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The tale of one solitary woman in drag, stuck at an ultra-violent, 17th-century sausage fest while pirates look for hidden booty.

The Doctor and his (almost) brand new companions, Polly and Ben, materialise in 17th century Cornwall, where there be pirate mischief afoot!

For no reason whatsoever, a local churchwarden shares a secret clue with the Doctor, and then shortly thereafter Doc is kidnapped by Captain Pike himself, because apparently that clue may lead to the famed treasure of legendary pirate, Avery, which it turns out is probably hidden somewhere in this selfsame village. Coincidence alert!

Meanwhile, Polly – inexplicably in drag – and Ben are arrested for a murder they didn’t commit, by a magistrate who suspects they may be criminals, when in fact *spoiler alert* he is himself in cahoots with Captain Pike. And so ensues a tale of murder, torture, death-threats and bloodshed – in short, fun for the whole family – in which the only female character in the entire story pretends to be a man.


Here's what we think of C028 The Smugglers

We rate Doctor Who stories on a scale from 0.0 to 5.0. For context, very few are excellent enough to merit a 5.0 in our minds, and we'd take a 0.0 Doctor Who story over a lot of other, non-Whovian stuff out there.

Leon | @ponken


Here's what we think of C028 The Smugglers

We rate Doctor Who stories on a scale from 0.0 to 5.0. For context, very few are excellent enough to merit a 5.0 in our minds, and we'd take a 0.0 Doctor Who story over a lot of other, non-Whovian stuff out there.

Leon | @ponken


Here's what you think 17 Responses to “C028 The Smugglers”
  1. Stephen | @sgamer82

    The Smugglers marks the first TARDIS adventure of companions Ben & Polly, and the next-to-last TARDIS adventure of the First Doctor, and all three are in fine form.

    A companion’s first time or space travel adventure in the TARDIS is a favorite moment of mine throughout Doctor Who. While disbelieving at first, Ben & Polly are quick to realize that, yes, they have traveled in time and are just as quick to adapt. A far cry from their immediate predecessor, who spent much of HER first TARDIS trip thinking they were in a zoo. Polly, in particular, using the superstition of the day to help herself and Ben. Ben as well, when he’s confronted with the revenue man, is smart enough not to just take things at face value. Even if, in that case, the man was exactly as he claimed, Ben was being fairly sensible. The Doctor, as well, shows his wit in being able to escape Pike’s custody and later outmaneuver the pirates in keeping the treasure out of his reach for just long enough.

    Just as in the Savages, you can see the Doctor’s development into a heroic character compared to how he started. Ben is right that they have no ties to that era. In fact, as the Doctor is the only one who knows the secret of Avery’s gold, leaving could even thwart Pike. However, the Doctor feels morally obligated to stay and prevent any death or destruction he can.

    An enjoyable story, particularly in seeing this new Troupe in action. Ben & Polly made a good companion team alongside the Doctor. I’m sure there are some glaring plot holes or nonsensical moments, but listening to the audiobook nothing really caught my attention and I’m inclined to let things like that slide unless they do just that.

    While a good story, I didn’t really feel it stood out enough to merit higher than 4, and a 3.5 feels too low, so I’m meeting in the middle and calling it 3.7 out of 5.

    Finally, a little bit of trivia: Have you noticed that, with the exceptions of Dodo and Katarina, nearly every one of the First Doctor’s companions had their first adventure take place in the past? Ian and Barbara in prehistoric era, Vicki in Rome, Steven in the Middle Ages, and now Ben & Polly here. Even Sara Kingdom counts, if you consider the 20th Century a past era for her, had her first trip go to the past.

    The second bit of trivia is that Pike was once a pirate under the pirate Avery. Assuming it’s the same man, we would go on to actually MEET Avery in the Eleventh Doctor’s “The Curse of the Black Spot”. Surprisingly, I don’t recall the episode making any reference to this past encounter with one of Avery’s former crew.

  2. Gallifreyan Buccanear | @aluntrussler

    The Smugglers mini:

    Once again, audiobook version with linking narration I used for this, your mileage may vary. Although there is an existing tele-snap of Ben with his shirt off, so hey – small pleasures!

    So The Smugglers, often maligned as ‘that one before Tenth Planet’ I think it has a bad rep. Is it a historical too far? Maybe, but I wouldn’t say so. Frankly it’s one of the most fun historicals out there, and as much as I love The Massacre, that one wasn’t exactly a barrel of laughs.

    There’s lots of pirate-y goodness with hidden treasure, Cornwall accents, and flintock pistols. It’s just a fun little adventure that solidifies Ben and Polly as proper companions before the big event in the next story. And with Ben, who normally gets the brunt of all the plot stuff, making him seem idiotic, like in The Macra Terror where he goes semi-antagonist after being hypnotized. Here, he takes a long time to work out if they’ve really time traveled or if it’s all a big ruse. Let it be said that Tegan and Jaime have nary the same problem!

    The Smugglers is a nice bit of 60’s Hartnell Who, enjoy it while you can! As next time, well…can anyone smell Trout…on?

    The Smugglers gets a 3.1.

    P.S Yes I know that trout joke sucks. Just wait until we get to Pertwee and the cat jokes come out!

  3. Peter Zunitch

    While this is an enjoyable story with some great comedic moments, it’s not a particularly stunning one. The acting across the board is just fine. The characters are portrayed well. The story is just fine except for the random “let me share a secret with a total stranger because the plot can’t develop if I don’t” issue at the top of the story. This screams of “we had a better explanation, but it all got chopped for time”. Here’s an idea: The churchwarden sends the riddle out to his only trustworthy mate via a messenger. When the both the churchwarden and the recipient are discovered dead, the messenger discards the note in fear, or hands it to the doctor thinking he is some kind of official or justice of the peace.
    [Insert random and meaningless shot of man falling off a horse here.]
    The tavern stuff could have been done better, in contrast to the scenes on the ship, which I wish there were more of. Everyone and their cousin is a double agent here to whatever side they are on, and no one trusts anybody. In the end though the story is slowed by the few and far between action scenes, and the sloppy and drawn out solving of the riddle at the end. (By the way, if anyone came across a riddle in a church with catacombs, would the first place you look be the catacombs? Heck it’s Scooby Doo 101.
    It’s good, it’s not great. It could easily have been better if some fat were trimmed for some action, and the comedy played up even more. 2.3

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