THE DOCTOR WHO RATINGS GUIDE: BY FANS, FOR FANS

Invasion of the Cat People
The Murder Game
BBC
The Highlanders

Episodes 4 The Doctor arrives at Culloden and immediately makes enemies of both sides.
Story No# 31
Production Code FF
Season 4
Dates Dec. 17, 1966 -
Jan. 7, 1967

With Patrick Troughton, Michael Craze, Anneke Wills, Frazier Hines.
Written by David Whitaker (with Dennis Spooner).
Script-edited by Gerry Davis.
Directed by Christopher Barry. Produced by Innes Lloyd.

Synopsis: The Doctor, Ben, and Polly become mistaken for rebels in 1745 by a corrupt officer with an eye for the slave trade.

Note: Audio recordings and telesnap reconstructions of this story are available at Missing Doctor Who Reconstructions & Audios.


Reviews

A Review by Stuart Gutteridge 13/6/99

Despite being remembered as the last pure historical tale until Black Orchid in the early Davison era, The Highlanders has a great deal going for it. The most notable aspect of this being the mix of comedy and drama, which generally works very well. This blend of action and humour adds much to the overall feel of the production, and is particularly reminiscent of The Smugglers, in that one could easily imagine this as a piece of work by Robert Louis Stevenson.

The regulars are also handled well here, with perhaps suprisingly, Ben and Polly coming off better than The Doctor. Ben is captured and taken on board a slave ship, whilst Polly is used to great effect, as she pairs up with Kirsty. The introduction of Frazer Hines` Jamie, seems to have been a last minute decision, however, as he tends to stay in the background for much of the tale.

It is Patrick Troughton who is most memorable however, despite The Doctor not doing very much, except donning disguises and confusing people. There are very evident signs of his Doctor beginning to emerge, as he creates havoc, using this as a cover to plot and scheme.

The supporting cast are also impressive, Dallas Cavell as Captain Trask is a sea-dog, in the tradition of Long John Silver, and his over the top performance is a nice contrast to David Garth`s getlemanly Soliciter Grey. The production values are generally high, and there is little to find fault with here; although the location, whilst appropiate, is somewhat bleak. So instead of being remembered as being one of the last historicals, The Highlanders should be remembered for being something of a classic, albeit in an escapist sort of way.


A Review by James Allenby 16/11/00

I reviewed this using the audio and telesnaps. My audio is not the narrated version so it made it a little difficult but the telesnaps definately helped. Anyway I was not all that keen on this story much. I don't know much about The Smugglers but I this seemed more like pirates than highlanders which is suggested in the title. Jamie is also introduced but he doesn't have much to do and I think that him joining the TARDIS crew had been put together quickly. He just happens to not go on the boat with the other Scotsmen. Captain Trask is good but over the top in some scenes but he also goes to emphasise the pirate feel. The bits with Polly and Algernon are fantastic. I think that Polly was one of those better female companions and she really had a good character to her. Ben doesn't do much really except being put on a ship for the majority of the story but at this point I was starting to warm to Polly and Ben. And then we move onto the Doctor. Once again he seems to stay away from his companions and sometimes I get the feeling he is staying away from the main plot for the first two thirds of the story. He continues his strange personality from Power into this but slowly I was starting to warm to him as well. Also this story had many moments when the Doctor disguised himself as other people such as the german Doctor (which had me laughing with the "your eyes" line), the old woman (which had me laughing at the bit where the Doctor said "you saucy girl" to Polly - it was so out of character) and the English Redcoat. As historicals go this is probably not the best but it had good character developments and I would have loved to have seen this. And then of course Jamie joins and we head off for Atlantis.

7/10


Couldn't Think Of A Title by Robert Thomas 7/3/01

Unlike most people I have a rule with stories that I haven't seen/heared/read, don't find out anything about them until you see them or it will ruin the impact.

My feelings to The Highlanders was one of surprise, because of general opinions I have read I was expecting to be disapointed so bought this before any other soon to be released soundtrack. It was quite a fine story, a nice little runaround with an historical background that grew on the listener as the story went on.

Of particular note is the realism, the characters are believable and the touch of the baddie being a solicitor and the contracts etc give the story a slight edge.

It's nice that in order to calm Patrick Troughton's nerves after the first story he is given some good character acting as he goes through disguises and accents. His scene with the clerk in his office is superb.

Polly gets a lot to do and strikes up a good partnership with Kirsty (who has a gorgous voice). I like what they do to the soldier who they keep bumping into. As a matter of fact Kirsty makes a fantastic impression and maybe should have joined the regulars, what ever Frazer Hines did to impress it was certainly off camera, surprisingly Jamie has very little to do.

Overall a fantastic little comedy with loads of good bits - such as The Doctor's comedy timing walking in with the wheel barrow.


Unmemorable by Tim Roll-Pickering 29/11/01

Based on the Loose Cannon reconstruction.

The Highlanders is not the best ending that the historicals could have had (Black Orchid aside). The entire story gives the impression that it was not regarded as being important in its own right by the production team and a conspiracy theorist could easily surmise that there was a deliberate attempt to make the historicals weak so that they would not be missed. As a result of their subsequent disappearance, The Highlanders is something of an oddity amongst the Troughton stories and can be seen as taking the new Doctor into the sort of environment and situation that his predecessor routinely wound up in. However there's no denying that this story was written for Troughton's Doctor since large parts of the plot revolve around the Doctor's ability to use disguise and impersonation to pass himself as everyone from an old women to a doctor from Hanover. These disguises demonstrate the diversity of Troughton's acting abilities and help to add tension to the story, such as the scene in Episode 4 where Ben reaches the quay to find a soldier on patrol who turns out to be the Doctor! There's also the wonderful scene in Episode 2 where the Doctor outwits Perkins and escapes.

There's also some good material for Polly as she and Kirsty manage to avoid being arrested and so consequently have to find the others and free them. The scenes between Polly and Lieutenant Algernon Ffinch are somewhat suggestive, particularly given the two 'f's in Ffinch's name (not to mention the fact that is is serial FF!). However Ben is given comparatively little to do and new companion Jamie makes very little impact in the story.

The plot is over simplistic, being little more than a case of the Doctor and companions being caught and trying to escape and in the process expose their captors. Solicitor Grey is portrayed well by David Garth but is one of the smallest scale villains seen in the series, whilst Perkins is a highly clichéd assistant who's a little simple and doesn't approve completely of his master's work. Ffinch and Trask are both overused clichés as well. Historically the story is strong and upon consideration it's clear that it's only Scottish highlander characters who see Culloden as a Scottish/English conflict rather than as a Jacobite rebellion (and rebellions of the latter sort did often feed off pre-existing disputes). However the chance has been missed to see the Doctor encounter either Bonnie Prince Charlie or the Duke of Cumberland.

Whilst not an overtly bad story, The Highlanders is not particularly gripping and thus stands as one of the weaker examples of the historical stories. Although not the worst story of either Patrick Troughton's run or Season 4, it is not especially memorable. 4/10

This reconstruction is based primarily around the telesnaps and a few publicity photos. There are a few moving pieces, such as the censor clip of the aborted hanging in Episode 1 or the clever use of a scene from The War Games. The biggest piece of moving footage is unfortunately the worst one as a scene from the film Mutiny on the Bounty has been used to represent the fight scene in Episode 4 and it jars a little. Otherwise this is a good way to view this story. 8/10


Adventures in History by Mike Jenkins 23/9/03

The historical drama category has produced nothing other then acceptional Dr. Who. Hardly any exist and yet most are fondly remembered. Are they arbitrarily recognized because of their rarity? Well, yes, a few of them but The Highlanders has more then one leg to stand on. Unlike the bad apples (a grouping that only The Gunslingers would fall into), The Highlanders is historically accurate with substantial characterization and acting worthy of legitimate stage. It's interesting to see Frazer Hines' misplaced suspicion in the Doctor as he would become the most loyal of companions. Anne Wills and Michael Craze outdo themselves with screen time evenly divided.

War is shown in an accurate light as filthy buissness. Corrupt politics is not usually the subject of Doctor Who, which prefers to tackle the moral side of things. There are political issues to contend with but not often in a specific manner. With a historical backdrop, there is inevitably political commentary. Troughton is at his clowning best. The incidentals are first rate, outweighed only by superb costuming. It's also nice to see a story from the sixties that isn't streched across God knows how many episodes. One of the most sorely missed stories of the Troughton era.


A Review by Brian May 10/3/07

There’s something very pleasant and inoffensive about The Highlanders, but at the same time there’s a real inconsequential feel. It’s certainly not the most missed or sought after of the lost Troughton adventures. A simple and historically inaccurate tale of rebels in eighteenth century Scotland seems to pale in comparison to the unattainable promises of The Power of the Daleks or Fury From the Deep. Likewise, The Evil of the Daleks and The Web of Fear, both with only one existing episode to tantalise us, leave us craving more. Even The Underwater Menace has a perverse attraction; perhaps we want to know if it’s really all as bad as episode three! But The Highlanders lurks in the minnows of the missing stories list. While the loss of any Doctor Who adventure is sad, I have to admit that there are many I’d like to see recovered ahead of this one.

But despite this, the actual viewing/listening experience is fun while it lasts, and there are many things going for it. The story trots along at a nice pace; from the telesnaps it looks like a polished production, and the acting is of a high standard. Anneke Wills is fantastic, getting her moment in the spotlight as Polly. She plays off well against Kirsty, delightfully brought to life by Hannah Gordon. David Garth is excellent as the amoral Grey, his subdued manner a good contrast to Dallas Cavell’s over the top Trask, a walking cliche of a character, but Cavell knows exactly how to play it. And of course, Frazer Hines, whose debut as Jamie guarantees him as a potentially wonderful TARDIS crew member. There are some nice character moments: Polly getting the better of Ffinch, with all those cruel “Algy” taunts, which is offset by the young Lieutenant’s redemption at the end, as he arrests Grey and lets the travellers go. Perkins’s revenge as he finally gets the better of his insufferable employer is also sweet.

It’s one of Patrick Troughton’s weakest performances as the Doctor – but I use “weakest” tentatively, and really for want of a better word; Troughton couldn’t act badly if he tried. But the character of the new second Doctor was still being moulded and it’s here the initial comic, buffoonish clown dominates, what with all the disguises and varied accents, including a (deliberately?) awful German one. We can be thankful it was toned down; by all means it’s amusing – the Perkins “headache”/Grey “knocking” incident is hilarious – but it’s not enough to sustain for too long.

This story is the last of the black and white historical adventures. The current producer disliked them, and they were no longer serving their educational remit anyway, as attested by this and the previous effort, The Smugglers. They’re very similar stories, but The Smugglers is the better of the two – it has a lovely feel to it; to quote my own review, it “oozes charm in bucketloads”. While The Highlanders has its endearing moments, it comes nowhere near as close as the Hartnell tale.

The Highlanders is enjoyable enough, but far from the most memorable of adventures, not helped by being overshadowed by many superior absent stories. Its four episodes aren’t really that high on my wish list of those I’d like to see recovered. 6.5/10