The Smugglers

Doctor WhoThe Doctor is infuriated when Ben and Polly burst into his TARDIS just before he takes off; they were merely trying to return Dodo’s TARDIS key to the Doctor, but now find themselves on the coast in Cornwall in the 1600s. While the two were instrumental in helping the Doctor defeat the War Machines in 1966, they’re utterly lost in their first time trip – which is not a good thing when they find themselves in the midst of some pirates’ search for a lost treasure, and the pirates’ feud with contraband smugglers. The local church warden seems to know something about the whereabouts of the treasure, but he’s killed not long after divulging this secret to the Doctor, who now becomes the pirates’ target. It seems that everyone in this seemingly quiet seaside town is on the take somehow – but the time travelers simply want to get home.

Season 4 Regular Cast: William Hartnell (The Doctor), Patrick Troughton (The Doctor), Michael Craze (Ben), Anneke Wills (Polly), Frazer Hines (Jamie McCrimmon), Deborah Watling (Victoria Waterfield)

Order this story on audio CDwritten by Brian Hayles
directed by Julia Smith
music not credited

Guest Cast: Terence de Marney (Churchwarden), George A. Cooper (Cherub), David Blake Kelly (Jacob Kewper), Mike Lucas (Tom), Paul Whitsun-Jones (Squire), Derek Ware (Spaniard), Michael Godfrey (Pike), Elroy Josephs (Jamaica), John Ringham (Blake), Jack Bingh (Gaptooth)

Notes: The master tapes of this episode were destroyed by the BBC in the early 1970’s, and no video copies exist.

Broadcast from September 10 through October 1, 1966

LogBook entry & review by Earl Green

Review: Not the greatest Doctor Who adventure ever to hit the air during William Hartnell’s reign, The Smugglers is a surprisingly average tale from the pen of Brian Hayles, who had already given Who fans the incredibly imaginative Celestial Toymaker and would, in Patrick Troughton’s era, introduce the Ice Warriors to the pantheon of all-time great Doctor Who monsters. But here, we get a very tame series of chases, double-crosses, fights, captures, and escapes, with hints of plot slipped in via dialogue.

Arguably the most engaging feature of The Smugglers is Ben and Polly’s reactions to their first time trip, but little is made of this opportunity for developing those characters here; all too quickly, they’re swept into a situation where their actions and dialogue could’ve been done and said by nearly any companion. Ben and Polly, as lively as they seem to be, are insert-random-placeholder-companion-here characters with little development (which may explain a lot about why they were shuffled back out of the TARDIS in the course of this same season). Taking them into the context of this story and The Tenth Planet, the following story which heralded a monumental change to Doctor Who, I would’ve been much more interested in seeing Steven and Dodo, or even just Dodo, accompany the Doctor through his first regeneration. That said, Michael Craze and Anneke Wills do the best they can here with a scarcity of actual character to work with – the fact that these characters have a following at all within Doctor Who fandom is really down to their efforts.

That context – of being Hartnell’s penultimate story as the Doctor – is important to me in hindsight. After the thoroughly (almost jarringly) modern War Machines, The Smugglers probably lulled many a viewer into a false sense of security (assuming it didn’t lull them into a deep sleep) before the next story not only introduced the Cybermen, but stunned everybody with the first change of the Doctor’s face. In that sense, The Smugglers is the last time that Doctor Who was really the same show that everyone had been watching since 1963.