Written by Robert Holmes
Directed by Michael Hart
Lets face it, most pirates are probably cunts. To be sure, most nowadays are desperate men in an awful situation, attempting to scrape out a living in any way possible. But cunts nonetheless.
Despite this they seem to have been romanticized to an extraordinary degree over the past few centuries. Right back since Stevenson’s Treasure Island up until the recent Pirates of the Caribbean films, the murderous scallywags are presented as swashbuckling anti-heros in the vast majority of fiction. Its easy to see why – there’s very few situations that I would see any kind of law enforcement, government establishment or any other form of The Man as anything other than a villain, and so their natural enemies, the pirates, have an undeniable allure. But when it comes down to it, they’re really just a bunch of selfish cunts. I do agree with their stance on rum though.
Its refreshing, therefore, to find in The Space Pirates a story in which the pirates are very definitely the villains. Even better, they’re also The Man, meaning that it still remains a wonderfully anti-establishment story. But the Doctor always was an anti-establishment sort of guy.
The main strength of The Space Pirates lies in its densely plotted, constantly twisting story from first rate Who writer, Robert Holmes, in which it is never clear, right up until the end, which side anyone is on (apart from the Doctor et al, of course). Some great performances really help to back this up. Gordon Gostelow as Milo Clancy in particular would have been brilliant if it were not for his awful accent.
Sadly, though, The Space Pirates never seems to live up to the sum of its parts. It may well simply be down to the fact that its 6 episodes, and nothing happens until episode three, but I found it quite hard to stay focused on it any time I’ve tried to listen to it, though I will admit that the remaining episode two is highly watchable. To be perfectly honest though, if any story from Troughton’s near perfect last year had to be lost, I’m glad it’s this one.
Troughton’s era of Who had marked a noticeable departure from historical stories and a move towards out and out sci-fi. Would that last, or would the historical stories be making a comeback? It would seem that way at the start of the next story, but is all as it seems? Find out next time, in The War Games.