The Smugglers

This story is not known to exist in its original format
(4 black-and-white 25-minute TV episodes)
in its entirety.
CD Audio
(Doctor Who Story No. 28, starring William Hartnell)
  • written by Brian Hayles
  • directed by Julia Smith
  • produced by Innes Lloyd
  • no music
  • 4 episodes @ 25 minutes each
Story: The Doctor has his hands full getting Ben and Polly to respect the 17th century customs of a coastal English town while convincing them that they have traveled through time. But when the church warden imparts a secret riddle to the Doctor, and is later found murdered, Ben and Polly find themselves accused by law enforcers, while the Doctor becomes a much sought-after figure at the center of a pirate treasure hunt. How many of the locals are after a share of the treasure? Which of them are involved in the secret smuggling ring? Who can be trusted, and who will stop at nothing for Avery's gold?

In-Depth Analysis Review

by Martin Izsak

WARNING: This review contains "SPOILERS", and is intended for those who have
already seen the program. To avoid the spoilers, read the Buyers' Guide version instead.

No doubt about it, this four part adventure is better than any of its rival televised season three historical stories, although not quite as powerful as the novelized version of "The Massacre" (story no. 22). For once, there is no attempt to form the story around any actual historical figure or event, and thus the writer has full control over his characters and their actions. The end result is an adventure very similar to later stories like "The Ribos Operation" (story no. 98) and "Dragonfire" (story no. 151). Several groups of characters are on a quest for a cursed treasure, while a lot of scheming, backstabbing, and plot-twisting abounds. It just happens to take place in the past this time. The 17th century coastal setting has a personal appeal for me, with its beaches and cliffs, old churches, secret tunnels and caves. I just plain like it. I feel like waving my hand mysteriously and muttering, "This period intrigues me" as I go off for an exploring walk around the place myself. This serial has no music whatsoever, and gets away with it. A little bit of crashing waves and seagull cries as background sound is all one really needs to enjoy it.

Ben and Polly rush through the opening exploration scenes, thinking they're still in the 1960's and late for their appointments, but this only detracts minutely from allowing the Doctor (and myself) to enjoy the setting. The companions' accustomization to time travel drives episode one's drama well enough, and requires that we see where they came from. Including the dematerialization from "The War Machines" (the previous story) was a good move.... and there is enough dialogue here to make the idea of the TARDIS plain to new viewers. The novelization also does justice to Ben and Polly in introductions, although I can't think why Terrance Dicks chose to do this twice - once with a silent and purely visual description of what occurred, followed by a flashback that fills in the character's biographies, previous adventures and meetings, and the essence of the dialogue from the previous scene. It would have made much more sense to do all this in one run-through instead of two.

John Cura's "telesnap" still photos of the story show no evidence of a visual materialization to start "The Smugglers" off, unfortunately, but we can't always have everything.

The Doctor's experience and expertise in getting in and out of trouble is showcased in this story, a far cry from where he should have been and wasn't in "An Unearthly Child" (story no. 1). This element of the story is probably heightened because it is a historical without any sci-fi elements swooping in to magically save the day, making relatively simple threats feel real and have good dramatic weight, and emphasizing that one's wits are much more important here. And the Doctor excels in this story. He manages to gain the trust and secret clues of the most mysterious character from the beginning, and quickly becomes the most sought-after commodity amongst the rest of the guest characters. Exploration soon leads to capture. Episode two is the Doctor's mandatory captivity episode - this includes a confrontation with the most notorious of the villains and many very humorous scenes, so it remains satisfying. By episode three, the Doctor and his friends have a good grasp of the characters and situation, and they have their liberty. They could pop off back into the TARDIS and leave, but like any good hero, the Doctor expresses a moral urge to help out with local affairs, and he chooses to stay to do so instead. William Hartnell remains fully present and active throughout all four episodes, and instrumental in the story's conclusion as the guest characters all find their way to him to experience their resolution.

Ben and Polly also prove quite resourceful throughout the middle episodes, adapting to time travel fairly well. Like Vicki in "The Crusade" (story no. 14), Polly (or Paul-y) is mistaken for a lad, though how the guest characters are so easily fooled when she is at the same time supposed to attract the Dads in the family audience is a puzzling contradiction. In the final episode, it is the companions who do the scurrying back to the TARDIS, although Ben is a bit torn between running for safety and joining the heroic fight.

As guest characters go, Cherub is not particularly to my liking, often being little more than a mouth for a knife that serves to randomize the plot now and then when it needs it. Both he and Jamaica are quite expressive in their telesnap photos, but judging by the audio only Jamaica seems to have gone over the top in his performance. George A. Cooper playing Cherub gives a decently tasteful performance under the circumstances, though neither he not the pirate captain will rank too highly amongst Doctor Who's most memorable villains.

The rest of the characters are enjoyable enough, and are all fairly well portrayed by the actors. Paul Whitsun-Jones does excellent justice to his role of Squire Edwards, not surprising as the character explores many similar areas as his character of the Marshall in "The Mutants" (story no. 63). Even then, his character here is one of the more interesting ones in this story, as his villainy is limited by a few moral scruples that come to the fore in the end. The Doctor's eventual compassion for him is nice to see.

John Ringham, a chameleon more famous for playing both Tlotoxl in "The Aztecs" (story no. 6), and the polar opposite of likeability as Ashe in "Colony in Space" (story no. 58), also puts in a much welcome performance as Blake in this story. Good show.

Director Julia Smith seems to have done a lot of good work in this story, bringing a compelling drama to life on screen. Curiously, there seems to be more location footage here than I can remember in any previous Doctor Who story, and it seems to have been put to good use. But as the censor clips indicate, action in the video studios was not Smith's strong point, and these often turned out to be the moments that indicated that Doctor Who was still being embarrassingly cheap with its methods.

The TARDIS makes a beautiful dematerialization in a shot that highlights the coastal setting, bringing a top-notch historical story to an end. If only more historicals were this good, they might not have cried out so loudly to be axed. Ah, but who's to argue if such stories set in the past continue with a few extra sci-fi elements thrown in? Say hello to Weng-Chiang, Lynx the Sontaran, Human-Factor-seeking Daleks, the Mandragora Helix, Haemovores, and a host of others...... but that's in later years.

International Titles:

Deutsch: (Die Schmuggler)

Magyar: "A csempészek"

Français: (Les Contrebandiers)

Русский: "Контрабандисты"

Italiano: "I contrabbandieri"

This story is not known to exist in its original format (4 black-and-white 25-minute TV episodes) in its entirety.
Doctor Who: Lost in Time - William Hartnell
1 DVD disc

(also included in Lost in Time Boxed Sets)

Coverage on The Smugglers includes:
  • Censor clips from Episodes 1, 3 & 4 with full sound (1 min.)
  • Behind-the-scenes location footage (colour, no sound, 2 min.)
More details & buying options for "Lost in Time" DVD's
Audio CD - Doctor Who - The Smugglers.

narrated by Anneke Wills

This 2 CD set features the complete audio tracks of all 4 television episodes of this story in one format:
  • The CD Audio version features narration by actress Anneke Wills (who also played Polly) to help listeners follow what used to be visual aspects of the story. This version spans both discs and is playable in any normal audio CD player.

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Read the In-depth Analysis Review for the next story: "The Tenth Planet"

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