The Smugglers was so boring. I kept falling asleep and didn’t even want to finish it. The plot structure seemed to be something out of season 1 or 2, although the violence of season 3 was still evident. And it featured a hunt for some booty.
The Wikipedia tells me that the story was filmed with Season 3, but intended to hold over until Season 4. It was a historical story, probably supposed to contrast with the futuristic, yet present-tense war machines. It is William Hartnell’s next-to-last story, and his last complete story. He played it well and Ben and Polly weren’t too bad. I guess there was nothing wrong with the story…it just wasn’t interesting.
The travelers arrive on the beach of Cornwall. Ben and Polly are skeptical that they have traveled through time, as one might expect. Ben is worried (and whining) about making it back to his Navy ship for deployment. They wander the cliffs and come to a church. The churchwarden (I’m guessing that’s some sort of caretaker?) gets some medical attention from the Doctor and tells him a cryptic secret: Ringwood, Smallbeer, and Gurney. The travelers leave and soe pirates, led by Pike and his crony Cherub, show up demanding to know the location of the booty (booty is a much more piratey word than treasure….). When the warden doesn’t tell them, they kill him and go in search of the travelers.
This is where the season 1 and 2 structure comes in….Ben and Polly are arrested and held in one place while the Doctor is captured by Pike and held in another. It made me think of The Daleks or the story where Barbara and Susan were in jail (I forget the exact story). I’m sure that this motif continues to appear regularly, but there was no particularly interesting twist to this. It just seemed a bland step backward from Season 3.
Pike begins working with the greedy Squire to try to find out the location of the Booty. Cherub refers to the Doctor as Sawbones a lot, Pike betrays the squire, wounding him, and also betrays Cherub, killing him. It just goes to show that you can’t trust a pirate. And I won’t get into the incredibly racist portrayal of Jamaica, a black pirate. I’ll just let the image say it all:
Some army types show up, there’s a great sword battle that I couldn’t see because all episodes of this story are missing. They find the Booty, but the army types kill Pike. I’m not sure what happens to the Booty because the travelers sneak off to the TARDIS and make a break for it.
Ben and Polly, in their first official story as companions, weren’t too shabby. Ben showed some guts, which I expected since that’s how he was set up in his previous story. And, besides, we can’t exactly portray a member of the Royal Navy as a wimp, can we? I feel like I got a decent feel for their characters. Polly is strong, but definitely a background-lurker. Ben likes to take charge and is quick to fight. I could see almost an Ian and Barbara relationship with the doctor developing…but since the Doctor will soon no longer be the same Doctor, I’m guessing that we won’t really see it develop that way.
In short, this story wasn’t terrible. I just didn’t like it. Maybe I just don’t like pirates. Or maybe I don’t find hidden Booty a very good plot device. I don’t know. The Wikipedia informs me that this was the least watched story for twenty years, averaging around 4.6 million viewers. And I think that it is still the second-least watched story of all time. Worse than The Gunfighters! So it can’t just be me. And as a Season Premier? It should have top ratings. Lame. I’m looking forward the the Doctor’s switch over in the next story, though. It’s GOT to pick up for that, right?
Booty count: 8