Review: Doctor Who: AudioGo Classic Novels: The Highlanders

The Doctor, Ben and Polly get caught up in the aftermath of the battle of Culloden Field and make a new friend…

Unfairly often dismissed as “Jamie’s introductory story” or “the last historical until Black Orchid”, as if that is a reason not to bother with it, The Highlanders is not the strongest story from Patrick Troughton’s era, but it shows the development of the character of the second Doctor. There’s plenty of humour, some quite harsh moments and a reluctance to hide the rough edges of history. The Jacobite rebels were hanged or maltreated; they weren’t just patted on the heads and sent home.

Gerry Davis’ novelisation is very much in the style of the Target books of its era (1984): it retells the story without huge rewrites or expansions. The odd detail is altered (you can find out what in the sleeve notes from David J. Howe), but there aren’t huge differences between this and what was televised.

The biggest difference between it and the narrated soundtrack is Anneke Wills, who is obviously having a ball reliving the adventure. Her Polly has all the exuberance of the original, her Mike Craze impression as Ben is a wonderful tribute, and her version of the Doctor, while not always quite capturing Troughton’s cadences, is quite definitely the second Time Lord. And then there are the many and varied other voices and accents she has to provide, no two of which are quite the same. Simon Power’s soundscape helps sell the story, with musket rounds, Jacobite hordes, sea noises and renditions of Lilibulero as required.

Verdict: Much shorter than some of the other adaptations of four-part stories, this fairly whistles along: a triumph for Anneke Wills and the range. 8/10

Paul Simpson

Click here to order Doctor Who: The Highlanders from


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