Doctor Who Review: The Highlanders

images (1)Patrick Troughton’s second story is another that is completely miss­ing from the BBC’s archives and so once again I listened to the audio while watch­ing photos from the story. It seems there was consid­er­ably less mate­r­ial avail­able this time round, which is a shame.

The High­landers is signif­i­cant for two reasons. 1) It’s the first appear­ance of Frazer Hines as Jamie McCrim­mon who still holds the record for the longest running male compan­ion and 2) It was the last purely histor­i­cal story until Black Orchid in 1982.

The histor­i­cals were rarely as popu­lar or success­ful as the sci-fi stories in the early years of Doctor Who and The High­landers is a good exam­ple of why that is. The story is hemmed in by the actual histor­i­cal events. Noth­ing major can happen and no signif­i­cant changes can be effected by the Doctor or his compan­ions. Back in The Aztecs that limi­ta­tion was turned into a story point, but you only get to pull that trick once.

So instead what we get is the Doctor and company bounc­ing around on the fringes of history. We don’t inter­act with any major histor­i­cal figures and at the end of the day all they actu­ally achieve is to leave again with one addi­tional trav­eler.

hl2Within those limi­ta­tions it’s not a bad episode exactly. It’s well acted. The story, small as it is, is effec­tively told. There’s a suit­ably dislike­able villain and the histor­i­cal back­ground seems reason­ably accu­rate. It’s just hard to care very much about it all.

There is, however, a notice­able differ­ence here in the way Patrick Troughton’s Doctor behaves when compared to William Hart­nell. Here is his delib­er­ately, almost wilfully, antag­o­nis­tic. There are also some weird moments of slap­stick comedy like the sequence of him dress­ing up as an old woman. I guess we’re at the stage here when the writ­ers were trying to figure out exactly where to go with their new lead­ing man.

All in all it’s a pretty miss­able affair. If the video still existed there might be more reason to watch it. But as it is, it’s really just a histor­i­cal arti­fact for Doctor Who completists.

About Eoghann Irving

Overly opinionated owner and author of eoghann.com. You can get updated on his posts directly on the blog here or through the usual social networking suspects. What? You expected me to say something interesting here? That's what the blog posts are for. Eoghann has often wondered if people read these little bio things we have to fill out everywhere on the internet and, assuming they do, why?