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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.

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