Thursday, September 15, 2016
Arr, it be The Smugglers: Doctor Who meets Treasure Island meets Smuggler's Bay.
I'm going to comment on one thing in this story that irritated me and just get it out of the way. People in the past weren't stupid. They might be less knowledgeable but that doesn't make them stupid. The inability for anyone to spot that Polly (Anneke Wills) is a woman is either a joke that doesn't work or an insult to the intelligence of the average 17th Cornishman. The fact that Polly is the only woman in the whole story makes it even more ridiculous. The theory appears to be that because she is wearing trousers she must be a boy. Really? REALLY? Have you seen Anneke Wills? You'd have to be Blind Pew to think she was a he. Even in trousers.
That is all I have to say on THAT point.
Basically, this is a classic case of the Doctor (and crew) stumbling into the middle of something without knowing what the hell is going on and then having to find out and sort the mess out before they're all killed by the bad guys. Of whom, there is quite a number in this story. Fortunately, most of them appear to be greedy, gullible idiots.
There's Kewper (David Blake Kelly), the Innkeeper who is in cahoots with The Squire (Paul Whitsun-Jones) smuggling silks, brandy and the like. The two of them are fooled by Captain Pike (Michael Godfrey) and his grinning, murderous crewman Cherub (George A. Cooper). Pike and Cherub arrived in this unnamed Cornish village on another quest. They are looking for Avery's Treasure, which they believe has been hidden by their ex-shipmate Joseph Longfoot (Terance De Marney). Longfoot is now Church Warden.
It is Longfoot that hands over a Pirate-ish riddle to the Doctor, which reveals the location of Avery's gold. Alas, Cherub kills Longfoot & decides that the Doctor needs to be kidnapped and interrogated. The scenes between the Doctor and Pike aboard Pike's ship are a delight. Hartnell does a lovely job of wrapping Pike around his little finger and then fooling Jamaica (Elroy Josephs) so that he can escape.
Meanwhile Polly and Ben (Michael Craze) have been arrested for the murder of Longfoot by the Squire, escaped using fake witchcraft to terrify a 17th century Cornish teenager, Tom (Mike Lucas), Polly gets re-captured by the Squire, Ben stumbles into and overcomes a man called Blake (John Ringham in good guy mode and therefore a lot less interesting than his last Doctor Who performance.) Polly and Ben are handed over to Blake as murder suspects and smugglers but Blake lets them go as he trusts them a little more than he does the Squire. With me so far? Good. All this coming and going leads up to an episode of betrayal, battle, and bloody murder before the Doctor, Ben and Polly can return to the TARDIS and flee.
One of the topics of conversation that Doctor Who fans have occasionally is at what point the Doctor becomes The Doctor we know now. There's a tendency to believe it happens in the Troughton era but I'd put an argument that it is in this story that the Doctor becomes the Doctor. Only six stories back the Doctor almost loses Steven in an argument about how The Doctor has treated Anne Chaplet. The Doctor was so anxious not to get involved that he is willing to throw Anne to the Catholic wolves (or to try not to think about it at all.) In The Smugglers though he says to Ben and Polly that he has to stay to prevent Pike and his men from destroying the village even at the risk of his own life. Indeed, his behavior shames the Squire. This, surely, is the moment the Doctor become the Doctor?
Hartnell is excellent in this, his penultimate story. He's sharp, smart and out-wits pretty much everyone. This is also Ben and Polly's first adventure with the Doctor as companions. Ben is the first companion that doesn't seem to want to be there. He spends chunks of time complaining about wanting to get back to his own ship. He also gets lumped with the refusal to believe the TARDIS is a time machine. But both Ben and Polly are independent and brave.* Ben can be a little shouty but Polly is brilliant, even if the whole 'boy' thing is ridiculous.
It's an enjoyable romp. It's a shame it doesn't exist in the archive as we're missing a large chunk of location footage, which would be nice to see.
Next up, the Hartnell era comes to an end with The Tenth Planet.
*As the Eleventh Doctor said in A Good Man Goes To War, "They're always brave."