Tuesday 5 June 2012

The Highlanders

There are more valid facts and details in works of art than there are in history books.
- Charlie Chaplin

We’re missing Eurovision to do this.  And when I say ‘missing’, what I mean is…


Me:  Go on then.  Tell me a fact about The Highlanders.

Him:  I don’t know.

Me:  Well.  Can you think of anything special about it?

Him:  Umm….

Me:  Good stuff.  That means there’s still hope for you.

Him:  Do you mean the obvious?

Me:  Do I?

Him:  I don’t know.

Me:  Shall we see?

Him:  Yeah.

We do. 

Him:  Boogie.

Me:  ‘Boogie’?

Him:  Do you not remember that?  In that song?  K9’s Lament.

Me:  No idea.

Him:  By Chameleon Circuit.

Me:  Oh yeah.

The Loose Cannon logo appears and we’re then treated to the special introductory piece they’ve added.  The Him perks up further and goes a bit ‘Unexpected BBC Announcer’:

Him:  “In this episode, we’ll be meeting the first of the two companions who will totally forget their time with the Doctor.” 1

Me:  How about The Two Doctors?

Him:  But it’s still…  Completely pointless.

Me:  That’s something we’ll address when we get there.

We’re off properly.  More or less, there’s a lot of buffering, and the captions are difficult to read as a result.

Me:  I remember reading the Target novelisation of this one.  In the back of a Volvo.  Can’t remember what happens though.

We start on Culloden Moor.  It’s 1746 and History is taking place.  Proper History, with swords, rather than the dull stuff about who signed which letter and when.  Anyway…

There a fight taking place between Redcoats (who, to all intents and purposes will, mostly, be playing the villains) and Highlanders (not the villains – but there’ll be shades of Grey before we’re done).  Shots are fired.  A horse whinnies. 

We meet the McLarens.  There’s Colin (an injured Laird), Kirsty (an uninjured Laird’s daughter) and Alexander (John Cleese).  With them is a young lad by the name of Jamie.  More on him soon.

Two Redcoats appear.  There’s movement as Alexander runs one through and the other runs off.

Me:  That’s the censor footage.  Well, some of it.

To the ‘tune’ of bagpipes, the TARDIS lands.  Our heroes emerge.

Ben:  Where does this remind you of?

Polly:  It’s cold and damp.

Him:  “It’s Scotland.”

Ben’s convinced they’ve made it home.  A cannonball lands next to them, suggesting they might not have.  The Doctor appears above them.

The Doctor:  What are you doing down there?

Me:  The Doctor’s still sporting a fine hat.

Ben heads off in the direction of the battle-noises, to see if he can work out where they are.  The Doctor and Polly follow.

In a nearby cottage, the Laird’s not doing well.  On the plus side, we get our first decent glimpse at Jamie McCrimmon.  And John Cleese.

Iconic moment #141

Me:  Yay!  Jamie was one of my favourite companions when I was little. 

Him:  You weren’t around when this was on.

Me:  No, but I’d read some of the books and seen The Krotons and The Five Doctors and I knew he was in Emmerdale Farm – well, Frazer Hines was.  We had to watch Emmerdale Farm every other night or something, and knowing that Jamie was kind of in it went some way toward making it bearable.  That and the seagulls following the tractor for some reason.

Following this forced excursion down Memory Boulevard, the Him starts singing the Eastenders theme.

Jamie glances mournfully at his murdered pipes.  The Laird moans.  Exposition takes place.

Outside the cottage, Ben and Polly have found a cannon.  The titles are still a bit stuttery here, so it’s difficult to tell what’s going on.  The Doctor has sniffed out some headgear. 

Me:  Actually, that’s a hell of a hat.

The Doctor:  I would like a hat like this.

Me:  Oh, there you go.  Patrick Troughton was trying to work that in as a catchphrase.

Alexander and Jamie capture our chums, who are then taken to the cottage to see the Laird.

Me:  I think Jamie’s accent’s wandering a bit.

Him:  Must’ve caught it from Polly.

Me:  She’s the carrier after all.

Our heroes are accused of being English, and, following a bit of a quarrel, manage to turn the tables on the McLarens.  The Doctor then treats the Laird.  Kirsty and Polly are (sigh) sent off to fetch water.  Jamie and Alexander give their word they won’t molest our heroes.  And then something happens and there’s a gunshot.

Me:  Did Ben just shoot the Laird?

By this point, the juddering buffetting buffering is too much of a pain.  We find another one to watch instead.2

Redcoats, led by Lieutenant Algernon ffinch, hear the gunshot and advance on the cottage.  ffinch orders Sergeant Clegg to take some men around the back of the cottage.

ffinch:  Tell them to shoot first and take no risks.

Me:  Movement…

Alexander tries to draw the Redcoats away, but spends a bit too long shouting and gets shot.  The Redcoats storm the cottage.  Ben’s pleased to hear a London voice.  The Sergeant isn’t quite as delighted.

Sergeant:  Silence you rebel dog!

Him:  Ha!  “Weakling scum!”

The Doctor adopts a German accent.  Well, it’s worth a shot.

The Doctor:  Doctor Von Wer, at your zervice.

Sergeant:  Doctor who?

Me:  The oldest question!

Him:  “Doctor What and Doctor When.”

The Sergeant’s impatient to get on with hanging everyone. 

Elsewhere, Grey (a solicitor) and Perkins (a solicitor’s dogsbody) are having lunch.

Him:  He sure sounds perked up.

Me:  Aaarrgh.

Grey spits out his wine and moans that it’s corked.  Perkins misses the opportunity to rehash a Fawlty Towers sketch: “I just uncorked it!  You watched me do it!”

Me: Grey’s obviously a bad ‘un.  No shades here.3

Polly and Kirsty are returning with the water, when they notice something’s not right.

Polly:  Who are those men?

Me:  “And why are they hanging Ben and the Doctor?”

The ladies decide to create a diversion, and having more sense than Alexander opt to use stones rather than harsh language.

Me:  “Look, Sir - stones!”

ffinch:  Stab me.  There’s another one!

And the pursuit’s on.

Me:  Run, girls!

The Doctor, Ben and chums are under the hanging tree.  They’re standing on a wobbly bench. 

Me:  Movement…  It’s grim.

Sergeant:  Take the strain!  Stand by!

The action suddenly reaches an accidental cliffhanger as the video stops.

Him:  Choose 1.3!  Choose 1.3!

Me:  Oop – hang on…

I select 1.3.  We wait while it loads.  Drums start rolling…

Grey:  Halt!

And our heroes are saved – which is interesting, as the series nearly comes to an end here, seeing as the Doctor doesn’t seem to have anything approaching a plan for escape.

Grey instructs Perkins to keep giving the Sergeant coins until he recognises his authority.

The Doctor quotes the Law at Grey, and this saves him.  Well, saves him long enough to be dragged off to Inverness with the others.

Kirsty and Polly are hiding in a cave.

Us:  "Oooooo."

A fire is lit and Kirsty produces a Final Biscuit.  Polly’s not impressed by it.

Me:  Ah.  History.

Kirsty eats the Final Biscuit and starts to weep.  Polly tries coming up with a plan to raise money for guard bribing.  Kirsty’s a little rude about the length of Polly’s skirt.  Polly notices Kirsty’s gold ring.  Kirsty has no intention of selling it and this leads to an argument.

Polly:  Please yourself!  You’re just a stupid peasant!

Me:  Polly?!

Him:  “But before I go, shall I make you some tea?”

Polly runs off into the night.  She’s so startled by the hoot of an owl that she falls into a pit.

Above her, a hand and a dagger appear.  And then so do the credits.


Me:  So, we left Polly being menaced in a hole.

Him:  Uh-huh.

We recap, helped by bagpipes.


Although the Him’s exaggerating for comic effect, Polly’s been pretty consistent with her disdain for folk from the past.  It’s not really her fault, after all, humanity’s got a tendency to think that everything that came before now was just tedious mucking about, and now we have the best of everything.  Obviously, there’s a certain logic to this – especially in the privileged bits of the world, where people can spend valuable harvesting time writing thousands and thousands of words being rude about a children’s show that’s nearly fifty years old without worrying whether or not there’ll be enough food to keep the family alive come winter – but there’s also a very real danger of thinking of the people who lived before us as being stupid and unenlightened.  Terry Jones has written some great stuff about Chaucer that deals with this, but no matter how much this story wants me to do it, I’ll fight the Monty Python referencing running gag like it were a wolf!

That is to say: ineffectually and with a lot of screaming. 

Me:  I’m not entirely sure that Elwyn Jones actually wrote very much of this.

Him:  Why do you say that?

Me:  Read it in a book.

Both Polly and Kirsty are in the pit now.  ffinch and his men draw closer.

ffinch:  You wouldn’t frighten a one-armed dairy maid.

Me:  Ummm?  Is that a standard unit of measurement on the threatening behaviour scale?

Him:  I don’t know.

ffinch sends his men off to fetch his horse, after threatening them with three-hundred lashes apiece. 

Kirsty starts crying again, which gives Polly a plan.  From the pit rise unconvincing animal noises.

Me:  So, the plan’s to fill the pit with the population of Scotland until they can just clamber over the bodies and get out?

Frazer Hines:  Dazed by the fall, the unfortunate officer is set upon by Kirsty and Polly.

Me:  Frazer’s enjoying this.

Him:  My name’s not Frazer.

Me:  I didn’t mean you.

The action switches to a jail in Inverness.  The Doctor, Ben, Jamie and the Laird are in a rather damp oubliette.  The Doctor decides to check the reverb.

The Doctor:  Down with King George!

The Doctor uses cod Astrology to cover his modern medical treatment of the Laird.
"I zee ze Lobschter!  Und ze Great Schtar Goat ov Orion!  Zend more Leech Phyzischianz!"

Him:  “Germs.  From Germany.”

Me:  Very good.

The Doctor discovers that the Laird’s been guarding a flag belonging to Prince Charlie (Bonny!) and borrows it for safe-keeping.  The recorder is produced and seditious noises embarked upon.

Me:  That set’s pretty good.

The Doctor tries a double-bluff with the guard and as a result, gets removed from the dungeon and dragged off to see Grey.

Me:  He’s a very different Doctor.

Back in the pit, Polly and Kirsty are playing a dangerous mixture of Hide-and-Seek and Rob-the-Redcoat.  Polly obtains blackmail material from ffinch .

Me:  “Be seeing you.”

In an Inverness pub, a salty cove, Captain Trask, is in conflab with Grey.  The plan is to load prisoners onto Trask’s ship.  Grey takes exception to Trask’s rudeness to Perkins.

Grey:  I will not have my clerk bullied

Him:  “By anyone but me.”

After Trask is shuffled out, the Doctor is introduced to Grey.

Prison Guard:  Arrrrr…

Him:  Ha!  Wrong story.

The Doctor offers Grey the chance to obtain £15,000 and reveals the flag.  It’s still quite difficult to know whether or not we should be trusting him at this point.

Grey:  Which prisoner carried this standard?

The Doctor:  Zat muscht remain my zecret for ze time beink.

Him:  “Ooogly googly boo.”

The Doctor throws the flag over Grey and nabs his gun.

The Doctor:  Don’t cry out.  I’m not wery exschpert wiz zese zings und it juscht might go off in your face.

Me:  Ha!  I wonder if Wandering Accent Syndrome’s going to be a recurring theme of the Base Age…

Him:  Oh!  That’s right!  Because it’s always bases!

Me:  Yup.  And accents?

Him:  Accents…  denied.

Me:  Ha!

Him:  “Nuzzink in ze vorld can schtop me now!”

Me:  Textbook.

The Doctor ties Grey up, and in a wonderful moment that I shan’t spoil for you, silences him.

The Doctor:  I’ve never zeen a zilent lawyer before.

Him:  That’s a Dialogue Triumph

The Doctor pops Grey into a box and sits down.  Perkins comes in and the Doctor examines him.

The Doctor:  Great Heavenz, man! Your eyez!

Him:  “The Doctor positions Perkins in direct sunlight so the beam of light shoots through his eyes and into his brain.”

Me:  Oi!

Him:  “The first of many…”

Me:  Double oi!

It all goes a bit slapstick, but again, I won’t spoil it.

Me:  I like the way this is going…

Him:  I had a doctor like that once…

Meanwhile, back in the pit and ffinch has been recovered by his men.  He’s not delighted and threatens them with even more lashes.

Him:  Five hundred?

Me:  There’d be nothing left of them.

ffinch neglects to mention that the girls have robbed him.

Meanwhile, back in the Inverness cupboard.  Grey is freed by Trask.  And is very much less than happy.

Perkins:  ‘e ‘it me ‘ead.

A maid is called away from the scullery.  As she leaves, the Doctor emerges from where he’s been hiding.  There’s a lot of washing hanging up.

Me:  Can you see where this is going?

Him:  Monkery?

Me:  Close enough.

Jamie, Ben and the Laird are removed from the dungeon.  Trask leads them down the Inverness backstreets to the Sea Eagle.

Me:  “Where their Cyberconversion will commence.”

Jamie and Ben wonder where the Doctor is.

Trask:  Silence, you two!  Unless ye wants a taste o’ this.

Me:  “Haggis.”

Him:  Didn’t someone try to blow up a haggis?

Me:  I think the US Customs shot one to death once.

Our chums are manacled on a rowing boat.  The Doctor passes by, disguised as a washer woman.

Me:  Do you know who Troughton reminds me of there?

Him:  Who?

Me:  “And so am I.”

Him:  “And so is he.”

Me:  Yup.

The rowing boat draws near to Trask’s ship, the Annabelle.  As it draws closer, a gentleman who’s been trussed up is thrown overboard.  He sinks.  A warning to our friends of the fate that may well await them…

Me:  That’s a bit grim.

The credits hurple by, enhanced by the sound of the sea.

The Sea:  plosh plosh plosh


We recap.  Bagpipes are involved.

In the Annabelle’s hold we meet more of the Highlanders.  Jamie, Ben and the Laird get popped in.  Ben makes the mistake of asking someone (Willie Mackay) where they’re going, and gets historical backstory ladled on him.

Me:  Ah.  Politics.

Ben reveals he’s a sailor.  Trask betrayed Mackay, the original captain of the Annabelle, and now he’s using her to turn Scottish prisoners of war into a cargo of slaves and sail them from Inverness to wherever the slave sale’ll be.  It’s a rum tale.

Ben:   Look, mate.  ‘e’s gonna sell us fer the stinkin fish ‘e finks we are.  Slave labour!

Him:  ‘Slave flavour’?

Me:  ‘Labour.’

Polly’s bored and stabbing stuff.  Kirsty returns with oranges, it’s part of Polly’s cunning plan. 

ffinch is having a quick nip and a kip in the Sea Eagle.  Unnoticed, the Doctor hides under a blanket in the corner.  Sergeant Clegg arrives with ‘orange sellers’ for ffinch. 
"I'm sure there's usually a wall here."

Me:  That’s a shot and a half.

Polly, Kirsty and Algie are reunited as the Sergeant quells some unrest.

Sergeant:  Alright, you scum!  Get back!

Polly’s scheme bears fruit.  And not only oranges.3

Me:  It’s gone a bit Python, what with all the Pepperpots.  And John Cleese.

See?  I could never fight off a wolf.  I’d be rubbish.

Back on the Annabelle, Grey’s arrived to offer the prisoners some clemency – if they turn evidence on their countrymen.  Well, it’s that or hanging.  Or a trip to the West Indies to work on a plantation.  One of the Highlanders heads to sign up for the travel option.

Me:  And there’re some fruity performances here.

Willie Mackay:  Don’t touch that pen!

Arguments break out, which can be dangerous in a confined space like the hold of a ship.  Ben, Jamie, Willie and the Laird don’t sign.

Him:  “Let ‘im go/Let ‘im go/Let ‘im go”

Ben rips the contract to bits and then gets knocked out by Trask.  Well, he’s been conscious for quite a while so it was overdue.

Polly and Kirsty are still chatting with Perkins, whilst waiting for Grey.  Suddenly, the Doctor turns up and there’s an outbreak of Whist.

Perkins:  The German doctor!

At that moment, Grey arrives.

Me:  Ha!

The Doctor threatens Perkins with a rediagnosis if he doesn’t give the ladies ten minutes to get away.

Me:  I can’t see William Hartnell doing this.

The ladies head back to the barn. 

Polly:  Hey.  Why did he call you ‘the German doctor’, Doctor?

Him:  ‘The German doctor doctor’?

The Doctor:  You saucy girl!

The Doctor decides to have a sleep.  He settles down and suggests that Kirsty might think about leaving Scotland for a while.

The Doctor:  Just for seven-  Just for a few years, then it’ll be safe to come back.

Me:  Almost bent a law of time there.

Polly asks the Doctor if he’s got a plan.

The Doctor:  Well.  It’s just a wee idea really.

Polly:  Go on.

The Doctor:  I’ve only just thought of it.  It won’t work. 

The Doctor says they’ll need weapons.  And a rowing boat.  Then goes to sleep.

On the Annabelle, Grey and Trask are scheming.  Ben’s to be ducked as a warning to the others.

Polly and Kirsty are in the barn waiting for the Doctor, they haven’t been hugely successful.  The Doctor turns up with a wheelbarrow full of weapons.

Me:  “Doctor Who and the Wheelbarrow of Doom”.

Him:  I want a musket.

Me:  Well, that’s not going to happen. 

The Doctor spies Kirsty’s ring and grows excited. 

The Doctor:  Give me the ring.

Me:  “Kiss’d and toll’d”.4

On the boat, Ben is hoisted, swung and dunked.  Bubbles rise from where he’s vanished.  It’s a bit quick and unexpected.

Me:  Wow.

Him:  Is that the end of  Episode Three?

Me:  Yeah.

Him:  It’s going by fast.

Me:  It’s alright.  Final Historic-

Him:  Black Orchid is.

Me:  Pounce on my sentence, why don’t you?

The credits thunder by.


We bagpipe through a recap.

The rope’s pulled back aboard the Annabelle, but Ben’s gone.

Me:  “You did remember to tie the rope in a knot, didn’t you?”

Ben surfaces on the far side of the ship and swims for the shore.  Reaching it (very quickly) he pulls himself up.  He’s drenched through.

Me:  He’ll get pneumonia.  And that’s no fun.

No, it isn’t.  Neither’s being caught by a Redcoat, which happens to Ben before he’s had a chance to start wringing out his clothes.  The Redcoat peels off his moustache.

Him:  What?!  That’s one big snotter.

Me:  Oi!

And it’s the Doctor, in another disguise.  What larks!

Me:  The way it’s going, the Doctor’s going to be every other character by the end of this season.

Back in the barn, Ben dries off and reveals how he escaped.

Ben:  Well, it’s the old ‘oudini4 trick, Duchess.  You flex yer muscles when they tie you up, then when yer ready, you relax ‘em.  That way yer ‘alf the size you were before.
The Doctor bustles around, preparing everything and running through the plan again.  They’ll sail up, arm the prisoners quietly and then have a big fight.  Ben’s to wear a Tam O’shanter.

The Doctor:  I would like a hat like that.

Me:  He did it again.

Aboard the Annabelle, the Laird and Mackay are chatting. 

Grey and Trask are winding up the paperwork, when the Doctor is brought in.

Me:  It’s quite low-key.  Not the whole universe at stake.

Him:  No.

Me:  Quite small-scale.

Him:  Has any of this moved?

Me:  The censor clips in Episode One did.

The Doctor plays the fool.  The German fool.  He produces Kirsty’s ring and the tale that accompanies it.  Grey’s greed balloons to the size of an avaricious whale, and thus his doom is secured.

While this is taking place, Kirsty and Polly row the boat to the side of the Annabelle.  Kirsty finds the Laird and schemage occurs.

Grey agrees to the Doctor’s terms.  The Doctor reveals that the prince is in fact aboard the ship.  He’s Jamie.

Me:  Ha!

Down to the hold they go.  The Highlanders are all asleep.  They find Jamie.  As they do so, the Highlanders jump Trask and the final fight begins.

The fight continues to the deck, ultimately Trask gets plopped over the side and the Highlanders take control of the Annabelle.

Ben, Polly and the Doctor return to the shore.  Everyone’s off to France (including Perkins) for the next seven-  For the next few years.  Jamie turns up and joins our chums.

Grey manages to escape our chums. 

At the Sea Eagle, ffinch is having a Whist break.  He gets jumped by the Doctor, Ben and Polly.  Colonel Attwood, ffinch’s Whist opponent comes out to see what’s going on.  The Doctor tries a swift diagnosis.

Colonel Attwood:  Gout?  I haven’t got the gout.

Him:  Gout!

Me:  Yup, that kind of gout.

The Doctor gives Attwood the ring.

Me:  This has got more endings than Return of the King.

Grey and a bunch of Redcoats turn up and try to arrest our chums. In the interim period, ffinch has been filled in with what’s been going on.  Grey insists it was all legal.  He’s got contracts to prove so.  Except he hasn’t – they’ve gone.  Grey is arrested and removed and Polly and ffinch share a bit of moment.

Naturally, it turns out that the Doctor’s got the contracts.

Jamie joins our chums at the door of the TARDIS.  He’s invited aboard.

Frazer Hines:   Jamie watches in amazement as the Doctor unlocks the strange blue box and disappears inside, followed closely by Ben.  Suddenly fearful, Jamie stops in his tracks, no longer sure if he wants to go with his strange new friends.  Gently, Polly takes his hand and smiles reassuringly.  Unresisting, Jamie allows himself to be pulled into the TARDIS without the slightest idea of what lies in store for him.

Me:  Nice.  Nice touch there.  Thoughts?

Him:  I have thoughts, yes.  Would’ve been better if I’d know what was going on.

Me:  Right.  And Jamie?

Him:  He’s – oh – But once again, I didn’t notice when he joined because I didn’t know what was going on.

Me:  Didn’t grab you then?

Him:  No.

Me:  You know what’s next, right?

Him:  The Underwater Menace.

Me:  Oh, yes.  Bring out the Laughing Gnome…


1.  In the classic series!  The classic series!  Put down the chair!

2.  And now you can too.

3.  “And I’d do it again.  Good day.”

4.  And as this is only the second one, I wouldn’t have thought it would make that much sense just yet.  Be patient.

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