Tuesday, 17 January 2017

Doctor Who: The Smugglers Review


The TARDIS brings the Doctor and his resourceful new companions, Ben Jackson 
and Polly [Wright] (competently portrayed by Michael Craze and Anneke Wills),
to the Cornish coast of the late seventeenth century. Here, pirates led by Captain Pike (Michael Godfrey) are searching for Henry Avery's legendary treasure, while 
the local Squire Edwards (Paul Whitsun-Jones) and Jacob Kewper (David Blake 
Kelly) the inn-keeper operate a smuggling ring.
Longfoot (Terence de Marney), the church-warden, passes on a cryptic rhyme to 
the Doctor, and is then killed by Pike's henchman, Cherub (George A Cooper).
The Doctor is kidnapped by Pike's men, then Ben and Polly are arrested for 
Longfoot's murder. Having escaped, the three travellers are reunited at the 
church crypt, where Pike forces the Doctor to reveal the treasure's location by 
solving Longfoot's riddle. The time travellers sneak away when Revenue officer 
Blake (John Ringham) and his militia arrive to confront the pirates.


Although The Smugglers has scant real plot and presents rather hackneyed stereotypes, it is pure romp, and well worth a listen. William Hartnell is still 
on top form here. Despite nearing the end of this incarnation, the Doctor is by 
no means on his last legs, and he feels a "moral obligation" to act and thus 
prevent the deaths of the villagers. Jonathan Morris described the adventure 
as "exceptionally bloodthirsty" in the Missing Episodes First Doctor Special 
from DWM (2013)
  • Season four opener The Smugglers was transmitted from September 10th to October 1st 1966
  • It was the final historical story of the First Doctor's era, and was Hartnell's penultimate appearance in the lead (it was during production of this story that Hartnell decided to relinquish the title role)
  • Director Julia Smith (who went on to co-create and write EastEnders) assembled an excellent cast, and in 1987 she recalled Hartnell's formidable temperament and worsening health for DWM: "I remember asking [him] to cross the TARDIS [set to] press a particular button and he went raving mad"
  • It achieved the lowest-ever viewing figures for the series (averaging 4.5 million per instalment) up to The Trial of a Time Lord (1986), and proved the death-knell of the purely historical stories (The Highlanders, just two months away, was the last true visit to the past until Black Orchid in 1982)
  • It was filmed almost entirely on location, actually in it's Cornish setting
  • Hartnell remained in London for the week-long location shoot - his body double was Gordon Craig
  • It features the show's first speaking role for a black actor - Elroy Josephs as Jamaica
  • This is the only televised story devoid of any incidental music
  • All four episodes are now missing from the BBC archives, although all telesnaps exist (and are available as a BBC photonovel) - ironically, the only surviving clips are those excised by Australian censors, deemed unsuitable, and can be seen on the Lost in Time DVD
  • This 2002 CD release has linking narration from Anneke Wills (and was reissued in 2011)
  • Brian Hayles' second script for the programme had it's roots in the literary classics Treasure Island (Robert Louis Stevenson, 1883), Jamaica Inn (Daphne du Maurier, 1936), Moonfleet (J. Meade Falkner, 1898), and the Doctor Syn books (Russell Thorndike, 1915-44) - his original brief, The Nazis was abandoned
  • The pirates seen here are in pursuit of Captain Avery's fabled loot, and this sub-plot was revisited by the programme forty-five years later when The Curse of the Black Spot (2011) resolved the real-life disappearance of Avery (Hugh Bonneville) - the later adventure was also filmed in Cornwall
  • The serial was placed at 159th in the DWM Mighty 200 Poll (Issue 413, September 2009), and an archive feature for the adventure was printed in DWM #321

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