The Making of The Space Pirates (Revised Edition)
By Russ Port, Dean Rose & Stuart Palmer


Russ Port Talks us Through the Making of TSP...
Casting and Costumes





Quite a lot of the main guest cast were covered with grabs from the existing Episode 2, however Dom Issigri (played by Esmond Knight) needed casting, fortunately Mr. Knight has quite an extensive filmography, including small roles in Z Cars, Elizabeth R, Public Eye and the 1958 adaptation of The Invisible Man, featuring Deborah Watling. However his role as Domitius in I, Claudius seemed the best source as he featured in many close ups. Unfortunately he wears a cowl through the sequence so he had to be de-cowled and the side of his face rebuilt. He did have a beard in this production but it was, unfortunately, not wild enough for Dom. To obtain the right look for the straggly beard, as ever we at Loose Cannon are keen to keep the Doctor Who connection alive so Patrick Troughton's beard from his role of Cole Hawkins in Box of Delights was selected and composited in. We believed Dom's costume would resemble Milo's and as Milo looked like an old time cowboy we went to the obvious place for a cowboy costume and Sid James' costume from Carry On Cowboy with the guns removed provided the angles necessary

Two versions of Dom were prepared, a version with his I, Claudius beard for the picture above the fireplace and the straggly version which features in the rest of the story.




Caven and Dervish were represented by a handful of photos, all of which were from Episode 1 and all featured them in their helmets, it seemed logical that they would only wear their helmets when moving between places as Clancey had at the end of Episode 2, and in the original recon the few pictures had seemed rather repetitive, therefore we decided to try to get images of the two actors, Brian Peck and Dudley Foster, to composite into shots with the original costumes. Dudley Foster has quite an extensive filmography and his likeness was obtained from an Avengers episode. Brian Peck was also a popular character actor at the time and his image was obtained from the ITV4 screening of Man in a Suitcase and a moustache furnished from the original photos in Photoshop.

Unfortunately Caven's costume in particular, with its unusual neckline was very unforgiving in composites so sometimes several attempts were made before we were happy with the shot




Another costume which caused problems was the very first composite needed for Episode 3, at the end of Episode 2 Clancey breaks into the beacon section wearing his space suit and helmet, No photos of this are known to exist; shots of Clancey zoomed in from the existing episode proved far too blurry. Our first attempt to recreate this consisted of attempting to manipulate in Photoshop screen caps of the jacket as shown on the back of Milo's chair in Episode 2, however these proved to be impossible to get any sort of realism for the angles required, so we had to attempt to recreate the costume from scratch. Fortunately my wife, who by now knows I am insane, owns a jacket of similar texture and was "happy" to roll up some material and sew it onto the jacket so the neck piece matched the original. I then took some photos of her wearing it at angles to match caps of Clancey and composited them together, then added bits of trim from the grabs from the back of the chair to finish it off. The helmet posed similar problems and when early tests using a motorbike helmet, then Caven's helmet, failed to impress, Stuart was asked to come up with a likeness and, despite the unusual shape of the helmet, he came up with an excellent match which, along with a visor, was composited in to this and a few more pictures. When the words "Clancey removes his helmet" appeared in the camera script they were very welcome!




Nik Zaran featured in many ITC shows from around this period and his likeness was obtained from a number of them as repeated on ITV4, The Champions, Man In A Suitcase, Randall and Hopkirk (Deceased) and Department S. His costume was one of the Space Guards screen capped from Episode 2.




Anthony Donovan played the part of one of the Space Guards who Hermack sent to the beacon in Episode 1. We were initially sent a shot of him by Ian Pritchard, who had done a lot of research for an unmade recon of the story. Unfortunately he had a wide eyed startled expression, akin to a poker being inserted where the sun doesn't shine! This earned him the affectionate nickname "Poker Boy." Looking further afield his next TV appearance after Space Pirates (according to imdb) was in 1977 in a drama called Cross Fade, which is unavailable. Following that he appeared in one scene in series two episode of Casualty. My wife is a huge fan of the series so I decided (purely altruistically of course) to buy her the box set of the series as a present. Screen grabs of Anthony Donovan from the episode proved a little disappointing as by 1987 he had hardly a hair on his head and didn't look anything like a young space guard. Dean checked further as to where Ian had obtained the original grab from and it was indeed the same episode of Casualty but he had performed a "hair transplant" in Photoshop. I did the same thing (using the Brigadier's hair from Spearhead from Space) for the new grabs and he looked 20 years younger and now had a far less pained expression! He was composited into a space guard uniform worn by one of the extras in Episode 2. At this point no celebrity interviews had been arranged and we worried that an interview with Mr Donovan may have him failing to remember sporting that hairstyle!




Another issue was the pirates themselves. What sort of outfit would a space pirate wear? Early tests were performed using Dervish's' costume but with a shortage of angles anyway these were deemed unacceptable. After much searching we took up a suggestion of Ian Pritchard's and used the pirate guards from the Tom Baker story the Pirate Planet with the face mask part removed in early drafts. However we decided these were just too familiar so Stuart was asked to produce a CGI version at the correct angles which we were delighted with, he even got the strange Space Pirates type of helmet spot on!




The only credited actor playing a pirate was Steve Peters who was a regular face in Doctor Who at that time but usually under a monster mask! In addition to a background role in the Romans he was an Ice Warrior in Seeds of Death and an Astronaut and Ambassador in Ambassadors of Death. Unfortunately he only appeared unmasked in a short scene as Joe Lafee in Ambassadors and then was only on screen for a very short period of time. We were only able to obtain a single shot from this source which was pretty useless. Undeterred I obtained a copy of the Onedin Line DVD in which he had appeared in one episode in 1973 as "head waiter." Again he was only in one short scene and with no useable shots but he did sport a large moustache. The Space Pirate guards supplied by Stuart arrived with a face which was intended to be removed for composites but we noticed one of them had an almost identical moustache and looked very similar to Mr. Peters so, with the only other option being recasting the part, we decided to go with the CGI version.




We also needed several Space Guards to enter the Beacon Section in Episode 1. Initially we just used Anthony Donovan and Nik Zaran but on reviewing a draft version it was obvious from the audio there were more than the 2 of them. Whilst we managed to find likenesses for some of the extras who filled these roles they were very limited in angles and, with the number of guards needed, we also had very few angles of guard costumes from Episode 2 and it proved impossible to make decent composites from these. Eventually we returned to the trusty Casualty series 2 box set and grabbed a few random faces, which were unknown, to composite as guards. This led into quite an interesting question as Dean was convinced one of the extras was Alan Heywood who played Hector in the Myth Makers. Looking at shots from The Avengers which Dean had used for composites in the Myth Makers recon the resemblance was indeed uncanny. However the imdb listings didn't match at all so unless Alan has changed his name over the years it is just a spooky coincidence.