Will Brooks’ 50 Year Diary - watching Doctor Who one episode a day from the very start...
Day 150: The Highlanders, Episode Three
Let’s get the inevitable out of the way first - no, I’m still just not into The Highlanders. No, I still don’t know why that is. Frankly, I think my brain has decided that it doesn’t like this story, and it’s sticking with it, no matter what. The fourth episode could be a compilation episode of the best bits from The Power of the Daleks, and I think I’d still not much like it.
Where things really are succeeding is in the make-up of our current TARDIS team. Ben and Polly are real sufferers of the missing episode plague (they’ve only got 13 episodes surviving of the 40 they made, and half of those which survive are with Hartnell), so I’m really getting used to hearing them on audio - and loving them! They still feel fresh and new even in their fifth adventure, and I’m still loving how true to their personalities they’re being. If anything - make sure you’re sitting down, I’m about to praise this story! - The Highlanders is progressing them and helping them to evolve.
It had become almost a running joke that stories would involve Polly being asked to put the kettle on, but here she’s really being utilised properly. She’s been really pro-active since the start, looking after Kirsty (even though they did fall out at one point) and trying to make sure she can get her friends back to the safety of the TARDIS. She was responsible for trapping Ffinch in yesterday’s episode, and for tricking him again today (though, has his name changed between episodes?). It’s nice to see her finally being given a chance to do something - she’s really capable when being written well.
And Wills’ bounces so well off Troughton’s Doctor. There’s a lovely scene in this episode - actually, I think it’s the standout of the story for me - where Polly asks the Doctor is he’s got a plan for them to use. ‘No…’ he replies, dryly, with a yawn. ‘Oh, I know you better than that…’ Polly smiles. There’s a pause. It’s a long pause. ‘Well…’ the Doctor concedes. It’s the first time that I’ve actually wanted to properly watch something from The Highlanders, because you can actually hear the pair of them sparking together.
Ben, too, is given some nice stuff to do (I love the way he asks to read the contract that would basically sell him into slavery, and rips it up in front of the solicitor), but he’s taking more of a back seat to Polly, spending this episode stuck aboard the ship. Indeed, aside from the cliffhanger here, this is very much more Polly’s story than it is his.
Or, indeed, Jamie’s! I really thought he’d have more to do by now. I don’t know quite what I was expecting, but… well, he more of a background presence than I’d anticipated. I maintain that were you watching this story knowing that a new companion joins the TARDIS, but not knowing Who, you’d put your money on Kirsty. Heck, I’d even put more money on Perkins (though only because I want to see the Doctor threaten him with ‘illness’ through time and space) than I would Jamie. What an odd, low-key start for the longest-serving male companion!
I’m sorry to say that all of the praise I can heap on our TARDIS crew still isn’t enough to raise the story in my estimations. Still, only one more episode to go, so things still have a chance to turn around. I’m going to try really hard tomorrow. Promise…