travellers passage in his ageing spaceship, but the old man is himself the focus of Space Corps investigations. Could he possibly be behind the destruction and salvage of so many beacons in the sector? What is the position of Madeleine Issigri, who runs her father's mining corporation on the planet Ta  - and how might a locked room provide the answer to this mystery?

 

 

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The Space Pirates

8TH MARCH 1969 - 12TH APRIL 1969

(6 EPISODES)

 

 

                                                       

    

 

Thereís a lot of nonsense talked about The Space Pirates. The last of Doctor Whoís lamentably lost stories, this charming space adventure is one thatís overlooked by most fans of the series and slammed by the few that are familiar with it. With five of its six episodes long-since junked, no telesnaps available to complement their surviving soundtracks, and a surviving episode that doesnít do the serialís sweeping scope justice, this isnít surprising, really, but it is still a little disappointing Ė particularly when weíre talking about the work of Mr Robert Holmes.

 

As I discovered this story many years after watching the later Jon Pertwee serial Frontier in Space, inevitably The Space Pirates put me in mind of it. Both serials see our heroes caught up a sprawling space opera, and both feature almost identical incidental music. What sets them apart is that the Pertwee era tale boasts a flood of aliens and monsters; this Troughton era tale doesnít feature a single one.

 

 

Indeed, Holmesí script is littered with flashes of the superlative characterisation that would eventually see him immortalised as one of Whoís most outstanding scribes. This serialís International Space Corps seem to have the moral high ground, but are commanded by an over-the-top, pompous, and almost cretinous commanding officer superbly played by Jay Mack. He ignores blatant clues that are right under his nose, and even manages to rub his own men up the wrong way. The original space cowboy, Gordon Gostelowís Milo Clancey, is the perfect foil to the ISCís buffoon-like general; their interactions throughout the story (and particularly in the extant episode) are a delight to watch. Itís hilarious to see General Hermack incessantly barking up the wrong trees and being constantly humiliated by the grizzled, spur-sporting, moustachioed space veteran. Lisa Daniely also impresses as Madeleine Issigri, the proprietor of a rich mining corporation apparently involved with the eponymous pirates. Holmes keeps us guessing throughout as to whoís really behind the piracy Ė is it the larger-than-life space cowboy, the lady who wears a bum on her head, or the apparently dim-witted ISC general? Itís hardly Sherlock Holmes, but itís at least Robert Holmes. Itís ironic that The Space Pirates has proven unpopular amongst those that know it for the very reasons that Holmesí work is generally so revered.

 

Perhaps the most remarkable aspect of The Space Pirates though is its desolation. Thanks to the indistinguishable-from-magic TARDIS, distance and scale are rarely conveyed in Doctor Who, but this serial truly gets across the vastness of empty space. Each episode of the serial begins with a bespoke title screen featuring a lone soprano singing across the wastes of space, and the surviving second episode and film trims do not feature a single star. Space is dark, and itís cold, and here itís filled only by a few surprisingly-impressive models.

 

 

Of course, Iíd be lying if I said that The Space Pirates is without a few fundamental flaws. As entertaining as it is, the Doctor and his companions are savagely short-changed by Holmesí script. The TARDIS doesnít even show up until nearly fifteen minutes into the first episode, and, once it does, its occupants arenít drawn into the larger narrative until the beginning of the third episode when Clancey rescues them from Beacon Alpha Four. Even then, the Doctor, Jamie and Zoe are kept throughout, effectively leaving the two companions stood around with their hands in their pockets asking plot-related questions. This may be why many have criticised the serialís pace Ė whilst it certainly isnít slow, especially when measured against other sixth season stories like The Invasion, itís definitely ĎDoctorliteí, bearing all the hallmarks of an existing script thatís hurriedly had Doctor Whoís regular cast hopefully shoe-horned in.

 

And so thereís a lot of nonsense talked about The Space Pirates. Far from being the dull and plodding affair that some would have you believe, itís actually astonishingly colourful, yet desperately barren. It treats the second Doctor and his companions as inconveniences, as opposed to heroes, while audaciously eschewing the eraís reliance on aliens and monsters. Adrift in an era famed for its spectacle, this six-parter is a curious character study devoid of even an out-and-out human antagonist - greyscale television in every sense.

 

Copyright © E.G. Wolverson 2006

 

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