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The Doctor meets Jamie McCrimmon
I’ve listened to ‘The Highlanders’ on audio at last!
‘The Highlanders’ has a very special place in ‘Doctor Who’ for two reasons. First, it’s the last of the pure historical TV adventures made in ‘Doctor Who’ during the 1960s. It is also the story to feature the first appearance of Frazer Hines as new companion Jamie McCrimmon and it is set in Scotland 1746.
Sadly, ‘The Highlanders’ doesn’t exist as a complete four-part adventure since the original TV episodes are currently missing from the BBC archives. Fortunately, the story still exists as a complete audio soundtrack and that is now available to listen to on CD or on download when you purchase it.
‘The Highlanders’ CD is now available as part of ‘The Lost TV Episodes: Collection Three’ CD box set. The story has linking narration provided by Frazer Hines during the audio CD release. Despite the original episodes lost, there is some surviving footage of the story to view on the ‘Lost in Time’ DVD.
The story is officially by Elwyn Jones and Gerry Davis, the current script-editor of the TV series back in 1966/67 when the story was shown. Elwyn Jones was commissioned to write the story. But due to unforeseen circumstances, Elwyn couldn’t write it and Gerry Davis eventually wrote the tale himself.
I enjoyed the story being set in Scotland. Having visited Scotland itself, due to my family holidays in the summers and being a fan of the ‘Monarch of the Glen’ TV series, I was able to visualise the Scottish landscapes in this story. I was also able to appreciate the period with the Battle of Culloden.
As far as I’m aware, this is one the Doctor’s earliest visits to Scotland. He would later visit the Scottish lands in future incarnations in ‘Terror of the Zygons’ with Tom Baker and ‘Tooth and Claw’ with David Tennant. I’ve written a ‘Doctor Who’ fan-fiction story called ‘Chieftain’s Caves’ with the Fifth Doctor.
In this story, the TARDIS arrives in Scotland following the aftermath of the Battle of Culloden. The Doctor and his companions Ben and Polly come across a ruined cottage, until they get captured by a group of Highlanders. These include the laird Colin McLaren and he has his daughter Kirsty with him.
There’s also a Jacobean warrior named Alexander and the son of a piper called Jamie McCrimmon. Very soon, the Scots and the TARDIS trio get captured by the English Redcoats and are soon carted off to Inverness. Will they be able to survive the Redcoats’ punishment and torture that waits them?
I must admit, I’m not an expert with this period of Scottish history involving the Jacobites, the Redcoats and the Battle of Culloden. I’ve only seen ‘Braveheart’ with Mel Gibson and acquired knowledge about Scottish history from watching ‘Monarch of the Glen’. But it was very interesting.
There’s a lot of hardship for the Scots who fight for their freedom against the English Redcoats, imposing their laws on them and carting them off to work on plantations or to be sentenced for execution. Gerry Davis based this story on reading the book ‘Kidnapped’ by Robert Louis Stevenson.
The story features Patrick Troughton as the Doctor in this historical adventure. This is a fairly young Second Doctor as this is his second TV appearance in ‘Doctor Who’. Patrick’s role as the Doctor is interesting, as he still seems to be finding his feet and employing new ways of playing his character.
Patrick’s Doctor gets to dress up and use various sorts of disguises in this adventure. He uses a range of accents including a German one and claims himself as ‘Doktor von Wer’, translated as ‘Doctor Who’. He also gets to dress up as a scullery woman as well as a Redcoat solider, fooling Ben as well.
This story however is well-known for featuring Frazer Hines’ first appearance as Jamie in ‘Doctor Who’. Like it or not, Jamie McCrimmon became the epitome of the Second Doctor era of ‘Doctor Who’, since he would appear in all of Patrick Troughton’s stories, save for ‘The Power of the Daleks’.
It was great to hear Jamie in this his first story appearance in ‘Doctor Who’. It was interesting how he sounded and how he interacted with the Doctor, Ben and Polly for the first time. Jamie was only meant to be in one story of this TV series, but Frazer Hines was persuaded to stay on board later on.
Jamie is rather distrusting of the Doctor, Jamie and Ben when they first arrive in Scotland. Gradually during the story, he demonstrates how brave and heroic he is and gets to fight some Redcoats who he’s so opposed against in his homeland. I liked it when Jamie was the Doctor, Ben and Polly’s guide.
Anneke Wills is lovely as Polly during this TV adventure. She gets separated from the Doctor, Ben and Jamie when they get taken away to Inverness. She spends a lot of time with Kirsty and seems a stronger person than she is, since she’s very determined to get to Inverness and rescue her friends.
Michael Craze is very good as Ben in this TV adventure. It was interesting how he interacted with Jamie and opposed the Redcoats treatment of him and the other Scots. Ben manages to survive by the skin of his neck when he’s dropped into the sea at the end of ‘Episode 3’ and he swims for it.
A special guest stars in this story for me is Hannah Gordon as Kirsty McLaren, the Laird’s daughter. I’ve seen Hannah Gordon before in TV appearances on ‘The Morecambe and Wise Show’ as well as TV and film appearances in other things. She’s also appeared in an episode of ‘Monarch of the Glen’.
Her character as Kirsty is interesting. She seems to be a cry-baby early on in the story, especially when she’s with Polly. But she overcomes her sobs and manages to help Polly with stealing some money and getting to Inverness. Polly and Kirsty even attempt to seduce Lt. Algernon ffinch in this.
The rest of the guest cast are as follows. There’s David Garth as the treacherous solicitor Grey; William Dysart as Alexander; Donald Bisset as the wounded Colin McLaren the Laird; Michael Elwyn as the insecure Lt. Algernon ffinch; Syndey Arnold as Perkins and also Dallas Cavell as Captain Trask.
At the end of the story, the Doctor, Ben and Polly with Jamie return to the ruined cottage and make to head back for the TARDIS. The Doctor, Ben and Polly are reluctant to leave Jamie behind and Polly suggests they take him with them in the TARDIS. The Doctor gradually agrees and Jamie joins them.
I liked how the story ends with Jamie unsure about whether to enter the TARDIS or not, until Polly gently takes his hand and pulls inside. Jamie has no idea what’s in store for him in his adventures in time and space. I wished that I could see that scene should all the missing episodes of the story exist.
‘The Highlanders’ has been a very enjoyable pure historical adventure in ‘Doctor Who’. It was the last of the historicals, since the production team decided to abandon doing historical stories as they weren’t proving popular with viewers. It would take a while before pure historicals resurfaced.
I found the story interesting in terms of its historical period, with it being set in Scotland and featuring the Battle of Culloden and everything. But it was also very interesting to feature Frazer Hines as Jamie McCrimmon, who would go on to become one of the most popular companions ever!
‘The Highlanders’ rating – 8/10
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