""One-Eye! Head for the gap as she opens! Tooth! Take some men starboard and make sure no one boards. To the death, lads! Cut their livers out!""
Captain John Mander is a pirate, but he is in trouble because his ship is "surrounded by His Majesty's navy, cornered with no hope of escape." But then a space ship comes along and beams them up.
After this it is time for the Doctor and Jo to enter the story. They are in the TARDIS "on their way to Rojak in the Mentrola Galaxy" when the Doctor detects that a planet is about to blow up. He also hears a radio signal from the planet.
""Number two gunner, stand by... Mr Swanson, check positions... on target..."
"Gosh! Is that coming from the planet?"
"It is indeed, Jo, and it sounds very earth-like to me.""
The Doctor lands the TARDIS on the pirate ship and he gets knocked out and captured straight away to save time - we are two pages into the story already, have to get a move on.
"The Doctor looked around and his jaw dropped in amazement. The whole ship, the deck, the ropes, even the sails were all made of metal! But what amazed him even more was the figure he saw rising from a hatch nearby. The huge figure, the rough, violent face, the long hair and unkempt beard, it was John Mander - made entirely from gleaming, polished gold!"
I think this means the Doctor recognises John Mander, but I'm not sure. Maybe that is just for us because we saw John Mander earlier when he got abducted and he wasn't so fabulous then?The Doctor is worried about the TARDIS.
""Don't fret none, Long Nose. She ain't been scuttled. She's too valuable for that. Queer little thing, ain't she?""
He calls the Doctor "Long Nose" lol. The Doctor tries to explain about the planet being about to explode, but the pirates are more worried about another ship that wants to fight them.
""You better explain yourself, Silver Locks," said Mander."
He calls the Doctor "Silver Locks" lol. The other ship is captained by Botega and is more advanced - the radio signal the Doctor heard came from him. Mander explains:
"His ship is full of things that we don't understand. There's no sails for a start and her guns are real accurate. Last time we fought we 'ad to 'ave a removal order, else 'e would 'ave sent us down to the bottom."
Lol that last bit sounds rude. I don't know what a "removal order" is and neither does the Doctor so he asks:
""What is a removal order?"
Mander brought a small instrument out of his pocket.
"See this? If you press that button there it means you want a removal order. If they grant you one, they take you to the penance box for a spell."
"The things what run this planet. The things that brought us here."
Mander explains that all the ships on this planet were abducted from the Earth just before they would have faced impossible odds, and now they are forced to fight each other. The aliens that run the planet are "small bird-like creatures" with force fields. All the mannys get their bodies turned into different things when they are brought here.
"Some of his crew were marble, some coal, some water. Botega himself was made of glass."
This sounds perfectly reasonable to me, not to say fabulous. I wonder if any were turned into socks? After almost a whole page of exposition, the Doctor comes up with a plan to get things moving again quickly. He uses his radio in the TARDIS to contact Captain Botega to bring all the mannys in on the plan, except we don't get to know about it yet. We will have to wait and see what it is when they do the plan.
"High up among the clouds, in a city that showed the most stunning mastery over gravitational forces, a group of bird men were watching the happening with growing excitement.
"Botega's firing to miss. I up ten meggalodes."
"Mander's out to kill himself. Sixteen meggalodes he won't use the removal button.""
This sounds a lot like what happened in the Star Trek episode The Gamesters of Triskelion, only with pirates instead of Captain Kirk so not quite as good. The aliens are gambling over the mannys they are making fight. I bet the Doctor ends up making a wager with them to save everybody.
Botega's ship wins and captures all the pirates and the Doctor and Jo.
"The glass captain addressed the Doctor. "Well, we have done our part. We have fought without killing. Now you must do yours."
"Are all your men on deck?"
"Then press the button for a removal order."
"Damn it, man, do as I say! We're running short of time!"
"There's only three pages left!" (the Doctor doesn't say that really.) The aliens are confused why Botega pressed the button when he won, so they investigate. This is what the Doctor wanted because now he can speak to them.
The Doctor warns them that their planet is about to blow up, but they tell him that they already knew about this and are going to use technology to make the energy blow the Earth up instead. They try to claim they are not baddys:
"We prefer peaceful coexistence."
(Starcat would like to interrupt to say this bit reminds him of the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode Conspiracy. Thank you Starcat, now you can go and have a sleep.)
"But our recent visits to earth have convinced us that something must be done. Already they are struggling through the rudimentaries of space travel, but at the same time they have polluted their lands and their seas, they have stocked more explosives than are needed to blow the entire planet up, and they have not progressed one iota towards any kind of emotional maturity. We have taken it upon ourselves to remove this pestilent sphere from the skies."
They sound a lot like baddys to me. Jo's counter-argument is:
""Why, you overgrown budgerigar, I'd like to wring your neck!"
Maybe not the most helpful thing to add to the conversation at that moment? The aliens show the Doctor their big Space Gun (it's not really called that, although I think it would be a better story if it was).
"The Doctor stepped forward.
"I'll make a wager you don't do it."
"A wager? You are in no position to make a wager."
"I have our lives and the lives of every person on earth against your own.""
Yay! I was right. The aliens are confident the Doctor can't win so their leader agrees. The Doctor bets they "can never destroy earth." All the mannys from the ships rush at the Space Gun but there is a force field around it so they cannot get it, and then the Doctor captures the alien leader because he doesn't have a force field.
"I knew you would have to remove your own protective force field in order to set up another round the projecto-scope."
Oh yes, the Space Gun is really called the "projecto-scope." With their leader captured the Doctor makes the aliens fire their projecto-scope in to space harmlessly, and then they have to let all the mannys go because he won the bet.
The aliens, who are called "Melovians," tell the Doctor they were fascinated by chance but they say they will be good from now on. The Doctor and Jo leave in the TARDIS.
This was quite a good story, if a bit like Star Trek, but the joke at the end is terrible (which is also like a lot of Star Trek).
"Oh nothing. I just wondered whether they'll ever invite you back there if they ever discover how to control chance."
"I wouldn't like to bet on it.""