Me: I hate to break it to you, Sue, but we’ve got some more recons to watch.
Sue: You’ve been putting this story off for ages. That’s always a bad sign.
Me: It’s got a terrible reputation, but this is still a big moment for me. Because once we get through The Space Pirates, I’ll have seen every single episode of Doctor Who. Well, as far it’s possible to see every episode of Doctor Who if you were born in 1969.
Sue: Don’t look so depressed, then. You should be excited!
Me: But it’s The Space Pirates! It’s rubbish!
Sue: Don’t be so pessimistic. And don’t accept what the fans say about this story. It might be really, really good.
And then the episode begins.
Sue: Okay, maybe not.
Astronauts are planting explosives on a space beacon.
Sue: So this is basically Firefly, then?
Me: I think The Space Pirates lasts a lot longer than Firefly. Or maybe it just feels that way.
Sue: The music is very Hungarian.
Me: What does that even mean?
And then, after what feels like an eternity, the title card appears.
Sue: Robert Holmes. Is there anything I should know about him?
Me: Well, he wrote The Krotons.
Sue: Oh joy.
Me: Robert Holmes is talked about a great deal in Doctor Who circles. Just you wait and see.
Sue: The Doctor is taking his time getting involved in this story.
Me: Can you blame him?
When the Interstellar Space Corps arrive, I persuade Sue to play the famous Space Pirates drinking game with me. If you’ve never played it before, you take a shot of whisky every time General Hermack mentions the word ‘argonite’. Six minutes into the first episode and we’re as pissed as farts.
Sue: There are lots of porno moustaches in this one. I’m pretty sure that’s Jason King over there.
Another beacon is destroyed and the fragments are stolen by the pirates.
Sue: I’m bored of this now. There are too many characters and too much yakking. And when people aren’t yakking, we have to watch the same spaceships docking over and over again.
Me: It isn’t exactly 2001.
Sue: It’s barely 1951. The pirates’ spaceship looks like a shoehorn.
Two pirates named Caven and Dervish enter the beacon a few minutes after the TARDIS plonks itself there.
Sue: Oh my word. It’s Cannon and Ball. In space.
Me: Rock on.
Sue: Is his head really that misshapen, or is that just his helmet?
Caven polishes off the ISC security team before attaching some explosives to the beacon’s exterior. In fact, the cliffhanger, where the Doctor and his companions are suddenly blown to smithereens, isn’t bad at all.
Sue: I’ve seen worse.
Me: This is the last orphaned episode.
Sue: Am I supposed to feel sorry for it?
Sue is drawn to the music of Dudley Simpson like a moth to a flame. If moths hated flames, that is.
Sue: The music is very weird again. That wailing voice would be all right if this was a ghost story, but I bet it bloody isn’t.
ISC’s uniforms are given a rough ride, too.
Sue: I bet Hermack constantly cuts his ear lobes on that stupid collar of his. What a terrible design. And those key rings dangling in front of their genitals – whose idea was that?
Technician Penn’s face rings an extremely large bell.
Sue: Oh, it’s whatshisface from EastEnders!
Me: Yes, it’s George Layton. He’s been in loads of stuff. You probably know him as Solly from It Ain’t Half Hot Mum. Oh, and the Doctor sitcoms, of course – Doctor at Large, Doctor in Charge etc.
Sue: He probably did Doctor Who so he could complete the set.
And then – and nothing can really prepare you for this – Milo Clancey turns up.
Sue: It’s Stalin!
Me: It’s Joseph Stalin meets Han Solo. It’s an interesting amalgamation. For the first three minutes.
Sue: Surely it’s Stalin meets Elmer Fudd? What on earth is he doing dressed like that?
Me: I didn’t hear you complaining when Nathan Fillion dressed like that.
Sue: What is that ****ing accent?
Me: His accent is ‘Space’.
Sue: I refuse to accept that somebody actually wrote this dialogue. They’re just making it up.
Sue breathes a huge sigh of relief when Milo finally leaves.
Sue: I don’t mind a bit of light relief now and again, but that seemed to go on forever.
Me: Don’t worry, it’s not as if they’re stupid enough to make him a lead character in this story, or anything.
In the remains of the exploded beacon, the Doctor and his companions seem to be doing just fine. But when a face suddenly appears on a monitor screen, Sue gasps in terror.
Sue: Oh no! It’s the Ice Warriors! Oh, sorry, it’s just his helmet.
And then, a few seconds later…
Sue: Oh no! It’s the Cybermen!
Me: That’s Madeleine Issigri’s hat.
Sue: Oh. Is it made of argonite?
And the less said about Major Ian the better.
Sue: This story doesn’t deserve a character called Ian. There’s only one Ian in Doctor Who as far as I’m concerned, and it isn’t him.
Despite the Doctor’s best efforts, the beacon is still spinning out of control. Just as the oxygen is about to run out, Milo Clancey turns up and saves the day (although he does put a downer on things by shooting Jamie).
Me: That’s Jamie dead, then.
Sue: Good. Although I don’t believe you.
Sue: Whinge, whinge, whinge. Moan, moan, moan. Jamie is doing my head in now. Just kill him! Please!
Yes, Milo didn’t kill Jamie, he just riled him a bit.
Sue: Milo’s accent is impossible. I can’t understand a word he’s saying. He’s talking way too fast. It’s relentless.
Me: “Bluergh, blah, blurg, blah, baaaaaaa!” That’s what it sounds like to me.
Our heroes end up running around a cave. And then, as they rush down a passageway, the floor drops away.
Sue: I wish the ground would open up and swallow me.
Me: Remind me to buy some pipettes and rope tomorrow.
Sue: I don’t need tying up just yet. It isn’t that bad.
Me: No, you’ll have to use them on me.
Unfortunately, we’ve got ourselves in a bit of a pickle – and it’s all my fault. I’d completely forgotten that Sue was heading for London for a few days and now, the night before she’s due to leave, I suddenly realise that we’ll have to watch three recons of The Space Pirates in a row if I hope to update the blog before the month is out. Thankfully, she takes this news remarkably well.
Sue: For ****’s sake!
After she’s finished hitting me, we settle down to watch tonight’s entertainment/sadistic torture/masochistic torment (delete as appropriate), and, because we’re bad parents, we made Nicol watch it with us.
Me: Can you tell Nicol what’s she’s missed so far, Sue?
Nicol: Don’t worry about me. I don’t care. I’ll be browsing Facebook on my phone.
Sue carries on regardless.
Sue: Okay, so the first thing you need to know, Nicol, is the Doctor is hardly in this story. Secondly, there are these pirates, right, and they are blowing up these space stations made from argonite, which is the most precious metal in the universe.
Me: I’m impressed.
Sue: And the Doctor, Jamie and Zoe end up on one of these space stations when it’s blown up into separate sections that miraculously survive. And then they land on this planet, but they can’t find their TARDIS.
Me: This is better than Wikipedia.
Sue: And there’s a cowboy in it who looks like Stalin. And that’s about it. I’m warming to it, actually.
Me: Now I’m worried.
Nicol: It sounds amazing. So when can we watch University Challenge?
Sue points out all the characters to Nicol.
Sue: That’s a pirate. That’s Jamie. That’s Robert Holmes’ name. He isn’t very good. And that’s Stalin.
Nicol: No it’s not. It’s Wario.
Milo kills a guard as they make their escape.
Me: Milo definitely fired first. Loose Canon tried to edit that so the guard fired first, but the fans went crazy and they had to change it back.
Nicol: (Exasperated) Oh, mother! Even I get that reference!
By the time we’ve explained it to Sue, all three of us are totally lost. So I find an online synopsis, hoping it will fill in the blanks.
Me: I don’t believe it! Even the TARDIS Index File gave up on this story after three episodes!
Sue: Can you understand a single word Stalin is saying, Nicol?
Nicol: He sounds like Jimmy Stewart.
Me: If Jimmy Stewart was having a stroke.
Nicol makes a swift exit when Sue and I decide to plough on.
Sue: I wonder if Sorba is supposed to be Greek…
After a fairly entertaining prison break (entertaining in the sense that we don’t want to chew our own arms off), the Doctor and his companions find themselves in an old-fashioned study.
Sue: It’s the old let’s-use-some-old-set-dressing-and-pretend-we’re-in-the-future scam. It was clever the first time they did it, but now it just looks cheap and desperate.
Me: Oh look, it’s the Loose Canon candle! I’ve missed that candle.
Sue: The dialogue is fairly amusing, but I’m finding it difficult to engage with the story. In fact, is there a story? I’m completely lost.
Huddled in the darkness is none other than Dom Issigri himself.
Me: It’s Karl Marx!
Sue: Santa Claus, surely?
The old man has gone doolally, and Milo has to jog the poor sod’s memory. Unfortunately, thanks to the impenetrable accents (which can sometimes change in the middle of a sentence), the scene is incomprehensible.
Just have a listen to this.
Sue: What’s the deal with the snake charmer music all of a sudden? Did Dudley Simpson ever see the episodes he was writing the music for? He can’t have done.
We pass the time impersonating Madeleine Issigri – she says the word ‘people’ with three syllables, and her, “Ha! Ha! Ha!” has us in stitches.
And then the episode ends with the Doctor caught in Milo’s backblast (not a euphemism).
Me: It’s all gone a bit Moonraker.
Me: This is it, Sue. Our final recon. How do you feel about that?
Sue: Is that a trick question? How do you think I feel?
Me: Just think, 24 minutes from now, we’ll be finished with the recons.
Sue: I still can’t believe I’ve seen them all.
Me: Yeah. (Under my breath) Sort of.
Me: You probably don’t remember, but when we saw Marco Polo, we watched a condensed version of a seven-part story.
Sue: So we haven’t actually watched them all? Hmm, I’m not sure how I feel about that.
Me: Don’t worry, I’m sure the blog’s readers won’t hold it against us. And I’ll ban their ****ing IP address if they mention the M-word in the comments. Plus, if anyone so much as alludes to The Reign of Terror or The Ice Warriors, I’ll come to their house in the middle of the night and kill them.
Sue: Hang on a minute, how many recons have we skipped?
Me: Seven or eight. It’s complicated.
Sue: We should go back and watch them. If a job’s worth doing, it’s worth doing right.
Me: Look, love, Terror of the Zygons will be released on DVD before we watch the Marco Polo reconstructions.
Sue: I don’t even know what that means. So are we going to watch them or not?
Me: Let’s get through this one first.
The Doctor recovers from almost being burnt to a crisp.
Sue: What would have happened if Patrick Troughton had regenerated at the end of The Space Pirates? Would this story suddenly be considered a classic?
Me: It would be an embarrassing way to end an era, with a turkey.
Sue: Yeah, doing it to William Hartnell was bad enough. I mean, this is really bad. I had hoped we’d really like it, so we could confound everyone’s expectations. But I can’t. It’s total shit. I’ve watched episodes of Bill and Ben: The Flowerpot Men that make more sense than this.
At one point Madeleine shouts (in that over-enunciated way of hers), “You’ve got about six minutes left!”
Sue: Six minutes! We are so close!
Me: Hang on in there, love. We can do it!
Nicol: Are you actually watching this, or are you just counting down the seconds until it ends?
Me: Go away, Nicol.
She’s right, of course.
Me: It. Just. Won’t. End.
Sue: What I don’t understand is why, when the actor turned up to play Milo, nobody pulled him aside and told him that no one would understand a bloody word he was saying if he played the part like that. That’s bad directing, producing, and acting. Take your pick.
Me: They should have realised long before Gordon Gostelow reached the set. They rehearsed this for a week.
Sue: This was never rehearsed! Now you’re just taking the piss.
And then, several hours later, The Space Pirates ends.
I reach behind my cushion for a strategically placed party popper. Well I would have done if I’d bothered to plan ahead.
Sue: Well that was shit.
Me: And there you have it. I’ve seen them all.
Sue: Except for Marco Polo.
Me: Yes, except for Marco Polo.
Sue: And the other two.
Me: Yes, I know!