Doctor Who #241: The Space Pirates Part 2

"I can lose every floater I've got and your fancy Space Corps won't do a thing about it."TECHNICAL SPECS: The only existing episode from this story, it can be found in the Lost in Time DVD boxed set. First aired Mar.15 1969.

IN THIS ONE... Milo Clancey, space cowboy, makes an appearance. And the Doctor plays with magnets with potentially deadly results.

REVIEW: This is the one that's still in the archives, so we can get a good look at what it looks like and must have felt like. And it's not very good, is it? The model photography is well done, white ships contrasting starkly with the blackness of space. And that haunting music puts me in mind of The Fifth Element and 2001. Once we get inside, however, it quickly falls apart. Like most Doctor Who futures, sets and technology look tatty, and the costumes are a real nightmare. The Space Corps's got a thing for glitter and jewelry, with huge diamond shapes on their strange wide-backed collars. Milo Clancey, frontiersman, is a walking anachronism who seems to have stepped out of a spaghetti western (his black pirate suit is even worse though). I will say I like Lady Issigri's (literal) helmet hairdo. That's future fashion I can believe in.

If the direction was more interesting, I might be more forgiving of the look, but while one-shot Who director Michael Hart has his effects people do some good work with the models, the same can't be said of his camera men. Characters are speaking with half their face behind a piece of furniture, and Issigri keeps looking off into the distance to telegraph she's actually a baddy. Not once or twice. At all times. It's very awkwardly staged. So it was probably too much to ask for Clancey's character to appear as anything but silly. On the page, and in the actor's performance, it almost works, mind you. His clownish attempts at obfuscation made me think of the Doctor himself, as if he were some distant American(ish) cousin of our favorite Time Lord. But his ship (called LIZ, of all things) is a cardboard set with a big flashing CALL sign and a solar toaster. Clancey making his breakfast is just awkward, like the props weren't really worked out. And then you have the cowboy walk around the V-Ship's bridge, a secure area with classified information on its screens, with his gun over his shoulder! Stuff that should have been nipped in the bud during the rehearsal process.

Not that I'm letting writer Robert Holmes off the hook, mind you. While his Clancey is colorful and the exposition about whoever's mining operations gets smoothly dumped, there's some really ropey dialog in the Doctor's few scenes. A laugh turned into a groan when Jamie had to be told by Zoe that he was having trouble breathing, like the Wile E. Coyote reading a book about gravity before falling down the Grand Canyon. Troughton rarely, if ever, bores his audience with unnecessary technobabble, resorting to more vulgarized explanations of what he must do, so that's nice. It doesn't mean his subplot (yes, the TARDISeers are trapped in a subplot) is much more than an engineering problem, and not a particularly engaging one. I do like that he'll attempt to save the day with a flathead screwdriver and a deep knowledge of electromagnetism, and the moment where he tells Zoe not to be a pessimist is amusing, if completely out of character for her. The fact that she was right doesn't really come into it. Zoe is quite hysterical in this one, and that's never been what her character was about.

REWATCHABILITY: Low - Badly designed, awkwardly directed, written with little care for characterization, and more than a little dull, too.

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