Captain Samuel Pike is one of the great forgotten villains of Doctor Who. Michael Godfrey’s performance sounds great – full of menace, but, unlike Cherub, veiled with polite language. He’s also an inveterate snob, dressed foppishly, and with a taste for fine things, and muscular men, shirts slashed to the waist. I suspect there’s more than one man on board who’s enjoyed a taste of Cherub’s “Thomas Tickler”. The Doctor perceives this immediately, and plays on it to buy some time. Later, the flamboyantly periwigged Captain pays a visit to the venal Squire and is delighted by the stylishness of the manor house.
The mismatch between Pike’s fancy dress and his decidedly savage nature almost passes for a theme of the story – characters who appear to be one thing actually turning out to be something else entirely. The churchwarden who was actually a pirate; the Squire who’s a smuggler, even Polly: a woman mistaken for a boy. In the crypt of the church there’s a tunnel to the beach – behind everything respectable is something corrupt or dodgy.
The script is also quite funny, again partly due to the contradiction between what people say and what they do, and partly because of the Doctor’s gift of understatement – when the captive Kewper tells him Pike is, ‘The bloodiest pirate now alive’, the Doctor agrees he is ‘somewhat violent’. Most amusingly, the older generation sadly bemoan modern youth in a ”Twas ever thus’ way:
PIKE: Young people are not what they were once. Not in our time, eh Mr Cherub?
CHERUB: Indeed not, Cap’n. Very wicked.
In the middle of this, the episode takes a turn into folk horror as an imprisoned Ben and Polly trick their yokellish warder into believing he has been bewitched by means of a single one of his hairs entwined within a voodoo straw doll. Ben ghoulishly describes how the warlock Doctor has captured Tom’s soul as punishment for imprisoning his apprentices, and means to use the doll to make him hang. It’s played for laughs, but Michael Craze really gets into it, and there’s something quite horrible at the way Ben terrifies the boy into begging for mercy, before a cruel parting shot: ‘Remember, from now on, you’re one of us.’ The scene perfectly sums up The Smugglers: a boy’s tall tale, meant to intrigue and frighten. On the basis of this episode, it does it very well.
Next episode: The Smugglers – Episode 2