Doctor Who
The Space Pirates

Starring: Patrick Troughton
BBC Radio Collection
RRP 13.99
ISBN 0 563 53505 9
Available now

Pirates have been attacking space beacons, blowing them apart to plunder the precious mineral, argonite, from which they are constructed. When the Doctor, Jamie and Zoe materialise on board one such beacon, it too disintegrates, and they find themselves cut off from the TARDIS...

The Krotons, Robert Holmes' first Who script (admittedly one which was developed by Terrance Dicks from an idea that had nothing to do with Doctor Who) gives little indication of the high-class, witty and gripping work for which he would ultimately become famous. The Space Pirates, also from the sixth season, isn't much better, although it does contain the earliest example of Holmes' sense of humour, in the character of Milo Clancey.

Clancey, played by Gordon Gostelow, is an eccentric ore prospector based upon the gold-rush explorers of the Old West. With his decrepit spaceship, the controls of which often need a hefty thump to get them working, and with little respect for the rules and regulations of this home world, he is also reminiscent of the Doctor himself.

As for the Doctor (Patrick Troughton) and his companions (Frazer Hines and Wendy Padbury), they get a smaller role than usual, as the guest characters, including Space Corps General Hermack (a rather stilted performance by Jack May), take centre stage instead. The TARDIS crew don't even arrive until 15 minutes into Episode One. However, this story does provide an early indication that the Doctor is rather more than a mere human, when he claims not to need as much oxygen as Jamie or Zoe. (The next story, The War Games would see the introduction of the Time Lords and the first real explanation of the Doctor's background.)

When several scripts fell through in rapid succession, The Space Pirates was expanded from four episodes to six to help fill out the season, and frankly the padding is noticeable. The story drags, particularly during the final three instalments. And it is fairly obvious, from Episode Two onwards, as to which character is in league with the pirates.

However, nothing starring Patrick Troughton is ever a complete waste of time.

Richard McGinlay

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