The Highlanders

doctor-who-big-finish-highlanders

Dr Who Highlanders Radio Times

Dohktur Hoo an’ The Highlanders? Oh aye laddie, ah remember it weel. It wiz the last o’ the historical stories in Dohktur Hoo fur ages, wisn’t it? Aye, it wis a sorta Rob Roy meets Kidnapped kind o’ thing. An’  it’s the first story fur Jamie McCrimmon anaw, that Frazer Hines. Did ye ken he’s no really a Jock at aw? Did he no end up on a ferrm in Yorkshire? Aye…

One of the problems with putting Scots on TV is that you really should use Scottish actors, as the accent is one of the easiest to do badly. Hines acquits himself well enough, though it’s interesting to hear here how much more authentic his highland accent is here, something that, like Jackie Lane’s “oop nurth” voice, wouldn’t last long. This is the last of the historicals – no, Black Orchid doesn’t count – and, like it’s predecessors, is a fairly light-hearted affair. After all, the emphasis is on entertainment, not education, and this isn’t a documentary but a drama – though Whoflix heartily recommends that you check out the famous 1964 Peter Watkins documentary over on YouTube if you want a serious look at the topic of Culloden.

There were two ways of doing a historical in Doctor Who back in the day. At the risk of going a bit Big Bang Theory, the first one we’ll call The Lucarotti Theorem.

doctor who discovers history john lucarotti

This covers just four stories – Marco Polo by John Lucarotti, The Aztecs, also by John Lucarotti, The Crusade by David Whitaker and The Massacre, started by John Lucarotti but completed by Donald Tosh. All of these serials are a serious treatment of their subject and conform to The Whitaker Doctrine. This states that the Doctor should not get involved in the events in which he finds himself and cannot change history. Which is all very well and good, but it doesn’t make for very dramatic storytelling, which is why, under this theory of How To Do Who, The Aztecs is the kind of story you can only really do once. After that it’s all time tourism, watching from the sidelines and hotfoooting it back to the TARDIS before it all gets too risky. Which is a bit yawnsville, if you ask me.

Of the four, Aztecs is my fave, the others I find take themselves just a bit too seriously, making them rather dull by comparison. And there isn’t a single moment of light relief in any of them, but that’s probably what comes of a post-Fifties approach to storytelling that gives equal weight to educating as well as entertaining. Patrician or patronising? Take your pick.

Whereas the other, arguably more successful approach, is The Spooner Approximation, which places the emphasis squarely on entertainment, with education in there somewhere so long as it doesn’t get in the way. And The Highlanders is yer typical Sir Walter Scott romanticised but totally inaccurate Victorian Version of what Scotland was really like, the last hurrah for the Spooner school of storytelling.

doctor who discovers history dennis spooner

The edit is the usual cut down affair, augmented by some nice tracks from the OST to Neil Oliver’s A History of Scotland documentary series from a few years back. Part one clocks in at just under thirteen minutes, the usual trim job with the first real cut being Polly & Kirsty falling down the hole. As ever, the key is to keep the focus of the edit on the Doctor and co, so we stick with them until the girls catch up with them again.

doctor-who-complete-history-34The highlight of part two is undoubtedly the Doctor bamboozling both Grey & Perkins in a scene that does nothing to advance the plot but is such fun that it would have been mean not to include it even if it didn’t get referenced later on. That sequence ends with track 22 of CD 1 and resumes with track 24, so since track 23 is Algernon in the hole, we substitute the bulk of track 12 – Kirsty & Polly at the cave – instead to keep things moving.

Once the prisoners are on the Annabel it’s full steam ahead for the finish, neatly bypassing the Doctor’s various oh-so-not-amusing disguises by keeping the edit’s focus onboard the ship, the fastest way to get to the end. And speaking of the end, that swordfight that closes part four goes on forbloodyever, so that gets cut more or less in half, timed to the music, och aye!

highlanders dwmHIGHLANDERS CD REAR

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