The latest in the series of "lost" television soundtracks to be released on CD based on Sixties episodes now junked, "The Highlanders" is the last truly historical story in the show's long and distinguished career. Charting the conflict between the Scots and the English - always a popular theme - this adventure compensates for allegedly historic inaccuracies with a tale of derring-do and highland flingery the likes of which it rarely did before in its' previous histories. The Doctor and his crew take sides with the oppressed Scottish clan McLaren, and become quickly embroiled in the dastardly attempts by Solicitor Grey and his posse to ship captured Highland prisoners off to plantations in the West Indies. A ring from, we are told, Bonnie Prince Charlie helps turn the affair around, and following a classic swordfight on board deck, Solicitor Grey is brought to face his own personal justice when he is arrested by the bashful Lt Algernon-Ffinch. This story, for me, works well as pure and simple entertainment. The scene moves from Highland Moor to a tavern called The Sea Eagle, from an animal pit on land to a prison onboard The Annabelle, all accomplished with speed and style. There are some memorable performances too. Hannah Gordon relishes her part as Kirsty Mclaren the Laird's daughter, whilst David Garth conveys all the crispness of a slimy Solicitor Grey. Yet it is the regulars who steal the show. Anneke Wills and Michael Craze have more than enough scope to allow them to shine, whereas Fraser Hines - who provides a top quality narrative in between the dialogue - makes a Stirling(!) debut as the ever-popular Piper of the Glen, Jamie McCrimmon. But this is Patrick Troughton's moment, as he wonderfully lays on his immeasurable acting talents with disguised voices ranging from old Granny to a clipped German doctor. This is one reason where the audio format excels itself. The sense of being there in sound is further noted in the creaking effects on board the ship, and the noise created within the tavern. Add to that the sound of battle and a bagpipe introduction to each episode and you have an audio CD adventure which cries out to be in your collection. As the saying goes, flings ain't what they used to be!
The BBC destroyed many of the early Doctor Who episodes. Luckily, fans of the series recorded audio versions of these now destroyed episodes, and now they are being published for fans. 'The Highlanders' is one of these stories. The audio recording is excellent, bringing out nearly every necessary sound. The sound and dialouge is easy to understand. Frazer Hines (Jamie in the recording) contributes descriptions of the action when needed, and he provides it with appropriate emotion and spirit. (Not like Peter Purves's impersonal narration in 'The Massacre'.) Hines is not at all obtrusive in the supplementing the tale. As for the story itself, 'The Highlanders' is a great story with action and comedy. The Doctor has many great comedic scenes, and Polly, who usually only supplies the men with coffee in other stories, gets to take a more active and assertive role in rescuing her friends. It is a pity though that the BBC did not include pictures (which are available) for the listener to have images of the original TV programme. However, 'The Highlanders' is a welcome new addition for any Doctor Who fan.
The BBC, in the days before home video, decided that some of its programs were no longer required in its archives. In a somewhat unsystematic purging, many classics were consigned to the flames, including several Doctor Who stories. Fortunately, some fans of the series had made their own audio recordings, and these (following a thorough re-mastering by the BBC) are being released. "The Highlanders" is one of these releases. The story occurs at a crucial point in the show's history. The role of the Doctor has changed hands to Patrick Troughton, and this is his second story. In the first story, Troughton had the support of the Daleks as his opponents. This story is also Doctor Who's last regular historical, which were proving less popular than the pure science fiction ones (at least with the production team!), and introduced Jamie who became a regular companion. In short, the show was in transition. "The Highlanders" is a good story. The four regulars (The Doctor, Jamie, Ben and Polly) all have strong roles, with the Doctor taking a slightly back-seat role which is consistent with his general portrayal. While the setting of the story (the aftermath of the Battle of Culloden) is a pretty grim one, the story manages some humorous moments such as the Doctor's penchant for disguises and accents. These are temporary features which would probably have worn very thin if they had been retained as regular parts of the Doctor's character. Linking narration is by Frazer Hines, who portrayed Jamie, and of course helps to fill in the details that the original television show would have displayed. It is a very good choice for audio release, and should suit both fans and casual listeners.
What a Fabulous story this audio adventure is ! A real masterpiece of characterisation and subtle humour. It goes a long way to establishing Patrick Troughton as the new Doctor and has subtle neuances that few of the later stories possess. The characterisation of the Doctor here is brilliant and the accents Patrick Troughton is convincingly able to portray add several dimensions to the listening experience and add much to the enjoyment of the story. Also the early soft humour that Patrick Troughton was trying to inject come to the fore - dressing up as an old washer woman so as to go unmolested is sheer brilliance ! The character of Jamie here shows why he was hastily added by the producer to the travelling team - he has a strong three dimensional depth that sadly takes time to re-emmerge in his future stories. All in all a strong story that never dips and never wavers - a true masteriece The only thing wrong is we can no longer watch the story ! Buy it - for the Doctors german accent alone - you won't be sorry !
Such a pity the beeb lost all these stories. However this sounds great and is an absorbing story. It's a bit naughty of the beeb to claim these recordings as their own, as we all know the only reason we can enjoy this story and others is because of fans who recorded the stories in the sixties. Thank god for the fans of doctor who.
Gerry Davis' "The Highlanders" gets a bad rap from fans who find it dull; and, indeed, it isn't exactly the fastest-moving "Doctor Who" adventure ever made - historicals seldom were. It is, however, very important in the history of "Doctor Who" for a number of reasons: it was the last of the original 1960s run of pure historical stories; it was Patrick Troughton's only pure historical story; and, lest we forget, it also introduced Frazer Hines' popular companion Jamie McCrimmon.
Personally, I've never been entirely convinced by Jamie as a character. Hines, however, turns out to be a born narrator, and his narration of the soundtrack of "The Highlanders" is among the best the BBC have done. Unlike some narrators, who can sound flat and bored, Hines puts energy into the narration and reads his lines with enthusiasm, helping the listener to feel engaged in the story's otherwise entirely visual moments, such as fight scenes.
"The Highlanders" on audio also benefits from having a small principal cast. Unlike some other stories, such as The Massacre and in particular The Smugglers, the listener is seldom confused as to who is who, which aids the enjoyment of the action greatly.
The story itself is an uncomplicated chain of events in the capture, escape, rescue vein, but we get to know a variety of supporting characters, including a likeable turn by Hannah Gordon as Kirsty McLaren and a ludicrously over the top but entertaining turn by Dallas Cavell as Captain Trask. Sydney Arnold entertains as the hapless Perkins. The star of the show, however, is Patrick Troughton, whose eccentric Doctor insinuates his way through the proceedings, duping and befuddling where necessary, in order to engineer the rescue of his friends.
A likeable conclusion to the historical set, which almost certainly benefits from an audio presentation as it allows the listeners to picture the locations and sets with greater authenticity than could have been afforded on a 1960s "Doctor Who" budget.