A couple of days after episode two of 'The Smugglers' was originally broadcast, Scotland Yard arrested Buster Edwards, suspected of involvement in the Great Train Robbery back in 1963. In the 1988 film 'Buster', he was somewhat inaccurately portrayed as a loveable rogue, which was more than a little insensitive towards the robbery's victims. If it's a genuinely engaging, street-wise Londoner you're looking for, without any stain on his character, then Dr Who had one of the finest ever in Ben Jackson. One of the most memorable aspects of Season Four as a whole is not only his distinctive voice and boundless energy but also his being 'one of us' (in a way that Steven Taylor never was). The contemporary feel kick-started in 'The War Machines' is, in spite of The Smugglers' 17th century setting, maintained by his and Polly's very 20th century reactions. Without these two charming individuals, the season curtain-raiser would be nothing but a fairly flat slab of hackneyed melodrama. (The biggest nonsense of the story is that no-one notices that Polly, as "Paul", is not the lad she is passed off to be. Fair enough, if the paintings of Peter Paul Rubens are anything to go by, then the ideal of womanhood of the 17th century tended towards the chubby but even so! One is left with the uncomfortable feeling that the script is actually questioning the sanity of the good people of Cornwall. Shame on you Brian Hayles!)
One imagines a few exasperated sighs around the BBC about a programme that had looked to redefine itself as 'with it' a few months previously, retreating to the realms of the traditional but don't get me wrong: as an audio, I like 'The Smugglers' (though it is a somewhat guilty pleasure: something to put on for International Talk Like A Pirate Day). With the absence of music (only the sound of the sea), Anneke Wills silky narration and its double archaisms (the historical setting and the era of television that put it on screen), it is an enjoyable enough time to spend in your headphones.