When I set out on the Fan Editing Odyssey that would see me completing the entire Classic Series in just six years [!] I never had any intention of tackling the Orphan Episodes. If a story was incomplete on video then the whole thing got edited on audio instead.
Then I got round to The Underwater Menace and changed my mind. Given that the Beeb had put that story out without the missing episodes as animated versions, that screwed up my plans for the video edit of that story. And so I decided to edit the two existing episodes together, as if I was tackling the middle of a complete story edit, and forget about trying to do a Loose Cannon style cut down telesnap reconstruction. Too much time and too much effort for too little reward. But it did get me thinking that it might be fun to tackle the orphan episodes after all, so why not start with the worst of them, that way things can only get better!
So. Episode Two of The Space Pirates…
Blimey but it’s bad. The Doctor and the kids don’t turn up for ages, triggering the application of the, usually applied to Sixie, The Longer It Takes Rule and on those terms, this one’s a stinker. It takes about twelve and a half minutes before Hobo, Kilty & Cleverknickers get their first proper scene, and there ain’t that many more of them before we hit the cliffhanger after possibly the longest twenty-four minutes in the show’s entire history, except for maybe episode three.
On the plus side, Padders is wearing an outfit that could lead to a change of nickname from Cleverknickers to Cameltoe, and she’s put on her kinky boots from The Krotons again. Enjoy it while you can as next time out it’s jodpers and a trenchcoat.
If you take a look at The Complete Second Doctor and compare the production Schedules of Pat’s last few stories, you can start to see that maybe part of the reason why this load of old cobblers is so Doctor Lite is to give the regulars a bit of a breather before the final push for the finish line.
That goes some way towards explaining why The Space Pirates is the way it is, but that still doesn’t forgive how bad it is! The regulars don’t appear at all in the final episode, except on pre-filmed inserts, so they can bugger about on a rubbish tip for a fortnight for The War Games instead.
I can’t help but think that maybe episode two wouldn’t be quite so bad if Michael Hart had done a better job of casting the thing. If you’re going to ask actors to do dodgy accents, at least make sure they can do them properly. Take General Hermack, played by the gravel-voiced Jack May. If you listen to him in his early scenes, he has a slightly Germanic accent, which he quickly gives up on and defaults to his own fruity tones for the rest of the ep. Milo Clancy is just bad beyond belief and poor old Donald Gee doesn’t exactly cover himself in glory either.
And the dialogue is atrocious as well, with some real stinkers like “that would be like looking for a single speck of dust at the bottom of an Argonite mine”. So nobody talks about needles in haystacks in the future then? Just what the hell are “martian missiles”? And don’t get me started on Clancy’s woeful wig or that Issigri woman wearing a plant pot on her head…!
It’s also rather curious that they reused the music from The Seeds of Death, the previous story, as well as all that dodgy warbling from The Ice Warriors, which seems well out of place for a space story. All that music complicated some of the cuts but for the most part I was able to work around it, with the help of some additional cues from both of those Ice Warrior stories.
I managed to include the shot of the pirate ship leaving the beacon from the “film trims” stuff on the Lost In Time DVD, but the problem with that shot was that it was for Beacon Alpha 1 instead of Beacon Alpha 4. So stage one was to create a “4” to cover up the “1”, and then lay that over a shot of the beacon.
Stage two was to make that image a PNG file, with a transparent area where the door closes. Stage three was to get the timing right so that it looks as if the door is rising up and closing. In the original the beacon recedes from the camera but getting Beacon Alpha 4 to match up with Beacon Alpha 1 was impossible. Having just put myself through 700+ frames of animation for Underworld I wanted to find a simpler solution.
I found it by cutting away to the beta dart reversing, cutting back to the beacon reversing, a simple zoom out effect on the screen grab of Beacon Alpha 4, before cutting back to the pirate ship finishing its reverse and turning right. In the original we don’t actually see it zooming away but in the fan edit it does. Other than these fixes the rest of the edit was a case of cutting everything that didn’t have Pat in back to the bare minimum, and making the rest of the spaceships shift a bit quicker instead of having them crawl slowly across the screen. Thunderbirds this ain’t!
After the opening credits, instead of going to The General and his boyfriend Ian [why else would he refer to him by his first name in a military outfit?] we go back to the beacon section where the Doctor is trapped. Splitting the scene, with the aid of a short section of “silence” from earlier in the scene to help cover the cutaway, gave me the chance to keep things on track but lose as much of the early guff as I could.
In order to get to Hermack and Clancy as quickly as possible I made up a shot of the LIZ79, grabbed from the shot of it on telly on the V41’s flight deck, and with the call sign helpfully written on the side, to go before the shot of V41 that originally came after the episode caption cards. That enabled me to cut a lot of the stuff before Clancy’s ship gets boarded and he joins Hermack.
The gun Clancy shoots Jamie with is another one of those cheap BBC space guns that don’t fire a beam, so I stuck one on the close up shot as he shoots Jamie. After that it was a case of fixing the end credits so that they faded out to my closing version of the titles instead of running against black.
The Space Pirates is evidence that a Space Western is a terrible idea. Or at least a Space Western as badly structured as this one is. Did no-one remember the proper Western they did with Hartnell a couple of years earlier, and how bad that was?
As far as Space Westerns go, Frontier In Space and Colony In Space are bad enough but this is even worse. I think the real problem lies in the fact that it tries to be earnest and take things seriously, when the better approach might have been to go more for a Carry On Space Cowboy approach, given how grim the next story is going to be for the regulars and the audience. The Space Pirates is what happens when you are desperate for scripts and have to put something on screen, even if you know it’s going to be as bad as this. Luckily this version only runs for twelve minutes!