The Highlanders (Doctor Who)

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031 – The Highlanders
Doctor Who serial
The Doctor and Polly encounter some Highlanders
Writer Elwyn Jones
Gerry Davis
Director Hugh David
Script editor Gerry Davis
Producer Innes Lloyd
Executive producer(s) None
Incidental music composer None
Production code FF
Series Season 4
Length 4 episodes, 25 minutes each
Episode(s) missing All episodes
Date started 17 December 1966
Date ended 7 January 1967
← Preceded by Followed by →
The Power of the Daleks The Underwater Menace

The Highlanders is the completely missing fourth serial of the fourth season in the British science fiction television series Doctor Who, which was first broadcast in four weekly parts from 17 December 1966 to 7 January 1967. This serial is the first appearance of Frazer Hines as companion-to-be Jamie McCrimmon. Although audio recordings, still photographs, and clips of the story exist, no episodes of this serial are known to have survived.


Following the Battle of Culloden the British army is triumphant over the rebel forces of Bonnie Prince Charlie. When the TARDIS arrives, the Doctor, Ben and Polly encounter fleeing Scots rebels and are taken prisoner by them. They all hide in a deserted cottage with the Laird Colin McLaren, who has been badly wounded, his daughter Kirsty, his piper Jamie McCrimmon and his son Alexander, who dies defending them from a patrol of English soldiers mopping up survivors. The patrol leader, Lt. Algernon Ffinch, is an ineffectual fop but his Sergeant is more forceful and takes the Doctor, Jamie, Ben, and the Laird to be hanged; while Polly and Kirsty manage to slip away.

The two women end up hiding in a cave and then an animal pit to avoid Lt. Ffinch, who believes the Prince to be one of them following the rumour that he fled the battlefield as a woman. Eventually Ffinch finds them and they use their feminine wiles to entrap him and steal his money. Later in Inverness, the nearest major town to Culloden, they run into him again and use his previous foolishness to blackmail him.

Elsewhere on the battlefield the Royal Commissioner of Prisons, a shady character called Grey, has embarked on a scheme to enslave any highlanders still alive and ship them to the colonies. It is an illegal scam, but one he hopes will make him rich. He makes contact with an unscrupulous sea captain called Trask who agrees to put his ship, “The Annabelle”, to use in this end. Amongst the prisoners he identifies for sale are the Doctor, Jamie, Ben, and the Laird. They are taken to the prison in Inverness and incarcerated with many other prisoners, but the Doctor cons his way out of the drenched cell and then overpowers Grey and his secretary Perkins in order to make his escape. Grey is freed by Trask; and the captain reports that the transportation plan has begun and arranges that a number of prisoners, including Jamie, Ben and the Laird, are transferred to the ship. It is not long before the prisoners work out they are being sold as slaves but most accept this fate, believing seven years indentured labour (a lie) is better than the gallows. Only Ben, Jamie, the Laird and one of his friends, Willie Mackay, refuse to sign. When Ben attacks Grey, Trask has him thrown to the sea at the end of a rope.

The Doctor meanwhile has adopted the guise of a kitchen maid as well as a German and uses these identities to move freely around. He is reunited with Polly and Kirsty and, shortly afterward, Ben who has swum to safety. The Doctor boldly returns to Grey, having concocted a story about Bonnie Prince Charlie’s ring and him knowing the fugitive Prince’s whereabouts. Indeed, he names the prince as the piper Jamie. This is all a ruse to distract Grey and Trask while the girls free the prisoners from the hold and supply them with arms for an uprising. When Grey and Trask go examine Jamie in the hold they are captured by the armed highlanders and a revolt begins. Trask flees and ends up wounded and in the sea. Willie Mackay takes control of the Annabelle and determines to sail her to freedom in France, happy to accept Perkins as a willing volunteer for this journey. Kirsty and her father are also passengers on the ship as it makes its bid for freedom.

The Doctor, Ben and Polly return to the town, using Grey as a hostage to ensure their safe passage around the area, and are joined by Jamie, who has decided to stay and help them find the TARDIS and therefore misses the boat to France with his fellows. The party lose Grey but find Ffinch, whom they force to help them return to Culloden. But Grey has been clever: he reaches the cottage where he first met the Doctor, and brings with him a patrol of soldiers. Ffinch performs one last service – this one more purposefully without blackmail – when he arrests Grey for the transportation scheme. The solicitor has lost the paperwork (thanks to the Doctor) and is unable to prove any legality about his plans. Thanked by a kiss from Polly, Lt. Ffinch departs. The Doctor, Ben and Polly return to the TARDIS and invite their new friend, Jamie McCrimmon, on board. He nervously accepts.


In the first episode the Doctor refers to himself as "Doktor von Wer" [1] — a rough German translation of "Doctor (of) Who". See further discussion of the Doctor's name here.


Serial details by episode
Episode Broadcast date Run time Viewers
(in millions)
"Episode 1" 17 December 1966 (1966-12-17) 24:38 6.7 Only stills and/or fragments exist
"Episode 2" 24 December 1966 (1966-12-24) 23:41 6.8 Only stills and/or fragments exist
"Episode 3" 31 December 1966 (1966-12-31) 22:54 7.4 Only stills and/or fragments exist
"Episode 4" 7 January 1967 (1967-01-07) 24:19 7.3 Only stills and/or fragments exist

The script was commissioned from Elwyn Jones, who proved ultimately too busy to actually write it. Script editor Gerry Davis stepped in to write the serial. Jones and Davis shared on-screen credit although Jones did no work on the script.[5] The working title for this story was Culloden;[5] however, a few years previously the BBC had aired a docudrama titled Culloden which resulted in the changing of the name of this story.

The Highlanders was the last purely historical story until Black Orchid in 1982.[6] Patrick Troughton encouraged the move away from historical stories, according to his son Michael, out of an interest in exploring "real science in drama" as well as a desire to further distinguish his era from that of the previous Doctor, William Hartnell.[7]

Producer Innes Lloyd and script editor Gerry Davis were initially uncertain whether the character of Jamie would work as an ongoing character, and although Hines' contract had an option for three more serials an ending was filmed with Jamie staying behind when the TARDIS departed. Hines' performance during shooting ultimately convinced them that the character had potential and the ending was re-shot.[8] His popularity with the public ensured Jamie became a longtime member of the TARDIS crew.[9]

While still an actor in the early 1960s this serial's director, Hugh David, had been considered for the role of the First Doctor but being only 38 years old at the time was deemed to be too young by the series' original producer Verity Lambert.[10]

For the Battle of Culloden scenes, the stand-in location of Frensham Ponds in Surrey was used.[11]

All four episodes have been wiped by the BBC. See Doctor Who missing episodes.

Cast notes[edit]

William Dysart later appeared in The Ambassadors of Death. Hannah Gordon provided the voice of Skagra's ship in the Big Finish Productions version of Shada. Peter Welch was later seen in The Android Invasion. David Garth went on to play the Time Lord in Terror of the Autons.

Commercial releases[edit]

In print[edit]

The Highlanders
Doctor Who The Highlanders.jpg
Author Gerry Davis
Cover artist Nick Spender
Series Doctor Who book:
Target novelisations
Release number
Publisher Target Books
Publication date
15 November 1984
ISBN 0-426-19676-7

A novelisation of this serial, written by Gerry Davis, was published by Target Books in August 1984.

Home media[edit]

As with all missing episodes, off-air recordings of the soundtrack exist due to contemporary fan efforts. In August 2000 these were released on CD, accompanied by linking narration from Frazer Hines. A few brief video clips survive, and were released on the Lost in Time DVD set in 2004. A new unabridged reading of the novelisation of The Highlanders was released in September 2012 read by Anneke Wills, (who played Polly in the original TV episodes) with original sound design.


  1. ^ Writers Elwyn Jones, Gerry Davis, Director Hugh David, Producer Innes Lloyd (1966-12-17). "Episode One". The Highlanders. Doctor Who. 10:45 minutes in. BBC. BBC1. 
  2. ^ Shaun Lyon et al. (2007-03-31). "The Highlanders". Outpost Gallifrey. Archived from the original on 2008-06-18. Retrieved 2008-08-30. 
  3. ^ "The Highlanders". Doctor Who Reference Guide. Retrieved 2008-08-30. 
  4. ^ Sullivan, Shannon (2007-07-05). "The Highlanders". A Brief History of Time Travel. Retrieved 2008-08-30. 
  5. ^ a b Howe, Walker, p. 155
  6. ^ Howe, Walker p. 156
  7. ^ Troughton, Michael (2007-07-25). "Michael Troughton's Memories, Part One: Top of the Pops". Doctor Who Magazine (306): 6–10. ISSN 0957-9818. 
  8. ^ Howe, Walker, p. 154
  9. ^ Howe, Walker, p. 156-157
  10. ^ DWM 391 - Verity Lambert obituary
  11. ^ Howe, David J.; Stammers, Mark; Walker, Stephen James (1997). Doctor Who The Handbook - The Second Doctor. London: Doctor Who Books. p. 51. ISBN 0-426-20516-2. 


External links[edit]


Target novelisation[edit]

Audio Adaptation[edit]