When last we left the Doctor he was awaiting the arrival of his soon-to-be erstwhile companion, Dodo Chaplet, outside the TARDIS on a street in London in the year 1966. Unexpectedly, Ben and Polly (two young people who helped the Doctor defeat the super-computer Wotan and its War Machines) arrive in her stead, and inform the Doctor that Dodo has deiced to stay behind. The Doctor is visibly upset at this news and disappears into what appears to Polly and Ben to be a common police box. But they have Dodo’s key, which they have forgotten to return to the Doctor, and follow him into the TARDIS just before it disappears. Thus begins their tenure as travelling companions to the Doctor.

Episode One: I don’t have the novelization of this story in my collection (that is to say, Tim didn’t have it in his) and have long wondered about the Doctor’s reaction to two stowaways about the TARDIS. Answer: he was quite angry… at least at first. He must have had his back turned toward the TARDIS door (or perhaps he was in another room), else he would have seen them sooner. He scolds them at first, but they are too overcome by the sense of wonder stepping inside the TARDIS for the first time brings. Aside, the Doctor admits to himself that he was afraid he’d have to travel alone.

The TARDIS lands on a beach, which Polly correctly guesses is in Cornwall, yet neither Polly nor Ben believe at first that they have travelled in time although they have obviously travelled in space. They soon become convinced, however, that they are in the late 17th century. The first part of this story is very much like the early chapters of Treasure Island. The Doctor learns a clue to the location of a pirate treasure and is, of course, separated from Ben and Polly.

Cliffhanger: Captain Pike, who has kidnapped the Doctor, emphasizes his threat to by driving the hook he wears in place of his hand into the tabletop.

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As I’m sure I mentioned before, because these audios were written and directed for television, sometimes the audio only versions can be difficult to follow. The interstitial linking narration (read by Anneke Wills) helps a lot, but some of the information meant to be conveyed visually is lost. Here’s a recap of episode one, which I listened to a second time. The Doctor, Polly and Ben meet up with a churchwarden named Joseph Longfoot. Unbeknownst to them, however, Longfoot is involved with a group of pirate smugglers and is fronting for them. He also knows the location of Captain Avery’s treasure, and when Captain Pike of the Black Albatross sends a sailor named Cherub after it, Cherub ends up killing him, but not before Longfoot reveals the following clue to the Doctor: “This is deadman’s secret key: Smallwood, Ringwood, Gurney.” The Doctor ends up getting kidnapped by taken to Captain Pike, while Ben and Polly are arrested for the murder of Joseph Longfoot.

Episode Two: In jail, Polly and Ben convince the dull-witted jail keeper that the Doctor is a Warlock and they are his apprentices. They pretend to put him under a spell and agree to lift it in exchange for their freedom. Once free they split up, Ben returning to the church and Polly seeking help from the local Squire. In the church, Ben meets up with Josiah Blake, the King’s revenue man who is tracking the local smugglers, and discover a secret tunnel beneath the church leading to the beach.

Meanwhile, Polly’s attempt to enlist the Squire’s aid has met with failure because the greedy Squire, too, is in league with the pirates. They tie her up and take her to the church, where they capture Ben as well and attempt to convince Blake that Ben and Polly are the true smugglers.

Cliffhanger: The Squire threateningly approaches Ben.

Episodes 3 & 4: Sorry, I was too busy to type of summaries while these episodes were still fresh in my mind, and I listen to them in the car during my morning commute so there’s no opportunity for me to take notes. Suffice it to say that by the end of episode three, the Doctor has discovered that Ringwood, Smallbeer and Gurney are the names of dead sailors the churchwarden once sailed with, and he has replaced the original names on graves in the in the church’s crypt with theirs.

By episode four, the various sides have settled into at least four different factions, all vying against each other for the treasure, when the final piece of the riddle falls into place. It seems that “Deadman” was the surname of the cabin boy, and with that information, it’s easy to find the key flagstone which leads to the treasure in the middle of all four graves. This story bears some similarities to Dark Shadows, what with its graveyards and riddles and secret passageways and hidden rooms.

The next story will prove to be William Hartnell’s last, and from what I have heard his role is diminished due to failing health, but there’s no evidence of that here. The days of stories alternating between science fiction adventure and educational “historicals” seems to be over. Recent stories with historical settings (such as this one and “The Gunfighters”) are set in the past more for the purpose of adventure rather than education or history. I think “The Pirates” (or “Doctor Who and the Pirates”) would have made a better title.

Cliffhanger: “Just look up at that scanner. We have arrived at the coldest place in the world!”

NEXT: A brand new foe for the Doctor. (That’s right, you heard me.)

NEXT: A brand new foe for the Doctor. (That’s right, you heard me.)

 

Mon, das good news!

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