The Highlanders

This story is not known to exist in its original format
(6 black-and-white 25-minute TV episodes)
in its entirety.
See below for clips available on DVD / video CD Audio
(Doctor Who Story No. 31, starring Patrick Troughton)
  • written by Gerry Davis and Elwyn Jones
  • directed by Hugh David
  • produced by Innes Lloyd
  • featuring library music tracks
  • 4 episodes @ 25 minutes each
Story: The TARDIS brings the Doctor, Ben and Polly to the aftermath of the battle of Culloden Moor, where they soon try to help Scottish piper Jamie McCrimmon tend to the remaining members of his clan. But evading cold enemy officers and corrupt sea captains isn't easy. How many disguises will the Doctor need to adopt to successfully achieve everyone's freedom? Can another battle be avoided?

In-Depth Analysis Review

by Martin Izsak

WARNING: This review contains "SPOILERS", and is intended for those who have
already seen the program. To avoid the spoilers, read the Buyers' Guide version instead.

This story is, of course, most notable for introducing Troughton-Era sidekick Jamie McCrimmon into the series, however it does not manage to play on Jamie's Highland background to the best effect, and comes off as more of a lack-lustre re-hash of ideas leftover from "The Smugglers" (story no. 28). Although the story is rather loosely connected to an actual historical event, in this case the Highlander/Redcoat battle of Culloden Moor, the writers were at least wise enough not to upstage the main characters by making this the final, climactic event of the story. In fact, the famous battle is just about over and done with as soon as the TARDIS arrives on the scene, which is perhaps a bit too early. Now the chance for a story that deeply involves our main time-traveling characters can develop, leaving text-book history in the background, which is good. What the writers actually came up with was not too inspiring however - a gross overuse of the old capture and escape routines.

We have three time-travellers, and one soon-to-be-time-traveller. All four of them spend episode one in captivity, and the constantly inadequate explanations they must give of themselves become truly tiresome as one set of captors is exchanged for another, and another. Each episode will see one more of the four main characters released from captivity, sometimes early, and sometimes late. Pat Troughton is doing his best to squeeze as much humour out of the situation as possible, which is about the only strength that this story has. Jamie is unfortunately given very little to do in this story, and in fact will remain in captivity until the final moments of episode four. Not a great entrance for such an important major character, but actor Frazer Hines made good on the few dramatic scenes that Jamie has.

The setting quickly moves away from the moor, to a seaside Inn and a sailing ship. The ship is perhaps used to better effect in this story than in "The Smugglers", but "The Highlanders" doesn't have as riveting a plot - the mystery and the quest for treasure is noticeably absent. All in all, episode four finally gets good, as there is plenty of action, and the Doctor is on hand to confront the main villains. Jamie's motivations for joining the Doctor's party are also well plotted and scripted - no brutal, last minute orphanization takes place. Thank you!

The recent release of the story's soundtrack on CD contains a few surprises. The acting performances are all of quite a high calibre, and the characters' motivations are all easy to understand. Only Patrick Troughton disappointed me, particularly with his very unconvincing German accent (I've been surrounded with the real thing through most of my life), although he does alright as the old woman and the soldier, and of course, as himself the Doctor. It seems that the only music in the story is a bit of bagpipe over the episode titles, an odd soldier's drumroll at the hanging, and Pat toodling on his recorder. The adventure is still left a bit on the boring and empty side of things, but isn't too bad altogether. Curiously, the Doctor lets Jamie into the TARDIS at the end on condition that he teach him how to play the bagpipes, yet by the time we get to "The Abominable Snowmen" (story no. 38), we learn that the Doctor has kept his bagpipes secretly hidden in the tickle trunk the whole time, afraid that Jamie might find them. The scene in "Snowmen" laughs last, and also best this time around.

If you're looking for Highlanders and the Battle of Culloden Moor, Season Six's "The War Games" (story no. 50) will probably satisfy you more. If you're looking for historical identity-bluff laughs, on the other hand, you've come to the right story.

International Titles:

Magyar: "A felföldiek"

Français: (Les Highlanders)

Русский: "Горцы"

Doctor Who: Lost in Time - Patrick Troughton
2 DVD discs

(also included in Lost in Time Boxed Sets)

Coverage on The Highlanders includes:
  • location film trims and censor clips from episode 1 (1 min.)
More details & buying options for "Lost in Time" DVD's
Audio CD - Doctor Who - The Highlanders.

This audio CD set features the complete audio tracks of all 4 television episodes of this story, narrated by actor Frazer Hines (who also played Jamie) to help listeners follow what used to be visual aspects of the story. This version is playable in any normal audio CD player.
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Read the In-depth Analysis Review for the next story: "The Underwater Menace"

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