Skip to main content

Stand back, or you will affect the cards!


Doctor Who
The Smugglers: Episode Three


Hartnell’s on towering form in this episode. There’s no sign of an actor being forced to leave a role because he’s no longer up to the challenge. Of course there are fluffs, just as there have been throughout his era, but mostly there’s a sense of an actor having a blast with a script that allows him to have a lot of fun.


The focal scene for this is his fortune-telling with Kewper, observed by a gullible Jamaica. It has to be said that surviving footage of Elroy Josephs suggests an actor essaying a wide-eyed stereotype. About Time snidely remarks that the first speaking part for a black actor in the series was a sure sign that Hartnell was on the way out. Yeah, that must be right, because Billy vetoed any non-Caucasian casting.


The Doctor takes command amusingly (“Stand back, or you will affect the cards!”) and his reading of the five cards picks out the main antagonists (well, pretty much... ) in the story. He has the measure of Kewper (the Jack of Clubs, which elicits an “I am no knave, sir”) and identifies Cherub (the Jack of Spades) and death itself, Captain Pike (the Ace of Spaces). I wasn’t sure who the King of Spades (“The king, the blackest villain of all” was supposed to be, unless by implication it is the Squire as a representative?) but I like the idea that Jack of Diamonds, whom the Doctor professes not to be able to identify, is the Doctor (“he will triumph in the end”). And his brushing off of the suggestion that the fortune telling was a trick “This is no time for idle speculation”) is a delight. It’s just a shame that something as uninventive as a bash on the head puts Jamaica out of action.


The plot machinations are edging up a gear, with Ben and Polly allying themselves with Blake (not very sensible of the Squire to release them into the custody of the man who suspects him). They have already decided that the Doctor is one in a million; Polly comments that he was jolly crafty at getting himself out of trouble with the war machines. 


And the hilarious pay off is Billy revealing himself at the door with a “Yes, and why not here my dear?” He was probably listening to them bigging him up for a couple of minutes. This sort of use of the Doctor is admittedly made even broader when Troughton comes on the scene, but there’s a definite bridging between actors in the playful use of the character at this point in the series. He takes genuine delight in his chance to interact with and outwit those he encounters.

But we also see him declare his “moral obligation” to save the village from Pike, rather than flee to the TARDIS. Again, it’s Polly who readily sides with the Doctor and Ben who is more reluctant.

Ben: A right couple of nutcases you two are. All right, I’ll try anything once.
Doctor: Well said, my boy.


Pike’s punishment of dopey Jamaica for letting the prisoners escape is on the harsh side, stabbing him and then wiping off his hook (another surviving snippet). He also calls him a “black-souled scum” which is rather unfortunate.  He can’t find Cherub, and asks “Where in Satan’s name is he?” which is quite strong language (I’m not sure anyone said,“Oh my God!” at any point in the original series).

The realisation that the words uttered to the Doctor in the first episode are names on tombs in the crypt may not be the most startling of plot developments, but it makes for an enjoyable scene, with Billy in fluff mode and Ben cracking up at the inscription on a tomb.

Ben: Henry Hawkswood, he did die, of drinking too much small beer, when he was dry.


The game of double-crosses is being laid out, with the Squire and Kewper (who has told the former about Pike) planning to be ready for him when they rendezvous, makes Episode Three probably the strongest of the four plot-wise.

The Squire is also revealed to have no appetite for mindless violence, marking him out as less villainous than either Pike’s entourage or his own minion Kewper. Who gets a knife in the back from Cherub at the cliffhanger; there’s no direct threat to the main trio there, although it does give Polly the opportunity to have a scream.


A splendid episode for Hartnell, and eventfully plotted. 

Popular posts from this blog

I’m smarter than a beaver.

Prey (2022) (SPOILERS) If nothing else, I have to respect Dan Trachtenberg’s cynical pragmatism. How do I not only get a project off the ground, but fast-tracked as well? I know, a woke Predator movie! Woke Disney won’t be able to resist! And so, it comes to pass. Luckily for Prey , it gets to bypass cinemas and so the same sorry fate of Lightyear . Less fortunately, it’s a patience-testing snook cocking at historicity (or at least, assumed historicity), in which a young, pint-sized Comanche girl who wishes to hunt and fish – and doubtless shoot to boot – with the big boys gets to take on a Predator and make mincemeat of him. Well, of course , she does. She’s a girl, innit?

Everyone creates the thing they dread.

Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015) (SPOILERS) Avengers: Age of Ultron ’s problem isn’t one of lack. It benefits from a solid central plot. It features a host of standout scenes and set pieces. It hands (most of) its characters strong defining moments. It doesn’t even suffer now the “wow” factor of seeing the team together for the first time has subsided. Its problem is that it’s too encumbered. Maybe its asking to much of a director to effectively martial the many different elements required by an ensemble superhero movie such as this, yet Joss Whedon’s predecessor feels positively lean in comparison. Part of this is simply down to the demands of the vaster Marvel franchise machine. Seeds are laid for Captain America: Civil War , Infinity Wars I & II , Black Panther and Thor: Ragnarok . It feels like several spinning plates too many. Such activity occasionally became over-intrusive on previous occasions ( Iron Man II ), but there are points in Age of Ultron whe

If you ride like lightning, you're going to crash like thunder.

The Place Beyond the Pines (2012) (SPOILERS) There’s something daringly perverse about the attempt to weave a serious-minded, generation-spanning saga from the hare-brained premise of The Place Beyond the Pines . When he learns he is a daddy, a fairground stunt biker turns bank robber in order to provide for his family. It’s the kind of “only-in-Hollywood” fantasy premise you might expect from a system that unleashed Harley Davidson and the Marlboro Man and Point Break on the world. But this is an indie-minded movie from the director of the acclaimed Blue Valentine ; it demands respect and earnest appraisal. Unfortunately it never recovers from the abject silliness of the set-up. The picture is littered with piecemeal characters and scenarios. There’s a hope that maybe the big themes will even out the rocky terrain but in the end it’s because of this overreaching ambition that the film ends up so undernourished. The inspiration for the movie

This entire edifice you see around you, built on jute.

Jeeves and Wooster 3.3: Cyril and the Broadway Musical  (aka Introduction on Broadway) Well, that’s a relief. After a couple of middling episodes, the third season bounces right back, and that's despite Bertie continuing his transatlantic trip. Clive Exton once again plunders  Carry On, Jeeves  but this time blends it with a tale from  The Inimitable Jeeves  for the brightest spots, as Cyril Basington-Basington (a sublimely drippy Nicholas Hewetson) pursues his stage career against Aunt Agatha's wishes.

I’m the famous comedian, Arnold Braunschweiger.

Last Action Hero (1993) (SPOILERS) Make no mistake, Last Action Hero is a mess. But even as a mess, it might be more interesting than any other movie Arnie made during that decade, perhaps even in his entire career. Hellzapoppin’ (after the 1941 picture, itself based on a Broadway revue) has virtually become an adjective to describe films that comment upon their own artifice, break the fourth wall, and generally disrespect the convention of suspending disbelief in the fictions we see parading across the screen. It was fairly audacious, some would say foolish, of Arnie to attempt something of that nature at this point in his career, which was at its peak, rather than playing it safe. That he stumbled profoundly, emphatically so since he went up against the behemoth that is Jurassic Park (slotted in after the fact to open first), should not blind one to the considerable merits of his ultimate, and final, really, attempt to experiment with the limits of his screen persona.

I think it’s pretty clear whose side the Lord’s on, Barrington.

Monte Carlo or Bust aka  Those Daring Young Men in Their Jaunty Jalopies (1969) (SPOILERS) Ken Annakin’s semi-sequel to Those Magnificent Men in Their Flying Machines tends to be rather maligned, usually compared negatively to its more famous predecessor. Which makes me rather wonder if those expressing said opinion have ever taken the time to scrutinise them side by side. Or watch them back to back (which would be more sensible). Because Monte Carlo or Bust is by far the superior movie. Indeed, for all its imperfections and foibles (not least a performance from Tony Curtis requiring a taste for comic ham), I adore it. It’s probably the best wacky race movie there is, simply because each set of competitors, shamelessly exemplifying a different national stereotype (albeit there are two pairs of Brits, and a damsel in distress), are vibrant and cartoonish in the best sense. Albeit, it has to be admitted that, as far as said stereotypes go, Annakin’s home side win

Death to Bill and Ted!

Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey (1991) (SPOILERS) The game of how few sequels are actually better than the original is so well worn, it was old when Scream 2 made a major meta thing out of it (and it wasn’t). Bill & Ted Go to Hell , as Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey was originally called, is one such, not that Excellent Adventure is anything to be sneezed at, but this one’s more confident, even more playful, more assured and more smartly stupid. And in Peter Hewitt it has a director with a much more overt and fittingly cartoonish style than the amiably pedestrian Stephen Herrick. Evil Bill : First, we totally kill Bill and Ted. Evil Ted : Then we take over their lives. My recollection of the picture’s general consensus was that it surpassed the sleeper hit original, but Rotten Tomatoes’ review aggregator suggests a less universal response. And, while it didn’t rock any oceans at the box office, Bogus Journey and Point Break did quite nicely for Keanu Reev

Just because you are a character doesn't mean that you have character.

Pulp Fiction (1994) (SPOILERS) From a UK perspective, Pulp Fiction ’s success seemed like a fait accompli; Reservoir Dogs had gone beyond the mere cult item it was Stateside and impacted mainstream culture itself (hard to believe now that it was once banned on home video); it was a case of Tarantino filling a gap in the market no one knew was there until he drew attention to it (and which quickly became over-saturated with pale imitators subsequently). Where his debut was a grower, Pulp Fiction hit the ground running, an instant critical and commercial success (it won the Palme d’Or four months before its release), only made cooler by being robbed of the Best Picture Oscar by Forrest Gump . And unlike some famously-cited should-have-beens, Tarantino’s masterpiece really did deserve it.

Poetry in translation is like taking a shower with a raincoat on.

Paterson (2016) (SPOILERS) Spoiling a movie where nothing much happens is difficult, but I tend to put the tag on in a cautionary sense much of the time. Paterson is Jim Jarmusch at his most inert and ambient but also his most rewardingly meditative. Paterson (Adam Driver), a bus driver and modest poet living in Paterson, New Jersey, is a stoic in a fundamental sense, and if he has a character arc of any description, which he doesn’t really, it’s the realisation that is what he is. Jarmusch’s picture is absent major conflict or drama; the most significant episodes feature Paterson’s bus breaking down, the English bull terrier Marvin – whom Paterson doesn’t care for but girlfriend Laura (Golshifteh Farahani) dotes on – destroying his book of poetry, and an altercation at the local bar involving a gun that turns out to be a water pistol. And Paterson takes it all in his stride, genial to the last, even the ruination of his most earnest, devoted work (the only disappoint

Piece by piece, the camel enters the couscous.

The Forgiven (2021) (SPOILERS) By this point, the differences between filmmaker John Michael McDonagh and his younger brother, filmmaker and playwright Martin McDonagh, are fairly clearly established. Both wear badges of irreverence and provocation in their writing, and a willingness to tackle – or take pot-shots – at bigger issues, ones that may find them dangling their toes in hot water. But Martin receives the lion’s share of the critical attention, while John is generally recognised as the slightly lesser light. Sure, some might mistake Seven Psychopaths for a John movie, and Calvary for a Martin one, but there’s a more flagrant sense of attention seeking in John’s work, and concomitantly less substance. The Forgiven is clearly aiming more in the expressly substantial vein of John’s earlier Calvary, but it ultimately bears the same kind of issues in delivery.