Sue: I do like a good historical, especially when it’s not a recon.
Me: Sorry to disappoint you, love, but that’s not Doctor Who. If I’m not mistaken, it’s a clip from Peter Watkins’ 1964 documentary, Culloden. It’s quite clever, actually.
Sue recognises Frazer Hines immediately. Well, I say recognise.
Sue: Oh look, it’s whathisface from Emmerdale Farm! He definitely becomes a companion. Does this mean Ben will get himself killed in this one? That wouldn’t be very nice.
When the Doctor emerges from his TARDIS he is still wearing his stove-pipe hat (“Why doesn’t Ben or Polly tell him it looks like a dunce’s hat?”). Later, when he is presented with an opportunity to switch to a Tam o’ Shanter, Sue practically begs him to take it. Anything would be an improvement on the chimney currently perched on his head.
Sue: This Doctor has a hat fetish.
Me: It could be worse, he could be wearing a fez.
Sue: Oh yeah, I can see a bit of Troughton in Matt Smith, now that you mention it. There’s the bow tie too, of course. Do you think Matt Smith watched any Troughton episodes before he played the part? And do you think he sat through any recons?
Me: Of course he did. Everyone who auditioned for the role had to watch at least one recon. I heard that Chiwetel Ejiofor has a thing for Mission to the Unknown.
Thanks to some very twitchy Australian censors, we are treated to some surviving footage and we get to see Patrick Troughton’s feet move for two – infinitely fascinating – seconds.
Sue: What an odd thing to cut. It was fine to show them with a noose around their neck but they couldn’t show them standing on a bench? Australians can be very weird sometimes.
When a familiar face turns up in the guise of Hannah Gordon, it’s not good enough for Sue. She’s convinced that it’s Kate Bush playing Kirsty, and when Frazer Hines’ narration mentions windy moors, there’s simply no shifting her.
Sue: That reminds me, didn’t Kate Bush write an episode of Doctor Who once?
Me: Yes. Yes, she did.
Sue: I’ll look forward to that one. Oh, wait, now that I can see a better still I recognise her now.
Me: I already told you, it’s Hannah Gordon!
Sue: Wasn’t she in Crossroads?
I am convinced that my wife is the anti-Hadoke. While Toby Hadoke could reel off practically every actor’s name and CV, Sue is the complete opposite. If Toby and Sue ever touched, the universe would cease to exist.
Sue: I still can’t get a handle on Patrick Troughton. I’m sorry but he sounds drunk to me. He’s a mess.
Me: He’s still not the Doctor yet. This is still an atypical performance.
This atypically is ramped up a notch when the Doctor launches into a German accent.
Sue: He sounds like Peter Sellers in that film where they fight in the war room.
Thankfully, Sue doesn’t pick up on the reference to Doktor Von Wer, and since I can’t be bothered getting into a “Doktor comma Von Wer” debate, I decide to let it go.
Sue: I enjoyed that. I can handle the recons when the stories are rooted in reality. Now if only the Doctor was.
Sue: One thing I have noticed about this story is the lack of science fiction in it.
Me: That’s nothing new. We’ve seen plenty of historicals before.
Sue: Yes, but the Hartnell Doctor always felt alien to me. He stood out like a sore thumb. He was the science fiction element in the story. But with Troughton, well he blends into the background a lot more. He becomes just another character in the narrative. Does that make any sense?
Me: A bit.
One thing that Sue is happy to see in The Highlanders is a much more proactive Polly.
Sue: She’s got a bit of a cheek moaning to Kate Bush about being too girly, given that all she’s ever done is make the coffee and scream. She’s acting like a completely different character all of a sudden. Not that I’m complaining.
Polly is full of bright ideas in this story, and she’s very flirtatious too, especially when it comes to Lieutenant Algernon ffinch. But the highlight of the episode is a delightful scene where the Doctor locks a solicitor in a cupboard.
Sue: Troughton has proved that he can do comedy. But he’s the complete opposite of Hartnell. Hartnell was serious with flashes of comedy. Troughton is comedic with flashes of seriousness. It’s a massive departure. I don’t know if I like it.
But Sue loves the wood.
Sue: I know people will laugh at me but the carpentry is fantastic. I’m deadly serious. The BBC had great carpenters. Has anyone ever made a documentary about the carpentry in Doctor Who? They haven’t? They should. If I could go back in time and do everything all over again, I would be a carpenter for the BBC.
Me: Just think, you could have erected Paradise Towers.
It’s Father’s Day today and I received a lovely card from Nicol. It was homemade (that’s always the best kind of card) and it featured the TARDIS exterior on the outside and a picture of me standing next to David Tennant’s console at The Doctor Who Experience on the inside.
Nicol: Sorry about the mistake.
Me: What mistake? It’s perfect!
Nicol: It’s Matt Smith’s TARDIS on the outside and David Tennant’s TARDIS on the inside. I know it’s not quite right.
Sue can’t believe what she’s hearing.
Sue: For ****’s sake, Neil! You are turning this whole family into bloody ming-mongs! It’s bad enough that you’ve dragged me into this world of yours – you can’t drag Nicol in as well. I’m going to have to put my foot down.
Me: It’s not my fault! Blame her boyfriend, Richard! He’s making her watch all the Matt Smith episodes. I have nothing to do with it!
Nicol: Given that it’s Father’s Day, do you want me to watch Doctor Who with you tonight?
Me: It’s a recon.
Nicol: I’ve just remembered that I have to revise for an exam.
Me: Your exams are over.
Nicol: I’m revising for my re-sits. Just in case.
Me: Come on, Sue, it’s time for us to listen to Scottish people shouting at each other for a twenty-five minutes.
Sue becomes fixated on two things in this episode – the Doctor’s transvestitism and his brandishing of a gun.
Sue: The Doctor doesn’t usually use a gun, does he?
Me: Very rarely. This is a bit out of character.
Sue: He manages to subvert it by dressing as a lady. Do you think Monty Python were inspired by this? He looks like Brian’s mum in The Life of Brian.
When the Doctor reveals that the gun wasn’t loaded, we both feel strangely relieved.
Sue: Now I know why he wears that hat! He’s stuck in a barn with two sexy wenches, no wonder he needs a hat like that! Look!
Sometimes I could kiss John Cura.
Sue: I like the way the Doctor happily agrees when anyone says he’s fantastic. That’s very Doctorish.
Meanwhile, Jamie and Ben are being held captive on a pirate ship where they are about to be transported as slaves. Ben rips up the contracts that will rob the rebels of their freedom and he is thrown overboard for his sins.
Me: That’s it. Ben’s dead.
Sue: He’s not!
Me: You said it yourself earlier, if Jamie joins the team, Ben has to leave.
Sue: No way! That’s horrible!
Look, it’s the only pleasure I get from watching this drivel. Give me a break.
Sue: At least he died a sailor’s death. It’s what he would have wanted.
If there ever was a moment when this experiment threatened to derail itself – or at least have its parameters fundamentally altered – then this is that moment. I’ve got recon fatigue (this will be our tenth in a row), and I’m struggling. Just thinking about spending another evening watching a Troughton recon depresses me. It hangs over me like a cloud all day. I seriously consider throwing in the towel. I’m not just flirting with failure, I’ve invited her back to my place for coffee.
It doesn’t help when certain people on this blog inform me that we shouldn’t be comparing the recons with surviving stories because it’s unfair. I know I said this was an experiment but I never said it was scientific!
I decide to broach the subject with Sue.
Me: Somebody on the blog has suggested that we skip ahead to a surviving story, so you can get a handle on Troughton.
Sue: I suggested that last week and you dismissed it out of hand. And now “somebody” suggests the very same thing and you are all over it like a rash. You are so predictable, Neil. How many recons are left until we see Troughton move?
Me: Two, not including the one we’re about to watch.
Sue: That’s not so bad. I can last until then.
Me: Or we could just skip the recons completely?
Sue: Are you serious?
Me: I honestly didn’t intend to show you all the recons – maybe one or two, to give you a flavour. The original plan was to read out a synopsis for the missing episodes. We didn’t watch Marco Polo in seven parts and no one had a problem with that. Even Steven Moffat can’t bear to sit through The Power of the Daleks.
Sue: Well, if he can’t be bothered maybe we could skip them after all.
It’s Nicol who has the last word.
Nicol: You can’t give up now. It’s just like climbing Mount Kilimanjaro. You can either do it the hard way, like you did, or you can do it easy way, you know, with all the comfy beds and the ice-cold bottles of coke. You would still get to the top, but you wouldn’t feel the same sense of achievement.
Me: This is nothing like Kilimanjaro. This is much, much worse.
Sue: I vote that we stay with it. I’d only regret it if we stopped now.
Me: Okay, we’ll carry on. But let’s spice things up a bit. Let’s watch the last part as an animated reconstruction!
I manage to stomach 64 seconds.
Me: I’m sorry but I can’t watch 25 minutes of that. It’s Captain Pugwash meets Waiting For Godot. No disrespect to the fan who did it, but I would rather chew my own leg off than watch this.
We revert back to a tried and tested Loose Canon recon for the final episode. It’s as good as it gets.
Sue: So Ben isn’t really dead, you git! I knew you were winding me up.
Me: I know this is all about you, but I just have to say, this is the worst story that I’ve sat through so far. At least The Celestial Toymaker was interesting. This is just irritating.
Sue: In what way is it irritating?
Me: Do I have to spell it out? We’ve got the Doctor playing “the Doktor” with a comedy German accent, and he’s embroiled in a scenery-eating contest with a pantomime “Oooh-Arrr!” pirate. It’s doing my head in.
Sue: It’s definitely odd, but that’s Doctor Who.
There’s a massive battle on the ship and we can only imagine how it must have looked like as we listen to men huffing and puffing for five minutes.
And then, just when I think it’s all over, there’s another five minutes until the Doctor finally makes it back to the TARDIS. It’s that kind of story.
Sue: Jamie hasn’t done very much. I’m surprised he didn’t play a more active role. He’s very dishy though. I bet there’s a love triangle between Jamie, Polly and Ben. It’ll all end in tears, you mark my words.
Me: I honestly never knew that The Highlanders was even remotely like that. I always imagined it would be a story about the Scots fighting the Redcoats, with lots of sword fighting and hiding in caves. Instead, it was a bloody pirate adventure! I wouldn’t mind, but we had one of those a couple of weeks ago! I’ve got pirate fatigue coupled with recon fatigue and I’m not sure if I can take much more.
Sue: Don’t worry, it’s over now. I’m sure the next one will be a lot better.
Sue: It’s was alright. I didn’t have a problem with it like you did. Again, I’m sure I would have got a lot more out of it had it survived, but I’ve seen a lot worse. I like the historical ones.
Sue: It’s a recon. You have to give it the benefit of the doubt.