Doctor Who: The Smugglers Review

The TARDIS brings the Doctor and his new companions, Ben and Polly, to the Cornish coast of the late 17th century. Here, pirates led by Captain Pike are searching for Avery’s legendary treasure, while the local Squire Edwards and Kewper the inn-keeper operate a smuggling ring.
Longfoot, the church-warden, passes on a cryptic rhyme to the Doctor, and is then killed by Pike’s henchman, Cherub. 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 TARDIS crew sneak away when Revenue officer Blake and his militia arrive to confront the pirates.
William Hartnell is on top form here. Despite nearing the end of this incarnation, the Doctor is by no means on his last legs, and he still has some new tricks up his sleeves.
Season 4 opener The Smugglers (1966) is notable for several reasons:
  • 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)
  • It achieved the lowest-ever viewing figures for the series (averaging 4.5M per installment) upto 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
  • All four episodes are now missing from the BBC archives – 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
  • This was Brian Hayles’ second script for Doctor Who – he also wrote The Celestial Toymaker, The Ice Warriors, The Seeds of Death, and the two Peladon serials
  • The serial was placed at No. 159 in the DWM Mighty 200 Poll (Issue 413, September 2009)
  • The events of  The Smugglers chronologically follow those of The Curse of the Black Spot, broadcast 45 years later
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About ecklefecken

Whovian/Pethead/Tartan Noir reader/Ripperologist/Blogger
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