|Date(s):||1986, 1991, 1994, 2000 (theatrical films); 1992-1998 (TV series); 2007 (TV movie)|
|Medium:||Movie series, Television series|
|Country of Origin:||US
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Highlander is a franchise about immortal people who can only be killed by beheading. In most versions, they fight with swords because "There can be only one". Whether they are compelled to fight and what they'll get if they're the last remaining immortal varies in different versions.
The franchise started with the 1986 film Highlander. The largest fanworks-producing fandom is for the subsequent TV series Highlander: The Series. Other media in the franchise nominally share a continuity with one or both of these.
Highlander: The Series synopsis
Taking off from the film, Highlander, the show centers around the life of 400-year-old Duncan 'Mac' MacLeod, a younger clansman (by about 50 years) of Connor MacLeod, and Mac's struggles to have a "normal" life while still confronting the dangers of being an Immortal and being a player in the Game. Mac splits his time between Seacouver and Paris. When the first season starts, he is living in Seacouver in an apartment behind the antique shop he owns and runs. He has a long-time girlfriend, a sculptor named Tessa Noel, to whom he has told his secret. He takes in Richie Ryan, a teenage thief who breaks into his store and later becomes aware of Immortality due to witnessing a fight between Immortals. (Each season has some excuse, halfway through, for him to leave Seacouver and spend the rest of the season in Paris.)
Later seasons saw Tessa's death; Richie's First Death; the discovery of the Watchers and Hunters; the befriending of Mac's Watcher, Joe Dawson; the introduction of Mac's "bad habit", an immortal thief named Amanda; and the evolution of Mac's friendship with Methos, the oldest immortal. These instances form a large part of the basis of the fanfic, fan art, and discussion of the show.
Two of the recurring themes explored in both the show and in fanfic are: 1) the loneliness/isolation that being immortal brings and/or knowing about immortality brings; and 2) the struggle of good vs. evil.
The franchise started with the cult classic Highlander, which tells the story of Connor MacLeod (Christopher Lambert). It has a large fandom of the film buff variety but not much fanfic. The sequel, Highlander II (1991), is notoriously unpopular. It retconned immortals as aliens and added a lot of unpopular worldbuilding. The next sequel, Highlander III (1994) returned more to the universe mechanics of the first film, but it is seen as a retread and is also unpopular.
Highlander: The Series (1992-1998) follows the adventures of Duncan MacLeod (Adrian Paul), a clansman of Connor but a couple of centuries younger. Connor appears briefly in the series, which is nominally in the same universe as the first film, though aspects of the worldbuilding seem to have been adjusted. (For example, it appears that Connor can breathe underwater in the first film, but this type of ability is never seen in the series.) Universe mechanics also changed over the course of the series. The concept of "The Gathering" (a time when immortals are compelled to fight until there is only one left) is used in the season 1 credits sequence but is largely ignored later in the series as recurring immortal allies were added to the cast.
This series was followed by a direct spinoff, Highlander: The Raven, starring Duncan's old flame Amanda Darieux (Elizabeth Gracen). The two shows tie in closely and have relatively consistent worldbuilding.
Highlander: Endgame (2000) ties the films and tv series together. In it, Connor sacrifices himself to give Duncan more power. This film is often ignored by fans writing fic of the series.
Highlander: The Source (2007) was the followup to Endgame. It was a sci-fi channel film. It kills off Joe Dawson and adds new worldbuilding not in keeping with the series. It is almost universally ignored by the fic-writing fandom.
The Reunion Special (2008) was a low-budget short theoretically set between Endgame and The Source. It features Amanda, Methos, and Joe.
The Animated Series
Highlander: The Animated Series (1994-1995) was set in a dystopian future and follows the adventures of a new immortal, Quentin MacLeod. The animated series is nominally a spinoff of the first film and ignores the other TV series and movies. However, it added new universe mechanics not seen in other parts of the franchise, like immortals being able to pass on their power, becoming mortal in the process. (In other versions, power can only be transferred by beheading and death.)
Highlander also has tie-in novels for the tv series, comics, audio dramas, etc.
An International Co-ProductionAs Highlander was a joint Canadian/French production, with networks from other countries (Germany, Japan) providing additional financing at different times during the show's run. Sometimes the content of the show was changed to accommodate cultural restrictions: for example, the on-screen violence had to be cut back to fit within both French and Canadian guidelines. For example:
Violence against women and children, including even mentions of rape, was a "cultural no-no."  In part because of the disparity in attitudes around the violence omnipresent in the show, discussions about the extreme violence in fan fiction periodically cropped up. In addition to violence, nudity (whether implied or shown), as well as the length of the full episodes, also became an issue when aired in the US, resulting in many episodes being trimmed for content and time, leading to a situation where some fans only initially saw the American versions and not the European, or "Euro-minutes" as fans called them. The discrepancies led to numerous discussions regarding what constituted canon: the American, cut versions, or the full-length European versions.The dwarf, in passing, was originally supposed to be a little girl, but the French authorities wouldn’t let them show an evil child. 
The involvement of an international group of television financiers had unintended and sometimes amusing consequences. Japanese backers encouraged the casting of guest stars from the rock and roll world, leading to results from the awful (Joan Jett, Martin Kemp, Vanity) to the middling (Sheena Easton) to the fantastic (Roland Gift, Roger Daltrey).
At times one of the international partners would encourage a particular plotline. France, for example, wanted the episode Revelation 6:8 to include a sub-plot about the villain attempting to attack a meeting of the European Union. This idea was "quietly ignored" by the writers, yet when they saw the French version of the episode, the idea had been reintroduced via radio voiceover. 
The rules involving an international, tax-subsidized co-production also limited the amount of American talent that could be used, both in front of and behind the camera. Because the actors playing the characters Richie and Amanda were both American, if both of those characters appeared in any given episode, no other American actors could be included. Writing credits were also limited to Canadian and European citizens. The titles "creative consultant" and "associate creative consultant" were given to the regular writing staff, including David Abramowitz, Gillian Horvath, and Donna Lettow. Although these writers had enormous impact on the show's creative content, they were not credited with writing episodes.
Most early HL fandom was limited to zines, Usenet servers, and to the two main lists, HLFIC-L (for fic posting) and HIGHLA-L, the discussion and announcement list. The HLX - an adult themed "Highlander Erotica Fanfiction" mailing list was advertised as early as 1996 in the Media Monitor. Much of the fanfic written during the show's initial run reflects the integration of the original movie's canon with the series, as Connor MacLeod is introduced in the series as Duncan's teacher in the first episode (although the series ignores the movie canon that Connor won the Prize.) As the series established its own canon, the number of stories featuring Connor or referencing the movie declined.
As a email-based fandom during the early years of email technology, the list rules set the tone for what was permissible to post and what wasn't, including how much of a story could be pasted into an email, what kind of formatting it could have, and what labels were necessary to provide everyone on the list with sufficient warning on what the story was about, along with what discussions were acceptable on list. As a fandom with just a single place to discuss the episodes, discussions often grew heated. For a time, the fandom wore the label of "the mean fandom" for the heated discussions that arose over not only show-related topics, but adherence to list rules as well. The advent of e-groups.com and onelist.com, both of which eventually were absorbed into Yahoo!Groups, enabled a far greater diversity of fandom and list culture.
A popular habit of those on the main lists was to have a unique signature line indicating their support (known as being a "flag waver") for a given character. Some of these developed into unofficial "clans" or groups of fans who, in some cases, set up a separate email list to discuss their character and interact together.
To accommodate those who wanted a more adult-centric fanfic posting environment than what was permissible on HLFIC-L, a second email list was created, HLX, which allowed more "adult" stories than what was considered permissible on the HLFIC-L, even though the list rules for HLFIC-L did not explicitly exclude posting of such.
The producers released a CD-ROM, The Watcher Chronicles, which was based on the show's idea of the Watchers. The release of the CD-ROM led to a discussion of "if it's officially produced, is it canon?", particularly since the CD-ROM was only available if a fan bought it from the official site. Regardless, some fans incorporated this information into their fanworks.
Although the fandom still enjoys a steady presence on its email lists, most of the fannish interaction has migrated to LiveJournal.
HL is a fandom rich for crossovers; many crossovers involve the characters being crossed over discovering the secret of immortality and/or becoming Immortal.
Gen HL fandom, like most fandoms, focuses in on the canon relationships, including:
- Duncan's love for Tessa, Duncan's love for Amanda, and his love of women in general
- Duncan's role as a teacher of other immortals, particularly of Richie
- Duncan's role as a student of Connor
- Duncan's friendships with his Watcher, Joe, and with other immortals
- The friendships and other relationships between characters as a whole
- Other possible interactions, such as something that could've been shown in an episode, or a slice-of-life story, whether said interaction is canon or not.
In Highlander, gen fandom is very strongly non-slash, with little to no smarm (except as an expression of brotherhood or family.) It should be noted that the original fannish definition in HL of "gen" was inclusive of het relationships.
The blooper reels also gave credence to a possible relationship between Methos and Amanda. In a later short film, Reunion, Methos and Amanda state explicitly that they have never had a romantic relationship, but that film is not necessarily considered canon.
The major slash pairing in HL is Duncan/Methos, or D/M. Due to the fact that most long-lived Immortals have lived through many different cultures and eras, a popular Highlander fanon extrapolation is that these Immortals would have probably been exposed to homosexuality in some fashion at some point in their lives, or that they would just be less likely to have internalized modern cultural or religion-based taboos against homosexuality. This led to a plethora of slash pairings in multiple combinations.
Despite this, many writers avoided slashing Joe Dawson with anyone ("Joe Dawson don't do no slash" was a oft-written phrase) and it wasn't until Methos was seen taking care of Joe in an episode that this pairing was seen as having potential.
Discussion about slash and homosexuality were often lightning rods for flamewars in the fandom, especially on the HIGHLA-L list. At one point, a list rule was introduced. No explicit discussion about a character being gay was allowed. Instead, the list debated (often heatedly) whether or not a character was "Canadian."
- The Highlander and the Really Old Guy; archive link at Shipper's Manifesto by pat t (September 2004)
- Anything You Want: Methos/Kronos; archive link at Shipper's Manifesto by ninurta (November 2004)
- Grumpy Old Men: Joe/Methos; archive link at Shipper's Manifesto by gardendoor (September 2004)
A 1996 Cease and Desist Dust-Up
In 1996, there was much discussion regarding showing fanworks to the actors and TPTB, the legality of fanworks, and much more.
At The Gathering III, a fan gave a copy of their zine 'Backstage Pass' to the actors Jim Byrnes and Elizabeth Gracen in front of more than 1000 people. There were other production people associated with the show there, including the head writer and producer (Davis/Panzer.) Shortly afterwards, two fans received cease and desist letters.
One of the recurring themes in HL fanfic is the exploration of family ties among immortals, whether they be the student-teacher relationship or the creation of family through marriage, adoption, or friendship. Another recurring theme is the morality of immortals, as even a "good" immortal must kill and be successful at lying in order to survive.
Due to the show's use of extensive flashbacks to previous periods in history, historically set fic is common in both gen and slash, including some stories that never take place in the present day, but exist solely in those previous periods. As a result of canon events placing specific immortals in historical events or in contact with important historical figures, the definition of alternative universe fic in HL became more narrowly defined than it might otherwise be in another fandom.
Horsemen FicHorsemen fic is a subset of HL fic which focuses on Methos, and the three characters (introduced in episode 98) who along with him, may have formed the original Four Horsemen: Kronos, Caspian, Methos, and Silas. The Horsemen were four Immortals that murdered and looted across two continents in the Bronze Age and were based on the mythical Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse:
However, since Peter said his line I was Death differently, it's been pretty much agreed in HL fandom that:Since there's some confusion: Donna Lettow and Gillian Horvath said about the Horsemen arc that none of the Horsemen were supposed to represent the real Four Horsemen.
- Kronos = Pestilence
- Silas = War
- Caspian = Famine
- Methos = Death
Among the many thousands of deaths Methos claimed for the Horsemen, they were responsible for the first death of the immortal healer/witch Cassandra (a reoccurring character introduced the season before).
At the end of the fifth season, Richie is killed by Mac, who is under the influence of a demon and thinks that he's surrounded by his enemies. When the series returns, it's a year later and Richie is definitely dead, to the disappointment of fans. A number of them grouped together and formed Clan Denial, who deny that Richie is dead. For these fans, there is no sixth season, and Richie lives.
Fic written where Richie lives past the fifth season is often tagged as Denial or Richie Lives! fic.
Crossovers are common, most often in terms of inserting Highlander characters or Highlander-style immortals into another fandom such as Buffy or Stargate SG-1. Same-Actor Crossovers are uncommon but exist; for example, Tracy Scoggins (Cassandra) also played Cat Grant in Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman and Capt. Elizabeth Lochley in Babylon 5, and there are stories where one of these characters is actually one of Cassandra's identities. Crossovers which confront Highlander-style immortals with other types of immortal (such as vampires, Time Lords, Captain Jack Harkness, etc.) are another popular genre. The Watchers are sometimes referenced in crossovers with Buffy, which has its own secretive Watchers Council, with some stories making them different branches of the same organisation, others using the coincidence of names to confuse characters.
- Adoption - All Immortals are said to be foundlings. They can't have children, and must adopt if they want them.
- First Death - This is the death wherein a pre-Immortal transitions to a full-fledged Immortal. Such deaths could be caused by anything that would kill a human, although HLTR canon suggested it had to be a violent death.
- The Game - Game is always capitalized. The battle between Immortals; also refers to the centuries-old tradition of fighting each other. The winner of said battle will gain all the knowledge of all the immortals defeated by his challenger, with the ultimate prize being enough knowledge and power to rule the world. Depending on one's point of view, the Game either has two rules or two traditions: fighting shall be one-on-one, and no fighting on Holy Ground.
- The Gathering - The Immortal version of the Apocalypse, when all the Immortals on earth would drawn together (either slowly drawn together over centuries or quickly drawn together over hours or days, it was never specified) to finish the Game. The Gathering is mentioned in canon (it is the time of the Gathering), and formed the basis of a lot of fanfiction.
- Holy Ground - any place of consecrated worship, traditionally held to be neutral ground for Immortals. Joe relates a Watcher legend that the last time two immortals fought on holy ground resulted in Pompeii.
- Hunter - A rogue Watcher who believed that all Immortals should die rather than exist, as they were freaks of nature who could possibly rule all of mankind.
- Immortal - Although not always capitalized in fanfic, this was used to designate those who would live forever as long as they didn't get beheaded. Sometimes shortened to immie. Immortals can heal from pretty much anything, and bolts of blue lightning "stitch" up wounds.
- k'immie - The evil Immortal of the week, prone to using underhanded tactics to win the Game. May have been originally a term used by the producers and adopted by the fans; it derives from the number of notable villains whose names begin with K.
- pre-Immortal - Someone who will be an Immortal but hasn't had their First Death yet. Pre-immortals can be sensed by another Immortal, although canon is vague as to whether all immortals have this ability or if it's just those who have reached a unspecified set point (i.e. has spent fifty years as an immortal).
- The Prize - what the last immortal standing wins, said to be all of the knowledge and power of all the vanquished immortals, enough power to rule the world. If an evil Immortal wins, "mankind will suffer eternal darkness" according to Connor MacLeod.
- Quickening - the mysterious gathering of energy transferred from one Immortal to another when an Immortal is beheaded. Said to contain the knowledge and power of the vanquished immortal, it typically manifests as wild lightning capable of destroying a lot of stuff within an unspecified radius. Fanon has extrapolated this to mean that the older an immmortal is, the more powerful their quickening will be, ergo the more powerful the pyrotechnic display generated, although this is not necessarily supported by canon. Some writers have interpreted "knowledge" to equal memories; others have not. Fanon also extrapolates that recovering from a Quickening can require lots of alcohol and possibly lots of sex. Canon never clearly stated how closely an immortal had to stand in order to receive a quickening, leading to much fannish speculation. A Dark Quickening is, per canon, one in which the winning immortal is taken over by the vanquished immortal, turning the winning immortal into a darker, more evil representation of himself. A Double Quickening is one that occurs when two immortals are beheaded simultaneously and the resulting Quickening energies are split evenly between the two winning immortals; credence was given to this due to the special effects department's choice of illustrating such a circumstance. A Light Quickening -- a purely fannish term -- is one where a previously evil immortal is taken over by the goodness of the vanquished immortal, as what is presumed happened to Darius, who had been a general bent on conquering until he fought a holy man and absorbed his Quickening.
- Watcher - A member of the secret organization who is sworn to observe and record Immortals, but never interfere with their lives. This was generally capitalized. Watchers can be identified by a distinctive trefoil tattoo, usually on the underside of a wrist.
- The Watchers - The secret organization, based in Lyon, France, whose members observe and record Immortals.
Fanart was initially created for zine work, though this migrated to the Internet as well. Most of the fanart produced was of a slash nature.
Early vids were scant, all gen, and largely to songs by Queen.
Many HL vids are character-centric, although many of the early vids were all Duncan, all the time, followed by Methos, Richie, and Amanda. Not many Joe-centric vids are known.
The first slash vid was probably We Could Leave Right Now by Lynn C., a Duncan/Methos vid, from before we knew that Methos had an evil past. Duncan/Methos was by far the most usual slash vid pairing, but there were also Duncan/Richie, and a small amount of Methos/Kronos vids.
Once she'd shown us how, there were more vids the next year, but HL was a small part of a vidding landscape dominated by The Professionals, Wiseguy, and X-Files. The next year, 1997-98, in the aftermath of the Four Horsemen episodes, Highlander was everywhere. You couldn't get through a vid show at a convention without an extended trip to the auld sod. As a result, many fans became familiar with the same scenes even without watching the series.
At the Highlander Worldwide 9 Convention in Los Angeles, Valoise presented an introductory panel on vidding in the Highlander fandom. Of the 14 vids shown, most dated from 1996-2002. These are the notes for her presentation.
Fan-created Highlander t-shirts were a thing, and some of them were quite pricey.
an ad for some Highlander shirts, this one with the statement: "If you are planning to order our HIGHLANDER shirts, we encourage you to do so at your earliest convenience • we have been pressed by attorneys for Adrian Paul to pay a hefty license fee for the privilege of printing our own original artwork • our lawyer advises us that we are under no obligation; however, one can never anticipate how this sort of nasty situation can evolve • it is regretable [sic] that fan loyalty is so poorly rewarded and so, we are as yet undecided if we will continue to offer these teeshirts • please order early. Thank you.")
The original archive for HL fandom was the HLFIC-L mailing list archive, which did not archive adult fic although adult fic was allowed on the list. HLX was the list for archiving adult fiction, but the list archives for HLX went offline in 2003. Eng, from the Highlander Forum, also set up an archive Highlander Quill Club for authors posting to that bulletin board, like Maygra and MacGeorge.
The second general archive for HL fandom was Seventh Dimension, which last updated in late 2007 but had stopped being regularly updated sometime in 2006.
A third and much more automated archive, Highlander Fiction, came into existence in 2006 when it became clear that Seventh Dimension was not being updated.
Additional specialty archives also existed or exist, including one for HLX, the Highlander Adult Fiction list archive, and one for Joe-specific stories only, JoeStories Archive as well as other character-specific (such as the Connor MacLeod Fanfic Archive and The Methos Boxer Brigade) or theme-specific archives.
Other archives include:
- Red Pearl Collection
- Bloodties (multi-author Highlander/Forever Knight cross-over AU)
- Daire's Fanfic Refuge (various authors, mainly Highlander fiction)
- Fitz Fiction Library (Hugh Fitzcairn fic archive for Fitzcairn Manor)
- Futures Without End (4 issue e-zine)
- Highlander Slash Fiction (alphabetical by author)
- Highlander: the Fanfic Season (episodes in multimedia intensive version and plain text)
- Jo's (and Guests) Highlander Fanfic (Highlander fan fiction by various authors)
- Not the Usual Highlander Slash Archive (slash fiction)
- The Richie/Methos Slash List Archive (Slash for an uncommon pairing)
- Message from Gillian Horvath
- Gillian Horvath and Donna Lettow, Chronicles 1998
- Donna Lettow, post in alt.tv.highlander, Apr 5, 2000.
- personal memory of HIGHL-A list discussions - --~~~~
- Claire Maier, post in alt.tv.highlander, Jul 23 1999.
- Convention report by Paul Edmonds, posted to alt.tv.highlander, Jun 2, 2000.
- Claire Maier, post in alt.tv.highlander, March 7, 1996.
- The Unofficial Highlander Mailing Lists Accessed November 1, 2008; offline. A partial archived version can be found here.
- Screw this.; archive link, , by Vicki Farmer, Ocotber 29, 1996
- Having my say.archive link, , by Vicki Farmer, October 30, 1996
- ROG-L FAQ Accessed November 1, 2008