Another day, another novelisation of a classic ‘Doctor Who’ story. This is slightly different. It’s the first story to feature Jamie McCrimmon and ‘The Highlanders’ is also marked out as one of the series that is missing from the archives. There is only an off-air recording of the soundtrack with linking narration by Frazer Hines released on CD. It’s quite sad to think about this, as the novelisation is a rich feast that really opens up on that era of history. How accurate it is remains to be seen but there is a lot of detail in this historical adventure – no random spacecraft in this. ‘The Highlanders’ was the last of the pure historical for many years and the plot centres on the ingenuity of the Doctor and his companions rather than any scientific gismos. No get out of jail free here with your sonic screwdriver. Of course, this invites the question as to why have an alien with time travelling companions visit this era? But the original remit did have these historicals on a regulars basis as part of the BBC charter and (whisper it) it was developed as a family/children’s programme.
The Second Doctor, Ben and Polly arrive at the Battle of Culloden, although it is more of a massacre. They fall in with some Highlanders and endeavour to save the life of the Laird although the English are intent on taking it. Young Jamie McCrimmon is with the Laird, he is the piper and son of a piper. The Laird’s daughter, Kirsty, is also on the run from the English soldiers.
There is quite a complex plot which at one point involves the amusing spectacle of the Doctor doing his Mr. Toad impression and escaping as an old woman. The Bonnie Prince Charlie Rebellion provides much of the plot and the Doctor makes no judgments on which side is right but simply tries to save lives. Another thing that is telling is that Polly is also resourceful and doesn’t wait to be rescued, there is a complete plot as she and Kirsty ‘Thelma And Louise’ it through old Inverness.
It’s not a fast moving plot but this worked well in the novel as it allows plenty for time for description and background without holding up the plot. Occasionally, the demand for word count goes a bit mad when you hear the description ‘the tired, exhausted soldiers’ but hey, who knew it was ever going to be read out?
Anneke Wills who played Polly does a great all-round performance as everybody, including a scurvy sea captain and it is done with great verve and energy. We might wince a bit at the Scots accent but then Jamie, as played by Fraser Hines, did not exactly have the authentic Highland lilt neither.
All in all, another great effort from Audio Go and these new audios are a thrilling reminder of the classic series and in the case of ‘The Highlanders’, the sad loss of the original episodes.
‘Creag an tuire’, as Jamie might say.
(pub: Audio Go/BBC. 3 CD2 140 minute story. Price: £ 6.62 (UK), Download: £ 5.99 (UK). ISBN: 978-144582-646-2)
narrator: Anneke Wills
check out website: www.audiogo.co.uk