After a summer hiatus (at this rate, I’ll never make it through all 26 classic seasons), I picked up the Doctor where I left off. Patrick Troughton’s second story. I was rather ambivalent about Troughton’s Doctor after The Power of the Daleks, and this story didn’t do too much to make me like him more. In fact, I found his somewhat childish nature to be irritating. Perhaps I just haven’t gotten in tune with his interpretation of the role. And not being able to actually see Troughton in action (nothing but reproductions so far) probably hasn’t helped.
The travelers arrive in Scotland in 1746, shortly after the end of the Battle of Culloden. We see a difference in this Doctor from William Hartnell right away as he apparently recognizes their location and is ready to go. Ben, on the other hand, is convinced that they are in England and wants to find out what the deal is. This harkens back to the time that Ian was convinced the France during the Reign of Terror was home and went off in search of a pub to buy the Doctor a beer. Instead, they end up being taken prisoner first by a group of rebels and then by the British army.
Among the group of highlanders that befriend our heroes is Jamie McCrimmon. He seems like a decent enough fellow, perhaps a bit like Ben. He was certainly introduced in a manner similar to Ben in that he was a major player in the adventure. At the end of the Story he ends up agreeing to travel with the Doctor, although he doesn’t know quite what’s going on. At this point, I have a comment on Ben. I was a Ben fan. I liked his chutzpah. But he almost seemed out of control in this story, acting foolish. Tearing up his contract, refusing to go with the other prisoners, insisting the army had no right to arrest him. It is this bit of recklessness that made him appealing to me, but he just made the situation worse.
At any rate, the Doctor, pretending to be German, Ben, Jamie, and the Laird (a Scottish Lord, I’m assuming?) are taken prisoner by Grey and Trask, illegally being sold into slavery. Polly and her friend Kirsty, though, elude capture. They hide out in a pit and use their feminine wiles to blackmail Ffinch, and army officer, into helping them. He helps them to reunite with the Doctor. Meanwhile, Ben is busy ripping up his slavery contract and being tossed overboard of the Annabelle slave ship. He manages to get loose of his ties in the water and swim to short where, luckily, the Doctor is conveniently waiting. The plan they come up with is fine: the girls give weapons to the prisoners while the Doctor distracts them. After a battle, Trask ends up in the drink, and the rebels sail the ship away to France. Jamie, however, is left behind as he helps the travelers to locate the TARDIS. After avoiding capture with the help of Ffinch (still feeling blackmailed, I suppose), the TARDIS is found. Jamie isn’t sure where he’s going to go, so Polly and Ben suggest he accompany them. He does, although he seems nervous about it.
I’m told by the Wikipedia that this is the last historical story for many years, owing to Patrick Troughton’s desire to differentiate his Doctor from that of William Hartnell. I’m a little sad to see the historicals go, I rather like them. Having said that, I was kind of bored by this story. For almost half of the story, each traveler was in a different location. This made interaction between them a bit sparse and, as is typical, the secondary cast weren’t much to write home about. Trask was like a cartoon pirate, and Ffinch was a wimp. Jamie seems alright, but was not really developed. I think that Polly’s part of the story was the most intriguing, with her cliffhanger in the pit and the blackmail of Ffinch. And then, when the plot to rescue the rebels was hatched I was impressed by her (and Kirsty’s) insistence upon being a major player in the events. Polly really took charge of her role in this adventure, while the Doctor was rather irritating and Ben was foolish. She was almost Barbaraesque, but much less old. Speaking of Barbara, I’m starting to appreciate her more.
Overall, the story was ho-hum. Much of the energy that was driving the show in Season 3 seems to have been lost somewhere. Or been redirected somehow. The next story has an existing episode, so seeing Troughton and Jamie in action may help enliven it some. I hope so, because I kept having to rewind after dozing off while watching this one.