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|First appearance||"The Gathering"|
|Portrayed by||Adrian Paul|
Duncan MacLeod is a fictional character from the Highlander multiverse. Duncan MacLeod serves as the protagonist for the TV continuation of the Highlander franchise, which comprises Highlander: The Series and its spin-off movies, Highlander: Endgame and Highlander: The Source. An Immortal, he is portrayed by the British actor Adrian Paul.
Highlander: The Series was originally created to carry on directly from the movies with Paul playing the same character Christopher Lambert had played in the movie, but early in development, Paul requested that a new character be created to avoid direct comparisons with Lambert and to allow him to develop his own character. Consequently, Duncan is introduced in the pilot episode as Connor MacLeod's clansman and pupil, and the series focuses on his own life over four centuries.
The series does not tell Duncan's story in chronological order. Instead, the primary sequence of events is set in a present time that corresponds to the years during which the six seasons were filmed, i.e. 1992–1998, and extensive use of flashbacks is made to show Duncan's memories and their implications in present time.
It is established in the pilot episode "The Gathering", set in 1992, that Duncan is almost 400 years old and thus was born in 1592 and raised in Glenfinnan, Scotland. In the second episode, "Family Tree", Duncan's father and Chieftain of Clan MacLeod, Ian MacLeod, states that the newborn Duncan was a foundling given to his wife Mary to replace the stillborn son she had delivered, and raised to be his successor. The same episode also shows how Duncan is brought home fatally wounded in battle, dies in front of his father, and awakens with his wounds completely healed. Because his family believes his resurrection is a sign of witchcraft, he is cast out from his clan after being disowned by his adoptive father. The Watcher Chronicle of this episode states that it happens in 1622 during a dispute with the Clan Campbell. In "The Gathering", Duncan and Connor MacLeod explain how Connor, who had undergone a similar ordeal in 1536, found Duncan in 1625, told him about his immortality and became his mentor.
The series' various flashbacks show Duncan having many adventures across four centuries, including visiting Renaissance France and Italy ("The Hunters"), traveling to China ("The Road Not Taken"), witnessing the French Revolution, becoming a Sioux warrior ("The Gathering"), fighting in World War I ("For Tomorrow We Die") and II ("Mortal Sins"), and generally fighting for justice against evil. In 1815 at the Battle of Waterloo, he meets Immortal Darius who has rejected war, and follows his example by becoming a non-lethal participant in the later conflicts (for example, as a medic). The series especially focuses on adventures shared with friends Amanda and Hugh "Fitz" Fitzcairn.
During his life, Duncan meets and learns many things from many people that mold him to become a great Immortal. He meets many other Immortals: some become mentors, while others become friends and yet others become enemies. Beginning as a young immortal, full of bravado (based on naivety) and also reckless and uneducated, he gradually changes and matures as he travels the world until he becomes the wise, educated and compassionate character of present times. He is an expert in many subjects, fluent in many languages (Gaelic, English, Sioux, French, Italian, Russian, Spanish, Chinese, Japanese, German, Greek,and Arabic) and skilled in many forms of martial arts including; Baguazhang, Xingyiquan, Wing Chun, karate, aikido, tae kwon do, judo, Brazilian jiu-jitsu, ninjitsu, Muay Thai, boxing, and Jeet Kune Do. He has had many occupations including; soldier, bodyguard, newspaper editor, World War I ambulance driver, chauffeur, and World War II Resistance fighter. More recently he is an antiques dealer, a dojo owner and a part-time History teacher.
1992–1998 is a critical period for Duncan. Being the years during which the series was filmed, they are also the years in which the series' "present time" is set and thus depict many important events in his life. The pilot episode "The Gathering" shows Duncan returning to The Game after a period of semi-retirement with his girlfriend Tessa Noël and a meeting with clansman and mentor Connor MacLeod. Across the series, Duncan meets many old friends and enemies again, many old debts are repaid between them, and Duncan kills many Immortals. He loses people he cares about, including Tessa, the love of his life ("The Darkness"), Immortal friends Darius ("The Hunters") and Hugh Fitzcairn ("Star-Crossed"), and mortal friend Charlie DeSalvo ("Brothers in Arms"). He befriends Richie Ryan ("The Gathering"), mentors him after his First Death ("The Darkness") and teaches him the ways of the Immortals, then accidentally kills him in 1997 during a confrontation with the demon Ahriman ("Archangel"). He meets Joe Dawson, who reveals to him that there is an organization known as The Watchers who secretly observes all Immortals ("The Watchers"). He also meets Methos, the legendary oldest Immortal ("Methos"), and eventually defeats Ahriman ("Armageddon").
The first part of the first five seasons of Highlander: The Series was filmed in Vancouver, British Columbia while the second part was filmed in Paris, France. This is why Duncan travels back-and-forth every six months. The sixth season, which was also the series' last, was filmed entirely in Paris.
In the feature film Highlander: Endgame (2000), it is revealed that Immortal Jacob Kell has spent the last four centuries killing all people close to Connor MacLeod because Connor had killed Kell's adoptive father. He also gathered a posse of Immortals who would overpower other Immortals, allowing Kell to then enter and take their heads. In the 1990s, Connor hid in a place called The Sanctuary, where Immortals were protected from The Game by the Watchers. Ten years after the murder of Connor's adopted daughter Rachel Ellenstein, Kell attacked the Sanctuary, and Connor was believed to be dead along with the other Immortals sheltered there. Duncan has visions of this evil act and investigates. He discovers Connor had been spared by Kell, so as to make his life even more of a misery. Kell wants to kill Duncan only to agonize Connor further, and given the number of Quickenings he has received, he would succeed in doing so. Therefore, Connor forces Duncan to kill him, to absorb his power, thereby enabling Duncan to defeat Kell. Duncan once again has to lose a friend but in the end he understands that Connor's death was necessary and it was the only possible way for him to kill Kell. Duncan buried Connor in the Scottish Highlands, in Glencoe, next to his first wife Heather's remains. The film also reveals that Duncan was married in 1715 to an Irish woman named Kate Devaney. Knowing that Kate was a pre-Immortal, Duncan killed her on their wedding night to trigger her immortality but, after reviving, the frightened Kate rejected Duncan and fled. In the film's present, Kate (now called Fatith) is an underling of Jacob Kell.
In the TV movie Highlander: The Source (2007), Duncan has married a mortal woman named Anna Teshemka and has since separated from her. He is reunited with her at the monastery of the Elder an ancient Immortal who is cursed to forever age but not die, and Duncan joins in the quest to reach the Source of Immortality after the death of Joe Dawson. As he grows close to the Source, he becomes mortal along with the other Immortals in the group (which includes Methos). After defeating the Guardian, an ancient Immortal who guards the Source, Duncan is able to enter the Source with Anna, as they have sexual intercourse, she reveals to him that she is pregnant with their child.
A series of nine licensed novels were released from October 1995 to February 1999. These novels detail additional events in Duncan's life. In these novels, Duncan fights an Immortal Scottish pirate with his clansman Connor, meets and later beheads the Immortal Niccolo Machiavelli, travels to Tibet where he meets the 8th Dalai Lama, searches for gold in the Yukon with Hugh Fitzcairn and his pupil, becomes involved in the Arab Revolt, reunites with TV series Immortal Annie Devlin who attempts to get him involved in another attempt to win Scottish independence, protects a Palestinian diplomat from an Immortal Jewish militant and encounters a spurned Immortal lover of Darius.
A German language novel entitled Highlander: Die Rückkehr des Unsterblichen (Highlander: The Return of the Immortal) was also released. The novel deals with the aftermath of Duncan beheading a female Immortal and wishing to leave The Game. The novel takes place during the season one episode "Deadly Medicine".
A series called Highlander Imagine has also been published. This series is set in an alternate continuity where Tessa survives the events of "The Darkness".
Duncan also appears in the Highlander comics. In the fifth issue of the comics he comforts Connor after Brenda Wyatt is injured in a car accident on New Year's Eve, 1986. In issues #6 to #9, later released as a trade paperback entitled Highlander: Dark Quickening, Duncan helps Connor deal with the aftereffects of The Kurgan's Quickening. In issues #6 to #9, later released as Highlander: Armageddon, Duncan is captured by a renegade Watcher group called the Eye and is forced to compete in an Immortal fight club.
Adrian Paul reprises his role as Duncan MacLeod in four audio plays produced by Big Finish Productions. In the audio plays Duncan deals with an Immortal named Pieter Gatlin who challenges him to a duel every ten years, encounters the Immortal Maria Rostov who carries a sexually transmitted disease that is deadly to other Immortals, is questioned by the police over a katana that belonged to an Immortal he beheaded and encounters a mortal magnate who wishes to resurrect The Kurgan.
Duncan also appears in Highlander: A Celtic Opera, an opera jointly composed by Roger Bellon and Harlan Collins. The opera follows Duncan's banishment from his clan, his relationship with a mortal woman named Aurora who becomes his first wife and his encounters with an Immortal Visigoth named Fritagern from the 17th century to the 21st. In the end, Duncan beheads Fritagern after he murders Duncan's fiancee, a cloned Aurora, on their wedding day.
Personality and traits
Duncan is portrayed as being tall and brown-haired (usually long and/or in a ponytail). Like all Immortals, his aging process stopped at the moment of his First Death when he was three months away from his 30th birthday. Thus he's been looking like a man in his early thirties for four hundred years and will do so until, if ever, he is beheaded. His injuries heal very quickly and when he is killed by any means other than beheading, he revives some time later fully healthy again.
Duncan was raised to be the next chieftain of his clan and this fact influenced his personality. He has a strong moral conscience and a sense of nobility; he protects the weak and innocent and punishes the evildoers. He is known to be very loyal. He is referred to by more than one character as a "Boy Scout" and tends to see things in terms of black and white, being often criticized – sometimes in jest, sometimes not – for his rigid sense of honor and his determination to intervene in events that often place him in danger. He feels responsible for others and when he thinks people died because of him, he feels he has to avenge them. He mentors new Immortals even when he has doubts about them. Like all Immortals, he is unable to have children, but he likes them and takes care of those he meets.
Duncan enjoys life. As Connor said, he has "all the fun and most of the good women". Although he has known many women, he shares his life with a few women he grows to love. Those who are mortal, he remains loyal to their memories and cherishes the moments he had with them. He is a perfectionist and keen to learn new things, be it reading, playing Shakespeare or fighting skills (see below). He is cunning and very difficult to defeat in combat because of his skill and because he has experienced most of everything life has to offer. He has a very good memory and can remember things that happened centuries ago.
As an Immortal, Duncan takes The Game with a grain of salt. He fulfills his duty and defends his head when he is challenged but he is not bloodthirsty and occasionally spares his opponents, especially female Immortals. Indeed, he does not hunt other Immortals for their heads, but he fights evil ones if they attack people he cares about. As he tells Alexei Voshin, "if you harm people I care about, I'll send you to hell the hard way". Unlike Connor, for example, he does not consider The Game his primary purpose in life and sometimes retires from it.
Duncan is not prejudiced against mortals (Indeed, despising mortals is an attribute of most evil Immortals). Duncan is generally very generous to mortals, and almost always tries to avoid hurting them. Being four hundred years old, he has seen thousands of them age and die and thus acutely, and sometimes bitterly knows how fragile they are. "I have mourned more friends than I can count. Death is part of my life." For this reason, he protects them, especially from evil Immortals and from the dangerous consequences The Game can have for them. He feels they have nothing to do with it and should not suffer from it. He does not usually tell them about his immortality except when he trusts them with his life. He never gets used to death, especially the death of his lovers. As he tells Tessa : "No matter how many years go by. Or how many times you say goodbye to those you care most about, when they leave, you..." [Tessa: "Die..."] "...yes. When they die, you're naked and alone." But it never prevents him from involving himself in life again.
After becoming a mentor to Richie, he matures into something of a father-figure, with a stronger, more confident outlook on life. After Richie's death, he becomes a darker, brooding character acutely aware of the fragility of life and his participation in The Game decreases.
Despite the fact that he was exiled from his own clan after his First Death in 1622, he remains proud of, and faithful to, his Scottish heritage. He usually introduces himself to other Immortals as "Duncan MacLeod of the Clan MacLeod" and fought for Scottish independence whenever he could, including the Battle of Culloden in 1746 ("Take Back the Night"), eventually trying to steal the Stone of Scone in 1950 ("The Stone of Scone"). In the book Scotland the Brave, despite its questionable canonicity, he remembers having helped to steal the Stone in a different version, closer to what really happened.
Executive Producer Bill Panzer thinks, "once you've hurt him, he doesn't forget. And Immortals have a long time to remember, and sooner or later you will cross his path."
Duncan considers himself "an old soldier" and fighting has been part of his life since the beginning, when he was raised to be a warrior. Being a perfectionist, he always seeks to improve himself and never misses an occasion to learn new skills. Aside from bare-knuckle brawling, he first learned swordsmanship in Scotland and the European continent. He then discovered martial arts during his travels in the lands of East Asia during the late 1700s. His sword is a katana, featuring a dragon's head, which was given by samurai warrior Hideo Koto in 1778 during his travels to Japan. Duncan should have inherited the claymore of his (adoptive) father, Chieftain of the Clan MacLeod, but because he was exiled the sword was instead kept within the clan. (In one episode he finds his father's claymore hanging as an antique in a Scottish tavern, and uses it to kill the immortal who killed his father some time after he was exiled). In fact, Duncan usually tries to avoid killing mortals even when he is forced to fight them, and goes out of his way to use non-lethal methods. Although MacLeod has fought in many armed conflicts and is skilled with firearms, he is reluctant to use them and rarely does so throughout the series.
Duncan is an excellent swordsman among Immortals. Although he is not one of the oldest Immortals in the Game, he has defeated numerous Immortals who are much older than himself, and many villainous Immortals, both male and female, with utterly fearsome reputations.
In The Game
- Timothy of Gilliam1, 1625 ("Archangel")
- Unnamed English Soldier², 1632 (Scotland The Brave)
- Nerissa, 1632 (The Element Of Fire)
- Michel de Bourgogne, 1670 ("Unholy Alliance")
- Charles Browning, 1730 ("Counterfeit")
- Nasiradeen Satish, 1781 (The Path)
- Violane Armand, 1842 (Shadow Of Obsession)
- Danny O'Donal, 1889 (White Silence)
- Khordas, 1897 (The Element Of Fire)
- Aziz Mirza Bey, 1917 (Scimitar)
- Farid Al'Zafir ibn Muhunnad, 1917 (Scimitar)
- Marcus Korolus, 1925 ("See No Evil")
- Richard Tarsis, 1930 ("Reasonable Doubt")
- Lothar, 1978 (The Watcher's Chronicles CD-ROM)
- Slan Quince, 1992 ("The Gathering")
- Howard Crowley, 1992 ("Innocent Man")
- Pilar Vasquez, 1992 (The Return of the Immortal)
- Caleb Cole, 1992 ("Mountain Men")
- Alexei Voshin³, 1992 ("The Sea Witch")
- Walter Reinhardt, 1992 ("Revenge Is Sweet")
- Andrew Ballin, 1993 ("Eyewitness")
- Grayson, 1993 ("Band Of Brothers")
- Christoph Kuyler, 1993 ("For Evil's Sake")
- Carlo Sendaro4, 1993 ("Saving Grace")
- Gabriel Piton, 1993 ("Eye of the Beholder")
- Alfred Cahill, 1993 ("Avenging Angel")
- Michael Moore, 1993 ("Turnabout")
- Anthony Gallen, 1994 ("Epitaph for Tommy")
- Tommy Sullivan, 1994 ("The Fighter")
- Xavier St. Cloud, 1994 ("Unholy Alliance Part Two")
- Nicholas Ward, 1994 ( "The Vampire")
- Artur Drakov, 1994 ("Warmonger")
- Nefertiri, 1994 ("Pharaoh's Daughter")
- Luther, 1994 ("Legacy")
- Martin Hyde, 1994 ("Prodigal Son")
- Michael Kent, 1994 ("The Samurai")
- Kern, 1994 ("Line of Fire")
- Paul Karros, 1994 ("The Revolutionary")
- John Durgan, 1994 ("The Cross of St. Antoine")
- Axel Whittaker, 1994 ("Rite of Passage")
- Brian Cullen, 1994 ("Courage")
- John Garrick, 1994 ("Shadows")
- Peter Matlin, 1994 ("Blackmail")
- Lyman Kurlow, 1994 ("Blackmail")
- Michael Christian, 1995 ("They Also Serve")
- Ernst Daimler, 1995 ("Mortal Sins")
- Lucas Kagan, 1995 ("Reasonable Doubt")
- Antonius Kalas, 1995 ("Finale Part Two")
- Kanwulf, 1995 ("Homeland")
- Andrew Cord, 1995 ("Brothers in Arms")
- Tyler King, 1995 ("The Innocent")
- Peter Kanis, 1995 ("Leader of the Pack")
- Terence Kincaid, 1995 ("Reunion")
- Simon Killian, 1995 ("The Colonel")
- Paul Kinman, 1995 ("Reluctant Heroes")
- Kamir, 1995 ("The Wrath of Kali")
- Annie Devlin, 1996 (Scotland the Brave)
- James Douglas, 1996 (Scotland the Brave)
- James Coltec, 1996 ("Something Wicked")
- Sean Burns, 1996 ("Deliverance")
- Damon Case, 1996 ("The Immortal Cimoli")
- Morgan D'Estaing, 1996 ("Double Jeopardy")
- Avram ben Mordecai, 1996 (Zealot)
- Jacob Galati5, 1996 ("One Minute to Midnight")
- Roland Kantos, 1996 ("Prophecy")
- Haresh Clay, 1996 ("The End of Innocence")
- Johnny Kelly, 1996 ("Glory Days")
- Gerard Kragen, 1996 ("Haunted")
- Taro Honda, 1996 (Measure of a Man)
- Niccolò Machiavelli, 1996 (Measure of a Man)
- Gavriel Larca, 1996 ("Little Tin God")
- Ingrid Henning, 1997 ("The Valkyrie")
- Caspian, 1997 ("Revelation 6:8")
- Kronos6, 1997 ("Revelation 6:8")
- Callestina, 1997 (Shadow of Obsession)
- Otavio Consone, 1997 ("Duende")
- Lord Byron, 1997 ("The Modern Prometheus")
- Richie Ryan, 1997 ("Archangel")
- Devon Marek, 1998 ("Black Tower")
- Liam O'Rourke, 1998 ("Not To Be")
- Connor MacLeod, 2004 (Endgame)
- Jacob Kell, 2004 (Endgame)
- Pieter Gatlin, 2008 (The Lesson)
- Justino Alberez, 2008 (Kurgan Rising)
- The Kurgan, 2008 (Kurgan Rising)
- Nibila, 2012 (Armageddon)
- Unnamed Frenchman, 2012 (Armageddon)
- Fritagern, 21st century (A Celtic Opera)
1Timothy beheads himself. Duncan's first Quickening.
2Duncan's first beheading.
3Beheaded by a propeller blade.
4Beheaded by a train.
5Beheaded by Watcher Jack Shapiro.
Here's a list of all of Duncan's known Watchers:
|Jun 1659-Mar 1660||Giselle Dupin|
|1741-Sep 1753||Robert McNeil|
|1754–1764||No Watcher assigned|
|1783–1784||Babette and Henri LaSalle|
|1837-Aug 1847||Henri Albert|
|Aug 1847-Jan 1848||Remi Vijayha|
|1861–1866||Dr. Matthew Hopkins|
|1867–1868||John L. Slocum|
|??-1975-??||Sister Mary Ignatius|
|1979-May 1996||Joe Dawson|
|May 1996||David Shapiro|
|May 1996 – 2008||Joe Dawson|
|2008 – ?||Unnamed 28-year-old Watcher|
Episodes – "The Gathering", "Family Tree", "The Road Not Taken", "Innocent Man", "Free Fall", "Bad Day in Building A", "Mountain Men", "Deadly Medicine", "The Sea Witch", "Revenge is Sweet", "See No Evil", "Eyewitness", "Band of Brothers", "For Evil's Sake", "For Tomorrow We Die", "The Beast Below", "Saving Grace", "The Lady and the Tiger", "Eye of the Beholder", "Avenging Angel", "Nowhere to Run", "The Hunters", "The Watchers", "Studies in Light", "Turnabout", "The Darkness", "Eye For An Eye", "The Zone", "The Return of Amanda", "Revenge of the Sword", "Run For Your Life", "Epitaph for Tommy", "The Fighter", "Under Color of Authority", "Bless the Child", "Unholy Alliance", "Unholy Alliance Part Two", "The Vampire", "Warmonger", "Pharaoh's Daughter", "Legacy", "Prodigal Son", "Counterfeit", "Counterfeit Part Two", "The Samurai", "Line of Fire", "The Revolutionary", "The Cross of St. Antoine", "Rite of Passage", "Courage", "The Lamb", "Obsession", "Shadows", "Blackmail", "Vendetta", "They Also Serve", "Blind Faith", "Song of the Executioner", "Star-Crossed", "Methos", "Take Back the Night", "Testimony", "Mortal Sins", "Reasonable Doubt", "Finale", "Finale Part 2", "Homeland", "Brothers in Arms", "The Innocent", "Leader of the Pack", "Double Eagle", "Reunion", "The Colonel", "Reluctant Heroes", "The Wrath of Kali", "Chivalry", "Timeless", "The Blitz", "Something Wicked", "Deliverance", "Promises", "Methuselah's Gift", "The Immortal Cimoli", "Through A Glass, Darkly", "Double Jeopardy", "Till Death", "Judgement Day", "One Minute to Midnight", "Prophecy", "The End of Innocence", "Manhunt", "Glory Days", "Dramatic License", "Money No Object", "Haunted", "Little Tin God", "The Messenger", "The Valkyrie", "Comes a Horseman", "Revelation 6:8", "The Ransom of Richard Redstone", "Duende", "The Stone of Scone", "Forgive Us Our Trespasses", "The Modern Prometheus", "Archangel", "Avatar", "Armageddon", "Sins of the Father", "Diplomatic Immunity", "Patient Number 7", "Black Tower", "Unusual Suspects", "Justice", "Deadly Exposure", "To Be", "Not To Be"
Books – The Return of the Immortal, The Element of Fire, Scimitar, Scotland the Brave, Measure of a Man, The Path, Zealot, Shadow of Obsession, The Captive Soul, White Silence, An Evening at Joe's, Highlander Imagine: For Love's Sake, Highlander Imagine: Beyond Infinity, Highlander Imagine: Code Name: Immortal
- Episode "The Gathering", Bonus material, Article: "Duncan MacLeod", in Highlander: The Series (season 1) (DVD, Davis-Panzer Productions, 2001), disc 1.
- Interview With Adrian Paul
- Episode "The Gathering", in Highlander: The Series (season 1) (DVD, Davis-Panzer Productions, 2001), disc 1.
- Episode "Family Tree", in Highlander: The Series (season 1) (DVD, Davis-Panzer Productions, 2001), disc 1
- Episode "Family Tree", Bonus Material, Watcher Chronicle, article: Duncan MacLeod-1622, in Highlander: The Series (season 1) (DVD, Davis-Panzer Productions, 2001), disc 1.
- The date is from the Watcher Chronicle in Highlander: The Series (DVD, Davis-Panzer Productions, 2001), disc 1, episode "The Gathering", bonus materials.
- Episode "The Beast Below", in Highlander: The Series (season 1) (DVD, Davis-Panzer Productions, 2001), disc ?.
- Episode "The Road Not Taken", in Highlander: The Series (season 1) (DVD, Davis-Panzer Productions, 2001), disc 1
- Episode "Till Death", in Highlander: The Series (season 4) (DVD, Davis-Panzer Productions, 2004), disc 8.
- See an example of Quickening healing an injury in the episode "Deadly Medicine", in Highlander: The Series (season 1) (DVD, Davis-Panzer Productions, 2001), disc 3.
- Episode "Free Fall", in Highlander: The Series (season 1) (DVD, David-Panzer Productions, 2001), disc 2.
- Episode "The Sea Witch", in Highlander: The Series (season 1) (DVD, Davis-Panzer Productions, 2001), disc 3.
- Episode "The Hunters", in Highlander: The Series (season 1) (DVD, Davis-Panzer Productions, 2001), disc 8.
- Episode "Revenge is Sweet", in Highlander: The Series (season 1) (DVD, David-Panzer Productions, 2001), disc 4.
- Episode "For Evil's Sake", Bonus Material, Bill Panzer's interview, in Highlander: The Series (season 1) (DVD, David-Panzer Productions, 2001), disc 5.
- episode "Bad Day in Building A", in Highlander: The Series (DVD, Davis-Panzer Productions, 2001), disc 2.
- TV Guide Book of Lists. Running Press. 2007. p. 168. ISBN 0-7624-3007-9.