Skip to main content

Sawbones! For that ye’ll die! I’m coming for ye!


Doctor Who
The Smugglers: Episode Four


This episode probably suffers the most from being audio/reconstruction-only, as it’s much more action-orientated. It’s also more orientated towards the supporting cast than the crew; Ben and Polly mess about in and out of tunnels while the Doctor stands firm as he faces up to Cherub then Pike.


The Squire is curiously rehabilitated. He claims he “was a fool and ill-led” after being shot by Cherub, and comments later that the Doctor has showed him the error of his ways. The Doctor insists on remaining to help the injured Squire rather than heading off to the TARDIS. Is forgiveness in the eyes of the Doctor absolution enough? There’s no suggestion that Blake intends to seek justice against him (“Thank you, Squire. The Day is ours”). Yet it was a direct consequence of his actions that Ben and Polly languished in jail awaiting execution for Holy Joe’s murder. The story seems to consider it enough that he “never spent blood” in his villainy; indeed there’s a bit of a discussion over degrees of roguishness between Pike and the Squire.


Blake takes a good while mustering the militia before arriving with them on the beach in time to aid Polly and Ben (one of the pirates felled is the Spaniard, played by Derek Ware). Ben’s again identified as a bit of a bruiser, this time keen to get back to the action in the crypt with Blake. He also gets to deliver the groaner “Polly, put the kettle on” which elicits a sound from Polly that should probably have been expressed as “Fuck right off”.


The pirates spend a fair amount of time knocking back the grog in the churchyard rather than obeying their Captain. Whose confrontation with the now out-for-himself Cherub is probably one of the highlights of the episode. If we could see it. I thought Julia Smith’s direction in The Underwater Menace Episode Three was pretty decent, at any rate.


Pike: I never did trust that tongue of yours, Cherub. It was a mite too like the archangels’.

As before, the Doctor is resolutely non-plussed with Pike. He looks to change the terms of their bargain, requesting that he leaves the village be in return for Avery’s gold. And by the time he’s deduced the location of the booty, resulting in Pike scrabbling around in a hole (he finds some pearls, at any rate), Blake has turned up. And shoots him before Pike can carry out his threat.

Pike: Sawbones! For that ye’ll die! I’m coming for ye!


About Timesuggests that the Doctor may succumb to the curse of Avery’s gold in the following story. He does comment that he is “exhausted, but otherwise all right” when he is back at the TARDIS. I like his expansive comment to Polly in this regard.


The Doctor: Yes, superstition is a strange thing, my dear. But sometimes it tells the truth.


And again, we have it impressed on the new companions that the Doctor has no control of the TARDIS. Ben thinks that wherever they end up it can’t be as bad as there. The Doctor replies that it could be a great deal worse. And obviously something’s on the blink, as the inside of the TARDIS is susceptible to the cold of the South Pole.  I’d assumed that next story lead-ins were mostly a thing of the past by this point, but only three in the season don’t end on some form of cliffhanger (The Highlanders, The Macra Terror and The Evil of the Daleks).



Overall Story:


Is this the best penultimate story for a Doctor?  They’re a bit of a rum (ARRRRRR!) bunch, but I reckon so. It’s a bonus that there’s no intimation (other than his closing scene, perhaps) that the Doctor is on his last legs and, unlike the next story (where Hartnell was apparently employed as a guest artist), he’s not being sidelined by a pensive production team. I’m sure the story would have played even broader had it been a Troughton tale, but it ranks as a neglected gem for me. 

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

No matter how innocent you are, or how hard you try, they’ll find you guilty.

The Wrong Man (1956) (SPOILERS) I hate to say it, but old Truffaut called it right on this one. More often than not showing obeisance to the might of Hitchcock during his career-spanning interview, the French critic turned director was surprisingly blunt when it came to The Wrong Man . He told Hitch “ your style, which has found its perfection in the fiction area, happens to be in total conflict with the aesthetics of the documentary and that contradiction is apparent throughout the picture ”. There’s also another, connected issue with this, one Hitch acknowledged: too much fidelity to the true story upon which the film is based.

He’s so persistent! He always gets his man.

Speed (1994) (SPOILERS) It must have been a couple of decades since I last viewed Speed all the way through, so it’s pleasing to confirm that it holds up. Sure, Jan de Bont’s debut as a director can’t compete with the work of John McTiernan, for whom he acted as cinematographer and who recommended de Bont when he passed on the picture, but he nevertheless does a more than competent work. Which makes his later turkeys all the more tragic. And Keanu and Sandra Bullock display the kind of effortless chemistry you can’t put a price tag on. And then there’s Dennis Hopper, having a great old sober-but-still-looning time.

How would Horatio Alger have handled this situation?

Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (1998) (SPOILERS) Gilliam’s last great movie – The Zero Theorem (2013) is definitely underrated, but I don’t think it’s that underrated – Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas could easily have been too much. At times it is, but in such instances, intentionally so. The combination of a visual stylist and Hunter S Thompson’s embellished, propulsive turn of phrase turns out, for the most part, to be a cosmically aligned affair, embracing the anarchic abandon of Raoul Duke and Doctor Gonzo’s Las Vegas debauch while contriving to pull back at crucial junctures in order to engender a perspective on all this hedonism. Would Alex Cox, who exited stage left, making way for the Python, have produced something interesting? I suspect, ironically, he would have diluted Thompson in favour of whatever commentary preoccupied him at the time (indeed, Johnny Depp said as much: “ Cox had this great material to work with and he took it and he added his own stuff to it ”). Plus

But everything is wonderful. We are in Paris.

Cold War (2018) (SPOILERS) Pawel Pawlikowski’s elliptical tale – you can’t discuss Cold War without saying “elliptical” at least once – of frustrated love charts a course that almost seems to be a caricature of a certain brand of self-congratulatorily tragic European cinema. It was, it seems “ loosely inspired ” by his parents (I suspect I see where the looseness comes in), but there’s a sense of calculation to the progression of this love story against an inescapable political backdrop that rather diminishes it.

What do they do, sing madrigals?

The Singing Detective (2003) Icon’s remake of the 1986 BBC serial, from a screenplay by Dennis Potter himself. The Singing Detective fares less well than Icon’s later adaptation of Edge of Darkness , even though it’s probably more faithful to Potter’s original. Perhaps the fault lies in the compression of six episodes into a feature running a quarter of that time, but the noir fantasy and childhood flashbacks fail to engage, and if the hospital reality scans better, it too suffers eventually.

He is a brigand and a lout. Pay him no serious mention.

The Wind and the Lion (1975) (SPOILERS) John Milius called his second feature a boy’s-own adventure, on the basis of the not-so-terrified responses of one of those kidnapped by Sean Connery’s Arab Raisuli. Really, he could have been referring to himself, in all his cigar-chomping, gun-toting reactionary glory, dreaming of the days of real heroes. The Wind and the Lion rather had its thunder stolen by Jaws on release, and it’s easy to see why. As polished as the picture is, and simultaneously broad-stroke and self-aware in its politics, it’s very definitely a throwback to the pictures of yesteryear. Only without the finger-on-the-pulse contemporaneity of execution that would make Spielberg and Lucas’ genre dives so memorable in a few short years’ time.

The game is rigged, and it does not reward people who play by the rules.

Hustlers (2019) (SPOILERS) Sold as a female Goodfellas – to the extent that the producers had Scorsese in mind – this strippers-and-crime tale is actually a big, glossy puff piece, closer to Todd Phillips as fashioned by Lorene Scarfia. There are some attractive performances in Hustlers, notably from Constance Wu, but for all its “progressive” women work male objectification to their advantage posturing, it’s incredibly traditional and conservative deep down.

Another case of the screaming oopizootics.

Doctor Who Season 14 – Worst to Best The best Doctor Who season? In terms of general recognition and unadulterated celebration, there’s certainly a strong case to be made for Fourteen. The zenith of Robert Holmes and Philip Hinchcliffe’s plans for the series finds it relinquishing the cosy rapport of the Doctor and Sarah in favour of the less-trodden terrain of a solo adventure and underlying conflict with new companion Leela. More especially, it finds the production team finally stretching themselves conceptually after thoroughly exploring their “gothic horror” template over the course of the previous two seasons (well, mostly the previous one).

You were a few blocks away? What’d you see it with, a telescope?

The Eyes of Laura Mars (1978) (SPOILERS) John Carpenter’s first serial-killer screenplay to get made, The Eyes of Laura Mars came out nearly three months before Halloween. You know, the movie that made the director’s name. And then some. He wasn’t best pleased with the results of The Eyes of Laura Mars, which ended up co-credited to David Zelag Goodman ( Straw Dogs , Logan’s Run ) as part of an attempt by producer Jon Peters to manufacture a star vehicle for then-belle Barbra Streisand: “ The original script was very good, I thought. But it got shat upon ”. Which isn’t sour grapes on Carpenter’s part. The finished movie bears ready evidence of such tampering, not least in the reveal of the killer (different in Carpenter’s conception). Its best features are the so-uncleanly-you-can-taste-it 70s New York milieu and the guest cast, but even as an early example of the sub-genre, it’s burdened by all the failings inherit with this kind of fare.

One final thing I have to do, and then I’ll be free of the past.

Vertigo (1958) (SPOILERS) I’ll readily admit my Hitchcock tastes broadly tend to reflect the “consensus”, but Vertigo is one where I break ranks. To a degree. Not that I think it’s in any way a bad film, but I respect it rather than truly rate it. Certainly, I can’t get on board with Sight & Sound enthroning it as the best film ever made (in its 2012’s critics poll). That said, from a technical point of view, it is probably Hitch’s peak moment. And in that regard, certainly counts as one of his few colour pictures that can be placed alongside his black and white ones. It’s also clearly a personal undertaking, a medley of his voyeuristic obsessions (based on D’entre les morts by Pierre Boileau and Thomas Narcejac).