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24 September 2014

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The Highlanders

Production Code: FF

First Transmitted

1 - 17/12/1966 17:50

2 - 24/12/1966 17:50

3 - 31/12/1966 17:50

4 - 07/01/1967 17:50


The time travellers arrive in Scotland in the aftermath of the battle of Culloden. The Doctor gains the trust of a small band of fleeing Highlanders by offering to tend their wounded Laird, Colin McLaren; but while Polly and the Laird's daughter, Kirsty, are away fetching water, he and the others are all captured by Redcoat troops under the command of Lieutenant Algernon ffinch.

Grey, a crooked solicitor who sells prisoners for transportation to slavery in the West Indies, then secures the group into his custody. Polly and Kirsty blackmail ffinch into helping, and the Doctor eventually wins the day by smuggling arms to the Highlanders, who are being held on board a stolen ship, the Annabelle.

Grey and the ship's unscrupulous captain, Trask, are overpowered and the vessel returned to its rightful owner, MacKay, who agrees to take the Scots to safety in France.

The Doctor, Polly and Ben return to the TARDIS, where they are joined on their travels by the young piper Jamie McCrimmon.

Episode Endings

Leaving Kirsty hiding in a cave, Polly heads off to try to rescue her friends. Unable to see in the dark, she falls into a covered pit. She tries to climb out, but a hand clutching a knife reaches down to her. Polly screams.

Jamie, Ben and the Highlander prisoners are being taken out to the Annabelle in a rowing boat by Trask. Trask warns them that the only way off the ship is straight down to the bottom of the sea - a point graphically illustrated as a prisoner is pushed over the side and bubbles are seen rising from the depths.

Ben has been captured and tied up for daring to cross Grey. Sentenced to be dropped from the yard arm, he is lifted from the deck and swung out over the side of the Annabelle. He is dropped into the sea, hauled out, and then dropped again. Trask smiles as bubbles rise to the surface...

The Doctor, Ben and Polly enter the TARDIS, accompanied by Jamie. The TARDIS dematerialises.



The Magic Flute (the stuff that the Doctor spouts as Von Wer is Mozart's masonic mysticism).

Peter Watkins' drama documentary Culloden and the legend of the McCrimmons. According to this Donald Ban McCrimmon, the last of the fabled McCrimmon pipers to the clan McLeod of Skye, followed his Laird onto the English side. Captured by loyal Scots, all the pipers went on strike until he was released. A few days later he was shot dead. Although this may be a fable invented by mad Angus McKay, Queen Victoria's first piper, The Highlanders clearly indicates the McCrimmons' continued survival.

Dialogue Triumphs

The Doctor : "Down with King George!"

Jamie : "So you are for the Prince after all."

The Doctor : "No, I just like hearing the echo!"

"I've never seen a silent lawyer before."

Double Entendre

"Will you both give us your word that you'll not molest us?"

"Take a man round the rear, sergeant"

The Doctor : "There is no plot," [the Doctor carefully assures Grey]


The Doctor carries a magnifying glass and a conker. He threatens people with an unloaded pistol throughout, despite professing a lack of ability with it. Jamie can't swim, and is the son of Donald McCrimmon, who, like his father, was also a piper.

We hear his battle cry of 'Craeg An Tuire' for the first time. He boards the TARDIS on condition that he teaches the Doctor how to play the bagpipes.


The Doctor's Name


Culloden, 1746.


Well known actors Hannah Gordon and Donald Bisset star as Kirsty and the Laird.

The Doctor appears in an array of disguises: a German doctor, an aged washer-woman and a Redcoat.


It was decided to keep Jamie on as a companion due to positive audience reaction. (Gerry Davis and Innes Lloyd were initially uncertain how Jamie would work as an ongoing character and so Frazer Hines' initial contract for the part allowed provision for three further options to be taken up on a further three four-part stories.

Hines' contract was signed on 2 November 1966 and location filming for The Highlanders took place from 14 November. On 21 November an extra piece of location filming was scheduled, believed to be a revised final scene in which Jamie enters the TARDIS - Hines' performance during the location filming having convinced Lloyd and Davis that the character had the potential to become a regular. Location filming for The Underwater Menace, which also featured Jamie, took place on 13 December, three days before the first episode of The Highlanders was transmitted.)


Ffinch threatens his men with 300 lashes apiece (In the book, Davis alters it to a less terminal six.)

The Jacobite rebellion is erroneously presented as an Anglo-Scottish conflict, rather than the attempt to restore the Stuart dynasty as it actually was.

Fashion Victim

The Doctor wears his 16th century hat, 4 various disguises and drag.

Cast & Crew


The Doctor - Patrick Troughton

Ben Jackson - Michael Craze

Jamie - Frazer Hines

Polly - Anneke Wills

Alexander - William Dysart

Colonel Attwood - Guy Middleton

Kirsty - Hannah Gordon

Lt. Algernon Ffinch - Michael Elwyn

Mollie - Barbara Bruce

Perkins - Sydney Arnold

Sailor - Peter Diamond

Sentry - Tom Bowman

Sergeant - Peter Welch

Solicitor Grey - David Garth

The Laird - Donald Bisset

Trask - Dallas Cavell

Willie Mackay - Andrew Downie


Director - Hugh David

Assistant Floor Manager - Nicholas John

Costumes - Sandra Reid

Designer - Geoffrey Kirkland

Fight Arranger - Peter Diamond

Film Cameraman - Unknown

Film Editor - Unknown

Incidental Music - Stock

Make-Up - GIllian James

Producer - Innes Lloyd

Production Assistant - Fiona Cumming

Special Sounds - Brian Hodgson

Story Editor - Gerry Davis

Studio Lighting - George Summers

Studio Lighting - Ken McGregor

Studio Sound - Larry Goodson

Title Music - Ron Grainer and the BBC Radiophonic Workshop, arranged by Delia Derbyshire

Writer - Elwyn Jones Although commissioned to write this story, Elwyn Jones in fact carried out no work on it. The scripts were written by story editor Gerry Davis, by virtue of which he was given a co-writer's credit on the transmitted episodes.

Writer - Gerry Davis

Bottom Line - from The Discontinuity Guide

'Use a light fist, or you'll answer to me.' Troughton Chaplins his way through disguises and comic voices, as a German doctor, an old Scottish lady, and a Redcoat Trask, master of the slave ship, is wonderfully OTT: 'Silence, ye scurvy dogs!' It is fitting that the most anarchist Doctor should be accompanied by a master of the Piobaireachd, the banned music of rebellion.

Analysis - from Doctor Who, the Television Companion

Like the previous season's The Gunfighters, The Highlanders is a curious mixture of the dramatic and the comedic. It is also the second - and last - of the historical stories conforming to Gerry Davis's idea of drawing inspiration from popular areas of 'romantic' fiction, the main source on this occasion being Robert Louis Stevenson's Kidnapped (although John Prebble's Culloden may also have been influential).

It is arguably Polly and Ben who are the focal characters of the story, as the Doctor plays little part in the main action. Polly strikes out on her own, joins forces with Kirsty and manages to embarrass Lieutenant ffinch into helping them to achieve their objectives. Ben is similarly active, finding himself kidnapped and taken on board a slave ship, escaping by the use of one of Harry Houdini's tricks and managing to swim ashore. While all this is going on, the Doctor is simply messing about, confusing everyone he meets with an array of accents and disguises. This makes for some highly amusing scenes; in particular the one where he so befuddles Solicitor Grey's servant, Perkins, that the man ends up having a nap on the table while Grey himself is trussed up and bundled into a cupboard behind him!

This new image of the Doctor as a clown has its fullest expression here. Almost every scene featuring the Doctor has him either speaking in a false accent or pretending to be someone else. This is taken to ridiculous extremes when Ben, having escaped from the Annabelle, hauls himself up onto the quayside only to be confronted by a patrolling Redcoat. 'Oh no!' thinks the viewer - but it is only the Doctor in yet another disguise. This new characterisation does have its merits, however. Here is a Doctor who can bemuse and confuse with words; who can use sleight of hand to procure items that he may need; and who, if all else fails, can turn on the charm and have people eating out of his hand. 'Troughton masterfully balances his role as a broody, bustling, bumbling, often absent-minded old "granny" with that of a knife-sharp, energetic, brilliant schemer,' enthused Tim Robins in Doctor Who - An Adventure in Space and Time in 1983.

The story also boasts a fine collection of guest characters. Dallas Cavell's Captain Trask is an archetypal sea-dog in the mould of the classic Long John Silver - all he needs are the wooden leg and the parrot for the image to be complete. Cavell's delivery of his dialogue, with suitable 'ah harrrr's' and 'me hearties', is totally over the top and provides a balance to David Garth's polite, gentlemanly Solicitor Grey - a performance seemingly modelled on Grytpype-Thynne from BBC radio's comedy classic The Goon Show. Grey of course has his own foil, the perpetually put-upon Perkins, who takes the brunt of his master's ire and wit.

As in the case of the some of the earlier historicals, the accuracy of the events depicted in The Highlanders has been called into question. The following letter from T S Cunningham of London E17 appeared in the 12 January 1967 edition of Radio Times:

'In the recent adventure of Doctor Who the Jacobite Rebellion of 1745 was once again represented as an Anglo-Scottish conflict.

'The '45 was in fact an attempt to restore the Stuart dynasty to the throne of the United Kingdom of Great Britain, and although the supporters of Prince Charles Edward were mainly from Scotland that country as a whole did not favour the Jacobite cause.

'At Culloden something like a quarter of the Duke of Cumberland's army consisted of Scottish regiments.'

The Highlanders was never intended to be a documentary, however, and by this stage of its history the series was not even expected to be fulfilling the partly educational aspect of its initial remit. Thus it was that Innes Lloyd was able to phase out the historical stories altogether. The serial certainly does seem curiously out of place in the new, more dynamic style of series initiated by Lloyd and Davis. In fact, in some ways, it does not really seem like a Doctor Who story at all, being devoid of many of what would come to be accepted as the series' standard ingredients.

Aside from its status as the last of the true historicals (at least until Black Orchid in the nineteenth season), The Highlanders will always be remembered for one other thing: the introduction of Frazer Hines as Jamie, who would go on to become one of the most popular and enduring of the Doctor's companions - a testament to the production team's shrewdness in quickly recognising the potential of the character and deciding to keep him on.

< The Power of the DaleksSecond DoctorThe Underwater Menace >

This episode guide is made up of the text of The Discontinuity Guide by Paul Cornell, Martin Day and Keith Topping, and Doctor Who: The Television Companion by David J. Howe and Stephen James Walker.

The Discontinuity Guide © Paul Cornell, Martin Day and Keith Topping 1995.
Doctor Who: The Television Companion © David J Howe and Stephen James Walker 1998, 2003.

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