There are two noteworthy things about The Highlanders: it’s the last “pure historical” for 15 years, and it’s the first story with Jamie. Neither fact actually says anything about the story. It’s relationship to the actual history of the 1745 Rebellion is fleeting, and, other than being played by the telegenic Frazer Hines, Jamie is a less significant character in it than either the equally-telegenic Kirsty (who gets a lot more screen time and dialogue with the Doctor) or Colin. The Doctor’s ready agreement to Polly’s suggestion of taking him along at the end is the first time a companion has been introduced quite so casually.
Again, getting a handle on the Doctor is a challenge. Ten weeks since he arrived, he’s still giving the impression of making it up as he goes along – which must be the point. At least with Troughton there’s a sense that this is a deliberate choice, rather than only a passing familiarity with the script. Again, Davis presents him as a master of disguise: wearing a false moustache and putting on an Estuary accent. There is a fun scene where he has lost the Pretender’s ring, and it’s not quite clear whether this is the Doctor being absent minded or lulling his enemies into underestimating him.
The Highlanders is harmless fun. It broadcast over the 1966 festive period, so a certain thigh-slapping knockabout is fair enough. But it doesn’t really give the impression of a show that’s been renewed. Nothing here feels like it couldn’t have been done before, and while a fortnight in the middle of The Daleks’ Master Plan was fair, watching the cast play with lightweight material for a month is pushing its luck and the audience’s patience. Still – if the next story gives them something to get their teeth into…
Next episode: The Underwater Menace