Recap / Doctor Who S4 E4 "The Highlanders"
The Doctor: Down with King George!
Jamie: So you are for the Prince after all.
The Doctor: No, I just like hearing the echo!

The last "pure" historical story for twenty years, in which Doctor and companions are thrust into the midst of historical events without any additional sci-fi plot.

Landing in Scotland in 1746, in the aftermath of the Battle of Culloden, the new Doctor, Polly and Ben encounter a small group of Highlanders escaping from the battle. While Polly is off fetching water, the others are captured by an English lieutenant, Algernon Ffinch. Ffinch's men pass them on to crooked solicitor Grey, who is selling captured Highland clansmen into slavery in the West Indies.

Polly manages to blackmail Ffinch into helping, and the Doctor manages to get arms to the imprisoned Highlanders on a ship awaiting transport. They take over the ship and sail to safety in France while the travellers leave, accompanied by a new companion, clan piper Jamie McCrimmon.


  • All There in the Manual: According to the novelisation, the inn is named The Sea Eagle and the sergeant is named Klegg.
  • Ascended Extra: Jamie.
  • Blackmail: Polly maintains a degree of control over Lieutenant Ffinch by threatening to tell everyone how she and Kirsty tricked and robbed him.
  • Call Back: Polly is pleased that she does not have to dress up in boys' clothes, as she had to in her last adventure in the past (The Smugglers).
  • Deliberate Values Dissonance: Kirsty shocks Polly by casually talking about cattle raiding.
  • Disguised in Drag: The Doctor goes through several disguises as he avoids the Redcoats, including dressing as an old washer-woman. Polly tells him that he makes a good granny.
  • Evil Lawyer Joke: While busy tying up the captured solicitor Grey, the Doctor stuffs a gag in his mouth and makes a classic lawyer joke.
    The Doctor: I've never seen a silent lawyer before!
  • Fate Worse Than Death: The captured Highlanders are offered a choice between turning King's evidence, the gallows, or signing contracts as indentured servants in the West Indies. MacKay tells them all that they'll never live long enough to serve out their seven years, and that a quick death by hanging is better than a slow one in the West Indian plantations under the overseers' whips.
  • Genius Bonus: invoked In episode two, Jamie is introduced as "son of Donald McCrimmon. A piper, like his father and his father's father." Donald Ban Maccrimmon was a real person, and piper for Clan Macleod during the Jacobite uprising. He was, however, a Hanoverian. Artistic License or (very) subtle commentary on how civil war divides families? You decide!
  • Hanover-Stuart Wars
  • Herr Doktor: The Doctor pretends to be a German doctor.
  • Historical-Domain Character: Mr Grey the solicitor, the only historical person to appear on-screen.
  • Mean Boss: Trask constantly berates and threatens Perkins, his clerk.
  • Missing Episode: invoked The only surviving footage comes from censor clips, and all of those come from the first episode.
  • La Résistance
  • Reliably Unreliable Guns: Ben's casually throwing away a pistol when asked is the event that kicks off most of the plot when it alerts the Redcoats to their location.
  • The Starscream: Trask, former first mate of the Annabel, who took over the ship by betraying former captain MacKay's gunrunning operations to the authorities. Happened offscreen before the story began. MacKay is imprisoned in the ship's hold with the captured Highlanders and relates the story to Ben and Jamie.
  • Talk Like a Pirate: Trask sports a classic pirate accent.
  • This Is My Name on Foreign/Title Drop: "Doktor von Wer"
  • Truth in Television: The 'dunking' that Ben suffers at the end of episode three was a real practice.