Will Brooks’ 50 Year Diary - watching Doctor Who one episode a day from the very start...
Day 137: The Smugglers, Episode Four
At the end of all that, Polly has really settled into the idea that they're trapped on the TARDIS from now on. Having retreated back to the ship, she asks the Doctor wether they'll be going forwards or backwards in time next, and it serves as another opportunity for the Doctor to remind us that he has no control over where - or when - they land. Thankfully, Ben does chip in with the hope that it's 1966: I'd worried that we'd see that just swept under the carpet now that they've had a full adventure away from their own time.
Much like The Savages, this is a story that tends to be forgotten when I think about the early years of Doctor Who. It's the penultimate one of the Hartnell era, but it doesn't really have anything all that special about it to help make it stand out from the crowd. At lest The Savages has Steven departing from his life in the TARDIS. While I've enjoyed listening to the story more than I might have expected to, I think it's destined to sink back into that state of simply being forgotten as part of the overall picture.
There's nothing much in here to really latch onto. Most of this episode is spent with people simply talking at each other, and then there's the occasional fight to break things up a little. It doesn't help that by the time we'd reached this episode, I'd pretty much forgotten who most of the characters were, and I'd lost track of who was meant to be the bad guy, and who was the good one - especially by the end when the Doctor's newfound 'moral obligation' means that he's determined to help the Squire, who I think was being treated as something of an enemy a few days ago?
In the end, I turned to Jonathan Morris' handy guide in the recent tele snaps special, but even that didn't help, 'cos I'd forgotten some of the names! Ultimately, I think mush of The Smugglers will have become a blur by the end of this season, the space it currently occupies in my head being taken up by all the other stories to come.
It's a shame, really, because there is a lot to like in the story. Ben and Polly are used well for the most part, and we get a chance to see some of their skills in action. While Polly takes very quickly to the idea of travelling in time, it's good to see Ben being skeptical, and it's great that he still doesn't particularly want to be there at the end. Had this story survived in the archives (or were it to turn up at some stage), I think it would have a much better chance of holding my attention - the location work seen in the tele snaps and the surviving 8mm footage really does make it look like there's a scale on display that we don't often see in Who of this era.
And so, as the Doctor and his new companions look at the scanner, out over the 'coldest place on Earth', we head into the final story for the First Doctor. I'm really not sure how I feel about this…