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

She writes Twilight fan fiction.

Vampire Academy (2014)
My willingness to give writer Daniel Waters some slack on the grounds of early glories sometimes pays off (Sex and Death 101) and sometimes, as with this messy and indistinct Young Adult adaptation, it doesn’t. If Vampire Academy plods along as a less than innovative smart-mouthed Buffy rip-off that might be because, if you added vampires to Heathers, you would probably get something not so far from the world of Joss Whedon. Unfortunately inspiration is a low ebb throughout, not helped any by tepid direction from Daniel’s sometimes-reliable brother Mark and a couple of hopelessly plankish leads who do their best to dampen down any wit that occasionally attempts to surface.

I can only presume there’s a never-ending pile of Young Adult fiction poised for big screen failure, all of it comprising multi-novel storylines just begging for a moment in the Sun. Every time an adaptation crashes and burns (and the odds are that they will) another one rises, hydra-like, hoping…

My name is Dr. King Schultz, this is my valet, Django, and these are our horses, Fritz, and Tony.

Django Unchained (2012)
(MINOR SPOILERS) Since the painful misstep of Grindhouse/Death Proof, Quentin Tarantino has regained the higher ground like never before. Pulp Fiction, his previous commercial and critical peak, has been at very least equalled by the back-to-back hits of Inglourious Basterds and Django Unchained. Having been underwhelmed by his post Pulp Fiction efforts (albeit, I admired his technical advances as a director in Kill Bill), I was pleasantly surprised by Inglourious Basterds. It was no work of genius (so not Pulp Fiction) by any means, but there was a gleeful irreverence in its treatment of history and even to the nominal heroic status of its titular protagonists. Tonally, it was a good fit for the director’s “cool” aesthetic. As a purveyor of postmodern pastiche, where the surface level is the subtext, in some ways he was operating at his zenith. Django Unchained is a retreat from that position, the director caught in the tug between his all-important aesthetic pr…

I am so sick of Scotland!

Outlaw/King (2018)
(SPOILERS) Proof that it isn't enough just to want to make a historical epic, you have to have some level of vision for it as well. Say what you like about Mel's Braveheart – and it isn't a very good film – it's got sensibility in spades. He knew what he was setting out to achieve, and the audience duly responded. What does David Mackenzie want from Outlaw/King (it's shown with a forward slash on the titles, so I'm going with it)? Ostensibly, and unsurprisingly, to restore the stature of Robert the Bruce after it was rather tarnished by Braveheart, but he has singularly failed to do so. More than that, it isn’t an "idea", something you can recognise or get behind even if you don’t care about the guy. You’ll never forget Mel's Wallace, for better or worse, but the most singular aspect of Chris Pine's Bruce hasn’t been his rousing speeches or heroic valour. No, it's been his kingly winky.

It was one of the most desolate looking places in the world.

They Shall Not Grow Old (2018)
Peter Jackson's They Shall Not Grow Old, broadcast by the BBC on the centenary of Armistice Day, is "sold" on the attraction and curiosity value of restored, colourised and frame rate-enhanced footage. On that level, this World War I documentary, utilising a misquote from Laurence Binyon's poem for its title, is frequently an eye-opener, transforming the stuttering, blurry visuals that have hitherto informed subsequent generations' relationship with the War. However, that's only half the story; the other is the use of archive interviews with veterans to provide a narrative, exerting an effect often more impacting for what isn't said than for what is.

There's something wrong with the sky.

Hold the Dark (2018)
(SPOILERS) Hold the Dark, an adaptation of William Giraldi's 2014 novel, is big on atmosphere, as you'd expect from director Jeremy Saulnier (Blue Ruin, Green Room) and actor-now-director (I Don’t Want to Live in This World Anymore) pal Macon Blair (furnishing the screenplay and appearing in one scene), but contrastingly low on satisfying resolutions. Being wilfully oblique can be a winner if you’re entirely sure what you're trying to achieve, but the effect here is rather that it’s "for the sake of it" than purposeful.

You look like an angry lizard!

Bohemian Rhapsody (2018)
(SPOILERS) I can quite see a Queen fan begrudging this latest musical biopic for failing to adhere to the facts of their illustrious career – but then, what biopic does steer a straight and true course? – making it ironic that they're the main fuel for Bohemian Rhapsody's box office success. Most other criticisms – and they're legitimate, on the whole – fall away in the face of a hugely charismatic star turn from Rami Malek as the band's frontman. He's the difference between a standard-issue, episodic, join-the-dots narrative and one that occasionally touches greatness, and most importantly, carries emotional heft.

You kind of look like a slutty Ebola virus.

Crazy Rich Asians (2018)
(SPOILERS) The phenomenal success of Crazy Rich Asians – in the US at any rate, thus far – might lead one to think it's some kind of startling original, but the truth is, whatever its core demographic appeal, this adaptation of Kevin Kwan's novel taps into universally accepted romantic comedy DNA and readily recognisable tropes of family and class, regardless of cultural background. It emerges a smoothly professional product, ticking the expected boxes in those areas – the heroine's highs, lows, rejections, proposals, accompanied by whacky scene-stealing best friend – even if the writing is sometimes a little on the clunky side.

It seemed as if I had missed something.

Room 237 (2012)
Stanley Kubrick’s meticulous, obsessive approach towards filmmaking was renowned, so perhaps it should be no surprise to find comparable traits reflected in a section of his worshippers. Legends about the director have taken root (some of them with a factual basis, others bunkum), while the air of secrecy that enshrouded his life and work has duly fostered a range of conspiracy theories. A few of these are aired in Rodney Ascher’s documentary, which indulges five variably coherent advocates of five variably tenuous theories relating to just what The Shining is really all about. Beyond Jack Nicholson turning the crazy up to 11, that is. Ascher has hit on a fascinating subject, one that exposes our capacity to interpret any given information wildly differently according to our disposition. But his execution, which both underlines and undermines the theses of these devotees, leaves something to be desired.

Part of the problem is simply one of production values. The audio tra…

Believe me, Mr Bond, I could shoot you from Stuttgart und still create ze proper effect.

Tomorrow Never Dies (1997)
(SPOILERS) Some of the reactions to Spectre would have you believe it undoes all the “good” work cementing Daniel Craig’s incarnation of Bond in Skyfall. If you didn’t see that picture as the second coming of the franchise (I didn’t) your response to the latest may not be so harsh, despite its less successful choices (Blofeld among them). And it isn’t as if one step, forward two steps back are anything new in perceptions of the series (or indeed hugely divisive views on what even constitutes a decent Bond movie). After the raves greeting Goldeneye, Pierce Brosnan suffered a decidedly tepid response to his second outing, Tomorrow Never Dies, albeit it was less eviscerated than Craig’s sophomore Quantum of Solace. Tomorrow’s reputation disguises many strong points, although it has to be admitted that a Moore-era style finale and a floundering attempt to package in a halcyon villain aren’t among them.

The Bond series’ flirtations with contemporary relevance have a…

He mobilised the English language and sent it into battle.

Darkest Hour (2017)
(SPOILERS) Watching Joe Wright’s return to the rarefied plane of prestige – and heritage to boot – filmmaking following the execrable folly of the panned Pan, I was struck by the difference an engaged director, one who cares about his characters, makes to material. Only last week, Ridley Scott’s serviceable All the Money in the World made for a pointed illustration of strong material in the hands of someone with no such investment, unless they’re androids. Wright’s dedication to a relatable Winston Churchill ensures that, for the first hour-plus, Darkest Hour is a first-rate affair, a piece of myth-making that barely puts a foot wrong. It has that much in common with Wright’s earlier Word War II tale, Atonement. But then, like Atonement, it comes unstuck.