Some fun model work and a plethora of space helmets highlight this penultimate tale of Troughton’s Doctor. The Space Pirates was written by Robert Holmes and ran from 8 March to 12 April, 1969. It’s bit of a lighter story, but I’m willing to take that in stride because the Doctor’s next adventure, is 10 episodes long, and of course will end with the Doctor being confined to Earth for his next regeneration.
The TARDIS materializes on Alpha Beacon Four, one of a series run by the Interstellar Space Corps, moments before it is attacked by a band of space pirates led by Caven (Dudley Foster). The pirates have been ransacking the Beacon’s and sending their shells to a mining planet where they are stripped down and reconfigured.
Along the way, the Doctor, Zoe (Wendy Padbury) and Jamie (Frazer Hines) meet up with a stereotype. It’s as if a western prospector, Milo Clancey (Gordon Gostelow) stepped from American television and ended up in outer space alongside our heroes.
Together, they all work to find out what is really going on, and what Caven is up to, and how high up this piracy actually is.
It’s fun, it’s light, Troughton has some light moments, and we learn that he tends to carry a lot of things in his pockets, like a tuning fork and a stethoscope, though I don’t think he would actually need them without the almost amazingly programmable sonic screwdriver.
Sometimes, especially in the later series, it seems like a quick problem solver to have the sonic screwdriver be able to do it, so it is rather interesting to have the Doctor need to think and improvise a little more.
I also like that Zoe shows the Doctor up in this episode, using her mathematical training to figure out where the container carrying the TARDIS has come down. It’s a nice moment, and of course shows that no matter how clever the Doctor is, he still doesn’t know everything.
The model work in this episode was a lot of fun, with awesome little fighters known as Minnows launching from an Interstellar cruiser, and instead of a star-filled background, that has seemingly become the norm for science fiction shows, the backdrop was more of a velvet backdrop of eternal space.
There were also a lot of helmets in this episode, Caven’s made him look like Magneto, and the Minnow pilots have an off little helmet that put me in mind of those worn by the baddies in The Last Starfighter.
And just like that, we are ready for the last story of Troughton’s Doctor…
He’s definitely been a lot of fun, but I’m looking forward to what number three will bring to the series.
So, come back next week, and we’ll play The War Games.