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4 September 2013

Will Brooks’ 50 Year Diary - watching Doctor Who one episode a day from the very start... 

Day 247: The Space Pirates, Episode Three

Dear diary,

Something that I've always really enjoyed about the Troughton era is that it spends so much time looking at the future that's just within reach of the audience. Many of the adventures over the course of the last three seasons have taken us into the Twenty-First Century, which at the time must have felt remote and distant enough to really be 'out there'.

It's conceivable, though, that a ten year old watching in the late 1960s would be around to witness mankind's evolution into the type of world we see in these stories, in which the weather for the entire planet is controlled from the Moon, goods and people can be teleported across the globe in a split second, and we'd have all manner of high tech space stations in near-Earth orbit, just ripe for a Cyberman invasion.

Admittedly, it can be a bit tricky to tie everything together from time to time, and the dates given to these stories from years of 'fan wisdom' don't always make the task easier. The second volume of the About Time series makes a pretty good stab at it, and I've had their timeline in mind as I've moved through the last few months. It gives placements to stories such as The Enemy of the World, The Wheel in Space, The Moonbase, and stretching out beyond this era of the programme, Warriors of the Deep (placing them in that order, chronologically, starting from around 2030 and moving through the the 2084 stated on screen for Warriors).

It's in a more recent book - A History of the Universe in 100 Objects, by James Goss and Steve Tribe - that Milo Clancy and the era of Argonite mining is really slotted into the equation. It speculates that the political troubles of the 2080s are what gives rise to the era of lawless spacefaring we've heard spoken of in this story. Clancy likely left the Earth at about the same time the Silurians and the Sea Devils were teaming up to fight the Fifth Doctor, and then the Space Corps were set up far more recently, after the turn of the century.

While I'm not a fan who spends a great deal of time obsessing over making sure that everything 'fits' absolutely within the Doctor Who universe (for a programme that's lasted in some shape or form for half a century, with literally thousands of stories told in all different media it would be entirely impossible for everything to click), I'll admit that it's nice when there's a kind of internal consistency like this.

I'm sorry to report that this episode hasn't really grabbed me in the same way the first couple did, but there's still plenty to be going on with. I think the main thing I'm enjoying is the fact that Zoe is still being used as… well… Zoe. Back during The Wheel in Space, I considered that her character would probably have been washed down the TARDIS' waste system before long and we'd end up with Victoria in all but name.

Actually, though, she's faring pretty well on the whole. Her intelligence has been a key part of the plot in every story so far (with the possible exception of The Dominators, but you know what? That was weeks ago, and I can't actually remember anything other than the drilling scenes towards the end), wether it be in the form of blowing up an annoying computer or - as in today's episode - working out the best way to get the TARDIS back. It's great to see her coming across so well, and I'm finding myself really enjoying Wendy Padbury more and more. I'm so glad, as it's moments with her, Patrick Troughton, and Frazer Hines that really do help to perk up even the most lacklustre of episodes.

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