Sunday, 7 June 2009

Doctor Who: The Space Pirates

Part One

"There's only one thing we can do- run!"

Some top incidental music here, Dudley Simpson's best score so far. And with the music and modelwork (also excellent) together, it's all looking a bit 2001. The recon is excellent too, with lots of CGI and clever repeated use of existing footage.

We get a lot of awkward exposition from the strangely Gerry Anderson-esque Space Corps though- lines like "The beacons, as you know, are constructed of Argonite" are the ultimate in As-You-Know-Bobbery. In fact this feels more like a Gerry Anderson programme than Doctor Who at this point, until we're reminded of what we're watching by the fact the space corps' doors sound as if they're from Skaro. Absurdly late, 15 minutes in, the TARDIS materialises- will we ever see such a late appearance by the TARDISeers in a first episode again?

All that aside, though, you can appreciated how tightly constructed the episode is by the end. And I like Caven's Ned Kelly outfit.

Part Two

"Is it all right if I blow my nose, or is that another offence?"

The Space Corps' scanner looks like an old telly from the 60s. Odd, that.

I love Milo Clancey, especially the stuff with the boiled egg. Robert Holmes has truly arrived! Although, er, that's an interesting accent. It's also interesting that Clancey, the independent individual oppressed by government red tape, is presented as a hero- not the last time that Holmes seems to show a glimpse of possible libertarian politics in his scripts!

As this episode actually exists we can see how well shot this all is. And also that the Doctor seems to be carrying a perfectly ordinary screwdriver, not a sonic one. Oh, and Madeleine Issigri, she of the interesting headgear, is clearly a baddie.

Part Three

"Why don't you do something useful? Why don't you make us all a pot of tea or something?"

The General suspects Clancy of being the pirates' ringleader for no reason whatsoever. With other writers I'd peg this as poor characterisation, but from ex-policeman Holmes it may be based on his real life impressions of police work!

The scene where Zoe's worked out the destination of the pieces of the beacon is rather fun, especially the Doctor's reaction. Reminiscent of Holmes' earlier The Krotons, in fact.

Part Four

"I like drawing pins!"

At last the TARDISeers start to become sort of engaged with the main plot. That'll be a typical late Troughton six parter then. This is possibly the best episode yet, what with Troughton's antics with the tuning fork. And Jamie, inevitably, opening the door by hurling it across the room. Of course, the Doctor was carrying it in his pockets, along with some drawing pins. The one-day-to-be-traditional trope of the Doctor having capacious pockets starts properly here, and it starts with Bob Holmes.

Milo Clancey's a bit of a prototype for Han Solo, isn't he? aside from the minor detail of being completely different, that is. He's definitely the real hero though- you really feel sorry for him when the TARDISeers make their nasty accusations!

Part Five

"I do all the dirty work- the space piracy, the capital larceny, the first degree homicide..."

Suddenly (well, the pace hasn't exactly been that quick so far, but...) things are beginning to drag a bit, what with the Doctor & co being locked up in the second cell this episode and the Space Corps' continuing incompetence.

Part Six

"Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha!"

The last missing episode! Ever! Hooray! Much rejoicing! Etc!

It's only just occurred to me this far in how uncannily similar to the Star Trek theme tune the incidental music is. I wonder if that was deliberate?

Interesting how the Space Corps never actually meet the TARDISeers. And annoying how it all ends with some Hanna Barbera canned laughter...

Overall, there's no denying it drags and gets especially repetitive towards the end. Holmes is not exactly the finished article here, and this is not exactly one of the best stories ever, but this is nowhere near as bad as its reputation. Some of the dialogue sparkles and this is unmistakably Bob Holmes in the way The Krotons wasn't. A solid 3/5- quite conceivably higher if it'd been a four parter.

Ten whole episodes to watch and review tomorrow, then that's the Mighty Trout done for me!

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