Thursday, November 27, 2014

"The Space Pirates"

Aired: Mar. 8 - Apr. 12, 1969

6 Episodes

Story 49

Written by Robert Holmes

Directed by Michael Hart


The TARDIS materializes on a space beacon just before it is attacked by pirates, who use explosive charges to break the station into separate pieces for easier transport. Trapped in a different section than the TARDIS, the travellers can only watch as it is flown to where the pirates will plunder it of the precious mineral argonite. They then witness a conflict between the pirates and the Interstellar Space Corps.

Meanwhile, the Interstellar Space Corps are relentlessly tracking the pirates, but making little headway. General Hermack of the ISC is convinced that the leader of the pirates is a crusty and eccentric prospector named Milo Clancey, but in reality the pirates  leader is a man named Caven. Caven has a secret base on the planet Ta. The planet is under the dominion of the Issigri Mining Corporation, a company created by Clancey and his ex-partner, Dom Issigri.  The Corporation is now run by Dom's daughter Madeleine, following the murder of her father, with Clancey being the obvious suspect. 

Madeleine is reluctantly in league with Caven, though unbeknownst to her, her father is not dead, but the captive of the pirate leader. The Doctor and his friends, along with Milo, manage to free Dom Issigri, and when Madeleine discovers Caven's plan to kill both her father and Milo, she finally helps to bring him to justice. The time travelers are given a lift back to the TARDIS by Clancey and head on their way.


Crushingly dull, ridiculously padded, and crammed with uninteresting supporting characters, The Space Pirates could very well be the worst single story of the Patrick Troughton era. The biggest crime is the way the regulars are used in the story. The Doctor and his companions are largely passive throughout, and the fact they spend so much time isolated from the main action of the story means that the supporting characters spend ages telling each other things they should already know.

Many people cite The Underwater Menace as the nadir of the Troughton era. Or The Dominators. But, while both are terrible, they each have moments that sparkle or are at least fascinating in their awfulness. The Space Pirates is both bad and incredibly boring, and therefore is much worse. Pretty much the only good things I can say about it is that the model work is very good, and the fact that it is the final missing story means I don't have to watch reconstructions anymore. 

Luckily, the next story is a stone-cold classic.

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