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Recap / Doctor Who S4 E4 "The Highlanders"

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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 one where the Doctor pretends to be German.

The last "pure" historical story (aside from one two-episode oddity), in which the Doctor and friends are thrust into the midst of historical events without any additional sci-fi plot, and the only one to star the Second Doctor.

Written by Elwin Jones and Gerry Davis. This four-episode serial first aired from December 17, 1966 to January 7, 1967.

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.


  • Artistic Licence History: The McCrimmons were a real family of pipers, and they really were involved in the Battle of Culloden... on the Hanoverian side.
  • Ascended Extra: Jamie might be Doctor Who's most successful example. Frazer Hines even filmed a scene where he waved goodbye to the Doctor, Ben and Polly... but the producers liked his character so much they got him back to film another scene where he left with them, and he became the longest-running companion by episode count.
  • Big Bad: Solicitor Grey.
  • Blackmail: Polly maintains a degree of control over Lieutenant Ffinch by threatening to tell everyone how she and Kirsty tricked and robbed him.
  • Bowdlerize: All footage known to survive survives because the Australians thought it too violent for the time slot, and regulations required that the excised footage be kept for thirty years—within which time frame the search for missing content turned them up.
  • Brief Accent Imitation: The Doctor is cornered by a British redcoat and a Jacobite Highlander. He at first starts trying to defuse the situation in his English accent, realizes this means the Highlander will kill him, switches seamlessly to a Scottish accent, realizes this means the Redcoat will kill him, and then decides upon a German accent and the fake name "Doktor von Wer"note , which he keeps for most of the rest of the story. Both his onlookers are convinced, even though they'd heard him babbling in both other accents earlier in the scene.
  • Call-Back: Polly is pleased that she does not have to dress up in boys' clothes, as she had to in one of her last adventures 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 Licence or (very) subtle commentary on how civil war divides families? You decide!
  • Harmless Lady Disguise: The Doctor disguises himself as harmless washer-woman with a gun concealed in her robes. (It's not like it was even loaded, though.)
  • Have a Gay Old Time: "Will you both give us your word you'll not molest us?"
  • 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.
  • Losing a Shoe in the Struggle: Polly is forced to choose between her shoes and being able to run away easily. So, off go the shoes.
  • Mean Boss: Trask constantly berates and threatens Perkins, Grey's clerk.
  • Novelization: Was novelized by the televised story's writer, Gerry Davis.
  • Out-of-Genre Experience: This is the only "pure historical" the Second Doctor ever did before the format was abolished, making it into a bit of a hangover from the Hartnell era. Considering how much his Doctor unbalances the story, it's easy to understand why.
  • Reliably Unreliable Guns: Ben casually throwing away a pistol when asked is the event that kicks off most of the plot , as 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 accentnote .
  • This Is My Name on Foreign: "Doktor von Wer".
  • Title Drop: Immediately after the Doctor introduces himself under his new alias, the sergeant responds, "Doctor Who?"
  • Truth in Television: The 'dunking' that Ben suffers at the end of Episode Three was a real practice.