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

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