The Space Pirates – 1969 – S6 – E6/7

space-pirates-doctor-who-1Number : Season 6, episode 6 of 7

Which One : Space Wild West.

Cast : The Doctor : Patrick Troughton
Jamie : Frazer Hines
Zoey : Wendy Padbury
Milo Clancey : Gordon Gostelow
Madeleine Issigri : Lisa Daniely
Dom Issigri : Esmond Knight
General Hermack : Jack May
Major Ian Warne : Donald Gee
Technician Penn : George Layton
Lt. Sorba : Nick Zaran
Space Guard : Anthony Donovan
Caven : Dudley Foster
Dervish : Brian Peck
Pirate Guard : Steve Peters

Written By : Robert Holmes

Produced By : Peter Bryant

First UK Broadcast : 8 March – 10 April 1969.

Length : 6 x 25 minute parts.

Plot : The Doctor is seperated from the Tardis, following the explosion and plundering of a deepspace beacon by pirates. The trio are rescued by space-prospector; Milo Clancy and become involved in politics between Clancy, the pirates and the Earth Space Corps establishment.

Whats good : The Wild-West in space metaphor works well. Robert Holmes script. As a result, has some useful concepts and ideas.

Whats bad : Dialogue and exposition heavy in places. Feels like a filler epi. Clancy as a character is a tad overdone. The space pirates could have been more interesting characters.

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Review With Spoilers : The Space Pirates is the 6th and penultimate story of season 6 and of Troughton’s whole era.

Space pirates rig a deep-space beacon to explode, to plunder the resulting debris for supplies of “argonite”. Unbeknownst to the pirates, the resulting explosion seperates the Doctor, Jamie and Zoey – from the recently arrived Tardis.

The trio are then rescued from the destroyed beacon, by a space-prospector – called Milo Clancy; who takes them to an unwitting rendezvous with the pirates, via a skirmish with the Earth Space Corps.

The Space Pirates is an early Robert Holmes contribution and features Holmes trademark inclusion of many concepts and ideas. Some which work well and others which don’t develop.

The prevailing idea, of a Wild-West tale set in space – works well here. We have clear lines drawn between the different groups. The pirates – who are the outlaws, the Earth corps – who are the Marshalls; we even have a kooky prospector; Milo Clancy.

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“Earth Government has been aware that a highly organised gang of criminals have been roaming the space ways, and preying upon defenceless cargo ships. The main target of these criminals is argonite, the most valuable mineral known to man and so far only found on the planets of the Fourth Sector” Hermack

It isn’t the best paced episode of Who, though and much of The Space Pirates; is given over to long dialogue scenes between characters. Especially the scenes between Earth Corps officers; Hermack and Warne.

Sometimes you wish they would just spend less time spouting expositional dialogue and just get on with the story. For instance, we quickly understand the setup between the Earth Corps versus the Pirates but spend the first 2 parts setting the background to it – via long conversations.

Having said that, The Space Pirates does include an interesting subplot mechanism. Regarding which character is double-crossing/secretly working with who. Between Clancy, the Space Corps, Madam Issigri and the space pirates. Betrayal and treachery are the order of the day here.

The Space Pirates feels like more of a filler piece, coming between the excellent showcase pieces – The Invasion and The War Games. However, it does have enough useful ideas to make it watchable – at least once.

The Space Pirates also holds the dubious distinction, of being the final episode – (in order of broadcast) in the old Who run, to be partially missing from the archive.

🔵🔵🔘⚪⚪ (2.5/5)

Old Doctor Who