The TARDIS lands on the Cornish coast in the 17th century,
where the Doctor and his new - if unwilling - companions,
Ben and Polly, stumble upon a plot to smuggle contraband goods.
The time travellers also become embroiled in a search for
hidden treasure by a crew of dangerous pirates...
is an appropriately nautical adventure for able seaman Ben
(Michael Craze), although he spends hardly any time near the
water (he would spend more time at sea in The Highlanders,
a few stories later). Both he and Polly (Anneke Wills) experience
their first trip in the TARDIS during this story, having made
the acquaintance of the Doctor (William Hartnell) in 1966
London in the previous serial, The War Machines. At
first, they are understandably reluctant to accept that they
have travelled through time - this reluctance makes the listener
all the more sympathetic to their plight.
Brian Hayles' plot progresses at a cracking pace, slackening
a little only during the third episode. This is really saying
something when you consider the sluggish nature of many of
Doctor Who's 1960s episodes. There's plenty of double-crossing
going on between the pirates and the unscrupulous local smugglers,
and a particularly good cliffhanger at the end of Episode
One. The Smugglers is also a remarkably grisly tale,
punctuated by several violent stabbings - one wonders what
the kiddies (and their parents) made of this back in 1966.
a Who CD for the first time, Anneke Wills gives a strangely
dispassionate reading during much of the story, although her
enthusiasm perks up towards the end. This serial works rather
well on audio only, although there is a moment of unintentional
amusement before we discover the true nature of "Thomas Tickler",
the weapon with which the pirate Cherub (George A. Cooper)
threatens the Doctor!
in all, this is a lively little adventure, and also an appropriate
prelude to June's "Past Doctor" novel, Stephen Cole's Ten
Little Aliens, which features the same TARDIS team.
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