DOCTOR WHO Pure Historicals - THE HIGHLANDERS

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Christopher Morley travels north of the border to discover the recently regenerated Doctor and another pure historical adventure, as he looks back at The Highlanders.


We come now to what is possibly Alex Salmond's favourite Who story ever - The Highlanders. Look past the fact that it appears to have been made to order for an audience of Scots nationalists though & you just might find yourself enjoying it whether or not you come from north of the border. Squeeze into a kilt & don a Tam O' Shanter before pouring yourself a Bells, Famous Grouse, or if you're feeling cheap & cheerful a Tennants or Irn-Bru will do the job nicely, lads & lassies...

It's been a strange time for the Doctor lately! Newly regenerated & having just about come through yet another set-to with the Daleks (The Power Of The Daleks), he & his inherited companions Ben & Polly (who'd traveled with him in his First incarnation & indeed witnessed his 'renewal' for themselves) now find themselves in Scotland. But before the Doctor can enquire about getting himself & his friends a few plum tickets for the Edinburgh Festival, it quickly emerges that they're a little too early - they've materialised in the 17th century!

Which means only one thing if you know your history (and indeed the 'pure historical' format, which has of course been a mainstay since Marco Polo). Time for a good old battle! The Battle of Culloden, to be precise - for those who didn't pay attention in school, the basic thrust of the conflict is as follows.


It's 1746, marking the final phase of what was known as the Jacobite Rising - Bonnie Prince Charlie & his supporters (the Jacobites) doing their damndest to put the rule of the United Kingdom back into the hands of the Stuarts, opposed by what's left of the British Army or 'Redcoats' (a large contingent of which is already engaged in the War of the Austrian Succession), who rather like the job the Hanoverian dynasty have been doing since they came over from Germany in 1714 & so are doing their duty for King, in this case George II, & country- ultimately winning & forcing the Prince into exile in France.

By the time the TARDIS arrives it appears the whole thing's nearly over. The Jocks are running away, & the Doctor & company quickly come across the proud Clan McLaren, led by its Laird, Colin. Stepping from 'Sexy' into the heat of battle & quickly forced to dodge a cannonball with their names on it if they're not careful, Ben decides he wants to have a look around despite the massive hints that it's not necessarily a brilliant idea to do so, & with that his good lady & the one-off Time Laird follow him into the thick of it.

In the course of their poking around, the resident of Auld Gallyfrae (as his home planet is most likely rendered in the Scots dialect) finds himself a lovely new & entirely appropriate piece of headgear - a Tam O'Shanter! If nothing else a space can be found for it in the wardrobe alongside the stovepipe hat (The Power Of The Daleks) surely?

'Finally, something tae, I mean to, help me blend in..' he most likely thinks to himself. Making the decision that he might as well try it on & initially throwing it away, he's forced to change his mind when he notices he's a tad surrounded. 


Some Jacobites have been hiding in a nearby cottage - and one of them (Alexander, the Laird's son) forces him to bring the headpiece & indeed his companions with him to their hiding place. You'd be forgiven for wondering who the hat's original owner is - none other than the Prince himself.

Given the tone of things so far you might expect the Scots separatists to be a lot nicer than their Redcoat foes. And you'd be wrong. They're about to give the Doctor & his associates something a lot nastier than a mere Glasgow kiss until Kirsty, the injured Laird's lovely daughter, begs that the aforementioned Time Laird be allowed to treat her beloved pops.

Well, he's a Doctor isn't he? In what's probably the earliest recorded example of free healthcare for haggis-lovers, he agrees, with the entirely reasonable caveat that nobody's allowed to harm him or his friends, Ben not entirely helpfully reinforcing the point by waving a gun in their faces. 

Eventually he puts it down, but unfortunately it goes 'bang', alerting a few of those nasty Englishmen to their whereabouts. The wily Redcoats surround the hidey-hole, & in the process of trying to throw them off the scent Alexander is shot doon, or 'down' if you prefer.


Lieutenant Ffinch, a nasty piece of work with a silly posh name (perfect for the military given the period, you might reasonably argue) who happens to be the leader of this particular red-coated regiment, quickly proves just how worthy of boos he is. Unconvinced by Ben's hammy argument that the time travellers are prisoners of war, he deems them rebels & orders them to be hanged with the rest of the Caledonian culprits. Meanwhile, for some reason the Doctor's pretending to be German...

A solicitor, Grey, & his clerk Perkins - another pair of shady toffs - are watching all this unfold with interest. They want to get their greedy mitts on the prisoners to sell into a life of slavery in the West Indies, made easier by Grey's role as His Majesty's Commissioner of Prisons, & quickly hatch a plan to put their dastardly profit-making scheme into action. 

It's easier than even they might have thought, a simple bribe to the sergeant who's currently engaged in the business of trying to hang all & sundry getting them a step closer to berths on a boat to warmer climes for all the wrong reasons.


It's only the chaps who'll be getting that 'pleasure' though, Kirsty & Polly having escaped in the process of going to fetch water to help the Doctor treat Clan McLaren's leader. Incidentally the man from Gallyfrae's going as well, having managed to convince them that he's the Laird's personal physician. 

Looks like a jailbreak's on the cards once they reach Inverness! And he'll deliver on the promise to free every last man in spectacular fashion - convincing their captors to release him, once again in the guise of 'Doktor Von Wer' (German, meaning ' Doctor of Who'), by means of imparting news of an entirely fake plot to assassinate the Duke of Cumberland.

Double-crossing Grey, with the aid of the Bonnie Prince's standard, using the flag to disarm & completely bamboozle the corrupt blaggard in a bid to help everyone escape an enforced new life in the sun, delivered there by a Captain Trask's ship, the Annabelle.


The captain quickly proves himself at least as rotten as Ffinch with a decree that the only way the prisoners will get off his boat is by drowning. Boo, hiss. And he's not even the real captain - that honour goes to Mackay, who knows the Laird & was himself betrayed by Trask.

If that's not bad enough they're quickly informed by Ffinch that they've got three choices, all of which aren't all that appealing. Betray their comrades by turning King's evidence (basically a snitch), be hanged, or sign up for a seven-year stretch on the plantations. Only Ben, McLaren, the laird's young piper Jamie McCrimmon & Mackay have the good sense not to put pen to paper.

Meanwhile, the Doctor's chosen to dabble in drag, disguising himself as an old woman & taking a long time over going to Polly & Kirsty's aid against Grey. Ms Wright comes up with a genius plan- using some money they've pinched earlier, they'll purchase weapons from the Redcoats & smuggle them to the prisoners aboard the ship. 


It doesn't go very well, the Doctor only managing a wheelbarrow's worth of swords, muskets & the like, but the greed of a certain captain may well help them out rather a lot later on..

Kirsty's been wearing the Prince's ring on her finger the whole time, having been entrusted with it by her father, and agrees to part with it for the greater good. Pulling off the mother of all bluffs by hoodwinking Grey that Jamie is actually the Prince - they've had Charlie in the hold the whole time! 

Of course, they haven't really, but these Redcoats are a right bunch of idiots. Going to inspect their illustrious charge, they're ambushed by the Jacobites..serves them right. At this point Mr Salmond is probably crying tears of pure joy. 

And well he should be, the baddies are defeated, and he's every right to petition for a statue of the Second in full Caledonian regalia to be placed outside Holyrood, immortalised as a true hero just like Rabbie Burns & William Wallace.


Mackay resumes command of the Annabelle, telling his new crew to be ready for a quick departure en Francais to join their leader, Grey's afforded the sort of treatment he once meted out & the TARDIS crew make arrangements to get past the Redcoats & resume their travels through time & space - with a new face in tow. 

Jamie wants to come, a request to which the Doctor readily agrees in exchange for some bagpipe lessons. Onwards, upwards & to The Underwater Menace it is, then - though he'll be back on Scottish soil two incarnations later for a meeting with 'Nessie' & some Zygons (Terror Of The Zygons). The 'pure historical' will have to wait a little longer to return though - by then the Time Lord will have developed a fondness for cricket (Black Orchid) Howzat!

Previous Pure Historicals

The Reign Of Terror 
The Romans


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