Well, both Andrew and myself sat down to watch another full four-part reconstruction with little idea about this story. Andrew told me he had never watched the full reconstruction and didn’t know a lot about the story. So it began.
|Hartnell, Craze and Wills in episode one of 'The Smugglers'|
And what followed was quite a cracking tale. Yes, there are smugglers in the story, but it’s not about smuggling. It’s about pirates and treasure. A great subject for a historical Doctor Who story! And it’s quite enjoyable too. It’s nicely paced, especially after the first episode which is mostly about Ben and Polly, recently joined companions, realising what’s going on. It’s a very different dynamic than we’ve had before, mainly because Ben is a very different sort of male companion. He’s much younger than Ian or Steven and a little more niave, and indeed probably more head strong.
The idea appears to have been to give William Hartnell a couple of younger, more ‘hip’ companions. Polly as well – it’s a totally different relationship. With Susan and Vicki, and to a lesser extent Dodo, the Doctor was quite paternalistic. Polly is a little older than those three, presumably early twenties, so a very different feel is created.
|Michael Godfrey as Captain Pike.|
Back to the story though. It’s a hunt for Every’s treasure, a pirate back in the 17th century. The Doctor and his companions head to a church to get their bearings and discover when and where they are (Cornwall, 17th century). The priest, Longfoot (Terence De Marney) directs them to the inn, but not before he has left a baffling clue with the doctor – four people’s names.
Longfoot is then killed by a bald-headed chap called Cherub, played by George A. Cooper. The Doctor and his companions are soon embroiled in the whole plot involving Captain Pike, very well played by Michael Godfrey, the Squire (Paul Whitsun-Jones) and other ruffians, all after the treasure. It’s a very bloody story, which may be my only major critiscm of it. For kids, I think they probably did go a bit far. There’s plenty of blood and violence though if it takes your fancy. A few clips exist because they were censored for the content.
|Cherub threatens the Doctor. His bald cap is showing!|
|Pike and Jamaica|
The finale is extremely bloody indeed, with most people dying, including Pike and all the pirates. The cast is good, with Paul Whitsun-Jones giving perhaps a somewhat predictable performance as the squire (just see some his other work and you’ll understand) however, the character mellows by the final episode, and unlike most character he plays, he sees the error of his ways. John Ringham returns to Doctor Who (he previously appeared in ‘The Aztecs’) as Josiah Blake, on the side of good this time. He is forced to wear one of the worst wigs ever to appear on television. This is rivalled by George A. Cooper’s bald cap, as he plays Cherub.
|John Righam acts well despite the worst wig in TV history.|
I enjoyed the story, written by Brian Hayles, who came up with the original idea for ‘The Celestial Toymaker before it was totally changed. Twice. It’s got good pace, a bit of action, and a fair bit of fun until the bloodbath occurs. There could have been a tendency to go very silly and ramp up the humour, but unlike ‘The Gunfighters’ and ‘The Romans’, they didn’t go down this path. The story is probably the stronger for it.
All in all, a nice little piece. William Hartnell was very good in this, Craze and Wills were good foils. I look forward to many more William Hartnell adventures after this one!
PS. My friend Andrew, who watches all the episodes with me, also writes a blog. A travel blog. Still, he hasn't been to half the places I have! However, today he wrote a blog about a Doctor Who convention. Whatever that might be. He also mentioned his friend Rob Lloyd who does a Doctor Who show called 'Who, Me.' A one-man stage show. I hear he is very good. So here are the links for ye:
Next time you join me, I will be talking about what has turned out to be William Hartnell's final Doctor Who story - 'The Tenth Planet'. Expect it up in the next 24-48 hours!