Doctor Who: Revisiting THE SMUGGLERS

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First broadcast from September 10th 1966, Christopher Morley revisits the now missing Doctor Who pure historical story The Smugglers.

The First Doctor could now be forgiven for humming My Way to himself- its the beginning of the end. But before he regenerates, he decides to treat himself to one last trip into the history books! Where's he off to? Perhaps in search of some cheap cider, 'Sexy' lands in 17th century Cornwall. Before he, Ben Jackson & Polly Wright ( who joined him as companions in the wake of The War Machines) can enquire as to the whereabouts of the prized fermented apple juice, though, there's intrigue to be explored!

And so we come to The Smugglers, the Doctor's first dabble in the affairs of one Captain Henry Avery. The former Royal Navy captain, having been discharged in August 1690, quickly turned to piracy- & his plundering forms the basis of the struggle at the heart of things here. Another Captain, Samuel Pike ( aided by his first mate Cherub) is on the hunt for ' Avery's Gold' while a local smuggling ring is trying to make some extra cash by selling off contraband.

The First has some trespassers aboard his own ship to deal with, first! He doesn't know Ben & Polly have accidentally stowed away in the process of trying to return a TARDIS key, & he's not too happy to find them ( but then thinking about it when is he ever happy, eh?). The two don't believe the Doctor's stories of his travels in time & space, or explanation of his lack of control over 'Sexy', but before long there's no chance to argue.

They're in a cave next to a beach by now- it looks like Jackson & Wright may never make it back to London! Its established that they're at a point in time before the Victorian era ( though his Tenth incarnation will come face to face with a rather nasty werewolf, some mad monks & the Queen who gave her name to the period in Tooth & Claw). Making their way to the local church, perhaps in search of sanctuary, they come across the churchwarden Joseph Longfoot.

Disappointingly he doesn't actually have one foot longer than the other! But in a rather unbecoming display of conduct for a lay official he introduces himself by waggling a pistol at these mysterious travellers. 

It might take quite a bit of persuasion to stop Longfoot from giving them a first hand escort from Earth to the heavens- fortunately the Doctor is able to convince him they're merely wanting shelter. Once he's satisfied that they know nothing of either Avery or Pike, he directs them to the local tavern. Looks like they might get their hands on some Scrumpy after all..

Having been warned to be careful, they're entrusted with a riddle as as they leave. ' This is Deadman's secret key, Ringwood, Smallbeer, Gurney'. What could it all mean? Of course the First will later face an altogether odder puzzler of a similar nature (The Mind Robber). 

Having been shaken out of any premonition he might have had of the Land of Fiction by the threat of an approaching storm, he & his friends make their way to shelter from the terrible weather. They can't go back to ' Sexy' as its high tide, making the very thought of doing so a terrible idea!

Once they do actually make it to the inn, with the Doctor possibly mindful of the last time he stayed in a similar place in Bethlehem, they're surprised at the initial frostiness of their welcome. Things get easier after they mention to the landlord, a man named Jacob Kewper, that they know the churchwarden- whom Tom, the stable-boy, is on his way to see on Kewper's orders.

An important delivery's coming in! Longfoot's a bit drunk ( how did he ever get to become a churchwarden?) & he's about to get a rather unwelcome visitor.

It's Cherub, who recognises old Joe from an implied piratical past as a member of the crew of the Black Albatross- this can't be good news! Further research reveals that this wasn't a real ship during what's often referred to as the ' golden age of piracy', but that's a digression. Having failed to get what he wanted from Longfoot, Cherub simply does what comes naturally & kills him..all of which Tom witnesses & promptly legs it back to the inn to tell Kewper. 

Before long the pirate has turned up at the inn with three of his sailor friends ( not this kind of sailor, either). The Doctor's kidnapped & bundled off into a cart, presumably after after asking Cherub where his cowboy & builder pals have got to..he's been to 1978, after all.

He's going for a little ride in a rowing boat, thankfully not accompanied by an owl & a pussy-cat. Another Land of Fiction hallucination just might prove too much for the young old boy! Just to make matters worse he, Ben & Polly are quickly convicted of Longfoot's murder..' if I must regenerate, make it quick!' the First could be forgiven for muttering darkly under his breath. For now, still stuck in his current body, he has to make the journey aboard the Black Albatross!

Where he's met by Captain Pike. He's even got a hook for a hand- as by law at least one crewman aboard every such ship had to if you believe the popular cultural depiction of pirates. He, Cherub & Longfoot were all among Avery's crew aboard the Fancy ( which is actually a real ship, renamed by its captain from the comparatively bland Charles II), & they're looking for a share of the treasures he's plundered & stowed away aboard. More of which we & indeed the Eleventh Doctor will learn of in The Curse Of The Black Spot when he actually meets Avery himself....

It appears the Doctor's given in to greed when he asks that he be given a share of the treasure in return for his help, while Ben & Polly shamelessly take advantage of the superstitions of the locals by pretending Polly is in a trance, possessed by the Doctor ( who's honestly a warlock). 

He's told her to make a voodoo doll of Tom, & the only way to escape a nasty fate is to release the two of them from a makeshift prison in the tavern. With escape sealed, they go off & take a look around the church for anything that might give them clues regarding Longfoot's death.

Business is to be done aboard the ship- Kewper, Longfoot & the squire outing themselves as smugglers. Things might be about to get a bit illegal. Never fear though- Ben & Polly have cornered the taxman! Josiah Blake is the King's Revenue Inspector, & he's been on the trail of the smugglers for a while now. You can probably guess where its all going from here. Going by the ratings of the time it wasn't an instant hit with viewers, but you can see reconstructions, this being just one example..

Curse Of The Black Spot also helps in its critical rehabilitation in a sense, showing us the other side of the divide between Avery & his former shipmates. By that point he's already built up quite a treasure chest, so to speak- not that it'll matter when everyone's dead at the hands of the Siren...

At least Henry's not all that bad, & gets a nice new ship as a reward, which he'll use to aid the Doctor at the Battle of Demons Run. Of course the Doctor has a meeting with some space pirates to attend to before all that, too ( The Pirate Planet). If anything the Captain who converts the planet Zanak into a ship in a bid to plunder the resources of the worlds around it is even more of a genius ( its also part of the Key To Time arc, a champagne moment for the Fourth Doctor). 

There's even a helpful guide to walking the plank...

...So don't say Who teaches you nothing.

We should probably take the opportunity to encourage you to take a look at everything from The Ribos Operation- The Armageddon Factor ( The Pirate Planet being the second story of the arc).

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