THE SPACE PIRATES

Episode One

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.

The Space PiratesSue: 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.

 

Episode Two

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.

The Space PiratesISC’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.

The Space PiratesIn 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.

 

Episode Three

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.

The Space PiratesSue: 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.

 

Episode Four

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.
Sue: Really?
Me: No.
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.

 

Episode Five

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.

The Space PiratesHuddled 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.

 

Episode Six

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.
Sue: What?
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.

The Space PiratesSue: 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.

Sue: Hallelujah!

I reach behind my cushion for a strategically placed party popper. Well I would have done if I’d bothered to plan ahead.

 

The Score

1/10

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!

 

16

Comments

  1. Huw  April 11, 2012

    “Can you imagine what it would have been like to have had a companion that the audience hated and despised? Ha! Imagine that!” Is Sue clairvoyant? She’s clearly foreseeing the rise of the Appaling Amy!

    • Dan  April 11, 2012

      I’m sure he has someone else in mind. Amy’s great!

    • PolarityReversed  April 11, 2012

      Hmmm. Begging to differ, I really don’t see why the reboot era insists on irritating, loudmouthed, self-obsessed termagants as companions. Often with an emasculated drip as a love interest, whose only chance at winning the affection of the aforementioned trout is by becoming as annoying as she is.

      Strikes me that in an effort, quite rightly, to do away with the “screaming damsel menaced by tentacles” companion, nu-Who has veered off to an equally silly extreme.

      Sorry Dan, only my opinion. Can’t wait til they dredge the Pond.

  2. Dan  April 11, 2012

    I don’t find her irritating or loud-mouthed, obviously…

    Anyone I know Neil doesn’t mean her…

    • Huw  April 12, 2012

      I have to say that I completely agree with PR. And I find it weird that it’s only on the Web that I find anyone who likes Amy. There are lots of people I know who are Who-vians, and we’ll argue about all sorts of things, but we all agree that Amy is dire. Personally I’m hoping that she will die horribly on screen to rule any possibility of her ever coming back. The only companion who was in her league for being annoying was Adric, and look what happened to him. (It’s a shame Rory is going though. He has real potential, when he’s not being weighed down by his wife.)

  3. Dan  April 12, 2012

    Oh right I’m in an an anti-Amy thread under The Space Pirates prompted by a comment about a different companion. That’s it from me.

    • Dan  April 12, 2012

      (Except to say I’ve never met anyone who dislikes her.)

      • PolarityReversed  April 12, 2012

        Absolutely no offense intended Dan. Really.
        Just feel that classic-era companions could be well-drawn, intelligent, independent and brave women without brassily “oi”ing their way round the universe. And we weren’t constantly being asked to take an interest in their tedious relatives, squeezes and friends. The whole soap opera element to NuWho is a big misfire for me.
        Like I said, just my opinion and you’re absolutely entitled to yours.

        Friends? I hope.

        Meanwhile, back at the topic – does anyone have anything to say about Space Pirates? Afraid I don’t.

  4. Dan  April 13, 2012

    Of course we are.

    I think there were more comments on the old location of the blog, but they’ve not been migrated across yet.

  5. Huw  April 13, 2012

    Dan, really hope I haven’t offended you. My experience is different from yours (and for Karen Gillian’s sake I rather hope you’re right), and I enjoy exploring ideas with people who are interested in the same things that I am. There aren’t enough of them around! As for people who are interested AND agree with me, well that’s a much smaller group. MUCH.

    To prove my point, I don’t completely agree with PR (may I call you that?) either. In the Ecceleston season – which I’m sure well agree should NOT be called Season One! – I liked the fact that Rose had family and friends who worried about her when she was gone. That was good, because we hadn’t seen it before. But, like many elements from then, it has now been repeated until I’m sick to death of soap opera domesticity, and comanions who fall in love with the Doctor. That’s why I’d like Rory, or some other blokes, to stay around, Can we have companions who are good mates, who care for each other, support each other, but who don’t fancy each other?

  6. Dan  April 13, 2012

    Not at all and I think I might have over-reacted a bit, sorry.

    I don’t mind the new elements in the new series but then I’m very relaxed about it. When it started I hadn’t seen the Classic in a long time and assumed that the new was better in every way. But actually the old series often had great writing, design (not the most important thing anyway), and acting. At the same time I don’t like everything about the new series by a long shot, to the extent that I’m glad that I’m now so very relaxed about it! Every era old and new is patchy (with some general trends up and down), and it seems like Doctor Who will always be like that, not for just one reason, like the BBC not taking it seriously for example, but for a number of reasons, which are probably to do with budget, turnover, and keeping it fresh while true to the spirit of it.

    I like the initial mystery and intensity of Amy’s life – the things Rory and Amy go through are farcically extreme (which is intentional I think) – and I do find her quite humourous. It doesn’t look like Sue was referring to anyone, unless I’m missing something and Amy is really unpopular, but she always seems to feature near the top of polls and people I know seem to like her, not that I’ve asked everyone. But it didn’t make me think of Adric either, though now I can how that would fit…

  7. Chris Too-old-to-watch  April 13, 2012

    One of the great strengths of the classic series was the variation in the companions – not necessarily excellently realized – but always at least an attempt at a different background and character. Compare Barbara, Polly, Zoe, Sarah-Jane, Leela and Romana (not to mention Ben and Harry for exanmple): yes they screamed at various monsters, but at least an attempt was made to differentiate between them.
    With NewWho (apart from Bernard Cribbins) all the companions have had a “crush” on the Doctor, all have had weird family backgrounds, and all have been at on time or another “the most important person in the universe/galaxy/existence.” A successful formula does not need to be repeated ad nauseam to show how clever was that original idea.
    As for Amy, I admit I loved the character at the start, but I think should have been disposed of once her story arc had been completed (destruction of reality/Riversong parentage). I don’t really think we need her for the next series (however long or short that may be).

    • Huw  April 13, 2012

      Completely agree with the need for variety. There are lots of elements I loved in the Eccleston season, which have now been done to death. Could we have some new ideas please, before the show becomes a parody of itself?

      Two other thoughts 1) What do I have to do to get a personal avatar? 2) We’ve moved a long way away from “The Space Pirates”. Is that OK, or is there somewhere else we should be having this converation?

      • PolarityReversed  April 13, 2012

        People here seem to use Gravatar – if you click on one the avatars it’ll lead you to a site where you can put up your own pic.

        Just by way of a PR exercise, I’ve enjoyed the exchange here, but I do agree that we’ve rather been playing in the sandpit while the parkie’s on holiday. I suspect Neil is still watching, but has sworn off involvement for a bit. And I reckon the fact that people are continuing to comment on WiS indicates the affection and appreciation people feel for this blog.

        For my part, I’ll say no more and look forward to seeing you guys when our hosts’ forces are again summoned into corporeal existence in this house…

        • Huw  April 14, 2012

          PR – thank you for the info about Gravatar. As you can see I’ve used it to pay homage to my favourite Doctor.

  8. Dan  April 14, 2012

    I wonder if the new series (I can’t call it NewWho or NuWho…sorry!) is boxed in to some degree now? Would a big change in the formula be looked on favourable by senior management given the huge market and the rise of the show in America? If a show runner did decide to drop the soap opera element you would need you something else to replace it? I also think it’s good that the companion has a developed back story but agree that they don’t need to fancy the Dr.. has it taken some of the mystery and distance from Matt Smith’s Dr, fawning over River Song?

    It seems appropriate we have this discussion under The Space Pirates. Who is going to mind that we take it over? Troughton is my joint favorite Dr too. I had forgotten about my avatar here until the first comment I made magically made it appear…