Doctor Who: The Space Pirates

The Doctor Who episode “The Space Pirates” is the last of the lost Patrick Troughton episodes, and the next to last episode featuring him as the Doctor.

The idea of pirates in space is one that science fiction in general and Doctor Who in particular continuously revisits, to good effect. The episode includes, like so many from the era of the Second Doctor, an element of mystery. The Doctor finds himself in a situation to try to figure out who is behind a string of criminal acts, akin to an intergalactic Miss Marple. But it becomes more along the lines of a spy thriller as it introduces the last-minute defusing of a bomb!

This was also not the first time that the show introduced American characters based on stereotypes, portrayed by actors who were not American themselves.

The Doctor shows himself willing to kill the pirates if it comes to that. As has seemingly always been the case on Doctor Who, the Doctor avoids violence and killing on principle but does not always follow those principles rigidly.

The episode could serve as a useful starting point for a discussion of the ethics of property ownership and piracy in interstellar space. Can anyone truly own beacons left strewn about? If such concerns seem too far off, then discussions of other sorts of piracy in other sorts of space, such as cyberspace, might help make a connection with contemporary issues.

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  • Chuck Grantham

    I get a blast out of the surviving footage of this. Who does Thunderbirds, Milo the space cowboy, and of course, Wendy Padbury. What more can you ask?