Serial FF:
The Highlanders


The TARDIS materialises in 1746 Scotland following the defeat of Bonnie Prince Charlie. There, the Doctor, Polly and Ben meet the McLarens and their piper, Jamie McCrimmon, who are being hunted by the English. The time travellers soon discover that a crooked solicitor named Grey is attempting to sell the Highlanders as slaves in the West Indies... and they are to be amongst the first shipment.


One of the BBC's most senior figures, Elwyn Jones had gained numerous credits during his tenure there, including the development of Z Cars and its spin-off, Softly, Softly. Having recently stepped down from his position as Head of Series in 1966, Jones decided to return to freelance writing. Either of his own accord or upon the suggestion of Head of Serials Shaun Sutton, he met with Doctor Who story editor Gerry Davis.

Jones was eager to write a historical adventure for the series, despite the fact that Davis and producer Innes Lloyd were keen to phase out stories set in Earth's past, which they felt were unpopular amongst the viewers. Nonetheless, the production team decided to defer to Jones' well-respected status, and it was agreed that Jones would write an adventure set around the time of the 1745-46 Jacobite Rebellion, using the 1961 book Culloden by John Prebble as his basis. The Highlanders -- which also went by the title “Culloden” for a time -- was commissioned on August 30th, 1966.

Innes Lloyd was keen to phase out stories set in Earth's past, which he felt were unpopular amongst viewers

The Battle of Culloden was the culmination of a nine-month struggle between the English throne and the followers of Charles Edward Stuart, colloquially known as Bonnie Prince Charlie or the Young Pretender. Charles was the grandson of the deposed King James II (the Scottish King James VII) who had been driven out of England in 1688, and he sought to restore his father, the putative James III, to power. He won the loyalty of the clans dwelling in the Scottish Highlands, and they began moving toward England in the late summer of 1745. They were eventually opposed by the Duke of Cumberland, William Augustus, the son of the reigning King George II. Cumberland's troops were victorious in the decisive clash with Charles' followers, the Jacobites (so named from the Latinate form of James, Jacobus), at Culloden Moor near Inverness on April 16th, 1746. Subterfuge enabled Cumberland to incite his men to slaughter the Highlanders, including prisoners and civilians, earning him the nickname “the Butcher”. Charles escaped and returned to the continent in September.

The Highlanders 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, a former actor best known for the series Knight Errant Limited. David had turned down the role of the Doctor when Doctor Who was initially being developed in 1963 because he was disinterested in taking on another lead television part, and shortly thereafter completed the BBC's internal directors' course. He had since worked on such programmes as Compact and Swizzlewick. Upon being shown the scripts for The Underwater Menace, David indicated that he did not believe they could be produced on the standard Doctor Who budget. It was therefore agreed that The Highlanders would be brought forward to take its place under David's aegis as Serial FF.

To make matters worse, at around the same time, Davis learned that Jones would not be able to complete his assignment. He had been asked by the BBC to revive Z Cars while also writing for the new season of Softly, Softly, leaving no time to work on The Highlanders. Under the exigent circumstances, it was agreed that Davis could complete the work and receive a co-writing credit; formal approval for this was retroactively given on December 12th. Given that Jones had not even put together a complete storyline yet, though, in reality it fell to Davis to write the entire serial from scratch. In this he sought Hugh David's advice, and drew inspiration from the 1886 Robert Louis Stevenson novel Kidnapped. Jones later approved Davis' scripts, marking the end of his brief connection with Doctor Who. He continued to write for numerous other television programmes, including Doomwatch and a variety of Z Cars spin-offs, until his death on May 19th, 1982.

The production team felt that Jamie might make a viable new companion, and was heavily involved in casting the role

A key ingredient of Davis' scripts was the character of Jamie McCrimmon, whom Davis posited was the son of Donald Ban McCrimmon from Skye, famed piper to clan McLeod. Both Davis and Lloyd felt that Jamie might make a viable new companion, and were therefore heavily involved in casting the role. At Sutton's advice, Lloyd met with Frazer Hines, whom Sutton had directed as a child in the late Fifties. More recently, Hines had enjoyed a recurring role in Emergency Ward 10 and had unsuccessfully auditioned for the part of companion Ben Jackson earlier in 1966. He had also worked with Troughton on Smuggler's Bay in 1964. On November 2nd, Hines was contracted for The Highlanders; the contract 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 accorded the same on November 3rd. A character profile of Jamie was circulated on November 28th.

Filming at the Ealing Television Film Studios took place on November 11th and 16th. At David's suggestion, Davis had included scenes in his scripts which could be enacted at the facility's water tank. In between, location shooting occurred on the 14th and 15th at Frensham Ponds in Surrey. The former marked Hines' first work on Doctor Who; no decision on his being retained for further serials had yet been made, however, and the scene in which the TARDIS dematerialised depicted only the Doctor, Ben and Polly entering the Ship. On this day, Troughton also ad-libbed the line “I should like a hat like that” in the scene where he finds a blue-feathered bonnet, part of a short-lived attempt to ensconce this as the new Doctor's catchphrase.

Some days thereafter, Lloyd and Davis finally determined that Jamie should be made part of the regular cast, a decision with which Hines readily agreed. On November 21st, cast and crew returned briefly to Frensham Ponds to rerecord the TARDIS dematerialisation scene, with Jamie now accompanying the others into the police box. This marked the first time that the TARDIS crew had returned to its original complement of four since The Chase toward the end of Season Two.

The final scene was rerecorded on November 21st, with Jamie now accompanying the others into the TARDIS

As usual, studio recordings took place on successive Saturdays in Riverside 1, with the first episode going before the cameras on December 3rd and the last on Christmas Eve. On the latter day, Troughton once again incorporated his “hat” line into the dialogue. There was then a week's break for the holidays before production resumed with The Underwater Menace.

Although ratings for The Highlanders were on par with the previous two serials, this would be the final Doctor Who historical adventure for more than fifteen years as Lloyd and Davis were finally able to steer the programme toward a more exclusively science-fictional bent. The historicals would effectively be replaced with stories set in contemporary times, something which -- apart from brief sections of 100,000 BC, The Chase, The Daleks' Master Plan and The Massacre Of St Bartholomew's Eve -- had only been attempted in Planet Of Giants until Lloyd and Davis piloted the concept in The War Machines. Although the use of archaic settings for science-fiction stories would not be discouraged, The Highlanders would be the last traditional historical adventure until Black Orchid in 1982.

  • Doctor Who: The Handbook: The Second Doctor by David J Howe, Mark Stammers and Stephen James Walker (1997), Virgin Publishing, ISBN 0 426 20516 2.
  • Doctor Who: The Sixties by David J Howe, Mark Stammers and Stephen James Walker (1992), Virgin Publishing, ISBN 1 85227 420 4.
  • 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.

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
Anneke Wills
Michael Craze
Solicitor Grey
David Garth
Hannah Gordon
William Dysart
The Laird
Donald Bisset
Frazer Hines
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 and
Gerry Davis
Directed by
Hugh David
Produced by
Innes Lloyd

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

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

Working Titles

Updated 1st January 2013