The Highlanders

Doctor WhoThe TARDIS arrives in Scotland, 1745, plunging the Doctor, Ben and Polly into the aftermath of the battle of Culloden. They encounter some fleeing Scots who are trying to escape the Redcoats with their injured Laird in tow. The Doctor tends to the Laird’s injuries, despite the suspicions of the others. However, his aid comes too late – the entire group is captured by English soldiers. Polly befriends a woman named Kirsty, and they manage to stay on dry land while the men are hauled off to a ship. Englishman Trask plans to take the captives to be sold into slave labor, including Ben and piper Jamie McCrimmon. But when Polly is fighting to protect herself in an era which isn’t even remotely emancipated for women, and Ben is sentenced to death as an object lesson to keep his fellow prisoners in line, where is the Doctor?

Order this story on audio CDwritten by Gerry Davis and Elwyn Jones
directed by Hugh David
music not credited

Guest Cast: William Dysart (Alexander), Donald Bisset (Colin McLaren), Hannah Gordon (Kristy), Michael Elwyn (Ffinch), Peter Welch (Sergeant), David Garth (Gray), Sydney Arnold (Perkins), Tom Bowman (Sentry), Dallas Cavell (Trask), Barbara Bruce (Mollie), Andrew Downie (MacKay), Peter Diamond (Sailor), Guy Middleton (Attwood), Eric Mills (Wounded Highlander), Nancy Gabriel (Woman at inn), Reg Dent (English horseman)

Broadcast from December 17, 1966 through January 7, 1967

Note: The master tapes of this episode were destroyed by the BBC in the early 1970’s, and no video copies exist.

LogBook entry & review by Earl Green

Review: “Where is the Doctor?” is a good question. The Doctor appears in what seem to be only fleeting moments, and even those moments are a bit confusing, as he disguises himself as a German doctor, a serving wench, and even an English soldier. Though it would be another four years before the concept of post-regenerative amnesia and confusion would be introduced (when Patrick Troughton handed the role of the Doctor over to Jon Pertwee), some fans ascribe the Doctor’s sometimes bizarre actions in The Highlanders to the recent trauma of his first regeneration. It’s as good an explanation as any, to be honest.

On the other hand, the Doctor’s odd mental state gives Michael Craze and Anneke Wills the chance to shine as Ben and Polly, and it also allows time for Fraser Hines to establish himself as Jamie. When The Highlanders was originally filmed, it was unknown whether Jamie would be joining the TARDIS crew, though apparently that decision was made by someone in the production staff over the course of making the four episodes. In the second Doctor’s sophomore adventure, Jamie becomes a regular, staying with the Doctor until Troughton’s final story (and returning in both The Five Doctors and The Two Doctors). Jamie’s introduction in this story is more a function of the story than one expects after seeing some of the late 70s and 80s serials, in which the incoming companion can be spotted from a mile off.

The Highlanders has been lost in its filmed form for decades, and is only now available as one of the audio releases in the BBC Radio Collection. And not many photos survive from this four-parter, making it all the more mysterious. One imagines, from narrator Fraser Hines’ hushed descriptions, that the production values for The Highlanders might have been above par…but who, aside from those who were lucky enough to see the show upon its original broadcast, knows or remembers? In audio form, there are some frightfully dull passages that make this one a challenging listen at best…and I wonder if visuals helped that pace at all.

A must for completists, as it introduces the beloved Jamie McCrimmon to the series, The Highlanders may not appeal to everyone.