This week, the good wife watched The Smugglers. Jamaica? Yes, I did.
The fourth season of Doctor Who kicks off where the third season left off – with Polly and Ben barging their way into the TARDIS.
Sue: Ben and Polly are very modern, compared to what we’ve seen in the series before. They are almost too modern. They may as well shout “Fab and groovy, man!” at the top of their lungs and be done with it.
Me: The Doctor won’t be pleased.
Sue: But does he really want to travel alone? I doubt it. He needs someone to show off to.
Indeed, the Doctor is royally pissed off when they stumble into his ship, but within a few scant seconds he’s giving them a guided tour and an adventure in 17th century Cornwall. Polly is up for the challenge but Ben (“Adam Faith meets a young Daniel Craig”) isn’t so sure.
Sue: Hang on a minute, let me get this straight. Ben has no problem when it comes to a police box transporting him to a beach – instantaneously, mind – but he won’t entertain the idea that he’s travelled in time as well. Do you think that’s likely?
She’s right, but it amuses us to watch Ben desperately searching for a train station at every available opportunity.
Me: At least he’s a little sceptical. Polly accepts the premise of the show even quicker than Dodo did. She must be tripping as well.
When our heroes arrive at a local church, Polly is mistaken for a boy, thanks to her trouser-suit.
Sue: Is everyone in the 17th century blind, or did boys look like supermodels back then? It’s ridiculous.
And then, the story suddenly turns very nasty indeed with the brutal murder of a drunken churchwarden, and, thanks to some very nervy Australian film censors, we even get to see it. And then, as an extra-special treat, some super-8 footage provides us with a taste of the episode’s impressive exteriors.
Sue: You know, I bet this looked great. Look at those lovely farm buildings. I could live somewhere like that. Why don’t the good episodes exist? It’s really starting to piss me off now.
As we discuss this sad truth (“I bet I could find it”), Julia Smith’s directing credit fades in.
Sue: Oh, I met her once. I think I asked her a question about EastEnders.
Me: What a waste.top
The Doctor has been brought before Captain Pike, who, despite his name, has a hook for a hand. It’s very distracting.
Sue: He’s not exactly Johnny Depp, is he?
Me: The Avery mentioned here is the same Captain Avery that we see in The Curse of the Black Spot.
Sue: The curse of the what?
Me: You know, the recent Matt Smith episode with the pirates. Hugh Bonneville – him off Downton Abbey – played the very same Captain Avery they’re talking about now. It’s his gold they’re after.
Sue: Oh, that’s nice. I guess. Does this mean the pirate ship turns out to be an alien spaceship?
Me: Not bloody likely. Actually, I’m not sure if that’s disappointing or not.
Sue: I can’t believe they still think Polly is a boy. Look at her! She’s gorgeous!
Ben and Polly are stewing in a jail for the murder of the churchwarden. They manage to escape by bamboozling a guard with a giant straw doll and some superstitious nonsense about warlocks.
Sue: That has to be the most convoluted prison break I’ve seen since -
Me: Prison Break?
Sue: Just hit him! Why go to all that trouble? There’s more padding in this scene than in the bloody voodoo doll!
As the episode progresses, Sue’s enthusiasm begins to wane.
Sue: There’s too much talking and not enough action. I’m struggling to keep up with it. Who are the bad guys again?
Me: Everyone is a bad guy at this point, I think.
By the time the episode reaches its conclusion, Sue’s patience has run out.
Sue: Two more episodes of this. Can’t we just listen to them in bed? We could fall asleep to them and the dialogue would seep into our subconscious dream state. I read about that once. It’s worth a try, isn’t it?
Me: And how I’m supposed to record your thoughts for the blog?
Sue: I don’t know. Automatic writing?top
Sue: This bloke looks vaguely familiar -
Me: It’s John Ringham. He played an Aztec in, erm, The Aztecs.
Sue: No, I mean he looks like a young Bono.
Me: Not Penny’s dad from Just Good Friends?
Sue: Oh yeah. Him as well.
Two minutes into the episode and Sue stops talking for a good five minutes. This type of extended silence usually only occurs if she’s a) completely gripped or b) bored senseless.
Sue: You know, I haven’t got anything interesting to say about this.
Neil: Well that’s bloody typical. The very same day this blog is crowned SFX Magazine’s Website of the Month – where you are described as being ‘Occasionally insightful’ – you run out of things to say. That’s just great.
Sue: Look, it’s people talking in rooms. People I can’t even see. From what I can gather, the carpentry looks very good. Does that help?
Me: To be fair, hardly anyone has anything interesting to say about The Smugglers.
Sue: Don’t you mean, ooh-arrdly anyone? Eh? Geddit? Ooh Arr-dly. No?
Sue hasn’t been the same since I let it slip that Rob Shearman described her as a comedy genius on the blog last week.
Sue: You’re just jealous because more people have watched me take the piss out of the Daleks than have watched you climb Mt. Kilimanjaro on YouTube. You’ll get over it. Eventually.
Before we can debate this any further, Jamaica turns up and we both feel compelled to discuss the show’s racist past again.
Sue: At least he’s not blacked-up.
Just as we are about to launch into a critical dissection of the programme’s treatment of race, in a way that would have made Philip Sandifer proud, Jamaica is brutally murdered by Pike. Which we get to see in all its gory glory.
Sue: There was a time when the Doctor would have simply legged it at this point. However, if he did leg it at this point, the story would be a lot shorter. Maybe I preferred him when he was an irritable coward, after all.top
Sue: I can’t believe that people are still referring to Polly as if she’s a boy. How old do they think “he” is? Her voice is so high, it could shatter glass. Look at her hips, people!
Sadly, the characters are too wrapped up in their own problems to notice Anneke Wills’ curves. They just want to kill each other so they can get their hands (and hooks) on Hugh Bonneville’s gold.
Sue: I hope this episode turns into a bloodbath. At least we might get to see some of it.
It does. And for long periods we have nothing to go on but the sound of people fighting each other. Including poor Ben.
Sue: I like Ben. He’s a bit handy and he doesn’t **** about. Hang on a minute, did he just tell Polly to put the kettle on? That’s borderline genius!
At one point, a pirate grabs Polly and he runs off into a cave with her.
Sue: I hope he’s not gay. He might try to rape her.
Me: Try putting that on a t-shirt!
It’s a bloodbath. Cherub is killed by Pike. Pike is killed by Penny’s Dad. And it sounds as if the pirates got their rum-addled arses kicked, too. In fact, the only person who seems to make it out alive is the chief smuggler himself, the Squire. Not that the Doctor can be arsed with any of that – he’s finally legged it back to the TARDIS before he can cause any more grief.
Sue: I’ve just realised something. Ben is a sailor but he didn’t get to visit the pirate ship. Bit of a wasted opportunity, that. And here’s another thing – why is Hartnell on his way out? He was fine in this. He’s as strong and as confident as we’ve ever seen – or heard – him. I thought he was supposed to be ill?top
The Final Score
Sue: There was nothing inherently wrong with that, we’ve just seen it all before. It wasn’t bad but it wasn’t great either. It wasn’t funny enough and it feels like we’ve been treading water for a bit. I’ll have forgotten it by next week. OK, I’ll give it -
Sue: I hope something interesting happens in the next one.
The experiment continues…