Doctor Who 127 – The Smugglers Part 1

Written by Brian Hayles
Directed by Julia Smith

The Doctor, now saddled with Ben and Polly, arrives in the 17th century and finds himself at the mercy of pirates searching for the lost treasure of Captain Avery.

This review is brought to you by Linenkugel Summer Shandy.

And I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that the Captain Avery referred to in this episode is supposed to be the same Captain Avery from Curse of the Black Spot.  I don’t really know how I feel about this, but I don’t suppose it makes any difference whatsoever to either story, so it makes as much sense as anything.

So, yes.  Ben and Polly accidentally stowed away, much to The Doctor’s annoyance.  He claims that he was interested in traveling alone again, but I think that can be attributed to hurt feelings over Dodo’s departure.  The Doctor quickly goes over the rules for Ben and Polly and any new viewers.  Did I mention this is the beginning of season four?  Well, it is, and perhaps new viewers to the show need an update.  We are moving into a new era of Doctor Who, after all.  So, the rules are 1) The TARDIS travels through time and space and 2) The Doctor cannot control the TARDIS.  It pretty much goes where it wants.  Apparently, these rules are subject to change depending on the incarnation of The Doctor.

The TARDIS materializes on a beach.  Polly guesses they are in Cornwall.  Ben seems to have little difficulty accepting they are in Cornwall, but can’t seem to come to terms with being in the 17th century.  He and Polly set out to find a bus or train so Ben can get back to the barracks.  The Doctor follows, claiming he needs to keep them out of trouble.  They soon come upon a church where they are assaulted by a man with a gun.  The man is Joseph Longfoot.  He is the warden of the church, he is afraid of pirates, and he thinks Polly is a boy.  I’m sure that is going to play an important role later.  While Longfoot cannot give the travelers lodging, he offers them food and sees them on their way to the inn.  Before leaving, however, he tells The Doctor what seems to be a code.  This will also probably be important later.

Dropping the name “Longfoot” at the inn gains The Doctor, Ben, and Polly admission for the night.  Unbeknownst to them, however, Longfoot is currently being murdered by a pirate.  Seems Longfoot was once first mate to Captain Pike on The Black Albatross.  Pike believes Longfoot knows the location of Captain Avery’s gold.  Longfoot claims ignorance, making the pirate more suspicious.  He kills Longfoot, but believes that The Doctor was told the location.  So, he makes for the inn.

Unfortunately for The Doctor, Ben, and Polly, Longfoot’s body is soon found and the owner of the inn sends for the squire.  But before the squire arrives, The Doctor is kidnaped by pirates.  When the squire arrives, he tells Ben and Polly that they are wanted on suspicion of murder.

Quite a lot happens in this episode, which is a nice change of pace after the previous two, which were good, if a bit predictable and insubstantial.  This episode, however, moves briskly from scene to scene.  In all honesty, I wish it wasn’t lost because it would be easier to keep up with.  There are a lot of characters introduced, along with quite a bit of intrigue and danger.  The visuals would probably help me process better.  But, upon more thought, I felt similarly when I started listening to Farewell Great Macedon, and that proved to be one of my favorite Big Finish stories.

This particular historical is interesting as, to the best of my knowledge, it isn’t dealing with a specific event or character.  I don’t think we’ve had an historical like that since The Aztecs.  The Doctor, Ben, and Polly merely find themselves embroiled in the dangers of the times, rather than at the mercy of an historic event or meeting someone special from the past.  This isn’t necessarily a bad thing.  However, I think the story may focus more on action/adventure than detail and accuracy.  Again, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

I rather enjoy that the pirates have taken to calling The Doctor “Sawbones”.

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