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Tansy Rayner Roberts

Jem and the Space Pirates [WHO-50—1969]

December 25th, 2012 at 9:38

I bought the Lost In Time DVD (a bunch of orphaned black and white Doctor Who episodes from stories that no longer exist in full) entirely for this project, and then wrote up posts for 1963-1968 without even taking off the plastic.

Whoops!

So instead of writing a serious essay about the thematic significance of The War Games, I thought I’d better see what this set had to offer from 1969. Given that the final Troughton season is the one with the most existing stories (hooray!) there was only one Lost in Time episode that fit the bill – Episode 2 of the Space Pirates.

Not exactly inspiring. But I was ahead on my blog writing, I’d get around to it while I watched other episodes I was more invested in. Like the three extant episodes of the Daleks’ Master Plan!

The next day, three-year-old Jem found the DVD case lying out and insisted we watched one. Yes, really. I warned her that it was in black and white, remembering the mixed results of the experiment with The Chase.

“BLACK AND WHITE!” she replied in a ‘rock on’ tone of voice.

So I put on the Celestial Toymaker, figuring the games and toys aspects might appeal to her. It did.

Jem and the Celestial Toymaker

Later in the day, after kindergym and lunch out with friends, she demanded another one. Well, I wasn’t going to say no, was I? I gave her the option of the menu on disc 2 and she picked Evil of the Daleks.

Jem and the Evil of the Daleks

That had to be it, right? But she kept asking for ANOTHER one, and I couldn’t bring myself to stop this crazy rollercoaster ride because of the surreal joy that came from a three year old wanting to watch these with me. I picked the next one, following in the Victoria Waterfield theme: The Abominable Snowman.

Jem and the Abominable Snowmen

I figured that was enough, but Jem said “ONE MORE!” so I thought I should actually do my homework and put in The Space Pirates from 1969. Oooh, I’d forgotten this was by Robert Holmes.

Space Pirates is one of the very few Doctor Who stories that I knew absolutely nothing about, going in. I’d always bounced off the synopsis, I’d missed the Target novelisation, and hadn’t bothered to listen to the audio version.

It wasn’t very promising at first. Lots of long slow scenes in spaceship interiors, with odd men in various Accents talking to each other. This turned out to be the episode featuring the Doctor, Jamie and Zoe sprawled out unconscious together (yes, you might well say that this doesn’t narrow it down a lot) which I had seen immortalised in many snuggly GIFs. In fact, this happens twice in this episode, which would seem excessive if it wasn’t so adorable.

As for the main part of the story, I was vaguely reminded of the second ever episode of Blake’s 7 (the prison ship one) only a bit less interesting. This impression was helped by extensive spaceship model shots and some very Liberator-ish background music. The plot, something to do with mining and a particular precious mineral, also rang a few ‘Ribos Operation’ bells too, but only the dull ones.

Jem was basically sitting with her back to the TV at this point, turning a marshmallow into some form of rudimentary lip gloss. I couldn’t blame her.

Madeleine Issigri with her giant silver head was a rather intriguing character, and I liked her Jetsons fashions. I also liked that the Doctor plot, in which he tries to come up with a plan to solve their imprisonment in a piece of an exploded space beacon, involved Zoe patiently pointing out all the possible flaws in that plan. Her smarts, and the way she explains science things while the Doctor is busy screaming his head off, are fabulous.

It’s nice to see Patrick Troughton moving about, because he’s such an interesting performer, and his Doctor is easy to forget about unless he’s right there in front of you on a screen, being fascinating and funny and alarmed.

But what with one thing and another, it’s probably a good thing that this extant episode of the Space Pirates features two most excellent examples of the TARDIS crew cuddling while unconscious, because that’s pretty much the highlight of the story.

Given how many complete Two and Jamie and Zoe stories we have, though, I can’t be disappointed in the lack of this one. Sure, it was less interesting than the other three we watched that day (um, put together) but the important part is: I WATCHED FOUR ORPHANED BLACK AND WHITE DOCTOR WHO EPISODES FROM THE 1960′s WITH MY THREE-YEAR-OLD IN ONE DAY.

Worth the price of the DVD, absolutely.

ELSEWHERE ON 1969:

The Krotons [Kasterborous]

Seeds of Death Episode 6 [Chronic Hysteresis]

The War Games [Wife in Space]

The War Games [The Memory Cheats]

NEXT: DOCTOR WHO IN COLOUR!

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