Saturday, April 7, 2012

Doctor Who: 031 The Highlanders

Continuing on in Season 4, we come to The Highlanders, which introduces the character of Jamie McCrimmon to the TARDIS crew. I was actually looking forward to this story since this is the first appearance of Jamie, Troughton's longest running companion, who would travel in the TARDIS all the way until Troughton's last story, The War Games, missing only the first Troughton serial, The Power of the Daleks.

Sadly, very little footage exists from this serial, just a few seconds in the first episode, mostly from the Australian censor clips. Fortunately, we do have the audio track and telesnaps available to make reconstruction possible. For this serial, I had two different reconstructions available, the older Loose Cannon reconstruction and the Elaphe reconstruction which pairs the telesnaps with the BBC narrated soundtracks -Frazier Hines narrating in this case. The telesnaps are much clearer in the Elaphe, but the newer Loose Cannon one also promises higher quality telesnaps. Hover over the picture here to see the difference. I think for the earlier LC recons, they scanned the telesnaps from Doctor Who Magazine, but later gained access to higher quality images. I'm trying to get a copy of the newer reconstruction and will revisit this story at that time.

My impression of this story was sort of "meh"... Perhaps my expectations were too high, but to me, it seemed to be a fairly run of the mill historical: it wasn't bad, it just wasn't great. The introduction of Jamie was the best part, and Jamie wasn't yet a companion, so his interaction with the Doctor was not what it would later become. I'll have to admit that, being an American, I'm not that familiar with this period of history and most of my knowledge of this period is from movies such as Braveheart, Rob Roy, and Highlander (that last was a joke - "There can be only one!"), so I'm not sure how accurate the history in this story is, although the history itself is very peripheral to the Doctor's story. Perhaps if some episodes of this story are found, or after rewatching, my opinion of this story will improve.

The advantage of watching multiple recons is that they sometimes explain things a little differently and sometimes clarify things that another recon may take for granted. Such is the case in this episode when Polly is practicing with the knife in the barn: the LC recon says she stabs a few times, then drops the knife as Kirsty comes in (leading me to believe she was clumsy) while the BBC narration explains that she dropped it in disgust at the thought of having to actually stab someone with it. The Loose Cannon team tried to add some variety to this recon by adding some clips from movies in a couple of places instead of showing the static telesnaps. The scene of the ship in the fog with the water moving worked, but the scenes of people running around on a boat during the long fight sequence in episode 4 didn't work so well, and I enjoyed the telesnaps in the Elaphe recon better. Perhaps the later LC recon improves on this sequence. :)

One other thing I noticed: in my comments about The Smugglers, I noted that Polly kept being referred to as a "lad", but I don't remember them intentionally dressing her up as a boy. That was actually referenced in this serial: when Kirsty brings in clothes so they can disguise themselves as orange sellers, Polly makes a comment that the last time she was in the past, she spent most of the time dressed as a boy. I don't know if that plot point was left out of The Smugglers, if it was purely visual and didn't make it in the recon subtitles, or I just wasn't paying attention. :p

With all 4 episodes of this serial missing, that brings the total for season 4 to 15 and the total for Troughton to 10. These are going to rack up fast this season. :(

Next time, we travel to Atlantis and encounter a mad scientist who wants to destroy the world in The Underwater Menace.

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