He doesn’t say much, this new Doctor. There are no speeches, no long explanations or thinking aloud. It’s mostly cryptic comments with this version, which was fine for a while and brought back some mystery (and I’m not a fan of speeches, it always sounds a bit pompous to me), but I’d quite like to get to know the character a bit now. He seems funny though, I like that.
So a recap of our murder from last week, and “a-harrrgh me hearties” (etc) from Captain Trask (who appears to have been booked for The Smugglers a few months ago, but turned up late in the wrong story) as a body is pushed off a plank.
Ben and the prisoners are locked in the hold of the Annabelle along with a lot of “stinking fish”. Ben asks one of the men where they are being taken, and the man is outraged to hear Ben’s english accent, rallying the others to kill him for being english. The Laird, who is making a good recovery from his injuries, sticks up for him though so everybody calms down. Ben guesses correctly that they are all going to be sold as slaves. Clever Ben.
Clever Polly too, who is hiding in a barn, waiting for Kirsty, and making plans to free her friends. In a bit of paradoxical ‘future knowledge determining actions in the past’, she is inspired by Nell Gwynn and has decided that she and Kirsty will pose as orange sellers to try to find out where their friends are being held. I’ve said it before but this is a really strong script for Anneke Wills, with Polly getting to show lots of determination and resourcefulness as well as a new cheeky side to her character, and a chance to dress up in period costume. I’m becoming a big fan of Polly.
Meanwhile at an inn the Doctor is still in Monty Python old woman mode when Polly and Kirsty arrive and are ushered in by the sergeant. There’s a bit of a commotion (sounds as if the girls are being set upon by the lecherous drinkers) and the Doctor hears Polly’s voice, but remans quiet. Polly has spotted Lieutenant “Fer-finch” and the two girls go to his table to wind him up some more. The sergeant recognises them as the girls he and his men were chasing earlier on, so Polly and Kirsty go all gooey over Ffinch, telling him to tell the sergeant they are old friends. Having embarrassed him, Ffinch gets cross with the girls. “Oh Algy, we thought you’d be flattered” says Polly. That was a great scene, Polly has bags of personality and really steals the show in this story. Reluctantly Ffinch tells the girls they need to speak to Solicitor Grey if they want to find their friends, so they get him to take them to Grey’s room where Perkins informs them that Grey is not there because he is dealing with the prisoners.
Aboard the Annabelle Grey offers the prisoners the choice between hanging or slavery in the West Indies. Ben manages to rip up the contract so is beaten and chained up.
Polly and Kirsty, waiting for Grey to return, decide to leave. Perkins seems like a bit of a sleaze though and tries to encourage them to stay. I wonder what he has in mind. He suggests “a nice round of Whist” (a card game, definitely not an innuendo), at which point the ‘old lady’ chimes in offering to join them in a game, and the Doctor reveals himself to be “the German doctor”. At this point Grey returns so the Doctor remains incognito, quietly reminding Perkins of last weeks ‘headache’ and pointing out he might not like another one of those!
I love Polly’s delight at seeing the Doctor again, she has totally accepted this new version of him. “Those dresses really suit you Doctor” she tells him, “You’re wonderful.” She’s definitely a fan. “I know”, replies the Doctor. He tells Polly that their other friends are aboard the Annabelle and she actually suggests that they capture the ship and sail it to France – Polly is unstoppable! And people think sixties companions were timid screamers! When Kirsty refuses to leave Scotland the Doctor has to stop himself from giving away historical spoilers – ah, a reassuring hint of the old Doctor here. Though by trying to save her life he is influencing history himself even if he doesn’t tell her what’s coming. When she doesn’t understand why she should leave, the Doctor spells it out “Oh please yourself! But you and your father may get killed if you stay in the glens.” And then, like a tortoise (reference from future), the Doctor tries to sleep. I’m not sure we’ve ever seen the Doctor have a proper sleep before. Polly’s having none of it though and jabs him awake, asking for a plan. When he tells her he doesn’t have one, she replies “I know you better than that, you must have a plan.” He suggests they use the money they stole from Ffinch to acquire lots of weapons and smuggle them aboard the Annabelle. “And then what?” asks Polly. “Oh I don’t know, we’ll think of something” the Doctor replies, before falling asleep again. I like the Doctor’s “It won’t work but its worth a try”!
I’m surprised really, that they haven’t made more of the companions suspicion that this Doctor might be an imposter, despite his saving the day on Vulcan in the last story. I mean it’s a pretty hard thing to swallow, that a man could change his appearance like that, and it hasn’t been that long. But there can be no doubt now to us that this is the Doctor, despite him being very different from the old man he was before.
Back on the Annabelle it’s all gone foggy. It’s hard to tell from the brief images I’m seeing how much of this was genuine night-filmed location and how much was studio, but these scenes look very effective to me. An angry Grey gets Trask to prepare more contracts and insists that all will sign. He plans to make an example of “London deserter” Ben by ducking him.
The girls attempt at obtaining weapons has resulted in a few bits and pieces, but the Doctor shows them both up with a cart load. “You must have robbed the Duke’s arsenal!” exclaims Kirsty. “Yes, something like that” the Doctor replies. Again: “You’re fantastic!” gushes Polly. Again: “I know” from the Doctor! He then spots that Kirsty is wearing a ring given to her father by the prince after he saved his life. He realises the ring could be used as bait…
Ben is prepared for ducking…cue end credits.