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You may be looking for Dr. Who and the Space Pirates.

The Space Pirates was the sixth and penultimate serial of season 6 of Doctor Who. It is the last serial to contain missing episodes which only exist in stills, fragments, or reconstructions.

Currently, only episode two still exists in the BBC Archives.

Narratively notable for featuring the Doctor and his companions in a comparatively minor capacity for the times, Holmes' second script for the programme was an attempt at creating a "science fiction western". Clear allusions were evident to western character types as were being seen at the time in Britain on American imports like Gunsmoke. Holmes provided archetypes like "the lawman", "the deputy", "the pioneer", "the miner" and "the female businesswoman", amongst others. Indeed, the character of Milo Clancey wasn't even an allusion to a western stereotype; he was a wildcat prospector who dressed as if he'd just walked off the set of Bonanza.

Behind the scenes, the show was more than just the penultimate Patrick Troughton story. It was notable for a number of different reasons.

Episode six was effectively the series' first double banked episode. It was the first not to use any of the regular cast in studio recording since Mission to the Unknown. While the story was being recorded, the regulars were actually away filming on location for The War Games. Their portion of episode six was in fact pre-recorded and played back into the studio as required. (DWM 242)

Moreover, episode one was the final episode filmed at Lime Grove Studios, a particularly difficult studio that had been the bane of the production team since An Unearthly Child. While a number of stories had been recorded at BBC Television Centre before The Space Pirates, episode two was the beginning of the period where Doctor Who was more or less permanently assigned to Television Centre. More specifically, it was the first episode recorded at TC4, one of the premiere studios at Television Centre. Also, episode two was, unusually, a studio show recorded on 35mm film — which is why it's the only episode of the serial which survives. The BBC deemed it "historically significant" and retained it. (DWM 242)

The visual effects were somewhat unusual for Doctor Who. They realistically depicted space as starless at short range, perhaps informed by the then-daily glimpses of starless space in press coverage of the Apollo 11 launch.

Famously, the story was the first one on which John Nathan-Turner was employed by the Doctor Who production office, albeit in the minor and uncredited role of floor assistant, even though he was just called John Turner.


The TARDIS materialises in Earth's future on a space beacon just before it is attacked by pirates. The travellers find themselves trapped in a sealed section of the beacon. It is blown apart and flown to where the pirates will plunder it of the precious mineral argonite. They witness a conflict between the pirates and the Interstellar Space Corps, led by General Hermack and Major Warne.

The ISC are convinced that the pirates' mastermind is an innocent yet eccentric space mining pioneer named Milo Clancey, while their true leader is a man named Caven. Caven has a secret base on the planet Ta. He is assisted by Madeleine Issigri, daughter of Clancey's ex-partner Dom, who — unknown to her — is now his captive.

When Madeleine discovers Caven's full treachery, she helps to bring him to justice. The time travellers are given a lift back to the TARDIS by Clancey in his rickety old ship, the LIZ 79.


Episode one[]

A ship docks with the Alpha One government beacon. A man enters the airlock between the ship and the beacon. He is followed by two space suited engineers who are carrying equipment. The man operates a control and a hatch opens. The engineers go through the hatchway and out onto the beacon. Once in space, they begin fixing something onto the hull of the ship.

The man, Dervish, reports to his superior, Caven, that the engineers are operating. The two engineers come back inside the beacon, and the group returns to their ship.

The ship undocks from the beacon. After a moment, the beacon explodes.

On the government ship, V41-LO, Major Ian Warne reports to his superior, General Nikolai Hermack, that they still cannot locate the beacon. Hermack says it is not a mechanical failure but due to the metal with which the ship is made, argonite, the most expensive mineral in the world. Hermack relays this information over to the ship. Throughout the spaceship, the personnel are all listening intently. They are to abandon their mission, guard the beacons, and catch the criminals who are breaking them up for wealth. Hermack flicks a switch on the control panel to end his transmission. Hermack and Warne plan their strategy. There are 17 beacons overall, but four are in the Pliny System. It is there they will try.

The pirate ship docks with Alpha 7.

Dervish is worried about the Space Corps, but Caven states they are too busy with three wars to deal with pirates. Dervish operates the hatch control. He signals for the engineers to go through the hatchway. Dervish says he used to work for the Earth government and knows how strongly they take issues such as this. Caven slaps the bulkhead and says that the risk is worth it.

On the government ship, they are scanning the radar. Hermack is using a communicator to marshal the strategy. Hermack stands up and moves across to the chart table. They have based themselves near the planet Ta, headquarters of a mining company. They hope they will catch the pirates docking there for rest and recreation. They are notified of an unexpected ship by Alpha 7. They head off to catch it. As they approach, the ship undocks. They pursue it. As they do, they realise they have picked up the signal of some UHF demolition equipment. The Alpha 7 explodes. Hermack orders that they track the ship. It will take three hours to catch up, and the ship is accelerating at twice their capabilities. Their scanner is blocked by the pirates. They stop the pursuit. Hermack says that they are blowing the beacon into small chunks and shooting it across space to a predetermined drop off point. The only solution is to man the beacons.

Lieutenant Joe Sorba enters beacon Alpha 4. He is followed by Major Warne and four Space Corps guards. Warne sets up his radio and leaves him, saying that they will see him in six weeks. Warne then gives him a transmitter and says if there's any trouble, activate it.

Warne comes through the airlock and onto the bridge. They head off to their next beacon. Warne tells Hermack that he gave Sorba orders to shoot any unknown person on Alpha 4 on sight.

The TARDIS materialises on Alpha 4.

A guard reports to Sorba that he heard something in the computer bay. Sorba and the guards rush off to investigate.

The Doctor emerges from the TARDIS, saying he is not where he thought they would be. A piece of machinery catches his eye, and he goes to investigate. Zoe wants to explore, but Jamie wants to leave. The Doctor says he has nothing to worry about as the machine is designed to be operated remotely, so there is no one there. The Doctor wants to explore. He opens the door, and suddenly Sorba and the guards appear at the hatchway. As the travellers flee, Jamie slams the hatch shut behind them. Sorba and the guards fire at the door. The Doctor and his colleagues run. Sorba pursues, reiterating the order that they are to shoot to kill.

The pirate ship docks on Alpha 4. They hear the gunfire as soon as they board the beacon. Caven orders for the crew, and Dervish rushes back onto the pirate ship.

The Doctor, Jamie, and Zoe enter the corridor. The Doctor puts a locking bar across the hatch. Zoe wonders why they would shoot at them. The pursuants begin cutting through the door. The travellers move deeper into the beacon, leaving the TARDIS further behind. They reach a dead end.

Sorba and the guards are ambushed by Caven. They are all shot down, but Sorba manages to activate the transmitter.

V41 registers the transmitter and heads off.

Sorba is lying on the floor. Caven nudges him with his foot. He is still alive. Dervish states he knew they shouldn't have carried on and wants to run. Caven bends down and picks up the transmitter lying by Sorba. He orders the destruction of the beacon just the same. He destroys the transmitter.

The emergency signal continues for a moment, then stops abruptly. V41 is still two hours and twenty minutes from Alpha 4.

Caven mocks a now conscious Sorba. Sorba asks about the decoys sent ahead, meaning the Doctor and his colleagues. Caven says he has no idea what he means. Dervish comes down the corridor. The charges have been fixed. Caven gestures to Sorba. If he can walk, they are to save him; if not, he dies. Caven fires his gun at the control of the door that leads to the corridor where the Doctor and his colleagues are before they head off.

The Doctor and his colleagues listen for noise. There is nothing. They are confused as just minutes before, they were being chased. The Doctor touches the door, but it burns his fingers. They begin to hear noises on the hull of the ship. The travellers stop and listen.

Outside, the engineers are placing the charges on the ship.

The Doctor and his colleagues decide to head back to the TARDIS. Zoe operates the door control, but the door does not open. Jamie tries the door, then throws all his weight into it. The Doctor joins him, but they cannot move it. They are prisoners.

The pirate ship undocks from Alpha 4.

The ship's movement is registered on the V41. They are still 90 minutes away. Alpha 4 begins to break up.

The Doctor, Jamie, and Zoe are thrown around the disintegrating beacon...

Episode two[]

The Doctor considers the dangerous position he, Jamie and Zoe are in onboard a segment of Beacon Alpha Four

The government ship attempts to track the pirate ship, but the pirates block their signal. Hermack gets cross and storms off. Warne says that if they found where the pirates are based, they could lure them in. Warne asks Hermack if Sorba and his men are still alive. Hermack believes everyone on the beacon must be dead.

On the beacon, the Doctor and his colleagues are unconscious.

On V41, the radar picks up a ship that is barely moving. It is an old trading ship.

On the trading ship, LIZ 79, a lone man sets about making his breakfast on his failing ship. The solar toaster doesn't work, and when the lights flicker, he has to bang the unit with a spanner. Hermack radios in. The man tells him to go away. Hermack asks for his registration details, and the man says he lost them thirty years ago.

The government ship identifies the man as Milo Clancey. Clancey tries to shake Hermack off, but Hermack sends a boarding party and tells Clancey not to resist.

The Doctor wakes up. He tries to rouse Jamie and Zoe but cannot. He drags an oxygen canister over to them.

A guard has been sent for Clancey. Hermack tells Warne he is a mining prospector; prospectors historically do not like Space Corps as they were operating before the Space Corps were set up. When Clancey arrives, Hermack asks him why he is here and why he's not reported in. Clancey says that he hasn't reported to anyone for the last ten years. When it comes to why he is here, he states that the Space Corps should have read his last two reports. He has lost his last two hauls of argonite to the pirates and has taken to tracking them down himself. When Hermack says that is their aim too, Clancey is scathing. The technology possessed by the pirates is far superior to what the government has.

Jamie and Zoe are now conscious and are helping the Doctor find out what has happened. They are on just a shard of the beacon and separated from the TARDIS. They realise that the men they saw must have been defending the beacon. When Zoe says they are floating aimlessly in space, the Doctor disagrees. They have a rocket attached to them and are floating in perfect tandem with the rest of the beacon. He is distracted by a sound.

Hermack dismisses Clancey. Warne feels this is premature and that he is in some way affiliated with the pirates. Hermack agrees and says that is why he let him go.

The Doctor has unscrewed a panel and is investigating the technology beneath. Zoe is despondent. She tells Jamie it will be mere hours before they run out of oxygen.

Hermack arms a smaller ship called a minnow with missiles, and Warne sets off in pursuit of Clancey's ship. Hermack goes to land on Ta.

The Doctor and his colleagues are having to conserve oxygen. The Doctor says that the machinery is a solar powered magnet that creates a force field that used to hold the beacon together. The Doctor says if he reactivates that, he could pull this part of the beacon together with the next piece until they reach the TARDIS. Zoe raises the possibility that the next piece might be a polar opposite to the piece they are in, which means the reactivation will push them deeper into space. The Doctor tells her to not be so pessimistic.

On Ta, Hermack is socialising with Madeleine Issigri, the head of the Issigri Mining Company. He tells her of his involvement with Clancey. Clancey was involved with Issigiri's father in a business capacity, and when the partnership broke up, he was linked with the murder of Dom Issigri. Hermack speculates it is this that led him to piracy.

The Doctor and his colleagues are struggling due to the lack of oxygen. They try the magnet, but Zoe's fears are met. The force is so strong that the Doctor can't turn off the machine for some time. When he finally does, they have shot further into space and are too far away from the rest of the beacon to start again. They are floating hopelessly in space.

Hermack receives a report from Warne that Clancey is zoning in on a section of the Alpha 4 beacon. Hermack claims this as proof he was right about Clancey. He gives orders to arrest Clancey and, if he tries to escape, to use the missiles.

The Doctor, Jamie, and Zoe are slumped on the floor, almost devoid of oxygen, when there is a knock on the hull of the beacon. Soon someone is cutting through the side of the ship. Clancey appears, and Jamie darts towards him. Clancey is startled, and shoots Jamie down. Zoe looks at the scene in front of her and screams, "You murderer!" at the prospector.

Episode three[]

Clancey tells the Doctor and Zoe to stand still.

Penn arrives on Ta. Hermack tells Penn to take the V-Ship out of Ta's orbit by about twenty miles. Madeleine asks Hermack why he's not going with his ship. Hermack says he's going to be in charge on the ground. Penn leaves. Madeleine tells Hermack he's not taking any chances. Clancey is to be tried and imprisoned. Madeleine feels sorry for Clancey as she once tried to buy him out. They cross to the video board. Warne is contacting Hermack. Warne reports Clancey is stationary and linked with the segment of Alpha 4. Hermack tells Warne if Clancey does not answer in two minutes, to fire warning rockets. If that is ignored, he must fire the missiles.

Warne's call is being broadcast to the LIZ, but no one is there to listen.

On the beacon segment, Clancey tells the Doctor to hurry up and answer his questions. The Doctor realises Clancey thinks he's a pirate, but Clancey soon sees he's wrong. Meanwhile, Jamie has only been stunned and is beginning to recover. Clancey begins asking them questions. They tell the truth, but Clancey doesn't believe them. He wants answers in ten seconds but as he counts down, the beacon shakes; the minnow is firing warning rockets at the LIZ. The group all run into the LIZ.

Clancey's ship uncouples from the shard of Alpha 4 and moves off.

Clancey gets Warne's message and puts the LIZ on full speed, denying the Doctor's suggestion that they should give in. The ship lurches off. An old tea pot rocks in a cupboard and falls out. The Doctor attempts to catch it but misses, and it smashes on the floor. Clancey takes off his helmet and throws all his weight on a huge lever, which swings over with a crack. Clancey has deployed copper needles, which immobilise the minnow's tracking devices. They are now safe. Clancey is surprised to find the strangers don't know about argonite. Zoe asks the Doctor if they'll ever see the TARDIS again. The Doctor learns the pirates took the segments to their base to salvage, so they'll have to find the pirates in order to find the TARDIS whilst avoiding the Space Corps. Clancey moves Zoe out of the way so he can settle himself at the controls. He asks Zoe to make them some tea. Jamie looks wistfully at the pieces of broken teapot on the floor. Clancey decides to hide in the one place Hermack will never find them.

Warne reports his controls are jammed. It further angers Hermack when Warne says he's lost contact with Clancey. Madeleine and her secretary enter. Madeleine gives her secretary production figures. The secretary leaves. Hermack informs her that Clancey's escaped. Hermack contacts Penn to order the launch of the rest of the minnows: LIZ 79 is to be found and destroyed.

The minnows launch.

Clancey adjusts a valve as the LIZ is pounding along at top speed. Jamie is feeling travel sick. Clancey wipes his hands on an old rag. The Doctor tells Clancey the pressure's a little high on the thermonuclear gauge, but Clancey dismisses it. Clancey tells them they are heading for Ta and are going to hide right under Madeleine Issigri's nose. He explains he and Madeleine are enemies despite the fact that years ago, he and her father mined Ta for a decade. There is no surface level life on Ta due to the ultraviolet light, so Clancey looks for his old entrance.

Hermack tells Penn to land the V-Ship on a landing pad on Ta. He intends to go to Lobos, Clancey's base, assuming that is where the argonite is heading. Hermack sees a model of a sleek black spaceship on a table. It is a Beta Dart. Madeleine says they've just bought them. Hermack says he'd hate to blow up one of her Beta Darts instead of the pirates. Madeleine slips a striped nose cone over the prow of the model; this will indicate it's an Issigri Beta Dart. Hermack still thinks Clancey is the pirate leader, but Madeleine remains sceptical. Hermack leaves to go to pick up Warne. As soon as he's left, Madeleine crosses to her desk and picks up the audio phone thoughtfully.

The LIZ slams down with a grinding lurch, and the travellers end up in a tangled heap, except Clancey, who had strapped himself in. Clancey says they are now a mile underground. He packs a bag of tools and tells them to stay in the ship; he's going to repair the generator. After he leaves, Jamie checks to make sure he's gone as Zoe is totally absorbed with paper and pen. Jamie is suspicious of Clancey. However, the Doctor says they have to trust Clancey — for the moment. Meanwhile, Zoe has finished and says she knows where the beacon segments and the TARDIS are. The Doctor is sceptical. Zoe gives the Doctor an annoyed look, but he smiles in return. She hands him the paper with the equations, and he sees she is right: they are all headed for Ta. Jamie seems unsure, but the Doctor hands the sheet of paper to him and states that it is all perfectly simple. Jamie and Zoe think Clancey's a pirate, and the Doctor agrees that it's entirely possible. The TARDIS crew decide to leave the LIZ and take their chances in the tunnels. The Doctor crosses to the hatch door and opens it slightly, then opens it wide. The Doctor warns that they need to be quiet. Jamie trips over a piece of equipment. He rises and follows them.

In the pirate base on Ta, Caven is talking with Dervish. Caven tells Dervish to stop melting the Alpha 2 segments as Suledin can handle it, and he's got another assignment for him. Caven tells Dervish he's redirected the Alpha 4 segments to Lobos to throw suspicion on Clancey. Caven tells Dervish to get in the Beta Dart and direct the segments to Lobos. Dervish responds that it's crazy to do that, as there's a V-Ship in the sector. Caven stands and points his gun at Dervish. Dervish is forced to comply. An alarm suddenly goes off. There are intruders in the tunnels.

The Doctor, Jamie, and Zoe are lost. Zoe warns the Doctor and Jamie that they are going deeper into the tunnels. They hear a noise ahead. They move on slowly.

Clancey returns and discovers the strangers missing. He grabs his gun and hurries out.

The Doctor, Jamie, and Zoe see a crack of light. Zoe climbs on Jamie's back and peers through the fissure. Through the fissure, Zoe sees two men with thermal lances cutting chunks off a metal structure. Zoe climbs down. These must be the pirates. As they decide what to do, a burst of light hits the group. They all spin around. It is a floodlight coming towards them, pushed by two pirate guards. Caven fires at them. The blast from the gun chips the rock around them. Zoe spots an opening in the rock wall and goes through it. As Jamie and the Doctor follow her, they all fall down a dark mine shaft...

Episode four[]

The Doctor, Jamie and Zoe make a hard landing on the barren floor of an underground room. The Doctor puts his hand in his pocket and pulls out some drawing pins which gave him a tough landing.

Caven stares down the mine shaft. He says they won't give them any more trouble.

Jamie rubs his ankle. He takes in the new surroundings. Suddenly, a low moan emanates from a dark corner of the room. The Doctor gestures for Jamie and Zoe to stay back. Cautiously, he edges towards the dark corner where the noise is coming from. Jamie picks up a large rock and silently moves across to support the Doctor. They find Lt. Sorba, seized from Alpha 4, lying unconscious by the wall. Zoe points out a wound on Sorba's shoulder. The Doctor looks around and sees an earthware bowl filled with water. He soaks his handkerchief in the water and rubs Sorba's face with it.

In his headquarters, Caven contacts Dervish on the Beta Buccaneer. Dervish says he's coming back to Ta, as there's a V-Ship three hours away, and it will take twelve hours to divert the segments. Caven tells Dervish to find some way to speed it up. Dervish still wants to come back. Caven holds up a cylinder for Dervish to see. It has wires running from it into the control panel. He tells Dervish that he should recognise it as he invented it. Dervish does — it's a bomb detonator. Caven tells Dervish that there's a bomb on the Buccaneer. Dervish thinks he's bluffing, but finally agrees.

On board the V-Ship, Penn reports that they are continuing to track the beacon and that Major Warne is coming aboard. Hermack turns to Penn and tells him to set a course for Lobos. Warne enters the bridge. Warne hands Hermack a large heavy copper needle. Hermack berates Warne for being outwitted by Clancey. He says they will now take him on the ground. He tells Warne they are heading towards Lobos and indicates a planet on the chart. Hermack says that's where they will find Clancey — and the beacon segments.

Down in the cave, Sorba has recovered and begins to recognise the travellers. Sorba is initially suspicious of them but is soon won over. Sorba says there's no way out of the cell, but the Doctor is optimistic. He says there must be a door somewhere, but the trouble is finding it. He begins to look, but Sorba says he's wasting his time. His companions don't think there's a door either. The Doctor points to the bowl with the water in it and says that it couldn't have been thrown down.

In his HQ, Caven is talking to Dervish over the video screen. Dervish says the crew are diverting the segments to Lobos, but one of the segments is missing. Caven says that's impossible. Dervish says someone must have engineered it out of its flight path. Caven remembers Sorba saying there were other people on the beacon. Caven tells Dervish that he's going to question Sorba. Caven turns the link off.

Sorba and Zoe watch the Doctor and Jamie as they scratch and bang the wall. Jamie tells the Doctor they're wasting their time, but the Doctor tells the Highlander to be patient. The Doctor notices cracks in the wall. He produces a stethoscope from his pocket and listens to the wall. He listens intently and repeatedly taps the same spot on the wall. The Doctor says there must be a audio lock under that spot. The Doctor rummages through his pockets until he finds a tuning fork. Listening through the stethoscope, the Doctor begins to twang tuning the fork and holds it against the wall.

Back on the V-Ship, Penn gets several contacts on the scanner. He says they are the Alpha 4 segments , but they are missing one section. He says they are heading towards a planet — Lobos. Penn then sees a larger contact — too big to be a segment, but large enough to be a spaceship. The unidentified object circles the pieces of the beacon. Warne hurries away to investigate. Hermack says that the ship is now their target and puts the ship on full boost. The minnow pursues.

In his headquarters, Caven is speaking to a pirate guard. He is to fetch Sorba. Caven hands the guard a short tube and says it's the audio key. As the guard turns and leaves, the video screen activates. Dervish appears and says there's a minnow on his tail. He says it thirty miles behind him and closing.

Warne has lost contact with the ship, and Penn has to give him directions.

The Buccaneer flies into an Issigri striped nose cone.

Hermack sees the nose cone and calls off the attack. Hermack tells Warne to return, assuming they lost the ship.

The Doctor is still twanging away with his tuning fork and listening through the stethoscope. Everyone is getting annoyed at the noise, but the Doctor says it is their only way of escaping. He returns to it. Jamie snatches the tuning fork and hurls it at the wall. The tuning fork hits the wall and vibrates loudly, causing a hidden door to slide open. The Doctor says Jamie found the right note. Suddenly, Clancey comes through. The TARDIS crew still think he's a pirate. The Doctor considers him threatening and points to his gun. Clancey's assures them he's on their side, as if he wasn't why would he be here. Clancey tells them to come with him, even accepting Sorba into the gang. They hear someone coming. They all hide. Two guards approach the open cell door. One of them enters, and Clancey shoots him. The other guard turns and quickly speeds away. An alarm is raised. The group head out of the cell and along a tunnel.

Caven is in his HQ. He is speaking to someone over a radio. Caven asks the other pirate where the prisoners are. The man tells Caven they are all on level eight. The pirate says they know the tunnels better then the pirates. Caven realises Clancey must be with them. Caven tells the other pirate he's coming down to level eight — and he wants the prisoners caught or killed. Caven leaves.

The Doctor's group slowly make their way along a tunnel. Sorba is being helped along by Jamie. Jamie wants to rest, but Clancey says they can't. Zoe asks where they're going and Milo says they are heading towards Madeleine's office — they must warn her of Caven's threat. Milo recognises the pirates leader — Maurice Caven. Zoe says she thought Clancey and Madeleine were enemies, but Clancey says he thinks he was mistaken. Madeleine blames him for her father's death, but Clancey is sure he disappeared. Clancey used to think it was her that was masterminding the pirates' operation, but as he was approaching the cell he caught sight of Caven. Clancey has seen his picture before. However, their talk is cut short when they hear footsteps approaching. They move off and turn a corner which leads into another long tunnel. Sorba, still helped by Jamie, is struggling to keep up. Sorba wants to be left, but Clancey says they are almost there. Jamie takes Milo's gun and heads back down the tunnel. The Doctor notices a panel set into one of the rock walls. Clancey says it is a power distributor. The Doctor reaches into the panel to see if it works but pulls his hand away when he gets an electric shock.

Jamie has taken cover and is trying to defend the tunnel. Caven fires a shot that narrowly misses Jamie and hits the wall behind him.

The Doctor is tinkering with the power distributor.

Jamie shoots another guard, but when he tries to fire his gun, his gun has run out of power. Jamie looks at the gun and throws it down in disgust. Caven waves his arm indicating for his men to move forward.

The Doctor has stopped fiddling with the panel and flicks a switch to test it. Jamie rounds the corner. The Doctor flicks the switch back in again, then he and Jamie run off. Caven and the guards enter, and a guard is electrocuted by the Doctor's trap.

The Doctor and Jamie meet up with the others. They are being shown the headquarters. They meet with her. Clancey asks Madeleine to contact Hermack and tell him about the pirates.

Caven destroys the control panel with his blaster. With the control panel destroyed, Caven waves the guards on.

Madeleine still doesn't believe their story, even if there were pirates her guards would defend them. Clancey turns to the Doctor, who can't help, then he turns back to Madeleine. Realising it's no good, Clancey reaches for the communications panel, but Madeleine pulls a gun on him. At that moment, Caven enters followed by his two guards. Sorba grabs a weapon, but Caven shoots him dead. Caven asks if anyone else wants to die like a hero...

Episode five[]

Madeleine is distressed at Sorba's murder. She tells Caven she doesn't want anymore killing, but Caven says it's too bad. She says she didn't agree to murder. Caven wants to kill the "snoops", but Madeleine disagrees. The Doctor sees Jamie getting ready to pounce. He nudges Clancey, who grabs the Scot. Caven whispers to a guard, who shepherds the Doctor and his friends out. Caven assures Madeleine they won't be shot, but she doesn't trust him. Caven says the V-Ship is becoming a nuisance, and he's thought of a way of dealing with it.

On board the V-Ship, Warne is communicating with Hermack by video screen. Warne says the beacon segments are orbiting Lobos. He then says that he looked for the atomic radiation used by Beta Darts, but found none. The Darts couldn't have gone to Lobos despite the fact that parts of the beacon are orbiting around the planet. Hermack tells Warne to come back to the V-Ship. He turns the video screen off. Hermack tells Penn to set up a homing beacon for Warne. Penn does, and then tells Hermack that the original course of the segments was to Ta, not Lobos. Hermack thanks Penn.

The Doctor and his friends are being ushered along a corridor by a guard. Zoe asks the guard where he's taking them, but the guard tells her to shut up. Another guard is unlocking a heavy steel door. He swings it open and gestures them to enter. With a kick, the guard forces them into the darkness then locks the door behind them. Milo soon realises they're in Dom Issigri's private study. The Doctor wants to know where the light switch is, but Milo says Dom used candlelight. The Doctor finds a cupboard filled with candles. The Doctor produces a box of matches like a conjuror, lights some candles and dots them round the dusty room. Clancey wonders why Madeleine let Caven throw them in Dom's study, as when Dom disappeared, Madeleine ordered it closed off, and no one was allowed to enter. Jamie says no one has. However, the Doctor disagrees. The Doctor points to the clock — why would someone come down just to wind a clock? Zoe points to a bare foot sticking out from under the table. The Doctor whips the cover off the table to reveal an unkempt face. The man scuttles out, mouthing incoherent threats.

Dervish is reporting to Caven over video screen and says he's in landing orbit. Caven tells Dervish to bring the Buccaneer down on pad three. He turns the screen off. He crosses to Madeleine. She's worried that the Space Corps will find them and that they should use their emergency plan of destroying the mining works. Caven says there's an alternative, and if it works, they can start up all over again on another planet. Madeleine asks him what his plan is. Caven says Hermack thinks Clancey is the pirate leader. He's going to have Clancey's ship fitted with a remote control device. He then says he'll put Clancey and his friends aboard and send them into orbit, and when the V-Ship spots the ship, they'll let them chase them for a while before blasting the LIZ to pieces. Madeleine is distressed and wants to stop Caven. She states that when she got into this it was a salvage operation and now they are involved with theft and murder. Caven threatens Madeleine, saying she barely has any guards, and he has more — and his are all armed. Before Madeleine can answer, Dervish walks in. Caven tells Dervish to go to the LIZ and fit it with a remote control device. Before the engineer leaves, Caven tells him to plant a device on the oxygen pump that will deactivate it in space.

Back in the study, Milo is trying to talk to the man who they now realise is Dom Issigri. The Doctor and Jamie have Dom pinned in a chair. Zoe asks Milo if he's sure it's Dom, but Milo is sure it's Dom. The Doctor tells Jamie to let Dom go. They release him, and he scuttles away into a corner of the room. Clancey wants to know what's happened to his partner. The Doctor says he can't expect Dom to behave normally after being cooped up in the study for several years. He then tells Milo that he should have a quiet talk with Dom. Milo goes over to talk to Dom. He begins to talk about the LIZ and their adventures and how they broke speed records to get back for Madeleine's birth. Dom stops shivering and mumbling but is still rooted in the corner. At mention of his daughter, Dom produces a crumpled photo from his pocket to show Milo — it is a picture of Madeleine when she was six.

Madeleine is walking towards the study door. She asks the guard where the prisoners are. The guard indicates the door. Madeleine is horrified that the prisoners are locked in her father's study. As she hurries off, the guard watches her thoughtfully. He tells his fellow guard to get Caven and tell him Ms. Issigri has been trying to see the prisoners.

Dom is calmed down and begins to recognise his partner. Milo sits Dom down in a chair. Dom says they are all going to die in the study. The Doctor says they'll get out. Dom tells them that Caven captured him and locked him in his study years ago to drive a wedge between Clancey and Madeleine. They discuss why Caven didn't have Dom killed.

Dervish is talking to another pirate over video phone. He tells the other pirate to get the equipment down to the LIZ. He replaces the phone and turns as Madeleine enters looking for Caven. She asks if there's any way to stop Caven, but the engineer says he knows Caven, and he'll kill them if he heard them talking like this. She asks how he got involved with Caven, and he states he made a mistake many years ago and that Caven has had control ever since. Madeleine begs Dervish for help, but he pushes his way past Madeleine and leaves. Madeleine looks round the room and goes to the video control, pushing buttons to change the frequency. She is trying to contact Hermack.

On board the V-Ship, Penn informs Warne there's a video call from Issigri HQ. Penn puts Madeleine through. Madeleine tells them "they must get" before the screen goes black. Penn says someone has pulled the plug on the other side.

Caven has pulled the plug. Caven asks why she has been looking for the prisoners. She tells him she'll never help him, but Caven says he'll kill her father. Caven tells her Dom's alive, and to back up his statement, he shows her a recent photo of her father. She takes the photo. Caven tells her he's in the study. Madeleine lashes out at Caven, thumping his chest in a burst of anger and upset. She stops and starts to cry. Caven tells her how she's going to help him.

Penn says it's no use, and that there's not a peep from Madeleine. The officers are suspicious. Hermack tells Penn to set course for Ta.

The Doctor is standing by the steel door. The Doctor asks Milo, if they escaped, could he find his way back to the LIZ. Milo says yes. The Doctor gets out a box of candles and starts handing them around before he looks for his bag of marbles.

Madeleine is talking to Hermack over the video screen. She tells him they had a mechanical fault and that all she wanted to say was that another of her ships has been affected by pirates. Hermack tells Madeleine that the V-Ship is going to land on Ta. She tries to dissuade him, but Hermack says it's best to check. Caven moves towards the video screen and fiddles with the controls. Dervish appears on the screen. He says they've almost finished their modifications.

The group are smearing candle wax into the carpet. The Doctor has also emptied his bag of marbles onto the floor. He tells Jamie to hand him the green one — his favourite. He slips the marble into his pocket. Dom passes a coat, a book and some rags to the Doctor. The Doctor says it'll make a good fire. He moves a chair next to the door, takes the tray of rags and climbs onto the chair. The others hold makeshift weapons. The Doctor lights the rags. The smoke starts to go through the vent. The guards in the corridor see the smoke coming from the vent. The guards charge in and slip on the wax and marbles. Zoe breaks a vase over a guard's head, and they escape into the corridor.

A guard is reporting to Caven. Caven berates the guard for allowing the prisoners to escape. He tells the guard to get after them. Madeleine says they won't catch them before the Space Corps arrive and laughs. A communication comes through. A guard says that the prisoners have been spotted on level three and says they are heading towards the LIZ. Caven tells the guard to not make any attempt to stop the prisoners and to let them get to the ship. Caven says as soon as they're in space, the control device will activate, and he'll turn off the oxygen and kill them.

Clancey, Dom and the Doctor have reached the LIZ ahead of Jamie and Zoe. The Doctor wants to go back out after them, but Clancey says they can't be that far back. He prepares for take-off.

Dervish tells Caven the V-Ship is approaching Ta. Caven tells the engineer to activate the control device.

The Doctor goes to find Zoe and Jamie. Suddenly, switches and levers start to move by themselves. Caven's over-rider control is piloting the LIZ by remote control. Clancey fights with the controls, trying to stop the launch before the Doctor is burnt to a crackle.

The Doctor backs away from the blast of the rocket. He begins to choke as the fumes overwhelm him, and eventually he falls lifeless.

Episode six[]

Jamie hears the rocket take off. Has the Doctor left without them? They hurry away.

Clancey is desperate to try to regain control of his ship but to no avail.

Jamie and Zoe find the Doctor unconscious. Zoe finds that he has a weak pulse. Jamie and Zoe carry the Doctor away from the fumes.

Craven cuts the oxygen supply to the LIZ, despite Madeleine's protestations.

Don starts to choke, and Clancey discovers the air supply has been cut.

Jamie and Zoe lower the Doctor to the ground where the air is cleaner. The Doctor comes to. The Doctor thinks that the LIZ is being controlled by remote control and they must find the controls.

Dervish wants to call off the destruction of the LIZ but Caven disagrees. Dervish says that there are only two people on the ship. Caven loses his temper, thinking that the Doctor will contact the Space Corps. Caven goes off to look for him, saying that Madeleine is to be killed if she causes any more trouble.

Clancey is still trying to dismantle the control unit, but he collapses.

Hermack begins his aerial inspection of Ta.

Madeleine begs Dervish for help, but he refuses. Unseen by Dervish, the Doctor, Jamie and Zoe quietly enter the room. Madeleine provokes Dervish. Dervish raises his gun, but Jamie knocks it, causing the blast to hit the control unit. Jamie then knocks Dervish out with a punch. Madeleine tells them all that has been happening. The Doctor inspects the control unit. The blast from the gun has fused the wires together.

Caven is looking for the Doctor. He tells the guards to shoot him on sight.

Dervish has regained consciousness and, unseen by the others, he slips out of the room. The Doctor has got the air conditioning and radio link on the LIZ working.

Dervish scuttles away from the office, constantly checking behind him.

The radio link is working, but Clancey and Dom are out cold.

Jamie realises that Dervish has gone. Madeleine locks the main doors, and they try to contact the LIZ again.

Clancey shakes his head as he regains consciousness. Hermack contacts him shortly after Madeleine to say a ship is coming alongside him. Clancey tells him he has a story to tell him.

Dervish tells Caven of the Doctor's return.

Clancey has told Hermack everything. He uses Don's existence and testimony as proof. Hermack contacts Madeleine and says they are launching a full scale attack of Ta in 55 minutes. Meanwhile the Doctor is going to help Clancey dismantle the remote control unit. He asks if Clancey knows where the computer pre-selector is. Scratching his head, Clancey stares bemused at the numerous control panels. Clancey presses a button that makes his chair recline a few inches. Clancey suddenly recognises the panel that he has been looking for.

Caven and Dervish reach the locked door. Caven tries to sweet talk Madeleine. She uses the internal video to communicate with him. He states he is going to detonate the atomic fuel store. Dervish protests, but he pushes Dervish away and turns back to Madeleine. In forty minutes an explosion the strength of eighty hydrogen bombs will tear everyone apart, and he and Dervish will be out of the blast zone. Before he leaves, he overrides the manual lock, trapping everyone inside. Madeleine realises the Space Corps will not return in time. The Doctor says only Clancey can save them.

In the fuel store, Dervish is attaching small canisters to the atomic cylinders. He connects a series of wires together and then leaves. Returning to the corridor, he removes his mask and gloves. Caven berates him for taking a rest as they only have half an hour. Dervish puts his gloves and mask on and goes back in the room.

Madeleine tells Hermack what has happened. Hermack will try to intercept Caven.

The Doctor is helping Clancey to deactivate the remote control unit. Clancey gets an electric shock. Clancey pulls out the override, and the ship immediately lurches in response. With the LIZ now back under his control, Clancey jumps into the pilot's seat.

Dervish connects the main fuel cable to the detonator unit. Finally, he attaches another cable into the radio box and leaves the fuel store. Dervish takes off his mask and gloves and begins to remove his protective clothing. He is told the ship is ready. Dervish removes the rest of his protective clothing and follows Caven.

The Space Corp begin to track Caven's ship with a minnow.

Don steadies himself as he sways from a dizzy spell. Clancey reassures him. They are only a few minutes from Ta.

Warne in the minnow has caught up with Caven. Caven contacts Hermack and threatens the destruction of Ta unless the minnow keeps its distance.

The LIZ lands on Ta. Madeleine tells Clancey to come to the headquarters. Exhausted, Don stays behind.

Madeleine tells Hermack that the Doctor thinks he can defuse the bomb. Hermack says they only have nine minutes. Clancey breaks the lock to the door and releases them. They all run out, telling Clancey about the bomb.

Warne wants to attack. Hermack calls him off for seven more minutes.

The Doctor is putting on Dervish's discarded protective clothing. Madeleine tells him they have six minutes as he enters the fuel room. The others gather round the inspection hatch to watch the Doctor. Cautiously, the Doctor examines the control box. He carefully tries the weight of the cables. He checks the radiation level using a Geiger counter. Then he moves over to the radio box and examines the cables and levels. Jamie and Zoe are frustrated and anxious, but Clancey tells them to be calm. The Doctor is tentatively unscrewing the inspection cover for the control box and gently places it on the workbench. Then he carefully covers the device containing the detonator. He begins carefully unscrewing the detonator. Once it is free, the Doctor removes the detonator, disarming the device.

Hermack is told they are 150 seconds from explosion. He gives the order to attack. As the ship approaches, Caven presses the button.

The detonation signal flashes in the control box, but the system has been disarmed.

Caven's ship is destroyed by Warne.

Everyone is celebrating on Ta. Madeleine tells everyone she is expecting the Space Corp to pick her up for her involvement with the piracy. She says that Hermack has reassured her the punishment should not be too severe. She heads off to be reunited with her father and leaves, thanking the Doctor as she leaves. Zoe asks the Doctor how they are to be reunited with the TARDIS. The Doctor says that it is orbiting round Lobos in one of the pieces of the beacon. When Jamie is told they are going to get a lift in the LIZ, he says he'd rather walk. Hearing this, Clancey isn't pleased, and the Doctor says Jamie might have to do just that! Everyone laughs at Jamie's shocked expression as they make their way to the LIZ.


Uncredited cast[]




The Doctor[]

  • The Doctor carries drawing-pins on him.
  • The Doctor uses a stethoscope to look for an audio lock in the cell he is locked in.




Story notes[]

  • Only episode two of this six-part story exists in the BBC Archives as a 35mm black & white film telerecording. Also, no tele-snaps are known to exist, leaving only production stills as a visual reference for the missing episodes.
  • This is the most recent story from which episodes are still missing in their entirety. A number of later Pertwee episodes are missing in that their original 2" quad tapes were wiped, but copies exist. Episode six is the last episode of Doctor Who to be completely missing.
  • In 1999, episode two (the single surviving episode of this story) was found on a VHS cassette recording in the possession of an amateur video collector. This is, to date, the only known episode of 1960s Doctor Who to have been recorded and preserved on a homemade tape.
  • The story title, writer's name and episode number caption credits for each episode are shown in black against a white background following (except in episode one's case) the reprise from the previous episode.
  • The serial features a brief, diegetic rendition of "Over the Rainbow" in episode two when Milo Clancey prepares a boiled egg for his breakfast aboard the LIZ 79. This was an unscripted ad-lib by Gordon Gostelow.
  • A History of the Universe arbitrarily dates this story to 2119, but AHistory, equally arbitrarily, dates it to 2135.
  • Derrick Sherwin returns as script editor for this story before taking over as producer for the following serial.
  • Mary Thomas provided the uncredited vocals that accompanied Dudley Simpson's musical score. (DWM 242)
  • This is the only penultimate story in a Second Doctor season to not feature a companion departure.
  • According to Patrick Troughton's son Michael, the actor wrote in his diary that he wasn't impressed by the slow-moving plot. "I remember my father arriving at our house after completing a producers' run-through for episode two of The Space Pirates. He was angry, but anger born of frustration rather than aggression. I recall him complaining to my mother about how dull and unwatchable The Space Pirates was going to be: 'This is episode two and we're still trapped in that bloody awful spaceship set. I told them people will just turn off.' ".[source needed]
  • As revealed on a YouTube documentary, Wendy Padbury has no memory of working on this serial at all but would like to see it recovered.


  • Episode one - 5.8 million viewers
  • Episode two - 6.8 million viewers
  • Episode three - 6.4 million viewers
  • Episode four - 5.8 million viewers
  • Episode five - 5.5 million viewers
  • Episode six - 5.3 million viewers


This "latter day" myth was wholly created by poor copy editing by Loose Cannon Productions. Unfortunately, the popularity of their reconstruction means that many fans will have encountered it. 12 May 1969 was a Monday, so Doctor Who couldn't possibly have been broadcast on that date. Moreover, the 12 May was some ten weeks after the 8 March start date of the six-part story. The truth is that the story was broadcast from 8 March to 12th April.

Filming locations[]

Production errors[]

If you'd like to talk about narrative problems with this story — like plot holes and things that seem to contradict other stories — please go to this episode's discontinuity discussion.
  • In the cliffhanger to episode three (taken from the existing audio recording), the screams of the Doctor and the others can be heard for ages, whereas in the next episode they are shown to have only fallen a few feet.
  • In episode one (taken from the surviving 35mm black & white film footage), the wire holding one of the pirates is clearly visible.


Home video and audio releases[]

  • The surviving episode (episode two) was released on the Troughton Years video.
  • Episode two was reissued in digitally re-mastered form on the Lost in Time DVD, together with surviving film footage from episode one.
  • This story's soundtrack has been released on audio CD.

External links[]