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Sawbones! For that ye’ll die! I’m coming for ye!

Television

Doctor Who
The Smugglers: Episode Four

 

This episode probably suffers the most from being audio/reconstruction-only, as it’s much more action-orientated. It’s also more orientated towards the supporting cast than the crew; Ben and Polly mess about in and out of tunnels while the Doctor stands firm as he faces up to Cherub then Pike.

The Squire is curiously rehabilitated. He claims he “was a fool and ill-led” after being shot by Cherub, and comments later that the Doctor has showed him the error of his ways. The Doctor insists on remaining to help the injured Squire rather than heading off to the TARDIS. Is forgiveness in the eyes of the Doctor absolution enough? There’s no suggestion that Blake intends to seek justice against him (“Thank you, Squire. The Day is ours”). Yet it was a direct consequence of his actions that Ben and Polly languished in jail awaiting execution for Holy Joe’s murder. The story seems to consider it enough that he “never spent blood” in his villainy; indeed, there’s a bit of a discussion over degrees of roguishness between Pike and the Squire.

Blake takes a good while mustering the militia before arriving with them on the beach in time to aid Polly and Ben (one of the pirates felled is the Spaniard, played by Derek Ware). Ben’s again identified as a bit of a bruiser, this time keen to get back to the action in the crypt with Blake. He also gets to deliver the groaner “Polly, put the kettle on” which elicits a sound from Polly that should probably have been expressed as “Sod right off”.

The pirates spend a fair amount of time knocking back the grog in the churchyard rather than obeying their Captain. Whose confrontation with the now out-for-himself Cherub is probably one of the highlights of the episode. If we could see it. I thought Julia Smith’s direction in The Underwater Menace Episode Three was pretty decent, at any rate.

PikeI never did trust that tongue of yours, Cherub. It was a mite too like the archangels.

As before, the Doctor is resolutely nonplussed with Pike. He looks to change the terms of their bargain, requesting that he leaves the village be in return for Avery’s gold. And by the time he’s deduced the location of the booty, resulting in Pike scrabbling around in a hole (he finds some pearls, at any rate), Blake has turned up. And shoots him before Pike can carry out his threat.

PikeSawbones! For that ye’ll die! I’m coming for ye!

About Time suggests that the Doctor may succumb to the curse of Avery’s gold in the following story. He does comment that he is “exhausted, but otherwise all right” when he is back at the TARDIS. I like his expansive comment to Polly in this regard.

The DoctorYes, superstition is a strange thing, my dear. But sometimes it tells the truth.

And again, we have it impressed on the new companions that the Doctor has no control of the TARDIS. Ben thinks that wherever they end up it can’t be as bad as there. The Doctor replies that it could be a great deal worse. And obviously something’s on the blink, as the inside of the TARDIS is susceptible to the cold of the South Pole.  I’d assumed that next story lead-ins were mostly a thing of the past by this point, but only three in the season don’t end on some form of cliffhanger (The HighlandersThe Macra Terror and The Evil of the Daleks).

Is this the best penultimate story for a Doctor?  They’re a bit of a rum (ARRRRRR!) bunch, but I reckon so. It’s a bonus that there’s no intimation (other than his closing scene, perhaps) that the Doctor is on his last legs and, unlike the next story (where Hartnell was apparently employed as a guest artist), he’s not being side lined by a pensive production team. I’m sure the story would have played even broader had it been a Troughton tale, but it ranks as a neglected gem for me.

(Episode rating is also the same as for the overall story.)

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