Tuesday 12 April 2011

141 The Highlanders: Part One

EPISODE: The Highlanders: Part One
TRANSMITTED: 17 December 1966
WRITER: Elwyn Jones & Gerry Davis
DIRECTOR: Hugh David
PRODUCER: Innes Lloyd
FORMAT: CD: Doctor Who: The Highlanders
TELESNAPS: The Highlanders: Part One

Culloden, 16 April 1746. The injured Colin MacLaren, Laird of the clean MacLaren flees the lost battle with his son Alexander, daughter Kirsty and their piper Jamie McCrimmon. The newly arrived time travellers stumble upon them hiding in a cottage. While Kirsty & Polly seek water for Colin's wounds,Ben accidentally discharges a musket alerting the attention of nearby English redcoats under the command of Lieutenant Algernon ffinch. Alexander is killed defending the cottage and the others are captured despite the Doctor posing as the German Doctor von Wer. The Redcoat sergeant is ready to hang them, but they are approached by Solicitor Grey, Royal Commissioner of Prisons, and his clerk Perkins who bride the soldiers into releasing them to him. He sends the prisoners off to Inverness, where they will be put on a slave ship to the West Indies. Grey takes the Doctor with him, after the Doctor quotes a point of law to save him from the gallows. Kirsty & Polly hide in a cave and consider what to do. Polly wants to sell Kirsty's ring for money but Kirsty won't let her: her father entrusted it to her. Polly, frustrated, goes off by herself and falls into an animal trap which is then approached by someone holding a dagger.

This is my third encounter with the Highlanders and it's failed to grip me yet again. Sorry. I don't hold out much hope for the next four days.

The main historical event in this episode is over and done with before we even arrive: The Battle of Culloden effectively marking the end of the Jacobite uprising. Elwynn Jones and Gerry Davis use the battle as the starting point for the story rather than the culmination.

And a HUGE cheer please for Frazer Hines, making his debut here as Jamie McCrimmon. An actor since childhood he was initially contracted for four weeks work on this serial. However the powers that be liked what they saw and asked him to join the show as a companion, necessitating, as we'll see later, some adaptations to scripts already in progress. Jamie appears in ALL the remaining Troughton stories. That's 110 episodes between his first and last appearances making him by some distance the companion to have been in the most episodes of Doctor Who. He then reprises the role many years later in the Five Doctors and Two Doctors! The runners up are Ian & Barbara and Jo Grant were in 77 while Sarah Jane Smith was in 76 (who's also in the Five Doctors).

William Dysart, who briefly appears as Alexander in this episode, returns in the early Pertwee story Ambassadors of Death.

Although this story is completely missing from the BBC archives a small number of censor clips exist of violent moments from this episode. There's also an off cut of film, from before the Tardis materialises, showing production assistant and future director Fiona Cumming calling action.

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