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22 November 2016 @ 08:31 pm
The Randomiser: The Space Pirates  
The Space Pirates has a reputation for being very slow. I seem to recall, once upon a time, reading that this was because it was attempting to realistically depict travel times in space, though this isn't actually a point that is made anywhere in the episode (and doesn't really make sense if you think about episode length anyway). I suspect more of a problem, from the point of view of some fans, is that the Doctor, Jamie and Zoe have relatively little to do. In the first episode they arrive on a space beacon, get mistaken for the eponymous space pirates and then lock themselves in a room. They spend the entirety of the second episode floating through space in said room, the space beacon having been broken up by the aforementioned space pirates.

We were actually quite surprised therefore to find ourselves enjoying the story, and this in spite of the fact only one episode of it exists outside of telesnaps. daniel_saunders mentioned in my review of The Massacre that early Doctor Who historicals tended to treat the Tardis crew as witnesses to, as opposed to participants in, events. The latest DWM makes a, possibly contradictory, point that a number of changes in production practices meant that more effort was put into creating interesting secondary casts for 2nd Doctor stories. I rather chafed, while watching The Massacre, that Steven (and the largely absent Doctor) had so little to do, but I think that was because the secondary cast was failing to engage. I'd argue that the secondary cast of The Space Pirates is considerably more successful. There are four main groups interacting; the Space Police, the Space Pirates (who are genuinely pretty nasty, ne'er a swash nor buckle in sight here), Milo Clancy the aging miner on a mission of his own to defeat the pirates, and Madeline Issigri and her mining company, the pirates' unwilling accomplice. You don't really need the Tardis crew to tell an interesting story with these characters and give or take a few plot handwaves (could Caven really have kept Madeline's father secretly trapped in his own library all that time) the story manages this pretty well as the pirates seek to frame Milo and the Doctor for their crimes, Madeline tries to conceal her involvement from General Hermack who is clearly very keen to direct matters from the comfort of her office rather than his own space ship and Milo blunders around being cantankerous and difficult.

That said, Milo Clancy, who gets significant screen time as the story progresses is pretty irritating and his fake American frontier accent is risible and makes it hard to follow his dialogue. Mind you, when I commented to Tame Layman, that I thought the accent was unfortunate, he vigorously demanded how I knew that spacefarers in the future wouldn't speak like that, especially if they had been off on their own for a long time and become a little strange in the process.

The Space Pirates was covered in the DWM recurring archives feature in the very first issue of the magazine that I purchased and I remember reading and re-reading that article, even though I actually remembered very few of the details once I was watching. But I rediscovered a fondness for the story. That and the fact that we went into it with pretty low expectations, meant it was actually pretty fun to watch.

This entry was originally posted at http://purplecat.dreamwidth.org/221267.html.
daniel_saunders: Leekleydaniel_saunders on November 22nd, 2016 10:27 pm (UTC)
he vigorously demanded how I knew that spacefarers in the future wouldn't speak like, especially if they had been off on their own for a long time and become a little strange in the process

It's as good a reason as any!

I think I still stand by my 'witness to history' point (I disagreed with quite a bit in that article) although I think it had been phased out long before The Space Pirates.

I think The Space Pirates is under-rated, although I would say it's more interesting than good. Seen in context it does provide a deliberately larger than life supporting character in Clancey for the first time really since the historicals (e.g. Nero in The Romans), something that Doctor Who, and Robert Holmes in particular, would later be noted for. Troughton was apparently furious that he didn't get off that beacon and join the story until episode three, though.
louisedennis: Doctor Wholouisedennis on November 23rd, 2016 10:54 am (UTC)
This felt very like a "witness to" story (albeit not a witness to history) though in general I think I also disagree with the DWM article's assertion that 2nd Doctor stories required less intervention from the Doctor himself. The Space Pirates seems like the exception rather than the rule to me.
liadtbunny: DW Team Twoliadtbunny on November 25th, 2016 01:48 pm (UTC)
Lol to Tame Layman:) Still it got Gordon Gostelow remembered! Poss not for the best reasons.