Vot is zat accent?!
What I love about Doctor Who is the contrast we get between stories. Last week it was all corridors and Star Trek style mercury swamps, and this week proper outdoor countryside! So the first thing that struck me about this episode was the location filming. I’ve noticed an increasing amount of this in Doctor Who over the last six months and it’s good to see. So this rural stuff is a refreshing change after all the claustrophobia of the last six weeks.
It starts on a battlefield. Now I should point out that contrary to what you might think, although I have slipped back in time I am not able to view the picture of this episode because – would you believe it?! – the TV set I’m watching on is ‘on the blink’ as we used to say. I’ve tried whacking it firmly on the side and top, but alas, all I can get is sound. And intermittent images which staggeringly, seem to match the ones which are available as ‘telesnaps’ in your time period. Typical.
So this battlefield. It sounds epic…lots of shouting and distant gunfire. Makes me wonder though…maybe I’m mistaken but if I had pictures I’m guessing we’d probably only see about four people on screen. So actually it works well being audio only. Though after last week I wouldn’t be remotely surprised if we had fields absolutely covered with fallen soldiers. From the glimpse I’ve seen there is certainly some brutal work with a claymore.
I love the bagpipe music that’s played over the episode title. Really evocative and sets the scene well. I really like these custom title scenes they’ve been doing lately.
The TARDIS arrives (hooray) and after being startled by a near miss from a cannonball there’s a lovely comedy moment where Ben and Polly find the Doctor cowering in a bush with his hands over his ears. He looks up at them and says “what are you doing up there?” This sort of thing is the Doctor as we know him today. It’s as if the moment Troughton took over we got our definitive Doctor.
Odd how it’s now the Doctor who’s frightened and wants to head back to the TARDIS and leave. It’s Polly who stops him and wants to stay and look around. Ben believes they’re on Earth so I suppose they’d be eager to return home. This brings back memories of Ian and Barbara hoping for a landing in their own time. That seems so long ago now…
Some ‘rebel’ highlanders have taken a beating from the English redcoats, and are hiding out in a cottage. A girl, Kirsty, a man called Alexander, a young piper lad called Jamie, and their badly wounded Laird. This is Culloden Moor. The location that is, not the Laird’s name. Though that would be a cool name.
The Doctor finds a ‘tam-o’-shanter’ hat which he tries on and does a little Scots jig. Polly notices a slogan written on it: “with Charles our brave and merciful Prince Royal, we’ll greatly fall or nobly save our country.” The Doctors response? “Bah. Romantic piffle!”, he says, throwing it to the ground in disgust!
The travellers are captured by a Scotsman with a sword – it’s Alexander from earlier – and led to the cottage. The hat belonged to Prince Charles Edward and the highlanders are not impressed that the Doctor threw it to the ground it seems, and the travellers’ English accents don’t help matters. In fact the highlanders want them executed. Harsh. Luckily it just so happens that they need a doctor for their Laird so the Doctor and friends get a reprieve. Polly leaves with Kirsty to fetch water to clean the wound.
The Doctor displays better knowledge of British history than Ben does. “A Highlander’s word is his bond” he tells his distrusting companion.
They’ve been spotted by a group of redcoats who approach the cottage. There’s a brief battle and Alexander is killed in a hail of musket fire. Blimey. We’ve only just met the man. The soldiers storm the cottage and arrest everyone. Suddenly the Doctor does a really bad ‘vor film’ German accent and proclaims himself to be…”Dr von Wer”, from Hannover. Now I have to tell you, being half German myself, half of my family come from Hannover, and I have never ever heard anyone speak like that! Sorry but that’s a rubbish accent Mr Troughton. And then we get our first “Doctor Who?” joke as the sergeant delivers the question and the Doctor replies “that’s what I said.”
A couple of nattily dressed gentlemen have been watching events from a distance. One if them is a sycophantic fellow called Perkins. The other one is clearly in charge and sips wine as he discusses rounding up the highlanders and selling them as slaves overseas. He also spits the wine in Perkins’ face in the way masters do when they want to assert authority. So we’ve got this chap sussed.
Polly and Kirsty spot the redcoats at the cottage, preparing to hang the girls’ friends. Polly’s in fighting spirit this week. She wants to rescue their friends. She’s all brave and resourceful, and in just one week she’s gone from “weedy frightened lady” to disgust at Kirsty’s weedy frightened and defeatist nature. Her experience with the Daleks must have toughened her up. Polly creates a diversion to lure the soldiers away. “Stab me there’s another one!” exclaims one of the soldiers as he spots Kirsty. “Stab me” is my new favourite exclamation as of this moment.
The hanging is interrupted by the arrival of the two posh men, Perkins and his master the commissioner who he reveals is called Solicitor Grey, and who claims charge over the prisoners.
Grey enquires who this chap with the peculiar accent is, and evidently Perkins is baffled too, as he replies, “he says he’s a frog Doctor.” A what?? Did he?! Does he think that’s a French accent?! I’m confused. Anyway, they are all to be taken to Inverness apparently.
In a cave Polly makes plans to rescue the others. It’s all a bit of a culture shock for her, this time travelling lark, and she is appallingly unsympathetic to eighteenth century sensibilities. Forgetting how frightened she was last week, her reaction to Kirsty’s tears and her reluctance to help their friends is: “I don’t understand you people…you’re just a stupid peasant”. She marches off in a strop but after some nicely creepy night time moor-wandering she falls into an animal pit trap and is menaced by a hand with a dagger…ooh! An enjoyable episode. I wonder if I’d have liked it as much with Hartnell in the lead role. The new Doctor is fab.