Chapter 90. Doctor Who – The Highlanders (1984)

Synopsis: In the aftermath of the battle of Culloden in 1745, a group of Jacobite rebels try to evade capture by the English army. The Doctor, Ben and Polly help a wounded laird but are then captured by an incompetent English officer. The Doctor adopts a fun disguise as Polly uses guile to free her new friends and escape. One young Scot in particular impresses the time-travelling trio – a piper by the name of Jamie McCrimmon.

Chapter Titles

  • 1. Where are We?
  • 2. The Cottage
  • 3. The Captives
  • 4. The Handsome Lieutenant
  • 5. Polly and Kirsty
  • 6. Polly’s Prisoner
  • 7. The Water Dungeon
  • 8. Blackmail!
  • 9. The Doctor’s New Clothes
  • 10. Aboard the Annabelle
  • 11. At the Sea Eagle
  • 12. The Little Auld Lady
  • 13. A Ducking for Ben
  • 14. Where is the Prince?
  • 15. The Fight for the Brig
  • 16. Algernon Again
  • 17. A Return to the Cottage

Background: Gerry Davis adapts the scripts he co-wrote with Elwyn Jones for the 1967 serial.

Notes: The bonhomie of TV’s Ben and Polly is replaced by something closer to the bickering of 1980s companions; Ben insists on calling Polly ‘Princess’ (not ‘Duchess’) and thinks she is ‘uppity and toffee-nosed’. He also thinks the sounds of battle drifting over the moor are just celebrations from ‘the Spurs Supporters Club’ (ahem, a reference to the er, London-based football team Tottenham Hotspurs) or a historical society. Polly resents Ben’s ‘big brother’ protectiveness, especially as she is ‘about a head taller than he was’; later, it’s confirmed she’s an ‘independent girl from the sixties’ – so her ‘seventies’ origins have been properly reset from previous Gerry Davis novels. The Doctor admits to Polly that the discovery of a cannon ball makes him afraid. There’s a dump of history at the start too, as we’re told of the battle for the British monarchy between the Scottish Stuarts and the ‘Hanoverian German Georges’. The Scots had been booted out 40 years ago and we join the story in the aftermath of the battle of Culloden Moor. As this wasn’t taught in English schools in my day, this is especially welcome and helpful.

As the Doctor inspects a tam-o’-shanter, we’re told it’s a ‘standing joke in the TARDIS that he could never resist trying on any new hat he came across’; as this is the first TV story where his hat fetish became a regular thing, this suggests the trio have had a fair few offscreen adventures since the Doctor’s regeneration. He adopts the pseudonym ‘Doctor von Verner’ (not the more obvious meta-joke ‘von Wer’ on telly). Algernon Ffinch stammers ‘in a way approved by the London dandies of the time’, which could mean it’s an affectation for fashionable purposes. The Sergeant’s name is spelled ‘Klegg’, not ‘Clegg’. While in the prison, Jamie plays a mournful tune on his bagpipes before the Doctor creates a disruption in the gaol by playing the Jacobite ‘Lillibulero’ on his recorder. The name of the pub where Solicitor Grey has installed himself is called the Sea Eagle Inn. As Jamie boots Trask overboard during the final battle, Ben tries to regain some composure as he claims he was about to use karate to save himself. There’s a more pressing reason for Jamie to join the travellers; having escorted them to the TARDIS, Jamie boasts that he’ll be fine on his own as they hear the sound of muskets being fired nearby. We then join Jamie as he sees the inside of the TARDIS for the first time (see below).

Cover: A smashing portrait by Nick Spender of Jamie, accompanied by Alexander, a Saltire flag and the TARDIS. Unusually for this period, there are likenesses of recognisable actors here!

Final Analysis: Gerry Davis returns to adapt a script that he originally oversaw to production. It was the last of the pure historicals on TV, yet it’s the second one we’ve had in novel form in the space of a year. The Highlanders is often overlooked in favour of the more monster-focused stories of the era and, perhaps it won’t come as a surprise to learn that this is the first time I’ve read this particular book. Davis keeps things light, even with the threat of violence and a very sudden death early on. The stakes are high, but so’s the sense of adventure and Polly in particular has a rare old time running rings around every man she encounters. Effectively, she gets her own companion in the form of Kirsty and it’s easy to forget that this is the debut of Jamie, even though his future role as a companion isn’t foreshadowed at all, he’s just one of a number of likeable characters that we meet. Poor Ben’s experience in Scotland isn’t quite so thrilling. Despite having spent very little time with Jamie, Polly takes an immediate shine to him and the final scene sees him adopted as a fully-fledged TARDIS member at last:

As he hesitated, Polly turned back and grasped his hand. ‘Don’t be afraid,’ she said, ‘it’s much nicer inside than it is out. There’s so many wonderful surprises waiting for you, you’ll see.’

Jamie allowed himself to be drawn through into the small police box. The door closed behind him and he saw to his astonishment the large, hexagonal, brightly-lighted interior of the time-machine.

One thought on “Chapter 90. Doctor Who – The Highlanders (1984)

  1. I know we can listen to this as the audio recordings exist, but to me, THIS is the definitive version of the story. Until an animated, or wishfully thinking, the episodes turn up, this is a rollicking adventure and our beloved Jamie’s first yarn.
    It’s a well written entertaining, just what this story needs.

    Liked by 1 person

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