Doctor Who #130: The Smugglers Part 2

"He'd be a credit to your trade, would Cherub, Doctor. A touch like an angel's wing he has with that blade."TECHNICAL SPECS: Missing from the archives, I have consequently used a reconstruction (Part 1, Part 2). First aired Sep.17 1966.

IN THIS ONE... Ben and Polly escape their jail cell by playing witches and knock out a revenue man while the Doctor talks with Captain Pike aboard the Black Albatross.

REVIEW: Everyone turns out to be a bit of a villain in this, don't they? Obviously Cherub and Captain Pike are the villains of the piece, but we also find out that (unsurprisingly) the dead churchwarden used to serve with them under Captain Avery. The innkeeper Kewper shows up at the ship to do a bit of smuggling, so he's not on the up and up, though he didn't expect the ship to be run by the notorious Captain Pike and the immediate betrayal that comes with it. The Squire, meant to uphold the law, turns out to be in league with the pirates for personal profit. No wonder he was so quick to accuse and condemn Ben and Polly! And even Blake, the revenue man who skulks around the episode (if telesnaps are anything to go by) until he's karate chopped upside the head by "ask questions later" Ben proves a danger to our heroes when he pulls out a gun in the cliffhanger.

Only Young Tom appears to be a nice guy, but of course, he's acting on everyone else's orders, and he is pretty dumb anyway. Ben and Polly's ploy to play some witchcraft on the boy is resourceful and clever, but it does hinge on the kid being gullible and cowardly. But I refuse to see this as an indictment of history (even if it looks like the Doctor's plan to get off the Albatross with a pack of cards will fall in Fizzbin category). Other characters aren't so dense. Pike, a self-made man who only pretends to be a gentleman while covering a more brutal nature, shows no real sign of believing the Doctor's flattery, but it nevertheless plays on his vanity. The Doctor is an astute enough student of human nature to know how to play him while telling him he's doing so. Unlike the Ben & Polly vs. Young Tom situation, going up against Pike is an actual contest. The Squire's brazen crookedness nevertheless works for him, and the revenue man quickly turns the tables on Ben. Young Tom is the exception, not the rule.

And a final note on Polly... There are still echoes of her being Dodo in the script, because who in their right minds would say being locked up in a cell in the 17th century was "exciting". Dodo would, but I can't think of anyone else. Polly IS more resourceful though, even if she's squeamish about rats.

REWATCHABILITY: Medium - A bit of back and forth between escaping and being captured again, in grand Who tradition, but it's at least done to switch up the mix of actors. Plot and dialog are both good enough to keep one's interest.

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