The Smugglers ★★★★

Season four kicks off in Cornwall with a tale of smugglers and pirates

47

Season 4 – Story 28

Advertisement

“Sawbones, ye Neptune’s curse! Ye’ve laid a trap and for that you’ll die by the pike” – Captain Pike

Storyline
Ben and Polly are incredulous when the Doctor’s Tardis transports them to a beach in 17th-century Cornwall. At a nearby village the churchwarden, innkeeper and squire are running a smuggling ring, but they bite off more than they can chew when they get involved with the cut-throat crew of the Black Albatross. Captain Pike – “the bloodiest pirate alive” – is searching for Avery’s hidden treasure, and only the Doctor has a clue as to its whereabouts…

First transmissions
Episode 1- Saturday 10 September 1966
Episode 2 – Saturday 17 September 1966
Episode 3 – Saturday 24 September 1966
Episode 4 – Saturday 1 October 1966

Production
Location filming: June 1966 in Cornwall (Nanjizal, Church Cove, Newlyn and Trethewey)
Studio recording: July 1966 at Riverside 1

Cast
Doctor Who – William Hartnell
Polly – Anneke Wills
Ben Jackson – Michael Craze
Cherub – George A Cooper
Captain Samuel Pike – Michael Godfrey
Squire Edwards – Paul Whitsun-Jones
Josiah Blake – John Ringham
Churchwarden Joseph Longfoot – Terence de Marney
Jacob Kewper – David Blake Kelly
Tom – Mike Lucas
Jamaica – Elroy Josephs
Gaptooth – Jack Bligh
Spaniard – Derek Ware

Crew
Writer – Brian Hayles
Incidental music – none
Designer – Richard Hunt
Story editor – Gerry Davis
Producer – Innes Lloyd
Director – Julia Smith

RT Review by Patrick Mulkern
“I remember asking William Hartnell to cross the Tardis and press a particular button and he went raving mad,” revealed Julia Smith back in 1987. I was quizzing the formidable godmother of EastEnders (for Doctor Who Magazine) about one of her early BBC assignments. “I stood there, a very young, very nervous director and took this broadside. He gave me a quarter-hour dissertation on why he couldn’t press that button. It was obviously so real to him.”

This vignette mirrors the Doctor’s wrath when Ben and Polly suddenly turn up inside his Tardis – a reaction viewers had to wait two months for in 1966, after the teasing conclusion to The War Machines. Thus season four kicks off with a new team of travellers – and a breezy adventure that treads into territory then more familiar to BBC1’s Sunday-teatime serials.

It’s a departure from foregoing history stories. The Doctor isn’t delving into ancient civilisations or witnessing turbulent events. There’s no attempt to educate or struggle to lampoon. The Smugglers (which could just as easily be called The Pirates) is happy to be a rollicking yarn, only the second set in Britain’s past and one borrowing shamelessly from literary sources. A swig of Treasure Island, a tot of Jamaica Inn and lashings of Peter Pan. For Captain Samuel Pike, read Captain James Hook. It’s a wonder JM Barrie’s estate didn’t complain.

In a further touch of panto, Polly is mistaken for a lad throughout. The joke’s on her for wearing 1960s slacks and a Bob Dylan cap, but the notion that any lusty seadog wouldn’t immediately clock luscious Anneke Wills in her long eyelashes is hard to swallow. Ben and Polly prove themselves resourceful fellow travellers, and the Doctor for once makes clear his “moral obligation” to stay and save the villagers from destruction.

Julia Smith assembles an excellent cast – from Paul Whitsun-Jones as the rogue-with-a-conscience squire to Michael Godfrey as the urbane/vicious pirate Pike (his left arm ends in a razor-sharp pike instead of standard-issue hook). George A Cooper glories in the part of the barbarous Cherub, threatening the Doctor with his dagger “Thomas Tickler”. (“Sharp as a whistle, it is. Ever seen a head with no ears, Sawbones, eh? Or what them Mexican Indians can do to a bloke’s eyelids, eh?”)

There’s also Who’s first speaking role for a black actor. Elroy Josephs appears briefly as Jamaica, a dodgy caricature that would be inconceivable in modern drama.

Although some corners had to be cut – this is one of the few serials without a note of incidental music – Julia Smith was determined to transport cast and crew to Daphne du Maurier land. A Doctor Who story actually filmed where it’s set? Virtually unheard of then – and now. Of course, the use of authentic Cornish coastline and countryside is a terrific bonus that allows the production to breathe.

Not all the cast were thrilled, however, as Julia Smith recalled. “The pirate ship left Newlyn harbour and it seemed fairly calm in the bay, but when we got out to sea, oh brother! The dandy captain was sitting there in his beautiful ringlet wig, face bright green, being sick overboard.”

A vivid memory of another treasure sadly lost in time.

– – –

Radio Times archive material

Smugglers feature
Smugglers billings

– – –

Annekedote
“We did the lovely Smugglers down in Cornwall and had a great double for Bill Hartnell called Graham Craig who was much more fun. Bill was an old fuddy-duddy. Julia Smith was directing, and she went out to sea in a little boat and was shooting back towards the land. The sea was rough and she was being sick over the side and I thought, ‘I love you, woman. You’re brave and spunky.’ ” And on being mistaken for a lad in the plot? “I have always been androgynous. I love playing boys.” (Talking to RT, March 2012)

Anneke Wills 2012

RT’s Patrick Mulkern interviews Anneke Wills

Advertisement

[Soundtrack available on BBC Audio CD]