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updated 5.21.2007

Warning! Plot points may be revealed below!

Dear Masterpiece Theatre,
Masterpiece Theatre's Kidnapped is a great production in many ways, but it isn't Robert Louis Stevenson's Kidnapped. It should have been billed as "adapted from..." I enjoyed having Catriona played by a beautiful Scot, and that no fewer than three of the actors pronounced her name correctly. I wish I could hear an announcer some day give the correct (French) pronunciation of Louis. It's not the same as "Lewis." Catriona, of course, isn't a Stewart, she's a McGregor, and instead has to use the name Drummond. There's a dreadful reason behind that. She has a whole book to herself, and doesn't appear in Kidnapped at all.

I missed Stevenson's lines, "We'll agree fine yet," from the villainous uncle, and McPherson's "What kind of whiggish, canting talk is this for the house of Cluny McPherson?" Then there's Rankeillor's "Name me no names, Mr. Balfour. We will call your friend Mr. Thomson." Since the production decided on only one of the two mates, Riach and Shuan, one of whom was tolerable only when sober, and the other only when drunk, Shuan should have been selected, to match the actor's Irish accent.

Speaking of accents, I pride myself in recognizing Northern Irish vowel sounds in Adrian Dunbar's otherwise excellent rendering of a Scots accent. The first time I heard him, I placed his accent as Ballymena, which is easily mistaken for Scots. He is in fact from County Londonderry.

It is worth noting that the majority of the people of Edinburgh (Stevenson's birthplace and mine), had no wish for the return of the Stuarts, the most notable of whom, James VI, reneged on his heritage and religion by becoming James I of England and head of the English Church. Interestingly enough, Colin McLaurin, professor of Mathematics at Edinburgh University (whose name is still known to students of calculus: McLaurin's Rule), went so far as to attempt to raise a citizen militia to oppose the wild highlanders. Fortunately, as it turned out, he failed. The highlanders defeated Johnny Cope's professionals in a rout. That's why the defeat at Culloden was so ruthlessly bloody. They'd badly scared the supporters of the Hanoverian establishment.

The USA is very lucky to have a Bill of Rights that protects dissenters against the majority. Stuart monarchs were, if anything, worse than their successors in this respect.

cf. How the Scots Invented the Modern World.

Albert Rogers
Arlington, VA

Dear Masterpiece Theatre,
I read Kidnapped when I was 8 years old. I enjoyed it immensely and never forgot David Balfour and Alan Breck hiding from the Redcoats atop a huge boulder. Recently I dug it out and re-read it. This time, the descriptions of the Scottish highlands and the dialogue of the people that lived there amazed me. It is obvious to me that Robert Louis Stevenson had a very deep love for his land and its people. Unfortunately, when I came to the end of the book, the very last page was missing! I will now borrow the book from the local library to read the last page.

David Aplin
Toronto, ON

Dear Masterpiece Theatre,
I watched Kidnapped last evening and loved it! I also saw Dracula several months ago and I can say I am becoming hooked! Masterpiece Theatre is one of the few treasures found on television.

Marshall Krebs
Strasburg, PA

Dear Masterpiece Theatre,
If this adaptation of Kidnapped did one thing for me beyond causing irritation, it was to send me back to Stevenson's novel, first to check his story, then to admire once again his telling of it. The scriptwriter's omissions may perhaps be pardoned, but the insertions are ludicrous and destructive to the spirit of the story. For example: the re-invention of the cabin boy Ransome, and Ebenezer being carried at a trot on a stretcher to Queensferry. The scenery (New Zealand?) was wrong, while the sense of historical context and the subtlety of Stevenson's romance was fatally clumsy. Braveheart indeed!

Robin MacDonald
Carleton Place, ON

Dear Masterpiece Theatre,
Yes, the landscape in Kidnapped is magnificent. As a matter of fact, it is just as magnificent as the landscape in The Lord of the Rings, as it was filmed on the same rocks, with the same mountains in the background. This doesn't tell us Americans anything about what Scotland actually looks like. I think Robert Louis Stevenson would have preferred the real Highlands. He (of all people) knew that Scotland was not located in the South Seas!

Margery Goldstein
Hudson, MA

Dear Masterpiece Theatre,
It's nice to see Robert Louis Stevenson's work on film and his stories told to today's generation. The film is well done. My cousin Robert Louis Stevenson would have liked it I'm sure.

Mark Stevenson
Petaluma, CA

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