Serial FF:
The Highlanders


The TARDIS materialises in 1746 Scotland, following the defeat of the Jacobites by the Redcoats in the Battle of Culloden. The Doctor, Polly and Ben meet the McLarens and their piper, Jamie McCrimmon, who are being hunted by the English while they try to care for their wounded Laird. The men are captured by the foppish Lieutenant Algernon ffinch, who promptly sells them to Solicitor Grey. Polly becomes determined to rescue her friends, and aims to dupe ffinch into helping her. Meanwhile, the crooked Grey is planning to sell captive Highlanders as slaves in the West Indies... and Ben is to be amongst the first shipment.


By the middle of 1966, producer Innes Lloyd and story editor Gerry Davis had decided to abandon the historical adventures which had been part of Doctor Who's remit from the very beginning. Neither man liked these stories, while audience numbers and reaction figures alike suggested that the viewing public preferred the science-fiction content. However, Davis then met with Elwyn Jones, who had recently stepped down as the BBC's Head of Series; their conversation came either at Jones' instigation, or upon the recommendation of Shaun Sutton, the Head of Serials. Having returned to freelance writing, Jones was keen to contribute an historical adventure to Doctor Who. Given the prestige associated with Jones' name, Lloyd and Davis reluctantly agreed. It was decided that Jones would write an adventure set around the time of the eighteenth-century Jacobite Rebellion, drawing upon John Prebble's 1961 book Culloden.

Charles Edward Stuart, colloquially known as “Bonnie Prince Charlie” and “the Young Pretender”, was the grandson of the deposed King James II (also King James VII of Scotland) who had been driven out of England in 1688. Charles sought to restore his father -- the putative James III -- to power, and won the loyalty of many of the clans dwelling in the Scottish Highlands. His forces became known as Jacobites, from Jacobus, the Latinate form of James. In the late summer of 1745, the Jacobites began moving south towards England, and were eventually opposed by William Augustus, the Duke of Cumberland and son of the reigning King George II. Following an unsuccessful two-month siege of Stirling Castle, the Jacobites retreated north in February 1746 and were pursued by Cumberland's Redcoats. This led to a decisive victory for Cumberland at Culloden Moor, ten kilometres east of Inverness, on April 16th. In the aftermath, Cumberland used false pretenses to incite a slaughter of the Highlanders, including prisoners and civilians; this deed earned him the nickname “the Butcher”. Charles escaped and returned to the continent in September. Having now failed five times to retake the English throne, Charles was unable to mount another effort, and died in Rome in 1788.

The Highlanders took the place of The Underwater Menace

Jones was commissioned to write “Culloden” on August 30th, 1966. It was intended to be the fifth story of Season Four and the third serial to feature the Second Doctor, after The Power Of The Daleks and The Underwater Menace. The director assigned to the latter was Hugh David but, upon reviewing the scripts, he concluded that they could not be filmed on the standard Doctor Who budget. On October 12th, it was agreed that “Culloden” would be brought forward to take its place under David's aegis.

To make matters worse, at around the same time, Davis learned that the BBC had asked Jones to revive the police drama Z Cars, while also contributing to the new season of Softly Softly. These projects would leave him no time to write “Culloden”. Under the exigent circumstances, it was agreed that Davis could complete the work and receive a co-writing credit; formal approval was retroactively granted on December 12th. In fact, given that Jones had not yet devised a complete storyline for “Culloden”, the entire serial wound up being Davis' work.

In developing the adventure, Davis took considerable inspiration from the 1886 Robert Louis Stevenson novel Kidnapped, which itself drew upon real incidents of Jacobites being sold into slavery in the Americas. He also sought Hugh David's ideas and advice. Davis took the opportunity to play up one of the intended characteristics of the Second Doctor, namely his love of dressing-up. Over the course of the serial, the Doctor would disguise himself as a German physician, a washerwoman and a Redcoat. Jones -- who would never actually write for Doctor Who -- later indicated his approval of Davis' scripts, which were now called The Highlanders.

A key component of the adventure was the character of Jamie McCrimmon. In real life, the MacCrimmons were hereditary pipers to the clan MacLeod of the Isle of Skye. Davis posited that Jamie could be the son of Donald Ban MacCrimmon, who was killed during the Rout of Moy in February 1746; in real life, however, the MacLeods and MacCrimmons supported King George. In The Highlanders, Davis depicted Jamie as being a piper allied to the clan MacLaren, who were indeed Jacobites (and, in fact, an Alexander MacLaren fought for Charles in the Atholl Brigade). He utilised the authentic slogan of the MacLarens, creag an tuirc -- literally “the Boar's Rock” in reference to a rock formation at Balquhidder, the clan's traditional seat.

As production neared, Lloyd and Davis agreed that Jamie might make a viable new companion, and so they participated in casting the role. Shaun Sutton recommended Frazer Hines who, as a boy, had appeared in Sutton's 1957 production of Huntingtower. Hines had also worked with Troughton on Smuggler's Bay in 1964, and had unsuccessfully auditioned for the role of Ben Jackson earlier in 1966. On November 2nd, Hines was contracted for The Highlanders; the agreement also included a BBC option for three further four-part serials. On the same day, Michael Craze was granted a contract extension to cover the three stories beginning with The Highlanders, with Wills retained for the same episodes on November 3rd.

One of Hugh David's suggestions for The Highlanders was to make use of the water tank at the BBC Television Film Studios in Ealing, London, and production began there on November 11th. November 14th -- the first of two consecutive days in which Culloden Moor was doubled by Frensham Ponds at Frensham, Surrey -- was Hines' first day of work on Doctor Who. No decision had yet been made as to whether Jamie would be retained beyond The Highlanders, and when David filmed the final scene, only the Doctor, Ben and Polly were shown leaving in the TARDIS. On this day, Troughton ad-libbed the line “I should like a hat like that” in the scene where the Doctor found a blue-feathered bonnet; this was part of a short-lived attempt to establish a catchphrase for the new Doctor. More work at the Ealing water tank followed on November 16th.

Soon thereafter, Lloyd and Davis affirmed that Jamie should be made a regular character -- a decision aided by the good rapport Hines had rapidly developed with the cast and crew. Hines readily agreed and so, on November 21st, David's team briefly returned to Frensham Ponds to remount the concluding sequence, with Jamie now accompanying the others into the TARDIS. A character profile for Jamie was circulated on November 28th. Unlike Troughton, Michael Craze and Anneke Wills were initially lukewarm in their reception of Hines, since both were concerned that his addition to the cast would come at the expense of their characters.

As usual, recording for The Highlanders took place on successive Saturdays at Riverside Studio 1 in Hammersmith, London. The first episode went before the cameras on December 3rd, and the last on Christmas Eve. For Episode Four, Troughton again incorporated “I would like a hat like that” line into his dialogue. There was then a week's break for the holidays, before production resumed with The Underwater Menace.

As of Episode Three's broadcast on New Year's Eve, Doctor Who was no longer leading into Dixon Of Dock Green, which had finished its season the week before. Doctor Who was now followed in the Saturday evening schedules by the new American musical comedy The Monkees. Transmission of The Highlanders concluded on January 7th, 1967, closing the book on historical adventures in Doctor Who for more than fifteen years. Every subsequent serial would have some science-fiction content until Black Orchid aired in March 1982.

  • Doctor Who Magazine #292, 28th June 2000, “Archive: The Highlanders” by Andrew Pixley, Panini Publishing Ltd.
  • Doctor Who Magazine Special Edition #4, 4th June 2003, “Good Vibrations” by Andrew Pixley, Panini Publishing Ltd.
  • Doctor Who: The Complete History #9, 2016, “Story 31: The Highlanders”, edited by John Ainsworth, Hachette Partworks Ltd.
  • Doctor Who: The Handbook: The Second Doctor by David J Howe, Mark Stammers and Stephen James Walker (1997), Virgin Publishing.
  • Doctor Who: The Sixties by David J Howe, Mark Stammers and Stephen James Walker (1992), Virgin Publishing.

Original Transmission
Episode 1
Date 17th Dec 1966
Time 5.49pm
Duration 24'38"
Viewers (more) 6.7m (67th)
· BBC1 6.7m
Appreciation 47%
Episode 2
Date 24th Dec 1966
Time 5.50pm
Duration 23'41"
Viewers (more) 6.8m (89th)
· BBC1 6.8m
Appreciation 46%
Episode 3
Date 31st Dec 1966
Time 5.52pm
Duration 22'54"
Viewers (more) 7.4m (68th)
· BBC1 7.4m
Appreciation 47%
Episode 4
Date 7th Jan 1967
Time 5.50pm
Duration 24'19"
Viewers (more) 7.3m (66th)
· BBC1 7.3m
Appreciation 47%

Dr Who
Patrick Troughton (bio)
Anneke Wills (bio)
Michael Craze (bio)
Solicitor Grey
David Garth
Hannah Gordon
William Dysart
The Laird
Donald Bisset
Frazer Hines (bio)
Lt Algernon ffinch
Michael Elwyn
Peter Welch
Sydney Arnold
Tom Bowman
Dallas Cavell
Barbara Bruce
Willie Mackay
Andrew Downie
Peter Diamond
Colonel Attwood
Guy Middleton

Written by
Elwyn Jones (bio) and
Gerry Davis (bio)
Directed by
Hugh David (bio)

Title music by
Ron Grainer and
the BBC Radiophonic Workshop
Fight Arranger
Peter Diamond
Story Editor
Gerry Davis (bio)
Costumes by
Sandra Reid
Make-up by
Gillian James
George Summers
Ken McGregor
Larry Goodson
Geoffrey Kirkland
Innes Lloyd (bio)

Archive Holdings
Episodes Missing
Episodes 1-4
Clips Extant
Episode 1 (0'13" in 3 clips)
Telesnaps Surviving
Episodes 1-4

Working Titles

Updated 23rd June 2020