Episode 31: The Highlanders

Doctor_Who_The_Highlanders

Episode 31: The Highlanders
Second Doctor
Companions: Polly, Ben, Jamie
Written by Elwyn Jones and Gerry Davis
Directed by Hugh David
Wikipedia Entry

Description
The Doctor and his companions land in the aftermath of the Battle of Culloden; Scotland 1745.

Evaluation
Random note: Did you know that Diana Gabaldon is a Doctor Who fan and named her lead male character after Jamie? While I’m not a fan of Outlander, I thought the connection was fun. (I really tried to get into the book, but I wasn’t feeling it. I might try watching the show. With my crazed schedule of late, I’m not making any promises)

The story begins as the trio land in the aftermath of the Battle of Culloden, which was the final uprising of the Jacobite forces of Charles Edward Stuart, also known as Bonnie Prince Charles.

“A few hours previously, the largely Highland Scottish troops of Prince Charles Edward, better known as Bonnie Prince Charlie, had drawn up their battle lines against the English and German Army led by the Duke of Cumberland, who were fighting for King George. What was at stake was the entire future of the British monarchy.”

For more information about the Battle of Culloden, here is a bibliography list from Wikipedia.

As the story unfolds, Ben, Polly, and the Doctor land in a cold, wet land. Ben immediately recognizes the weather as English-like weather. The problem is that they don’t take the moment to consider that it might not be the same timeline they originally came from. When a ten-pound cannonball lands near them, the Doctor knows the TARDIS has landed in a battle. Ben and Polly believe it to be a reenactment happening and run off to investigate. The Doctor, the cautioned participant for once, follows to ensure their safety.

Meanwhile, fleeing the battle is the Laird of Clan McLaren, Colin McLaren along with his children, Alexander and Kirsty, and the clan bagpiper, Jamie McCrimmon. Colin has been injured and the group is looking for shelter, fast. They come across an uninhabited  cottage; a cottage that had moments earlier been discovered by the The Doctor and his companions. Confusion occurs on both sides. As Ben and Polly hail from London, the McLarens believe them to be the enemy. Ben and Polly are confused as to why someone would want to attack them, still not realizing that they are in the past. The Doctor is just trying to call everyone down. Eventually, the McLarens allow the Doctor to examine Colin and Polly and Kirsty go off to fetch fresh water. Ben foolishly sets off a musket, allowing the Redcoats, who are searching for rebels.

The Doctor, Colin, Jamie, and Ben are captured and place in jail instead of being hanged because of nefarious plot by Solicitor Grey, who is the Royal Commissioner of Prisons. Grey has been shipping prisoners to the colonies, specifically Jamaica and Barbados; an illegal act that Grey hopes will provide him with generous funds. Meanwhile, Polly and Kirsty have a run-in with a British officer, Lt. Algernon Ffinch. They steal his money and, later, blackmail him to avoid capture.

The story ends with the Doctor and Ben enabling the prisoners to fight against their captors. Kirsty and Colin sail away to avoid capture from the English. Jamie accepts the invitation to travel with the Doctor, Ben, and Polly.

The Highlanders is a fun time travel romp. The characters were fun and the use of history was great throughout the story. As someone who is not as familiar with British and Scottish history as she might want to be, the overall story didn’t feel dumbed down and left enough for me to understand as well as provide enough of a lure for me to explore later.

Polly continues to be amazing. She’s fun, feisty, and not afraid to be tough and feminine. There’s a fun balance of this modern woman with Kristy, who is the daughter of Colin McLaren, the leader of the clan McLaren. At first I was annoyed with Kristy because of the way she is presented in the narrative. It’s unfair to compare Polly’s modern mentality with Kristy’s 1700s mentality. This is what Kristy has been taught and I believe that she has never had an example in which a woman could stand and fight before Polly appeared. Granted, I should just get off my soapbox and not freak out about a Doctor Who adaptation, but it bugged me so hence the mention. Still, it was fun to read the interactions between these two women and it provided a nice break in the story.

Poor Algernon Ffinch. While I may have glossed over him in the story explanation, he was a fun character to discover. A fob and an idiot, Ffinch is fodder for the story, but it’s fun to see him fluster around Kirsty and especially Polly. He has a happy ending in the end but he was also a nice break in the more tenser portions of the story.

Overall, it was a very entertaining story. I still adore Ben and Polly and their interactions. I love this sassy version of the Doctor. And I love the introduction to Jamie, a character that would continue to travel with the Second Doctor until the end of Patrick Troughton’s run.

Jamie, suddenly afraid of the strange looking object, hung back. He was going with these strange people into something he only dimly comprehended. Where would they take him? Would he ver see his native glen again?

As he hesitated, Polly turned back and grasped his hand. “Don’t be afraid,” she said, “it’s much nicer inside than it is out. There’s so many wonderful surprises waiting for you, you’ll see.”

Jamie allowed himself to be drawn through into the small police box. The door closed behind him and he saw to his astonishment the large, hexagonal, brightly-lighted interior of the time machine.

Special Notes
On the Lost in Time DVD boxset there is a listing for some surviving Highlanders footage. When I went to watch it, there was barely anything.

Historical Mentions and Notes
This was the last time the series would focus primarily on historical events until the Fifth Doctor episode of Black Orchid. 

The Second Doctor is shown to be very fond of hats

 

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Episode 30: The Power of the Daleks

The Power of the Daleks

Episode 30: The Power of the Daleks
Second Doctor
Companions: Polly, Ben
Written by David Whitaker and Dennis Spooner
Directed by Christopher Barry
Wikipedia Entry

Description
As the Doctor emerges from his first regeneration, he finds himself in a battle for survival against his deadliest enemy.

Evaluation
I’m excited for when I can stop reading adaptations. It’s not to say that I don’t enjoy reading them but I’m finding it hard to maintain this blog as my concentration wanes with each written adaptation. It’s taken me six months to finally start reading the Second Doctor’s first story. I’d like to finish the Second Doctor’s adventures by the end of the summer or September at the latest so I can dive into my growing DVD collection. Must push myself in the coming months.

The story begins as the Doctor emerges from his first regeneration into the Second Doctor. Ben and Polly are understandably confused by everything that has happened and are quick to doubt the Doctor when he claims that he is still the Doctor. As the story progresses, Ben and Polly begin to believe the Doctor’s claims but only through trial and a lot of tribulation.

The adventurous trio find themselves on the planet Vulcan where a colony has been created. The Doctor is mistaken for someone called The Examiner. The actual Examiner had been killed mere moments of his and the Doctor’s arrival. The Doctor pretends he is this Examiner to discover the lay of the land and why the man had been assassinated.

What the Doctor discovers is something far more deadly: the Daleks have returned. Unfortunately, the Doctor not only has to deal with the threat of the Daleks but the greed and desires of some of the colony’s officials.

The overall story was fun and I could imagine being entranced if I had the opportunity to watch instead of read the program. In terms of the guest characters, why are humans so stupid? Well, not stupid, but our desire for power does tend to lend towards destruction. This is a serial about the power of money and how, if it isn’t checked, becomes far more important to safety or even common sense.

Despite the exploration of this common trope, the story was well written and it was fun and exciting to read once I pushed myself into the story.

Historical Mentions

A fleet of heavy transport aircraft and dark helicopters bearing the logo of UNIT – the United Nations Intelligence Taskforce – settled down later that day by the Cyberman saucer. A select team of men led by Lieutenant Benton of the English division of UNIT secured the saucer, but found no signs of life.

This was the first mention of UNIT that I’ve encounters so far. It should be noted that this adaptation was written in 1993 so this mention would have been tacked on to create continuity towards the Third Doctor. Sarah Jane Smith is also mentioned in this prologue.

The Doctor refers to his regeneration as a renewal.

According to the Doctor, at the time of his first regeneration he had been traveling for seven hundred and fifty years.

The Doctor produces a flute, one of the Second Doctor’s signature products, while searching for his diary.

The metal triangle the Doctor takes from the laboratory is similar to a piece that Susan took from their first adventure on Skaro.

 

Episode 29: The Tenth Planet

Tenth Planet

Episode 29: The Tenth Planet
First Doctor
Companions: Polly, Ben
Written by Kit Pedler and Gerry Davis
Directed by Julia Smith
Wikipedia Entry

Description
At the edge of the world, the Doctor discovers there’s another planet in our solar system and it contains a threat that could wipe out humanity.

Evaluation
Well, it took about two years after my initial plan but here we are: the last William Hartnell/First Doctor episode. I’m not sure how I feel about this. I’ve loved watching these First Doctor episodes and I’m sad to see them finished but I’m also looking forward to the Patrick Troughton episodes. The Steven episodes prepared me for this moment as I’ve been eager for something new for quite some time. I’m just sad that I won’t have a larger amount of time with Polly and Ben with the First Doctor. I really enjoyed their interactions.

Besides being the final William Hartnell episode, this was the first introduction to the Cybermen. Their backstory is that they were originally humans on a twin planet called Mondas. In order to survive, these humans began to add cybernetics to their bodies, slowly destroying their humanity by eliminating their emotions and empathy. In Modern Who, their backstory comes from a parallel universe instead.

These original Cybermen have a complex costume, with wires and tubes attached to the front of their bodies. I found them to be gruesome and frightening as it is obvious that these are creatures willing to do whatever it takes to survive. Should one compare the costumes from the original design to the upgrade in Modern Who?  I don’t believe so as they are both a product of their time. Both are creatures to be feared as they are both powerful with their single-mindedness to control the world and eliminate weakness.

Having been a fan of the Cybermen since I’ve watched them on Modern Who, I was excited to see their first appearance. The Tenth Planet did not disappoint and I was on edge after the first installment. The suspense that was created with the first appearance of the Cyberman lingered throughout and was handled quite well by the actors and the special effects team. The final installment is missing and was recreated through animation with the remaining audio soundtrack. Kudus to the animation team that created and maintained great suspense throughout the presentation. The entire episode was well-done even with the lack of William Hartnell as he was ill in the second and third installments. Michael Craze, who played Ben, took many of the lines intended for the Doctor, with the scientific lines given to the character called Barclay, who was the Chief Scientist in the episode.

I will miss the First Doctor but it’s time to move on. I am grateful for what Hartnell created and it is because of his legacy in those first seasons that we have Doctor Who still today.

Historical Mentions
This was the last episode of the First Doctor and the first time that a regeneration was shown.