My dear boy, it could be a great deal worse.
From the swinging Sixties, we head immediately to the swinging Sixteens—hundreds, that is—to open the fourth season of Doctor Who. Brian Hayles’ “The Smugglers” (Story Production Code CC) deposits the Doctor and his two new companions, Polly and Ben, on the coast of seventeenth century Cornwall, caught between pirates on one side and the titular smugglers on the other. The sense of youthful vigor Polly and Ben brought to the prior story carries through here, and the Doctor seems pleased to watch his young charges discover that they have, indeed, travelled through space and time. The youngsters scamper up from the beach where the TARDIS has landed, and the Doctor follows along after them with some glee. He displays considerable anger upon discovering them in the TARDIS, but his actions here belie his true feelings.
Landing on beaches with new companions has become standard procedure for the Doctor—Steven’s first disembarkation from the TARDIS was on another British beach—but one wonders why the Doctor, for all his knowledge, tends to forget that tides go both out and in. With the TARDIS trapped by the tide, the three time travellers must find shelter for the night and walk right into . . . the Curse of Avery’s Gold.
It’s not truly the tide that traps them, though; the Doctor decides show off for Ben and Polly, and that behavior embroils them in the intrigue. The local churchwarden initially wants nothing to do with them, being distrustful of strangers and suspicious of any who might come from the sea. As a demonstration of his savoir faire, the Doctor charms and flatters the nervous layman, so sufficiently that entrusts the Doctor with a deadly secret:
If you should this way again and find me gone, remember these words: This is Deadman’s Secret Key: Small[beer], Ringwood, Gurney.
Shortly after the three head to the local inn, a burly pirate named Cherub emerges from hiding, having seen the churchwarden whisper in the Doctor’s ear. Our churchwarden turns out to be a former pirate, and Cherub wants the secret. Cherub is quicker with his knife than his tongue, though, and kills the churchwarden, leaving only one source for the clue to finding the legendary treasure of Avery’s Gold: the Doctor.
And what do Polly and Ben think of their sudden appearance in the seventeenth century? Ben has no second thoughts about employing Cockney slang on random inn patrons, while Polly just wishes everyone would stop calling her “lad” and thinking she’s a boy, a nice riff on her short-cropped hairstyle and Sixties-stylish pants-suit. These, then, are not your parents’ companions. Until, of course, the Doctor is kidnapped by the pirates and the companions get framed for the murder of the churchwarden and thrown in jail, where Polly yells, much like Susan, upon seeing a rat.