Doctor Who #144: The Highlanders Part 2

"I've never seen a silent lawyer before."TECHNICAL SPECS: Missing entirely from the archives, I've had to go to a reconstruction for help. First aired Dec.24 1966.

IN THIS ONE... Polly blackmails Ffinch. The Doctor commits malpractice on Grey and Perkins. And later puts on a drag show to get aboard a slave ship.

REVIEW: A very entertaining episode thanks to the cleverness exhibited by the main cast, Part 2 features a Doctor who fluidly moves from one identity to the next like a living piece of psychic paper. One minute he's a hilarious German doctor, teaching the natives about "germs" (Jamie naturally deduces that germs and Germans have something in common) and using astrology, and the next he's an old woman, putting the guards of the slave ship to sleep with a special broth. Troughton's abilities as a character are brought to bear in his incarnation of the Doctor, turning him into something of a chameleon, and it's all rather funny too. His best moment in the episode is his use of ridiculous diagnoses to trick Grey and Perkins. "Print blindness" indeed. Even when he is himself, this Doctor is a load of fun, enjoying himself only when there is danger, thriving on the challenge. It's a trait that future Doctors will exhibit a lot, and it may well be that Troughton's performance was the most influential of all the Doctors. Care to disagree?

Polly's story is great fun too, luring Ffinch into a pit trap and flirtingly blackmailing him by threatening to reveal he was disarmed and captures by a couple of girls (one of them a crybaby at that). Polly is at her best here, taking control and taking that cheeky tone that served her so well in The War Machines. And of course it works on Ffinch because he's a bit of a dandy and a poser. When his men find him in the pit, he has to bribe them just so they'll pull him out in what sounds like a disingenuous union negotiation. The balance is definitely more on the side of comedy this time around, though you still have a man thrown overboard to drown in the cliffhanger to remind you of the stakes.

If I have complaints, they're relatively minor. The music, for example, could really do with more period atmosphere, taking off from the title card cue. But that's always the last we hear of the bagpipes, sadly. And then there's Trask, the slave ship captain, who's come out of a clichéed pirate movie, going "Arrrh" all over the place. Even The Smugglers, which was ABOUT pirates, didn't go to such over-acting extremes. I suppose it adds to the comedy that surrounds the otherwise serious character of Grey, but it's still well over the top.

REWATCHABILITY: Medium-High - A very funny episode, even without the benefits of the video.


LiamKav said...

"It's a trait that future Doctors will exhibit a lot, and it may well be that Troughton's performance was the most influential of all the Doctors."

Good god, no. Troughton was the quintessential Doctor. Matt Smith's version is at least 50% Troughton (and 50% his own wonderful spin, of course).

LiamKav said...

Sorry, I cut off the bit saying "care to argue", hence the "good god, no" line.

As an extra thought, I'd add that Troughton was the best thing about the Three, Five and Two Doctors.

Siskoid said...

It could almost be said that the first three Doctors are all different, and that every incarnation after that pulled elements from each in different proportions, but that Troughton is the most represented.


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