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09 June 2012 @ 07:11 pm
The Randomizer: The Smugglers  
The Smugglers proved to be the first real test of our endurance, hence the long gap between this randomiser post and the last. It's not a particularly bad story, but it isn't good enough to overcome the limitations of listening to scratchy audio with fuzzy still images overlaid.

"This is still from the period when they were trying to be educational, isn't it?" observed my tame layman when we were about ten minutes in. Interestingly, if memory serves, The Smugglers actually dates from early in the period when all pretence at being educational had been abandoned. Nevertheless there's an odd undercurrent of earnestness to all the swash and buckle on display that harks back to Doctor Who's more educational historicals. I suspect that much of this is because the Doctor, Ben and Polly are essentially observers. Their interest in the events unfolding around them is minimal and their main objective is to return to the Tardis. Even this is done at a sufficiently leisurely pace that you get the impression of a sight-seeing tour through history, rather than an adventure.

There isn't a lot of educational content in The Smugglers. It owes its setting more to novels like Moonfleet and Treasure Island than it does to historical fact and its motley collection of smugglers, pirates and one lone revenueman roll their rs with enthusiasm and, one suspects, gurn equally enthusiastically had we but the opportunity to see them. Captain Pike, the villainous one armed pirate certainly sounds like he's enjoying himself as he plots his way through the story in search of Captain Avery's treasure. His henchman, Cherub, is also distinctive but nearly all the other characters blur into a morass of "Arrr's", suspicions and double-crossing.

I understand that considerably more location filming was involved in the production of The Smugglers than was normal at the time, a fact which is rather lost on audio. Furthermore the limitations of 1960s outdoor audio recording seem to mean we have rather more largely dialogue-less scenes - particularly the battles at the end - than the story can really carry when moving pictures are not available.

It's difficult to judge The Smugglers. I suspect, if the actual video had been available, I would be describing it as fun, but slight: a murky tale of smugglers and pirates, in which the Tardis crew predominantly act as neutral observers which is carried more by its setting than its plot. As it is, it felt slow and unengaging.

This entry was originally posted at http://purplecat.dreamwidth.org/69302.html.
daniel_saunders: Eleventh Doctordaniel_saunders on June 9th, 2012 10:14 pm (UTC)
I actually like The Smugglers, but the points you raise about it seeming slow on audio are valid. Perhaps try the novelization?

Regarding the villains, when I watched all of surviving TV Doctor Who in order a couple of years back, I noticed that in the Hartnell era, the 'classic' Doctor Who villains (larger-than-life, melodramatic, hissably evil) appear in the historicals; the villains of the science fiction stories are mostly dull or simply monsters (except the Monk, but he's in pseudo-historicals).
louisedennis: Doctor Wholouisedennis on June 10th, 2012 12:28 pm (UTC)
I remember very little about the novelisation, to be honest, though I do like the cover!

I wonder if the historical villains appear more over-the-top because at the time there were a wider range of stereotypes and tropes to draw from - alternatively the historicals tend to force you to pick an intelligent villain as antagonist while in the non-historical stories you can always fall back on a monster instead.