Wednesday, 24 October 2012

Story 28 - The Smugglers

In which the TARDIS gets two uninvited passengers. The Doctor, already angry at Dodo's abrupt departure, is further infuriated to find Ben and Polly intruding on his company. They had entered the ship to return Dodo's key just as he dematerialised. The ship lands in a cave mouth on a rocky beach. Ben and Polly think they are in Cornwall. The Doctor agrees, but suspects it is not the time they think it is. The newcomers set off to find a train back to London, and the Doctor accompanies them to keep them out of trouble. At an isolated churchyard, they notice that gravestones have old dates, and yet the stones themselves are unweathered. They meet the churchwarden, Joseph Longfoot, and from him learn that it is the late 17th Century. He is initially suspicious of them, but later gives the Doctor a cryptic clue - "This is the Deadman's secret key: Smallbeer, Ringwood, Gurney". After the travellers leave, a man named Cherub arrives. He has been spying on them and suspects Longfoot - whom he knows as "Holy Joe" - has told them something. It transpires that both once sailed with the infamous pirate Captain Avery. Cherub kills Longfoot when he won't talk.

The travellers reach an inn. Cherub kidnaps the Doctor whilst Ben and Polly find themselves suspected of the churchwarden's murder. The local Squire, Edwards, has them locked up. Polly pretends to be a witch to scare the stable boy into freeing them. The Doctor has been taken to a ship moored nearby - "The Black Albatross" - which belongs to pirate Captain Samuel Pike. He has a sharp spike in place of his left hand. He was Avery's first mate and has now assumed command after their old captain died. Innkeeper Jacob Kewper arrives on the ship to arrange a meeting between Pike and the leader of the local smuggling ring - the Squire. The Doctor tricks Pike's servant, Jamaica, after the Captain has left for his meeting, and escapes back to shore.

The travellers meet Josiah Blake, an Exciseman, who is trying to put a stop to the smuggling. They decide to join forces. The pirates intend to do a deal with the smugglers then betray them and take everything for themselves. Their real goal, though, is Avery's buried treasure. Longfoot knew where it was, and now, unwittingly, does the Doctor as well. The cryptic clue leads to its hiding place. It turns out that the names in the riddle refer to graves in the church crypt. As the pirates and smugglers fight amongst themselves, Blake calls in the Militia. Cherub and Pike are killed, whilst the Squire is arrested.

This four part adventure was written by Brian Hayles, and broadcast between 10th September and 1st October, 1966. It is the first story of Doctor Who's fourth season. It was filmed as the last story of the third season and held back to open the fourth.
The story no longer exists in the archives, although telesnaps, the soundtrack, and a couple of Australian censor clips can still be enjoyed.
There is also some fascinating colour Super 8 footage taken on location. Whilst earlier stories had some exterior filming, locations were generally in, or not far from, London. For this, cast and crew spent a few days in Cornwall itself to add some verisimilitude.
The story doesn't have the same levels of humour as The Romans, Myth Makers or Gunfighters, but the guest cast do play their parts rather larger than life.
Influences on the story are Treasure Island and the Dr Syn novels of Russell Thorndyke (Syn was a kindly pastor who secretly lead a feared smuggling gang. Peter Cushing plays him in a Hammer film called Captain Clegg, aka Night Creatures in the States).

Hartnell has some lovely scenes - such as those when held captive aboard "The Black Albatross". However, it is Michael Craze and Anneke Wills who carry much of the story and the action.
There are several striking guest turns. Paul Whitsun-Jones is superb as the Squire. He's happy to make money from the smuggling but as a member of the gentry he sees himself very much above his riff-raff employees. He's a reluctant villain who tries to make good at the end.
Pike is played by Michael Godfrey. He's a jumped-up rogue who aspires to some form of gentrification.
Michael C Cooper is the angelically named but utterly murderous Cherub. He was known to generations of UK schoolchildren as Grange Hill's grumpy janitor for many years.
Returning to the programme is the excellent John Ringham as Blake. He was Tlotoxyl in The Aztecs.
Episode endings for this tale are:

  1. Cherub tells Pike that the Doctor knows what they want to know but refuses to talk. Pike declares he will make him talk - and reveals his spiked left hand.
  2. Thinking him one of the villains, Ben escapes from Blake. He is confronted by the Squire and Cherub, who have Polly prisoner. The Squire points a pistol towards him...
  3. Kewper threatens to drag the Squire down with him. Cherub kills him with a knife as Polly screams.
  4. As the TARDIS materialises, the temperature in the ship plummets. The Doctor announces that they have arrived at the coldest place on Earth...

Overall a rip-roaring high adventure. Very enjoyable and with some great performances. Everyone loves pirates - they should bring them back to the show. Oh, sorry, they did...
Things ye may want to know, ye scurvy landlubbers, or I'll keelhaul ye from here to Port Royal. Arrrh!:
  • This story, unfortunately, held the programme's lowest average viewing figures (4.48 million) for twenty years - until 1986's Trial of a Time Lord came along (4.35 million).
  • The cryptic clue changes depending who says it - because Longfoot actor Terence de Mornay fluffs its initial outing - saying "Smallwood" instead of "Smallbeer". Hartnell later uses the right name.
  • The Curse of the Black Spot forms a sort of prequel to this story - giving us an idea of what happened to Captain Avery. Quite how the treasure which the Doctor throws overboard from "The Fancy" ends up in a Cornish church crypt is never explained...
  • It was during the production of this story that William Hartnell's poor health made it clear he could not carry on. His contract was not renewed - but fortunately he agreed to come back for 3 episodes to gift us the first regeneration and contribute to a piece of television history...

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