Doctor Who: 10 Things You Might Not Know About THE SPACE PIRATES - Warped Factor - Words in the Key of Geek.

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Doctor Who: 10 Things You Might Not Know About THE SPACE PIRATES

Saddle up for 10 things you might not know about the Second Doctor's penultimate adventure, the science fiction western, The Space Pirates.

1. The Space Pirates is the second story written for Doctor Who by Robert Holmes, one of the show's most successful scriptwriters, who would subsequently rise to become script editor on the show in the Tom Baker era. How it came about is a bit of a long and convoluted process. Given serial YY as the production code, the penultimate story for Patrick Troughton's Doctor was originally intended to be Holmes' The Krotons. That would eventually become the story assigned serial WW production code when it was pushed up the schedule as a last minute replacement for not just one, but two stories that ended up on the Doctor Who scrapheap.

Originally the serial to follow The Inavsion, which at that time was to have been just six episodes, was a six part adventure written by Paul Wheeler called The Dream Spinner. Throughout his career, the British Screenwriter and novelist wrote scripts for numerous TV series like Tenko, Minder and Poldark, and published a novel on the Bodyline controversy, which was adapted as the Australian TV series starring Hugo Weaving. Weaver's treatment for The Dream Spinner would have seen the Doctor, Jamie and Zoe encounter an individual who could make people believe their dreams were real, not a million miles away from the Eleventh Doctor adventure Amy's Choice, broadcast some 51 years later. After handing in his script for part one, Wheeler's story was not to the satisfaction of the production team, and it was abandoned.

2. The story intended to replace Wheeler's abandoned script was the Prison in Space by Dick Sharples. Sharples had written for The Saint, Z-Cars and Adam Adamant Lives, among others. His proposed Second Doctor adventure would have featured a female-dominated planet, with Zoe Heriot starting a sexual revolution! It would also have seen Zoe being brainwashed and then deprogrammed by the Second Doctor, who smacks her on the bottom!! Oh, and Jamie McCrimmon wears drag!!!

It was a very different time but, even so, the Doctor Who production team were unhappy with the finished story. Sharples refused to rewrite his script and so it was replaced by the four part adventure The Krotons. Meaning The Invasion was then extended to eight episodes, and a gap in the season six schedule appeared that needed filling.

If you're interested in hearing Sharples abandoned adventure it was finally produced 50 years later and released as part of Big Finish's Lost Stories range...

3. After learning that production on The Krotons was being moved up schedule, script editor Terrance Dicks informed Holmes that they'd be open to him pitching a new story idea to fill the gap. Holmes submitted a story called The Aliens In The Blood. Set in the 22nd Century on an isolated island on an alien planet, the adventure was turned down by the Doctor Who production team. Holmes soon set about developing a new idea which would serve as a futuristic homage to the Western genre. This was more to Terrance Dicks liking, and a storyline was commissioned under the title of The Space Pirates on November 9th, 1968. It was planned to be a six-part adventure, although Holmes recalled that he had originally envisioned the story as running only four episodes.

In 1977 Holmes reworked his treatment for The Aliens In The Blood, changing the title to The Aliens In The Mind, removing the Doctor Who characters and transplanting the story to a remote Scottish Island. It was broadcast on BBC Radio 4 and starred the 1960s movie Dr. Who Peter Cushing. It can be heard here.

4. Part one of The Space Pirates was recorded in Doctor Who's usual home of Lime Grove Studio D. However, this would be the final episode taped in those facilities, marking the end of an association which dated back to the very first episode of Doctor Who, part one of An Unearthly Child, 100,000 BC. The programme's new recording home was the more modern Television Centre Studio 4; part two was the first episode taped there, and was captured on 35mm film instead of videotape to make the editing process easier.

5. Sadly, that first episode recorded at Television Centre is the only one from The Space Pirates still in the archive. It seems it was more circumstance than anything which kept that single episode from being destroyed, as it was the first episode recorded at TC4, one of the premiere studios at Television Centre, and recorded on 35mm film, the BBC deemed it "historically significant" and retained it.

As of 2020, episodes 1, & 3-6 are all still missing presumed wiped (although some pre-filmed inserts from Episode 1 still exist, as well as the audio soundtrack for all episodes). Although a number of later Jon Pertwee Third Doctor episodes are missing, in that their original 2" quad tapes were wiped, copies still exist, but episode 6 of The Space Pirates is chronologically the final missing episode of Doctor Who.

Excitement came in 1998 when an off-air recording of an episode of The Space Pirates was discovered in the collection of an amateur video enthusiast. However, it happened to be a recording of the only existing episode in the BBC's archive, part 2 of the story, but it does hold the record of being the earliest known existing off-air domestic videotape recording of an episode of Doctor Who.

6. The Space Pirates saw the addition to the crew of a floor assistant named John Turner. You may know the name more commonly as John Nathan-Turner. He would go on to become the Unit Production Manager of the show in 1977 and then the Producer in 1980, a role he hold until the series' cancellation in 1989.

7. Patrick Troughton, Frazer Hines and Wendy Padbury were all away on location filming The War Games during the production of episode six and appear only in pre-filmed inserts. Their scenes were shot between the usually shooting schedule for episodes one and two, making episode six of The Space Pirates one of only two 1960s episodes to have none of the regular cast present for a studio recording, the other being the 1965 story Mission to the Unknown.

8. The visual effects in The Space Pirates 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 upcoming Apollo 11 launch.

9. In the cliffhanger to episode three, the screams of the Doctor and the others can be heard for ages (as featured in the existing audio recording), whereas in the next episode they are shown to have only fallen a few feet.

10. The penultimate story of the Troughton era was also the last to feature a credit for producer Peter Bryant. He had been Doctor Who's producer from The Web Of Fear onward, and as well as previously being the show's script editor he had also produced The Tomb of the Cybermen as a test run for the top job during his predecessor Innes Lloyd's tenure.

Although Bryant would continue to consult on production with his replacement Derrick Sherwin, overseeing both Patrick Troughton's departure in The War Games and Jon Pertwee's arrival in Spearhead From Space (and was originally intended to receive the producer's credit on The Silurians), the BBC moved Bryant to the thriller series Paul Temple - an expensive German co-production which was finding itself in serious creative trouble.

Bryant left the BBC in the early Seventies and became an executive producer for an independent production company, and then later became a literary agent. He passed away on May 19th, 2006, following an illness.

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