The Cosmic Hobo

Thoughts & reviews about the science fiction series Doctor Who.

Serial Review: The Highlanders (Season 4)

“The Highlanders”
Written by Elwyn Jones & Gerry Davis
Directed by Hugh David
Featuring the Doctor, Ben, Polly, Jamie, and evil Brits

Rating: C

Being as big a fan as I am of Patrick Troughton as the Doctor, it is impossible to separate him from Frazer Hines as Jamie McCrimmon. As much as I loved “The Power of the Daleks,” it did feel like something was missing, and that something would be Jamie.

The Doctor, Ben, and Polly stumble upon early 18th century Scotland, where the titular highlanders are fighting against the English. Naturally, the Doctor is thrust into things rather quickly, with Ben and Polly being forced into the conflict by proxy. I like the idea of historicals, but my previous experience with them has been minimal. I really enjoyed “The Aztecs,” but aside from a couple Big Finish audios, I think that’s the only one I’ve actually experienced, unless something is escaping my mind.

My first impression of this story, unfortunately, was that the supporting cast isn’t nearly as good as in “The Power of the Daleks.” I had previously read the novelization (a year or so ago), and obviously the acting in my head is always flawless. That isn’t to say that they’re woeful, but I was really impressed by the cast of the previous story, and think this one is relatively standard in terms of acting quality. One thing I will say, though, is that I like the shots; although this is obviously a reconstruction, the few clips that exist show some good work and the set design is solid. The number of clips of existing footage is surprisingly high, which makes it easier to get a sense of the visuals of the story.

Although Jamie isn’t my favorite companion, I like him and am glad to have him around in this one. He really doesn’t have all that much to do, but it’s still good times. I also like that Polly gets separated from the rest early on, and gets a chance to go out and do her thing. As I mentioned in my review of the previous story, I dig her character, and I think she is particularly cool in this. I love her line to Kirstie (sp?): “Didn’t the women of your age do anything but cry?” She also gets cool points for taking charge when a British soldier falls into a trap– she holds him at knife point and essentially threatens to mess him up if he won’t help them in their cause. It’s a shame she only has one complete story left, but I guess it’s better to have been on Doctor Who and have no one able to see it than to never have been on Doctor Who at all.

Being that I am not German, I find it difficult to judge the quality of Patrick Troughton’s German accent, but I find him pretty amusing in this story. He shows his trademark brilliant use of guile in getting himself out of capture and behind enemy lines to do his grand tinkering. I love Troughton’s Doctor’s penchant for pretending to be less than he is to get his enemies to stop worrying about him. It’s nice to see this Doctor become who he is so early on in his run; it didn’t take him long to get a hang of it.

Unfortunately, the story itself has its issues. I really enjoyed the first half quite a bit, as much as I did “The Aztecs,” but it seriously loses steam in the second half. Part three is really boring, and doesn’t offer much at all to hold my interest. I like the Polly scenes a bit, but I think probably only because I just like the character. Part four is a slight improvement, but… eh.

So, adding up an above average first two episodes and a below average second two, it ends up being solidly average. It wouldn’t be particularly remarkable if it weren’t for the debut of Jamie, but it still has some merit. Not one I’ll re-visit any time soon, but I don’t feel like it was a wasted two hours, either.

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4 thoughts on “Serial Review: The Highlanders (Season 4)

  1. Not heard the recon, but I read and loved the novelisation as a child. I was very fond of redcoats.

    Reading it led me to persuade my parents to take me on holiday to Inverness and Culloden.

  2. For a Second Doctor story, it’s bit of a mess and Troughton is just totally off the walls. Despite a strong start with Power O’ the Daleks, they were still finding their feet post-Hartnell. It took until Moonbase for things to settle down.

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