Doctor Who And The Pirates

To mark International Talk Like a Pirate Day, Christopher Morley downs his grog and shares a chorus of 'Yo ho, yo ho, a Whovian's life for me'...

Ahoy there, mateys! Welcome aboard the good ship TARDIS. Hoist the sails and batten down the hatches, as we ride the choppy seas of the Doctor's encounters with pirates.

Blow me down, we've been boarded by The Space Pirates for Patrick Troughton's penultimate outing as the Second Doctor. Sad, we know- but as he himself once said ''life depends on change, & renewal''. First broadcast from March 8th 1969, five episodes from this six part adventure are missing from the BBC archive (plundered no doubt by a band of salty sea-dogs), leaving just episode two remaining.

It's also the second Doctor Who script penned by Robert Holmes- his first, The Krotons having aired earlier on in Troughton's three-year golden age of Classic Who! Bob would of course rise to the giddy heights of script editor from 1975-77, presiding over the Fourth Doctor's early years. Is there a case for saying that he just might have seen elements of his own dabble in space piracy while looking over Douglas Adams' The Pirate Planet? They are both relatively Doctor-light, as in this 1969 adventure the Time Lord from Gallifrey, Jamie & Zoe only make comparatively minor appearances in the narrative itself- either progressive thinking or a big mistake depending on point of view on the matter.

The pirates are on the plunder for argonite, and it looks like our plucky trio could face one hell of a near-last ride together. They've materialised inside one of the weakest parts of the beacon, with the scruffy moptop completely clueless as to where they are. He wasn't aiming to come here but soon gees himself up for what the place has to throw at him........

DOCTOR: Oh dear.
ZOE: What's wrong?
DOCTOR: Well, I don't think we're quite where I expected. Never mind. This looks very interesting.
JAMIE: Interesting? A piece of old machinery?
DOCTOR: Yes. I've never seen a computer quite like this before, Jamie.
ZOE: It looks like some sort of control room.
DOCTOR: Yes, but what does it control?
JAMIE: Yeah. Well I think we'd better get out of here before somebody catches us.
ZOE: Good idea. There's a door here.
JAMIE: No, Zoe. I meant in the TARDIS.
DOCTOR: Jamie, stop worrying. There's obviously nobody here.
He's forced to reassess that following the disturbing revelation that they're being shot at! Good job he has a reliable trick up his sleeve.
JAMIE: Nobody here, eh?
ZOE: Now what are we going to do? The TARDIS is in there.
DOCTOR: There's only one thing we can do.
ZOE: What?
JAMIE: Well, maybe next time you'll listen to me.
ZOE: If there is a next time.
Meanwhile, the pirates have arrived, & they seem to have a degree of expertise at this sort of thing!

CAVEN: Alpha Four. Another present from the home planet's tax payers.
DERVISH: Same procedure as last time?
CAVEN: Yes, Dervish. But now that you've had a little practice, get those scissor charges laid a bit quicker, eh?
DERVISH: Hey, what's that? Caven, those were blaster guns!
CAVEN: Get the crew in here at the double.
The Doctor is able to accurately assess their predicament as well as the motivations of the pirates. Namely, money!

But The Space Pirates is merely our jumping in point for this tale of skulduggery, the Time Lord having already encountered similar experiences in his previous incarnation's tangle with smugglers in seventeenth century Cornwall.

LONGFOOT: Hey! A moment, sir. While at the inn, take care I say. Guard thy tongue. Think only of thy comfort and thy needs.
DOCTOR: Yes. We only need shelter for the night.
LONGFOOT: Heed my words. Be watchful.
DOCTOR: Thank you. Goodbye.
LONGFOOT: Goodbye. Hey! One more word, sir. If you should come this way again and find me gone, remember these words. This is Deadman's secret key. Smallwood, Ringwood, Gurney.
DOCTOR: But what to? What's the purpose, sir?
LONGFOOT: It's a secret worth remembering.
As for that Douglas Adams script, well the Fourth Doctor would deal with a cybernetically-enhanced pirate captain who has gone off the deep end and is using the hollowed-out planet of Zanak- now fitted with hyperspace engines- to take plundering into the space age, with The Pirate Planet serving as the second part of the quest for the Key To Time. Arr! And he's even got a robot parrot, to prove his credentials.

If you just can't get enough of adventure across galaxies & high seas, The Curse Of The Black Spot just might tickle your fancy...

In a sense it's a counterpoint to The Smugglers, in which the shady smuggler types were after Avery's gold. The Eleventh Doctor goes one better & actually meets Captain Henry Avery -a real- life former Royal Navy man who turned privateer in around 1693.

For sea shanties galore join the Doctor on the good ship Sea Eagle for Big Finish's first musical adventure Doctor Who and the Pirates. Featuring a score inspired by Gilbert and Sullivan, with the Sixth Doctor as the very model of a modern major general...

And so we leave with a 'yo ho ho!'. Or does nobody actually say that?
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