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The Doctor pretends to be German, disguises himself as an old lady and commits fraud in soon-to-be-a-companion Jamie’s first ever serial

The Second Doctor and his (at this point total of) two companions, Polly and Ben, arrive in Scotland in 1746, just as the Battle of Culloden rages in the background.

Unsurprisingly, they’re drawn into the drama, as they stumble upon a group of Highlanders, one of whom is Jamie McCrimmon – SPOILERS: The longest-running male companion of the Doctor’s on Doctor Who, ever! – and they join forces only to be hunted and/or captured by the English Redcoats in the process.

By the end of it, The Doctor and his friends will have made themselves guilty of blackmail, fraud, wrongful imprisonment and murder.

The last historical serial until 1982’s Black Orchid, The Highlanders is a fun, sometimes hilariously amoral, and sadly completely missing romp of a story. To fully absorb it, have a look at the Loose Cannon Productions reconstruction, have a listen to the audiobook, and – for the love of all that is good and pure in the universe – listen to this Who Back When review!

Fret not, Ponken will add some screenshots to this ep (along with the last few eps on this site) very soon. In the meantime, here’s the tweet that’s mentioned in this podcast ep. Thanks again for sharing, sgamer82!

Here's what we think of C031 The Highlanders

We rate Doctor Who stories on a scale from 0.0 to 5.0. For context, very few are excellent enough to merit a 5.0 in our minds, and we'd take a 0.0 Doctor Who story over a lot of other, non-Whovian stuff out there.

Leon | @ponken


Here's what we think of C031 The Highlanders

We rate Doctor Who stories on a scale from 0.0 to 5.0. For context, very few are excellent enough to merit a 5.0 in our minds, and we'd take a 0.0 Doctor Who story over a lot of other, non-Whovian stuff out there.

Leon | @ponken


Here's what you think 10 Responses to “C031 The Highlanders”
  1. Peter Zunitch

    A good story. A very interesting introduction to Jamie, who is anything but a major character here. The standout here are the two women manipulating (La-Fer’s-his-name?). [Well soon I’ll be caught up and won’t have to try to write from memory while missing all the fine points.]
    The other good storyline was the fact that the leader was with them all along. This is sort of a missed opportunity. Instead we get slightly too much of the slavery plot, and miss some of the better intrigue. I do love however that we see the girls hatching a plan and jump simply to the aftermath of having it fail. Don’t know if this was cut for time or not, but it works beautifully. The assault on the ship would have been a great sight to see though, and that along with the tardis scene get my vote for saddest missing footage moment of the week. We’ll call this one a 2.7

  2. Paul Fauber @wordsmithpaul

    Hey Ponken. In your trivia for “The Highlanders”, you mentioned the planned story to write Jamie out of DOCTOR WHO. This story was to be written by Mervyn Haisman and Henry Lincoln, the team who gave us the Yeti and would have used their monsters in this unproduced story. Before the writing team could get to work, they submitted “The Dominators” which was fraught with problems. It lost an episode because it was awful and the writers and DOCTOR WHO over the Quarks, robots from the awful story that never would have replaced the Daleks anyway. As a result of the disputes over “The Dominators”, Hainsman and Lincoln wrote nothing else for the show. As for this last historical story, it may be Polly’s best showing. She becomes ruthless a ruthless blackmailer and succeeds because she and Kirsty are girls. She’s a blond, too. Awesome! The other fun part of this story is the various roles the Doctor slips into and out of with excellent comedic effect. The story is simply a fun romp. At the end is the late addition of Jamie to the TARDIS crew, which had to be reshot since producer Innes Lloyd invited him aboard during this serial.

  3. Paul Fauber @wordsmithpaul

    Here is my proper review:

    On Culloden Moore in 1746., Scottish Highland clans, loyal to Bonnie Prince Charles Edward, battled English and German regiments loyal to the English monarch, King George. The badly injured laird, Colin McLaren, was accompanied by his son, Alexander; his daughter, Kirsty; and young piper, Jamie McCrimmon. Seconds after the TARDIS arrived, a cannon ball narrowly missed the TARDIS trio. The Doctor was ready to go somewhere safer, but Ben moved off to explore. The Clan McLaren took cover a cottage where Kirsty tended Colin’s wounds. Ben found a spiked canon and the Doctor tried on a hat he then tossed aside, offending a Scot who brought him and his companions to the cottage, where the Doctor persuaded them to let him help Colin. He sent the women to the creek for water before English soldiers arrived. The Doctor pretended to be German before the English officer decided to hang all of them. Nearby, Solicitor Grey and Perkins prepared lunch and complained about the battle. Polly and Kirsty realized the English were about to hang everyone before Polly persuaded her new companion to throw rock at the English, flee, and draw them away. The officer joined the chase, which should have prevented the hanging, but the Sergeant decided the bloody work would have been left to him and got on with it. Solicitor Grey intervened, sparing the victims with a bribe before the Doctor invoked a law preventing foreigners from being executed without alerting their ambassador. Grey had the prisoners taken to Inverness and “perhaps a sea voyage” afterwards. Polly and Kirsty evaded their pursuers and made their way to a cave where Polly assessed their financial position. She found Kirsty had a gold ring that could not be sold because her Laird had entrusted to her before the battle. Disgusted, Polly set off on her own and fell into an animal trap, a pit. Presently a helping hand reached down to her, but it held a dagger.

    Polly’s potential rescuer was Kirsty, who fell into the pit, too. Polly climbed onto Kirsty’s back, enabling both to escape. Spotting Redcoats and their officer, Ffinch, the girls lured the him into the pit after he ordered his subordinates away. They tied up Ffinch; took his food and money; and blackmailed him, threatening to reveal he’d been bested by two girls. Jamie and Ben were among British prisoners in the circular dungeon at Inverness, which was waterlogged, and lined with moss. There, the Doctor found Bonnie Prince Charlie’s standard while tending Colin’s wounds. He began to lead the Jacobites in their tune, playing his recorder. When the British complained, the Doctor claimed both to be German and to have uncovered a plot to kill the Duke of Cumberland, before offering to share his knowledge with Grey. Jamie was disgusted with him, but Ben pointed out freedom gave the Doctor a chance to act and they were beneath the chamber’s waterline. At the Sea Eagle Inn at Inverness, Solicitor Grey spoke to Captain Trask, Master of the slave ship Annabelle, where the cargo of Highlanders were bound, when the Doctor was brought to him. Once Perkins and Trask had been dismissed, the Doctor admitted there was no plot, but produced Bonnie Prince Charlie’s standard and pointed out the Prince could make them a lot of money. This idea enabled the Doctor to bind and gag the lawyer and shove him into a cupboard. When Perkins returned, the Doctor examined his eyes and asked whether he had a headache before banging his head against a desk until the man admitted his head hurt. The Doctor claimed, the noises Grey was making were all in Perkins’ mind and that he suffered form “print blindness.” Resting his eyes for an hour would cure him. Ffinch’s sergeant found him in the animal pit and was offered a bribe to release the penniless officer. After Captain Trask released Grey and Perkins, he was told to get the prisoners aboard ship. On their way, they went through the scullery, where the Doctor was hiding. Ben nearly collided with an old woman, the Doctor in disguise, who followed them and found a trapdoor and steps leading down to where the captives were rowed to the ship. There, after a bound man was heaved over the side of the ship, the new arrivals were told they had just seen the only way off the ship.

    In the Annabelle’s hold, Colin; Ben; and Jamie met Will MacKay, the ship’s former Captain, from whom his mate, Trask, took over. They were all to be sold into slavery. At Inverness, Polly and Kirsty bought supplies including oranges they would sell as a cover for their other activities. The disguised Doctor discovered the girls as they learned from Ffinch Grey knew what happened to their friends and family. Aboard ship, the prisoners were offered the choice between hanging or signing labor contracts. All but Ben, Jamie, and Colin signed. Kirsty and Polly saw Perkins to get an appointment with Grey. The Doctor joined them, claiming to be the fourth they would need for a card game, whist. This ploy enabled him to hold up Perkins and facilitate their departure. Once away, the three conspired. On the ship, Ben tore one of Grey’s contracts to pieces and angered the Solicitor. He was taken captive and Trask prepared to duck him. After Kirsty and Polly returned to the Doctor with weapons, he realized the ring Kirsty had belonged to Bonnie Prince Charlie and persuaded her to lend it to him. Ben was tied up and tossed over the side of the ship with a rope around his waist so he could be retrieved.

    When the rope was pulled back, Ben was gone. He later explained he had inhaled and hardened his muscles to facilitate his escape. Swimming beneath the ship, Ben was hauled from the water at gunpoint by a Redcoat who proved to be the Doctor. His disguise helped keep the English away, which was helpful because he planned to arm the prisoners aboard the Annabelle. Trask wanted to sail on the morning tide regardless of fog. Grey said he, Perkins, and Trask were the only people who knew about the slave trade, which the signed contracts made legal. When the Doctor outlined his plans, Polly and Kirsty insisted on coming along. Gray and Perkins were settling accounts as the Doctor came to them in his German guise to show them the ring Kirsty had given him to claim Bonnie Prince Charlie was among their prisoners. He then demanded 10,000 guineas. Outside, Kirsty found and armed Colin. Coming along to find the Prince, because he could identify the man, the Doctor pointed out Jamie. Armed Highlanders attacked, and a fierce battle began. The end result was Trask going over the side and Will MacKay retaking his ship. Grey was captured and the Doctor brought Kirsty and Polly aboard the ship. Perkins was to sail with them because he spoke French. The Doctor’s party took Grey as a hostage once the ship was safely away. Ffinch protected them as they returned to the cottage, where Grey, who had escaped as Jamie guided them back to the TARDIS, arrived to have them all arrested. Grey, though, could not produce the contracts which made his slave trade legal, because the Doctor had taken them. Ffinch arrested Grey and Jamie joined he TARDIS crew.

    This is the last straight historical story until Peter Davison played the Doctor and it gave both companions moments to shine while introducing a newcomer, Jamie. Ben was clever enough to realize the Doctor bluffed his way out of Inverness, which was a death trap for prisoners. Finally, he escaped from the ship. Polly was fantastic in this story, leading Kirsty throughout the adventure and ruthlessly blackmailing the English officer. The Doctor affected disguises and carried off daring bluffs to good and hilarious effect as he extricated himself and his companions, including Jamie, from the events following the battle in the first episode. As in most historical stories, the Doctor was ready to return to the TARDIS after the first barrage of cannonballs, but stayed because Ben wanted to explore. His desire enabled this tight, well plotted tale to unfold. None of the story’s four episodes remain in the BBC Archives, but the audio was released on CD with linking narration around the dialogue provided by actor Frazier Hines, who played Jamie. Writer Gerry Davis novelized his story for Target books and actress Anneke Wills, who played Polly, read it for the audio version.

  4. Landing in Scotland in the immediate aftermath of the Battle of Culloden, the Doctor, Ben and Polly are immediately caught up in the conflict. Meeting a party of fleeing Highlanders, Ben teams up with a young piper called Jamie; Polly is (quite literally) thrown together with ‘dour Scottish lassie’ Kirsty, and the Doctor wanders about the place, adopting a sequence of outrageous personas and disguises.

    Enter Solicitor Gray – a greedy lawyer. In cahoots with the notorious pirate Trask and his hopelessly incompetent secretary Perkins, Gray hopes to make a swift profit by exporting the Jacobite prisoners to the colonial plantations in the West Indies. The Doctor will have to outwit him before Ben and Jamie are taken too.

    The history of the Jacobite rebellion traditionally suffers from an overabundance of romanticism, and “The Highlanders” manages to tread a delicate line between dreamy sentimentality and cold-blooded brutality. It helps that the villain is a common crook rather than a political figure like the Duke of Cumberland or Prince Charlie. It’s also the first time we meet Jamie McCrimmon, a brilliant character.

    It’s perhaps unfair to mark the story down for being missing, but it loses a vast amount of interest. We are still trying to get used to the new Doctor and we haven’t seen an episode with him yet. Meanwhile, this rather dull runaround is neither particularly comic, nor particularly high stakes, nor particularly fast moving. It sort of plods along and although we get there in the end, we feel we had no real fun along the way.

    – The Doctor impersonates a German Doctor. (-“Doctor von Wehr!” -“Who?” -“That’s what I said!”)
    – Kirsty tries to rescue Polly from a pit, only to fall in herself with a girly scream. So much for girl power.
    – The Doctor in prison: -“Down with King George!” -“So you are for the Prince?” -“No I just like the echo!”
    – There’s a nice little moment when Jamie is wondering why the Doctor hasn’t bled the Laird and Ben is going on about germs. The Doctor comes up with a bunch of astrological mumbo-jumbo about doing the bleed when Taurus aligns with Mars, or whatever. It may be a tad patronising, or it may show how much the Doctor talks at a level that the humans around him understand.
    – There’s a great teasing relationship between Polly and Lieutenant Ffinch. “Fi-finch!” as Polly calls him. I particularly like that this gets a pay off at the end, with Ffinch being the one to arrest Gray, and getting a kiss from Polly before she goes.
    – Another fun scene involves the Doctor trapping Gray in a cupboard, and convincing Perkins that the knocking and shouting are only inside his own head. – “You suffer from headaches, ja?” -“No”. -*thumps his head off the desk*… “No headaches?”
    – The Doctor dresses up as an old Highland lady – a cailleach, to use the correct term.
    – The Doctor dresses up as a Redcoat too.

    This is one of these stories which has lost a lot of entertainment value. There’s only so much we can get from the audio. Unable to see the sets, the costumes or the performances, we are left relying on our own imaginations. And disappointingly, the plot isn’t particularly exciting. In many ways it feels very similar to The Smugglers in its setting; in its array of various crooks and criminals, and in its long drawn out climactic sword fight in episode four.

    OVERALL: 3.0

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