Doctor Who
The Smugglers

Starring: William Hartnell
BBC Radio Collection
ISBN 0 563 53504 0
Available now

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...

This 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.

Writer 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.

Narrating 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!

All 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.

Richard McGinlay

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