A few reactions back I opined that the days of the Doctor Who historicals were largely over, and that recent stories such as “The Gunfighters” and “The Smugglers” were set in the past more for adventurous than historical purposes, then the “The Highlanders” comes along and contradicts that general assertion. But I knew that it was coming and foresaw typing this retraction even as I posted that assessment. In point of fact, I had been quite familiar with the story before listening to the audio because I had read the paperback adaptation. I had been curious to learn the details surrounding the exact circumstances of how the Second Doctor’s most tenured companion, Jamie McCrimmon, came to join the TARDIS crew.
Call it a failing of the U.S. school system if you will, but I grew up wholly unfamiliar with the Jacobite Rebellion of 1745, much less the Battle of Culloden, the historical background against which this story is set. I think this story would have played well on TV because it contains a lot of action, but the paperback was, frankly, a bit boring. The audio was only slightly less so, but the plot was chock full of visual elements which didn’t translate well to audio only. For example, the Doctor disguises himself several times throughout the course of the story (as a German, an old woman, a Redcoat, etc.) and speaks in a variety of accents. He also seems fascinated by different types of hats, an affectation which seems to have carried over into his 11th incarnation.
Whether teamed with Ben and Polly, Victoria Waterfield or Zoe Heriot, Jamie would be the Doctor’s most constant companion throughout the course of his second incarnation. Frazier Hines’ contract was written with the possibility of an extension is Jamie caught on (and, indeed, Jamie went on to appear in more episodes than any other companion ever), and the Doctor agreed to take him along on the condition that Jamie teach him how to play the bagpipes.
I grew up hearing about Culloden, if only because family legend had it that my eight- or nine-times great grandfather backed the losing side, and had to leave Scotland in a hurry shortly thereafter.
I've often thought that a number of the Eleventh Doctor's "tawdry quirks" hearkened back to the Second Doctor.
I sometimes think the First Doctor was a lot more quirky and fun than we ever got the chance to see. it's just that when he met him, he was SO OLD he'd slowed down or forgotten a lot of things.
Now that I have actually visited the battlefield at Culloden, I have a much firmer grasp of the Jacobite Rebellion of 1745. The visitor center has an “immersion theater.” There are no seats, but the battle is projected, bigger than life-size, from every angle on all four walls, literally putting the viewer in the middle of the action. There were so many casualties that the bodies were buried where they fell, grouped together by clan. (We found the “Chisholm” marker, Bob; I think Tracy sent you a picture of it.) I decided to re-read the paperback in light of my new knowledge and have reassessed my opinion above. Walking the battlefield was like this scene from the movie Patton.