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7 September 2013

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

Day 250: The Space Pirates, Episode Six

Dear diary,

And just like that, I've run out of missing Doctor Who episodes. It all seems so easy in retrospect, and actually 106 missing episodes doesn't feel like a massive amount when you think about just how many I've actually been able to watch. I sort of suspect that I should have a bit of a celebration or something to celebrate this key milestone, but it's The Space Pirates, so the era of missing episodes goes out with more of a whimper than a bang.

I think part of the problem I've had with the story is that I'm just not all that engaged with the situation. In The Seeds of Death, it felt as though the Doctor and his companions were willing to throw themselves into the line of danger in an attempt to help because they really wanted to do so. Here, the only reason that they're helping anyone is because they've been separated from the TARDIS, and have gotten swept along with events.

It means that when the situation is getting desperate and we're watching a (really long) countdown to an explosion, everything just feels a bit dull. I don't care about the situation, so I'm not that bothered by anything that's happening. It's an interesting feeling in some ways. I always know that the Doctor and his companions are going to get out of the danger (well, unless it's a regeneration story or something like Earthshock), but part of the fun is watching how they make their escape. It's about the Doctor being clever, or his companions being vital. Today, I know that they're not going to get blown up and I don't care how they get out of it, because it boils down to something as mundane (!) as diffusing a bomb.

As I've said before, I'm really disappointed by The Space Pirates. Based on the first couple of episodes, I was so looking forward to standing out from the crowd and proudly declaring a liking for the tale, but it's just not to be. I wonder if its reputation might be better had more episodes survived, or if more were to show up? The surviving Episode Two was rather good, and it gave me lots of little visual cues to enjoy. Because of the slower pacing throughout the rest of the tale, the audio just doesn't really help. Having something to look at (even if it is metal hair) would really benefit the tale.

It still doesn't deserve the title of the worst story of the 1960s, though, I don't think. The Dominators was much worse than this - and I could see all of that one!

Though I've joked about it above, this really is a pretty significant moment in the marathon for me. One of the things that's always been off putting about the idea of a Doctor Who marathon is the fact that such a large chunk of the early years is marred by huge gaps. I tiptoed into Season Three with a bit of a worry, because i genuinely didn't know how I'd cope with so many bits of the programme being missing, and getting stuck in a cycle of moving between the soundtracks, surviving episodes and back again.

As it is, I've really enjoyed it. The sheer quality of a lot of stories from this era has really helped to make the task more manageable, and in some ways it's gong to be a shame to leave behind the narration from the soundtracks. Season Six has been a nice way of easing back into actually sitting down to watch an episode properly again, which I have to confess has felt a bit alien so many days in a row!

Still, despite everything, I really do hold out hope that more will be returned to the archive at some point in the future - and I've absolutely no doubt that it will. These things always turn up in the strangest of places and just when you're not expecting it. Now that I'm ten episodes away from the end of the 1960s, it's sods law that some will be turning up any day now…

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