Saturday, 6 June 2009

Doctor Who: The Highlanders

Part One

"You'll pick it up!"

The new Doctor continues to fascinate and entertain. He leaves the TARDIS sporting his stovepipe hat, and it's not long before he's examining a highlander's hat, once again exclaiming "I would like a hat like this". Within seconds though he's dismissing its inscription as "romantic piffle" and throwing it to the ground. Unfortunately this leads to the TARDISeers being captured by two Jacobites, Alexander and Jamie. Still, it's not long until Alexander is killed- no doubt we'll not be seeing much more of Jamie either.

The Doctor's German accent is somewhat eyebrow-raising, not to mention the WOTAN-friendly alias of "Doctor Von Wer".

Polly's magnificently indomitable in this, although she's momentarily allowed to show a less likeable side when she snaps and calls Kirsty a "stupid peasant". Still, this is all good swashbuckling fun so far.

Part Two

"Why do we always get mixed up in this kind of stuff?"

"I'm glad we do. I'm just beginning to enjoy myself."

Is it me, or does the Doctor seem rather more unstable than he was in the last story? He plays the recorder in a filthy cell, and proceeds to be utterly magnificent as he contrives to lock Solicitor Grey in a cupboard and persuades his underling Perkins to lie down on a table blindfolded. This Doctor is bloody fantastic! And then there's the washerwoman disguise...

Still good Kidnapped-esque fun which just rattles along. As things stand we're looking at another 5/5 but we're only halfway yet...

Part Three

"You wouldn't want another headache, would you?"

By now I'm actually starting to notice the bagpipe music that opens each episodes. It could have been cliched, but it gets away with it. It's a nice touch. I'm also noticing that, with Ben and his highlander mates in a spot of bother, the Doctor springs into action, makes straight for the pub and orders a pint. I like this new Doctor! And he's still able to manipulate Perkins. Just a little implausible, perhaps, and arguably it's only the circumstances which save it from sailing too close to bullying, but it works.

Ben, the Laird and the others are in a position of real horror, in spite of the story's light tone; the practice of debt bondage on plantations in the West Indies is one of those less well known niches of history and it's nice to see it mentioned,.Although at least a mention of the existence of African slaves, with no seven year limit to their bondage, would have been nice.

The Doctor wanting to sleep rather than help Polly and Kirsty plot the escape of their friends is a brave touch, showing a willingness to make the Doctor looking unheroic for the sake of quirkiness.

Part Four

"Oh no, not after all that! I give up!"

Ben runs into the Doctor, in yet another disguise! Something of a coincidence, but as I often do I'll let it pass on the grounds that I'm having huge fun watching this story.

More great Doctor stuff throughout the episode: another "I would like a hat like that", more running rings around Grey, and forgetting" about Grey's contracts at the end. For all his apparent scatterbrainedness, this Doctor knows exactly what he's doing and never really seems to lose control of the situation, whilst at the same time no one but Ben and Polly is taking him seriously. This Doctor is fascinating.

The ending is highly satisfying- it's particularly apt that Perkins, who's spent the whole story being the butt of everyone's jokes including the Doctor's, should turn out all right in the end. And what could be an unbelievable scene- Ffinch arresting Grey but letting the others go, in spite of the fact that one (Jamie) is an obvious Jacobite- is rendered believable by his obvious fondness for Polly, who gives him a peck on the cheek. Aaah.

I'm glad to see Jamie aboard the TARDIS, although I hope he gets a proper introduction to the TARDIS interior next week. The gender balance inside the Ship is getting a bit wonky, mind!

I loved that! Huge fun throughout with not one slow or tiresome moment. There may have been nothing big or clever about it but as a swashbuckling adventure story it was perfection. 5/5. The historicals end with a bang, and I for one am very sorry to see them go.

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