The 'Highlander' Franchise and Phenomenon Content from the guide to life, the universe and everything

The 'Highlander' Franchise and Phenomenon

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A lot of people probably know that there can be only one, but anyone versed in the lore of the long-running Highlander franchise knows that there are at least two.

The film Highlander is almost unique in having spawned three sequels, each of which is almost a sequel to the original movie, but not to any of the others, two TV spin-off series (one of which follows from the other, neither of which truly follows from any of the films but which one of the films kind of follows) and a cartoon series (which seems to have precious little to do with anything). So what is it about the film - which most critics would agree is not a classic piece of cinema - that has spawned first a dedicated cult following, then a loyal fan base which has survived multiple major disappointments to produce this long-running franchise?

The Beginning


From the dawn of time we came; moving silently down through the centuries, living many secret lives, struggling to reach the time of the Gathering; when the few who remain will battle to the last. No one has ever known we were among you... until now.
- Ramirez, Opening Narration (with the voice of Sean Connery)

Highlander was a lowish budget fantasy adventure movie, made by former rock video director Russell Mulcahy. It was one of the first modern attempts to tackle the idea of a secret war being fought for the fate of humanity under their very eyes, and told the story of Connor MacLeod, a 16th Century Scots Clansman (the eponymous Highlander1) who discovers that he is one of a number of immortals destined to battle through the ages for the 'Prize'.

The immortals are destined to fight among themselves, able to live through and heal any wound that does not sever their head from their neck, leading to the oft-given advice: 'Don't lose your head'. When the fatal blow is struck, the power that is in the slain immortal is released, and enters their killer, and so the victor grows stronger. In the end, there can be only one, a line repeated by each immortal whenever he - and in the film there are no female immortals - despatches another foe.

I am Connor MacLeod of the Clan MacLeod. I was born in 1518 in the village of Glenfinnan on the shores of Loch Shiel. And I am immortal.
- Connor MacLeod, played by Christopher Lambert

Highlander is set principally in modern-day (read, mid-eighties) New York, with the history of Connor MacLeod (Christopher Lambert) told in a series of flashback vignettes. It is the time of The Gathering, the final confrontation between the handful of remaining immortals, and MacLeod must marshall his strength for a final showdown with The Kurgan (Clancy Brown), a proto-Russian warrior of superhuman strength and skill, while remembering past loves and friendships, and picking just the wrong time to fall in love again with a nosy forensic scientist.

The surreal notion of French-born Lambert as a Scot - complete with outrrrrrageous accent - is made more laughable by the presence of Sean Connery - Scots burr as clear as ever - as Juan Sanchez Villa-Loboz Ramirez, a three thousand-year-old Egyptian immortal supposedly resident in Spain. This flamboyant but worldly-wise immortal teaches the inexperienced young warrior what he is and how to fight, and the training scenes are some of the best in the film, largely for Connery's inimitable presence.

The Kurgan. He is the strongest of all the immortals. He's the perfect warrior. If he wins the Prize mortal man would suffer an eternity of darkness.
- Ramirez

The villain of the piece is The Kurgan, last survivor of an ancient and brutal culture. Bereft of pity and remorse - but gifted with a dark and often campy sense of humour - The Kurgan has presumably killed more immortals than any other, and we are told he is the strongest of all. Enjoined by Ramirez to fight this monster with 'heart, strength and steel', Connor must defeat The Kurgan to prevent the horror he would unleash were he to win the nebulous 'Prize'.

Clancy Brown manages to conjure some sense of menace about his erratic, gravel-voiced villain, and Lambert is appealing enough as the relative newcomer to this game of death. The support playing is of a highly variable quality, with the stand-out being Alan North - the captain from the Police Squad TV series - as the world-weary detective searching for the mysterious 'head-hunter', and the lowest ebb probably Roxanne Hart as the lacklustre love interest, who after showing a fair degree of - for want of a better word - spunk in the earlier parts of the film, proceeds to become a screaming incompetent for much of the final quarter.

The editing and direction is slightly jerky and uneven, although less so than in other rock video directors' early work (for example, The Crow) and mostly underlit, although this does add to the atmosphere. The pace is uneven and at times slightly disorienting. The film's mainstay is its sword fights, which are for the most part impressive. Unlike the classic swashbuckler, the immortals use a range of heavy broadswords in combat, the better to remove heads with. It is unfortunate that a bigger thing was not made of the difference in the fighting styles used with the different weapons, but that may be an unnecessarily technical complaint.

The film's other saving grace is its soundtrack, recorded for the film by the rock band Queen, presumably contacts from Mulcahy's earlier career. It's not all among their best stuff, but does include 'A Kind of Magic' and the anthemic 'Who Wants to Live Forever'. The dramatic score is also impressive, although in many versions seems to suffer from a bad music print.

All-in-all, the film is a fairly average mid-eighties martial arts actioner, with swords instead of kung fu. Critically it did about as well as most other films of this type. Leonard Maltin's Film Guide says:

Immortal being is tracked from 16th Century Scotland to modern-day America by his eternal arch-enemy. Interesting notion made silly and boring. Connery, at least, shows some style in smallish role as Lambert's survival tutor. Former rock video director Mulcahy's relentlessly showy camera moves may cause you to reach for the Dramamine.

The film performed poorly at the box office, and might have slunk into either total obscurity or maintained only a small cult following. However, for some reason - perhaps the video director's style worked better on the small screen - Highlander was a video success. It has been acclaimed as a classic despite critical insistence that the characters are crudely drawn, the acting is mostly poor, that most of the soundtrack has dated and that the ending has no surprises at all.

Naysayers aside however, video sales continued to be strong as new viewers caught the Highlander bug. And so, five years after the original cinema release, spurred on by the film's small screen success, there came...

... the First Sequel

Highlander II - The Quickening

It's time for a new kind of magic

In a future Earth shrouded in darkness, Connor MacLeod has grown old. While eco-terrorists struggle to uncover the evil deeds of a mega-corporation which maintains an artificial shield which MacLeod created years ago to replace the destroyed ozone layer2, MacLeod watches an opera and has a flashback. In this, a voice-over by Ramirez informs him - and us - that it began 500 years ago, on the planet Zeist.

We learn that MacLeod and the other immortals were exiled from Zeist for rebelling against the tyrannical General Katana3. Why the General of an alien world is named after a kind of sword - coincidentally the same type of sword that Connor inherited from Ramirez - is not clear. Once on Earth they became immortal, but were obliged to fight to the last man - none of them apparently remembering that they were once comrades in a glorious rebellion except Ramirez - who would then have a choice to remain on Earth a mortal or come back to Zeist a mortal. This is not what we were told at the end of the first movie.

MacLeod retires to a bar, where one of the eco-terrorists finds him and tries to convince him that the shield is no longer necessary. He is racked by apathy and tries to avoid her, but is suddenly attacked by two cackling assassins in bloody stupid outfits, sent by Katana (who, despite being a mortal on Zeist is still alive and healthy, not looking a day over forty-five) to kill MacLeod - leader of the rebellion - whom he is suddenly and unaccountably afraid will come back and try to lead a new revolt from his Zimmer frame.

Luckily for MacLeod, the assassins are useless wasters. Offing the first he regains his youth and immortality. Killing the second he shouts Ramirez's name, and Sean Connery pops back into existence in the middle of a production of Hamlet, in a painfully unfunny scene. MacLeod and the eco-terrorist have unconvincing movie sex. Ramirez makes his way to America to hook up with MacLeod, who is now committed to destroying the shield - movie sex bringing out the idealist in him again - and Katana comes to Earth to kill MacLeod in person.

There's a little bit more swordplay and some dull investigative stuff. Katana unaccountably teams up with the Shield Company, Ramirez pulls off some funky magic with lights and bagpipes playing 'Amazing Grace', then dies a boring death. MacLeod and Katana fight and MacLeod uses the energy released by Katana's death to destroy the shield.

The popular consensus is that Highlander II isn't exactly great. The plot in no way follows on from the first film (just for starters even if we assume that the aliens have been sent to be reborn in human form, rather than simply dumped on Earth as is, Ramirez was supposed to have been born in Egypt over two thousand years before he claims they left Zeist) and in most places is just silly. The whole-aliens-sent-to-Earth shambles is summed up best by this piece of dialogue:

'So, you're mortal there, but you're immortal here, unless you kill all the guys from there who have come here, in which case you become mortal here. Unless, you go back there or some more guys from there came here, at which point you become immortal here... again.'
'Something like that.'

- Louise and Connor

Even the movie seems to have stopped trying to pretend that it makes any sense. Moreover, Katana's sudden desire to kill MacLeod is the only thing which gives him any strength back, and there is no explanation as to why the supposedly mortal Katana hasn't aged in five hundred years and can't get better help than two giggling yahoos in goggles despite being the unquestioned dictator of an entire planet.

A possible explanation for the aliens thing (although explanations or no explanations, there's still no excuse) is that in 1986 there was felt to be a market for mystical fantasy adventure, while by 1991 sci-fi was going through one of its periodic resurgences. Certainly it is notable that in the original film the only real explanation ever offered for the immortals' powers is that 'it's a kind of magic', but that, while the promotional material for The Quickening tells us it is time for a new kind of magic, what we actually get is aliens.

The acting is tired and wooden; even Sean Connery seems to be phoning this one in. Michael Ironside struggles manfully to make something decent out of his role as Katana, but even his gravelly-voiced villain charisma fails to lift the role or the movie above the level of total dross. Furthermore, the direction is slack, the dialogue lacks the sparkle which sometimes lit up the original and the continuity is appalling.

The Maltin reviewer on Highlander II said:

Lambert has saved the world by a globe-encircling shield, but years later, the shield's the problem. At least, that seems to be the set-up; hard to tell in a film so awesomely dull. Connery is dull, too, and in it very briefly. We learn new stuff about the immortals that contradicts the first film without adding anything interesting. Even those who liked the first one hated this.

A 'Renegade Version' director's cut of the film exists, which makes no reference to aliens, instead placing the origin of the immortals in the future, and fixes some of the glaring continuity problems of the official cut. Sadly, this version is rarely seen.

Despite its failure to please either the critics or the fans however, enough people went to see the first sequel for the takings to justify a second, presumably before everyone realised how awful it was. Perhaps realising that more of this tripe was not going to cut it then, the producers apparently decided that the thing to do was to go for a different tack; Highlander - The Series was born.

The TV Series

Highlander - The Series

He is immortal. Born in the Highlands of Scotland 400 years ago. He is not alone. There are others like him, some good, some evil. For centuries he has battled the forces of darkness, with holy ground his only refuge. He cannot die, unless you take his head, and with it his power. In the end there can be only one. He is Duncan MacLeod, the Highlander.
- Opening Narration

The fact that the original Highlander was such a huge video hit must have been a big factor in the decision to take the franchise to the small screen, but it is surely also of relevance that the transition from Celluloid to airwaves allowed a distancing from the events of the original which allowed the original premise to be retained while pretending that the very conclusive ending essentially did not happen.

The TV series utterly ignores the events and explanations of the sequel, returning to the principles of the original. For the uninitiated it might be useful at this point to run down the most important points:

  • Immortals turn up more or less randomly from the general population. No explanation is ever given as to why this happens, because nobody actually knows. In the TV series, all pre-immortals - mortals with the potential to become immortal - are foundlings, but their origins are a mystery.

  • To become immortal, a pre-immortal must 'die' a violent death, which triggers their potential. Without this trigger, a latent immortal simply ages and dies.

  • An immortal can not die unless his head leaves his neck. They can breathe underwater, survive fire and electrocution, and do not age from the time that they are first killed. This means that if you are a pre-immortal, live to be seventy-five and then get knifed by some punk in an alley for your pension money, you get to be a seventy-five year old until someone lops off your head. Likewise, if you die a child, you are stuck that way forever.

  • Immortals can not have children, even before their first death, although we are given ample evidence that they are not impotent, merely sterile.

  • The immortals must fight among themselves until only one remains. Their duels are typically accompanied by flashing lights and electrical discharges, and when one immortal takes another's head he absorbs their power in the form of 'the Quickening', a spectacular display in which a nebulous cloud rises from the body and enters the victor in a drawn out surge of weird lightning.

  • Good or evil, immortals always fight one on one (no reason is given for this) and no immortal will fight on holy ground4. Ramirez insists that no immortal will break that rule; 'it's tradition'.

  • When only a few immortals remain, they will feel an irresistible pull to a far away land. There the Gathering will take place, as the last immortals fight it out. In the original, the Gathering lasts about a week, and the competition is limited to a handful of immortals, but in the TV series it is apparently an ongoing event.

  • In the end, there can be only one.

Although, like the film, the TV series is set at the time of the Gathering, there are dozens of immortals still wandering around. At least once every other week another seems to show up and get decapitated. For some reason, reportedly because he turned the offer down, Christopher Lambert was not the star of the TV series. He makes only a guest appearance in the first episode, which introduces the other Highlander, Duncan MacLeod.

He has most of the fun, and all of the good women.
- Connor MacLeod of Duncan MacLeod

Duncan is a few years younger than his 'cousin', Connor (about sixty years). Played by British export, actor/dancer/choreographer/model Adrian Paul, Duncan was a more graceful hero. Given the commitment to a long-term project rather than a single film, pains were obviously taken to cast a lead capable of conducting an interesting sword fight on a more-or-less weekly basis. He is also capable of a passable - although no more than passable - Scots accent, which he uses only in flashback. The character was also far more cerebral than his predecessor, capable of solving problems with his wits as well as with his fists and his sword.

The series listed somewhat towards a Batman-esque 'Special Guest Villain' format; another episode, another immortal. The layout of each episode was fairly simple: Immortal-of-the-Week shows up and runs into MacLeod; they either fight, spar verbally, or reminisce about old times; a series of flashbacks explore the unfolding of an episode from MacLeod's past5 which either has some parallel with the current situation or relates the last time he met the Immortal-of-the-Week; in a climactic struggle, MacLeod either decapitates the other immortal, fights him but the foe escapes to menace the world in another episode, or talks his old friend down from doing something stupid.

Despite this use of formula - or perhaps because of it - the series was a hit, and ran for six years. One of its strengths was the variety of the guest immortals; unlike the enemies of the films they would not simply turn up and hack away at the hero with swords until someone died. Some were good, some were evil. It became clear that different immortals had chosen very different ways of life; some used their power for their own gain, some - of whom MacLeod was the paragon - tried to help others, while a few just tried to avoid the whole business.

Other characters moved in and out of the series as they passed through MacLeod's life. Friends - including Fitz, a foppish immortal played by Roger Daltrey of the Who - and enemies, and far more, it must be said, than his fair share of lovers. Most of MacLeod's enemies of course died - although some more quickly than others - but another strength of the series was that so did his friends and lovers. The series held a strong card in the existential angst of living forever while all around you perish, and it played it to the hilt.

Perhaps surprisingly given his background in dance and modelling, Adrian Paul proved a competent and occasionally stand-out leading man. The support playing was also of a decent quality, with Peter Wingfield - another Brit, better known in his native land as the horrible Simon Pemberton in long-running radio soap The Archers - putting in the best performance, and getting all the best lines, as Methos, the oldest immortal in the world. There were low points as well, and in particular MacLeod's fresh-faced sidekick Richie (Stan Kirsch) was mostly annoying6, and many of the female immortals were rather too obviously present on grounds of looks instead of their ability to convincingly wield a sword.

As time went by, the show became darker, in part because the deaths of so many recurring characters necessitated a sobering of the tone. Events also took on a more overtly mystical turn, with magic and destiny featuring higher on the billing than in earlier episodes. Quite early the series introduced the Watchers, a group of mortals who studied the immortals, and a renegade group called the Hunters, who tried to find and kill them all, so that none of them could gain the power of the Prize (whatever that might be). Later there were demons and mystical artefacts that would not have seemed out of place in Indiana Jones' collection, and one might be forgiven for feeling that it had all begun to get rather odd.

The Series ended in 1998, the makers perhaps feeling that they had mined-out its potential. In its place came Highlander - The Raven, a spin-off series focusing on the adventures of one of the recurring immortals, MacLeod's sometime true love Amanda. But before The Raven there had been two more expansions of the franchise, as 1994 saw the arrival of Highlander III, and of...

... the Cartoon Series

Highlander - The Animated Series

Somewhere down the line, somebody must have looked at the franchise and asked the great question: won't somebody please think of the children?

Although in 1994 the TV series was going strong, there was still something missing. As with the movies, the series was full of aggressive sword-fights and was frequently quite racy, thus excluding young people from the target audience. In response to this, a cartoon series was produced, in order to milk the huge cash cow that is the juvenile audience. It was doubtless intended that there be toys, whether there were or not.

As with Highlander II, it seems to have been decided that children would rather have sci-fi than fantasy, and so the animated series is set 700 years after a big ol' ball of rock has ploughed into the Earth and destroyed civilisation. In the wake of this immense human tragedy the immortals of the world apparently got together and decided not to kill each other any more, and to use their power for good instead of evil, preserving the knowledge which humanity had lost.

In order to ensure that there was some sort of action plot, one immortal declined to take part in this one-world love in, and for the last 700 years the evil Kortan has ruled the world from the fortress city of Mogonda. Why it was beyond the rest of the immortals in the world to get rid of him is not explained. Apparently it is down to the last of the MacLeods, a young man named Quentin7 to confront the tyrant and free the human race.

Quentin is guided by Ramirez, who is apparently still refusing to stay dead. He has to gather all the power of the other immortals by - get this - asking them for it. The whole decapitation thing is out the window; the other immortals just hand over their swords and become mortal again. There is also some mention of the MacLeods being some sort of 'space-tribe'.

The nice immortals seem to have chosen to call themselves Jettators; this, it can be held, tells you about all you need to know about the level of thought that went into this series.

The animated series actually managed a pretty substantial number of episodes, but basically seems to have sunk without trace. However, the same year brought us further perdition in the shape of...

... the Second Sequel

Highlander III The Sorcerer

Once more, the makers have wisely decided to ignore the first sequel, and Andrew Morahan's film is a direct sequel to the original. It also ignores the TV series, which was still running, and again Connor MacLeod is almost the last of the immortals.

The plot basically revolves around three evil immortals emerging from four hundred years entombed in a cave ('Four hundred years is a long time to hate' growls the villainous Kane). The cave once belonged to a Sorcerer named Nakano (Mako), an immortal to whom Ramirez sent MacLeod to learn to use his katana. Nakano was killed by the Kane (Mario Van Peebles), a man who apparently makes The Kurgan look like a pussycat, sacrificing himself to allow MacLeod to escape and prepare himself. The release of Nakano's Quickening caused the cave-in which entombed Kane and his hench immortals.

Freed by development engineering, Kane sends one of his henchlings to kill MacLeod and offs the other himself. The surviving henchling goes about his business all unconcerned, despite the fact that this killing was done not five feet from him. MacLeod - who, it turns out, didn't receive the Prize, lost his lover in a car crash then adopted a son - feels the return of Kane and goes back to New York. He has run-ins with the police and is tracked by a nosy archaeologist who wants to know about Nakano's cave and who bears a striking resemblance to MacLeod's French Revolution love.

For the most part, the film is a remake of the original, with the ten-year-old son doing the screaming and wailing so that the female lead doesn't have to. The major difference is Kane's ability to distort the perceptions of others; the power of illusion which he gained by killing Nakano and absorbing his Quickening. It is more full of holes even than the original, less funny and far less atmospheric. 'Super' Mario Van Peebles hams it up in an apparent attempt to replicate Clancy Brown's snarling, camp menace, but fails. There is also only one sword fight to speak of.

At the time of its release, The Sorcerer8 was the second best Highlander film, but only because it could not be any worse than The Quickening. Maltin's called it 'foolish, badly written piffle', and that is not in anyway unfair. Unsurprising then that there were no more movies for a while, and that when the TV series finished in 1998 it was replaced with...

... the Second Series

Highlander - The Raven

She is... immortal. A thousand years old, and she cannot die. A creature of legend, like the Raven. A thief, who stole the Sun and the Moon. They sent a warrior to bring her back. He found her. Together they brought back light to the world. I was a cop. To me she was just a thief. Another day on the job. But she wasn't. She changed my life, changed... everything. And both of us knew from that moment on, nothing would ever be the same.
- Opening narration

Amanda (Elizabeth Gracen) was one of the most popular recurring characters in Highlander (although a great many people would prefer Methos any day), a thousand-year-old thief with one of those hearts of gold which seem so common in criminals these days. In her spin-off series, she teams up with a straight-laced ex-cop to protect the innocent. This series failed, where its predecessor succeeded, and it is not that difficult to see why.

Amanda is a thief, not a swordswoman. Thus, although she carries and uses a sword - as any wise immortal with a desire for self-preservation does - she does not get into so many duels as MacLeod. While doubtless the producers were trying to take a new tack with the immortal concept - and this is admirable - people go for the Highlander name to see sword fighting.

As secondary points, the ex-cop is annoyingly square-jawed and self-righteous, and the title becomes meaningless as Amanda is not a Highlander. Perhaps the whole effort would have achieved greater success had the title been simply 'The Raven', or even 'Amanda', thereby escaping both that inaccuracy and the strong association of the Highlander title with regular flashy swordplay, enabling it to shine on its own lights.

And finally...

Highlander - Endgame

The third sequel, Endgame, failed to make much impact in the US cinemas, and did not receive a UK theatrical release. The film once more disavows all knowledge of the other sequels - going so far as to explicitly state in the opening voice-over that no-one knows what the origins of the immortals are - but it does acknowledge the TV series, and features both Connor and Duncan MacLeod (although apparently denying that they met in the 1992 pilot).

The plot regards Jacob Kell, an old friend of Connor in his pre-immortal days, whose adopted father, a priest, burned Connor's mother for spawning a devil-child. After Connor kills half the village in his vengeful fury, Kell - stabbed by Connor - becomes an immortal and hounds him down the years, destroying anyone he comes to care about. Kate - Duncan's one-time wife, whom he stabbed on their bridal night, knowing she was a potential immortal - works with Kell through mutual hatred, as do a gang of hench-immortals with no noticeable motivation.

In addition, a group of the Watchers have been keeping immortals sedated on holy ground at a site called Sanctuary, as a way to prevent anyone ever winning the prize. One of those who volunteered was Connor - after Kell killed his adopted daughter - but Kell tracks him down and massacres the other sleeping immortals. Duncan comes in to look for Connor and is faced by Kell and his henchlings, and is briefly abducted and drugged by the head of Sanctuary, determined to always have at least one immortal in 'care'.

Connor forces Duncan to fight and kill him to give him the strength to confront and defeat Kell, while Kell charges up on his henchlings9 for the final showdown. The hero wins of course, the film having played its one real surprise card in the death of Connor by Duncan's sword. In the video version he is then reunited with Kate, who for some unexplored reason Kell did not kill, despite the fact that it certainly looked that way.

In fact, there are several different versions of the film available on video and DVD, with different scenes, endings, and in some cases more naked buttocks. Rapture.

Endgame has cameos by Peter Wingfield and Jim Byrnes - as Joe Dawson, Duncan MacLeod's friend in the Watchers - more to make the connection to the series than anything else (according to interviews with Wingfield).

The violation of the two great traditions of immortal combat - Kell slays immortals on holy ground10 and Duncan is attacked by Kell's not-so-bright hench immortals in a group - is actually passed over with little comment. Duncan and Connor both admit that they can't team up to fight Kell because only one immortal can challenge another, yet they never question Kell's mob tactics, nor his killing of the Sanctuary immortals.

Kell wears crosses on the soles of his shoes; did this somehow allow him to kill on holy ground? Does he deem himself always to walk on hallowed soil? This and many other points - such as why his hench-immortals a) hench for him and b) allow him to kill them without even putting up a fight - are never explored in any kind of detail.

Why was this film made?

Well, aside from the obvious desire to make money, the almost-as-obvious answer is to win back fans lost to the disappointing reception which The Raven faced. With six sword fights, this is the most combat-heavy of the four films (even the original only had five) a clear return to form for the franchise. Unfortunately, that aside, it really isn't much good, and has been critically panned even within the action-adventure genre.

One final issue is raised by the frequent critical complaint that the film seems cut down from a longer - and better - one. Many scenes featured in the trailers appear to be missing from the film, specifically a number of scenes featuring major effects work, such as walls of fire and mystical portals, which never even come close to making an appearance. Moreover - moving into more speculative territory - the evil immortal faces Duncan MacLeod only after he has killed 666 other immortals - if we assume that he did kill Kate - and taken their power, but nothing is made of this number. One possibility then is that the original film has been greatly reduced to remove references to Satanic powers which might offend the US Christian right. This, however, is mere speculation.

The Future

Is this the end of the Highlander franchise? The disappointment of first the animated series and The Sorcerer, and now The Raven and Endgame may well spell the death of this seemingly unstoppable and greatly inexplicable phenomenon.

However, even if Endgame is the last time the Highlander title graces the big screen, and The Raven is its final waltz on the small - and it seems likely, vague talk of a Methos spin-off series or cartoon not withstanding - there is another aspect to the mythos. The Internet has for years hosted a wealth of fan fiction in which various authors have their favourite immortals cross swords or hop in the sack with equal abandon. There is also a trading card game, a popular internet role playing game supplement, entitled Highlander - The Gathering, and Flash animated fan film series, The Methos Chronicles.

There is also still a thriving - if not exactly booming - trade, at least via mail order, in Highlander t-shirts, coffee mugs and the like. In addition to the usual tat, replicas of the swords used by various immortals are available from fantasy swordsmiths, with great attention paid to which dragon-hilted katana is Duncan's, and which is Connor's.

Perhaps we have seen the last of the films and the TV series, but Highlander will never die.

So long as it doesn't lose its head.

1Contrary to popular misconception, Highlander is not the name the immortals give themselves, but rather refers only to MacLeod.2The film being made when the ozone hole was just becoming a well-known phenomenon.3All truly evil immortals have names beginning with 'K', or at least a 'k' sound; it's tradition.4But see Highlander: The Sorcerer and Highlander: Endgame5He appears to have been practically everywhere in the world in his time, and has his own slightly contrived story about how he comes to be a Scottish Clansman with a Japanese katana.6How we rejoiced when he was shot, how we mourned when he recovered and we realised we were stuck with him until someone cut his head off.7And without meaning to be down on the name Quentin, it just isn't an action hero name.8Or 'The Final Dimension' in the magic-hatin' US of A.9Although not before Kate has had movie sex with Duncan, because God forbid there'd be a Highlander movie without gratuitous sex in it.10In The Sorcerer it was implied that attempts to fight on holy ground were resisted by some greater power, but then this film has nothing to do with The Sorcerer.

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