The Space Pirates

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049 – The Space Pirates
Doctor Who serial
Space Pirates.jpg
Milo Clancey receives a call
Cast
Others
Production
Writer Robert Holmes
Director Michael Hart
Script editor Derrick Sherwin
Producer Peter Bryant
Executive producer(s) None
Incidental music composer Dudley Simpson
Production code YY
Series Season 6
Length 6 episodes, 25 minutes each
Episode(s) missing 5 episodes (1, 3-6)
Date started 8 March 1969
Date ended 12 April 1969
Chronology
← Preceded by Followed by →
The Seeds of Death The War Games

The Space Pirates is the partly missing sixth serial of the sixth season of the British science fiction television series Doctor Who, which originally aired in six weekly parts from 8 March to 12 April 1969. This is the second story written by Robert Holmes, one of the show's most successful scriptwriters, who would subsequently rise to become Script Editor on the show in the Tom Baker era. Only one of the six episodes is held in the BBC archives; five remain missing.

Plot[edit]

Space beacons on the space lanes are being blown up and plundered for precious argonite by a gang of space pirates led by Caven, and his associate Dervish. The Earth Space Corps cruiser V-41 notices the destruction of the beacon and, with General Hermack and Major Warne in charge, sets out to apprehend the pirates. Another beacon is destroyed despite their best intentions, and the fragments are stolen using rocket propulsion. Hermack deploys troops to all nearby Beacons to prevent another robbery.

The TARDIS crew arrive on Beacon Alpha Four shortly before the pirates reach it. Caven and his men murder the security force on the Beacon, and the pirates seal the time travellers in part of the Beacon before blowing it to pieces. Fortunately the beacon falls into discrete, sealed pieces and the Second Doctor, Jamie, and Zoe find themselves inside one. The eccentric Milo Clancey, in his aged ship, the LIZ-79, rescues them – but they cannot retrieve the TARDIS, which is in a separate segment taken by the pirates.

The nearest inhabited world is Ta, dominated by the Issigri Mining Corporation, whose leader is Madeleine Issigri. The firm was founded by her father and Clancey, and the latter is now suspected of Dom Issigri’s murder, though nothing has been proved. Hermack visits Ta, believing that Clancey, whom he suspects of being the pirate leader, will end up there in due course – and he is right. However, Hermack leaves just as Clancey and the TARDIS crew reach Ta. Zoe has plotted the trajectory of the segments of Beacon and believes they were destined for Ta too, and as per usual the Doctor and his companions soon find the pirate headquarters. They evade capture and make contact once more with Clancey.

Meanwhile Caven forces Dervish to reroute some of the beacon fragments to Lobos, a frontier world where Clancey has his base, so as to throw suspicion on the prospector. It is clear that someone has tipped him off about the Corps suspicion of Milo Clancey. Hermack and his crew see through this ruse, but it takes time, and they spend hours orbiting Lobos while the real action is taking place on Ta.

When the Doctor and his party reach Madeleine Issigri’s offices it becomes clear that she is in league with Caven, and the Doctor and his friends are once more imprisoned. Their prison is the study of Dom Issigri – alive but frail and scared – and it takes time for him to recover his wits. Madeleine has meanwhile decided to break her alliance with Caven, and does so by radioing Hermack to bring his troops to Ta. Caven reasserts his authority by telling Madeleine her father is alive and threatening to kill him unless she returns to her compliant self. She responds by contacting Hermack again and telling him not to come to Ta.

The Doctor and his friends have meanwhile escaped, taking the weak Dom Issigri with them, and head to the LIZ-79. Caven has thought ahead and forced Dervish to cut the oxygen supply to the ship. As only Milo and Dom board the ship, theirs are the lives in danger, and Caven’s callousness finally convinces Madeleine to support him no longer. The Doctor, Jamie and Zoe save their friends and Dom Issigri makes contact with Hermack, persuading him of the truth of the situation.

Caven now gets desperate, threatening to destroy Ta, the Issigri base, and the orbiting V-ship by means of a series of strategically placed bombs. The Doctor manages to disengage the triggering device in the nick of time, while Major Warne blows Caven and Dervish’s ship to pieces. As Hermack’s ship lands, Madeleine looks forward to a reunion with her father, but knows she will also be imprisoned for her part in the conspiracy, while the Doctor and his companions prepare to seek out the TARDIS on one of the fragments of the Beacon.

Production[edit]

Serial details by episode
Episode Broadcast date Run time Viewers
(in millions)
Archive
"Episode One" 8 March 1969 (1969-03-08) 24:11 5.8 Only stills and/or fragments exist
"Episode Two" 15 March 1969 (1969-03-15) 25:02 6.8 35mm t/r
"Episode Three" 22 March 1969 (1969-03-22) 23:50 6.4 Only stills and/or fragments exist
"Episode Four" 29 March 1969 (1969-03-29) 22:25 5.8 Only stills and/or fragments exist
"Episode Five" 5 April 1969 (1969-04-05) 24:44 5.5 Only stills and/or fragments exist
"Episode Six" 12 April 1969 (1969-04-12) 24:26 5.3 Only stills and/or fragments exist
[1][2][3]

This serial was written as a replacement for The Dream Spinner by Paul Wheeler, which for technical reasons was dropped at a late stage in production. This is the last story to be produced by Peter Bryant, although it was originally intended that he receive the producer's credit on Doctor Who and the Silurians. This changed when Barry Letts was appointed the series' producer on a full-time basis.

Patrick Troughton, Frazer Hines and Wendy Padbury were all away on location filming The War Games during the production of episode six and appear only in pre-filmed inserts. Thus, this is one of only two 1960s episodes to have none of the regular cast present for a studio recording, the other being the 1965 story Mission to the Unknown.

Missing episodes[edit]

All episodes, except Episode 2 (preserved as a 35 mm film telerecording), are missing from the BBC archives. Pre-filmed inserts from Episode 1 also exist, as well as the audio soundtrack for all episodes. Episode 6 of the story is chronologically the final missing episode of Doctor Who.

In 1998, Episode 2 of this story (the single episode already held in the BBC archives) was discovered in the collection of an amateur video enthusiast. The episode is the earliest known existing off-air domestic videotape recording of an episode of Doctor Who.[4]

This is the final story which is considered to have episodes missing due to no video being known to exist. Whilst some of the Third Doctor’s episodes are missing the original colour footage, these episodes have complete video, even if only available in monochrome.

Commercial releases[edit]

In print[edit]

The Space Pirates
Doctor Who The Space Pirates.jpg
Author Terrance Dicks
Cover artist Tony Clark
Series Doctor Who book:
Target novelisations
Release number
147
Publisher Target Books
Publication date
15 March 1990
ISBN 0-426-20346-1

A novelisation of this serial, written by Terrance Dicks, was published by Target Books in March 1990.

Home media[edit]

Episode 2 was released on VHS in 1991 on Doctor Who - The Troughton Years, the introduction for the episode being recorded in the Lime Grove Studios where Episode One had been taped. In November 2004, it was released on Region 2 DVD in the three-disc Lost in Time box set. The DVD also includes surviving pre-filmed inserts from Episode 1. In February 2003, the audio soundtrack was released on CD with linking narration by Frazer Hines.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Shaun Lyon et al. (2007-03-31). "The Space Pirates". Outpost Gallifrey. Archived from the original on 2008-06-18. Retrieved 2008-08-31. 
  2. ^ "The Space Pirates". Doctor Who Reference Guide. Retrieved 2008-08-31. 
  3. ^ Sullivan, Shannon (2007-08-17). "The Space Pirates". A Brief History of Time Travel. Retrieved 2008-08-31. 
  4. ^ Roberts, Steve. "Missing episode hunting". Archived from the original on 21 July 2012. 

External links[edit]

Reviews[edit]

Target novelisation[edit]