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"This is like a whole floating fun- palace up here!"
―Milo Clancey
The Space Pirates
Series: Doctor Who - TV Stories
Season Number: Season 6
Story Number: 49
Doctor: Second Doctor
Companions: Jamie McCrimmon
Zoe Heriot
Enemy: Caven
  • Space Beacon Alpha 4
  • V Ship
  • LIZ 79
  • Ta
Writer: Robert Holmes
Director: Michael Hart
Broadcast: 8th March - 12th April 1969
Format: 6 25-minute Episodes
Previous Story: The Seeds of Death
Following Story: The War Games

The Space Pirates was the penultimate story of Season 6 of Doctor Who. It was the last story made under the reign of producer Peter Bryant, and the first to employ John Nathan-Turner, albeit in a minor and uncredited capacity.



The TARDIS materialises in Earth's future on a space beacon just before it is attacked by pirates. The travellers find themselves trapped in a sealed section of the beacon as it is blown apart and flown to where the pirates will plunder it of the precious mineral argonite. They then witness a conflict between the pirates and the Interstella Space Corps, led by General Hermack and Major Warne.

The ISC are convinced that the pirates' mastermind is an innocent yet eccentric space mining pioneer named Milo Clancey, while their true leader is a man named Caven. Caven has a secret base on the planet Ta and is assisted by Madeleine Issigri, daughter of his ex-partner Dom, who - unknown to her - is now his captive.

When Madeleine discovers Caven's full treachery she helps to bring him to justice. The time travellers are given a lift back to the TARDIS by Clancey in his rickety old ship, the LIZ 79.


Space beacons on the space lanes are being blown up and plundered for precious argonite by a gang of space pirates led by Caven, and his associate Dervish. The Earth Space Corps cruiser V-41 notices the destruction of the beacon and, with General Hermack and Major Warne in charge, sets out to apprehend the pirates. Another beacon is destroyed despite their best intentions, and the fragments are stolen using rocket propulsion. Hermack deploys troops to all nearby Beacons to prevent another robbery.

The TARDIS crew has arrived on Beacon Alpha Four shortly before the pirates reach it. Caven and his men mop up the security force on the Beacon, and the pirates seal the time travellers in part of the Beacon before blowing it to pieces. Fortunately the beacon falls into discrete, sealed pieces and the Second Doctor, Jamie and Zoe find themselves inside one. The Doctor attempts to use the compartment's magnetics to attract the next segment, but sends their segment hurdling off into space instead. The eccentric Milo Clancey, in his aged ship the LIZ-79, rescues them – but they cannot retrieve the TARDIS, which is in a separate segment taken by the pirates.

The nearest inhabited world is Ta, dominated by the Issigri Mining Corporation, whose leader is Madeleine Issigri. The firm was founded by her father and Clancey, and the latter is now suspected of Dom Issigri’s murder, though nothing has been proved. Hermack visits Ta, believing that Clancey, whom he suspects of being the pirate leader, will end up there in due course – and he is right. However, Hermack leaves just as Clancey and the TARDIS crew reach Ta. Zoe has plotted the trajectory of the segments of Beacon and believes they were destined for Ta too, and as per usual the Doctor and his companions soon find the pirate headquarters. They evade capture and make contact once more with Clancey.

Meanwhile Caven forces Dervish to reroute some of the beacon fragments to Lobos, a frontier world where Clancey has his base, so as to throw suspicion on the prospector. It is clear someone has tipped him off about the Corps suspicion of Milo Clancey. Hermack and his crew see through this ruse, but it takes time, and they spend hours orbiting Lobos while the real action is taking place on Ta.

When the Doctor and his party reach Madeleine Issigri’s offices it becomes clear she is in league with Caven, and the Doctor and his friends are once more imprisoned. Their prison is the study of Dom Issigri – alive but frail and scared – and it takes time for him to recover his wits. Madeleine has meanwhile decided to break her alliance with Caven, and does so by radioing Hermack to bring his troops to Ta. Caven reasserts his authority by telling Madeleine her father is alive and threatening to kill him unless she returns to her compliant self. She responds by contacting Hermack again and telling him not to come to Ta.

The Doctor and his friends have meanwhile escaped, taking the weak Dom Issigri with them, and head to the LIZ-79. Caven has thought ahead and forced Dervish to cut the oxygen supply to the ship. As only Milo and Dom board the ship, theirs are the lives in danger, and Caven’s callousness finally convinces Madeleine to support him no longer. The Doctor, Jamie and Zoe save their friends and Dom Issigri makes contact with Hermack, persuading him of the truth of the situation.

Caven now gets desperate, threatening to destroy Ta, the Issigri base and the orbiting V-ship by means of a series of strategically placed bombs. The Doctor manages to disengage the triggering device in the nick of time, while Major Warne blows Caven and Dervish’s ship to pieces. As Hermack’s ship lands, Madeleine looks forward to a reunion with her father, but knows she will also be imprisoned for her part in the conspiracy; while the Doctor and his companions prepare to seek out the TARDIS on one of the fragments of the Beacon.




  • Argonite, a metal, is the most valuable mineral known to man, and is only found on certain planets of the fourth sector of Earth's galaxy, including Ta in the Pliny system.
  • Argonite is practically indestructible, and a black market exists for it on Ruta Magnum.

Story Notes

  • Only episode two of this story survives in the BBC archives.
  • As of 2009, this is the latest story for which not all episodes survive (although some Jon Pertwee-era episodes only exist in black and white, none are technically lost).
  • Patrick Troughton, Frazer Hines and Wendy Padbury appear only in pre-filmed inserts in Episode Six as they all were away on location for The War Games. This thus became the only sixties episode apart from Mission to the Unknown to have none of the regulars present for a studio recording.
  • More than a decade before becoming the producer of Doctor Who, John Nathan Turner had his first exposure to the series working as a floor assistant during production at Lime Grove Studios.


  • Episode 1 - 5.8 million viewers
  • Episode 2 - 6.8 million viewers
  • Episode 3 - 6.4 million viewers
  • Episode 4 - 5.8 million viewers
  • Episode 5 - 5.5 million viewers
  • Episode 6 - 5.3 million viewers


to be added

Filming Locations

Discontinuity, Plot Holes, Errors

  • Zoe does not know how candles work. However, in The Mind Robber she recognised them without hesitation. Mind Robber may have been a dream.
  • In the cliffhanger to episode three the screams of the Doctor and the others can be heard for ages: in the next episode they've only fallen a few feet.
  • There are noisy explosions in space, but no stars.


to be added


DVD, Video and Other Releases


Main article: The Space Pirates (novelisation)

External Links

  • BBC - Doctor Who - The Classic Series - Episode Guide: The Space Pirates
  • Doctor Who Reference Guide - Detailed Synopsis - The Space Pirates
  • Doctor Who: A Brief History of Time (Travel) - A Brief History of Time (Travel): The Space Pirates
  • Loose Canon Productions reconstruction page for The Space Pirates
  • Transcript of The Space Pirates
Season 6
The Dominators  • The Mind Robber  • The Invasion • The Krotons  • The Seeds of Death  • The Space Pirates  • The War Games

This article uses material from the "The Space Pirates" article on the Dr Who wiki at Wikia and is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike License.


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