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Doctor Who: The Smugglers

"Arr, the head office would
like a word with ye..."
Shiver me TARRRRDIS...

Season Four, Series 1 (CC)

Starring William Hartnell as the Doctor
With Michael Craze (Ben) and Anneke Wills (Polly)
Written by Brian Hayles
Directed by Julia Smith
Produced by Innes Lloyd
Script Editor: Gerry Davies

Broadcast Dates
  • Episode 1 - 10 Sept 1966 **MISSING**
  • Episode 2 - 17 Sept 1966 **MISSING**
  • Episode 3 - 24 Sept 1966 **MISSING**
  • Episode 4 - 1 Oct 1966 **MISSING**

How To Watch

All four episodes are missing. The Loose Cannon reconstruction, comprised of telesnaps, film clips excised by Australian censors, on-location films taken during shooting, specially composed images, and complete soundtrack, is available here.


The TARDIS lands on the Cornish coast in the 1600's. Ben and Polly are slow to comprehend that they have travelled into the past, presuming they can take a train back to London. At a cliffside church, the churchwarden entrusts the Doctor with a coded message before being killed by one of his former shipmates, certain that he knows the location of buried pirate treasure. Having seen him talking to the churchwarden, the sailor kidnaps the Doctor and brings him to the fearsome pirate Captain Pike. Ben and Polly meet a revenue officer investigating a smuggling ring in the local village, in which the local squire and inkeeper are deeply involved, as was the churchwarden. Pike is interested in both the smuggling operation and finding the lost treasure. Ultimately the Doctor works out the location of the treasure from the churchwarden's clue, and manages to hold the pirates and smugglers at bay until the revenue officer and his men manage to wipe out the pirates.

Notes and Observations

This is one of the most overlooked stories in all of Classic Doctor Who, being completely missing as well as a late historical, also being overshadowed by the noteworthy story that follows. It got the worst viewership figures of the Hartnell era and didn't seem to get much rebroadcast internationally, so it was never very high on the list of lost stories people were most eager to see found. And that's a shame, because it's actually quite a fun swashbuckler of an adventure, performed with panache. Doctor Who and the pirates!!

Brian Hayles was originally commissioned to write a story called "The Nazis," but the production team opted to inject some adventure and levity into the series and Hayles managed to turn this script around in very short order. The Cornish setting led to a higher than usual amount of location shooting. And it's the BBC, so they obviously had no shortage of lavish period-appropriate costuming.

"Either it's an ethical quandary, or something I ate..."

This is a good point to note the stark difference in story aesthetics between the historicals and the 'standard' sci-fi adventures. They have different dramatic arcs, different builds in tension, different resolutions, etc. The structure of a sci-fi story usually fell into alien invasions or freeing oppressed humanoids from subjugation, while historicals were focused on basically interacting with famous historical people or events without getting killed or changing history. "The Smugglers" thus is unusual, because there's no crucial historical event taking place whose outcome might be impacted by the Doctor's influence. There are no historical characters to meet. There's no discussion of interfering with the past. It's just a fun adventure – of course they still are obligated to make sure nothing bad happens to the Doctor, since he's Ben and Polly's ride.

The other unusual aspect, for a historical, is that by the start of the final episode the way to the TARDIS is clear, but the Doctor elects to remain, in his own words, out of "a moral obligation." The pirates are about to raid the nearby village in search of Avery's gold, and it is noted that once the pirates' blood is up, there's no end to the mayhem they'll cause. The Doctor endeavors to bargain with Captain Pike to spare the town, as well as delaying matters long enough for the King's forces to arrive.

I appreciate the vivid characters Hayles creates; everyone is rather on tenterhooks at the start, waiting for ominous and dreadful happenings. As strangers, Doc, Ben and Polly are regarded with suspicion by some, and readily used as fallguys by the architects of the smuggling ring. Everyone has secrets. The ones who don't are easily manipulated by fear of the supernatural. There's room for growth for some, particularly the Squire who winds up rediscovering his sense of ethics.

"Alas, Jamaica, you don't make it past episode three..."

And it took until the last story of the third production block, but kudos to Elroy Josephs, as Jamaica, the first credited black actor on Doctor Who. I don't think there was any conscious attempt not to cast BIPOC actors, and most likely they were no different than most other shows on the BBC at the time. I don't find the low quantity of black characters on Doctor Who as galling as the fact that in 26 seasons we can count on one hand the number of significant credited black characters who make it through an entire story alive.

Behind the scenes of this innocuous adventure story, the ground was being laid for a major transition. It was during the making of "The Smugglers" that the decision was made for William Hartnell to step down from the title role. John Wiles had attempted to replace Hartnell and failed, but between his increasing infirmity and the severe decline in ratings, Innes Lloyd got the green light from the new head of serials, Shaun Sutton, and Patrick Troughton was offered the role. Hartnell was apparently heartened that Troughton would carry on with his own take on the role rather than attempt to mimic his own characterization. Hartnell informed his wife in mid-July, and the public was informed in August. By the time the story aired in September (as the start of season four, even though filmed at the end of the third production block), Hartnell was a "lame duck" Doctor.

Haven't I Seen You...
  • David Blake Kelly (Innkeeper Kewper) also appeared as the captain of the Mary Celeste in "The Chase"
  • Paul Whitson-Jones (Squire Edwards) would return as the brutal Marshal in "The Mutants"
  • Derek Ware (The Spaniard) appeared regularly, along with his HAVOC stunt team
  • John Ringham (Josiah Blake) had appeared as Tlotoxl in "The Aztecs" and would re-appear as Ashe in "Colony in Space"
  • Terry Walsh makes the first of numerous appearances, as an uncredited soldier

Sausage Factor: 100% – Anneke Wills is the only female character in the story, and ironically enough she's assumed to be a boy. Not even so much as an uncredited serving wench. Further irony comes from it being one of the only classic serials directed by a woman.

Rating: 3 out of 4 lame ducks
John Geoffrion is a semi-retired semi-professional thespian, a professional data guy, and a Dad. He usually falls asleep to the Classic Doctor Who channel on Pluto.tv

1 comment:

  1. Another one I know very little about, and as you state here John, probably not getting an animation any time soon, probably down there with the Space Pirates.

    You make it sound more interesting than the title or setting suggests, so I do hope to see it in some form eventually.


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