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A sad loss for the Doctor Who family

In a time of change

Caroline John played Liz Shaw

Season seven’s star

I was saddened to hear about the death of Caroline John, who played Dr Liz Shaw opposite Jon Pertwee’s Doctor.

When Caroline John joined the cast of Doctor Who, she did so at a time of change. Patrick Troughton had regenerated and his companions had decided to leave the show at the same time which meant a new Doctor and a new companion. The show would now be made in colour and Barry Letts was about to become the new producer. Another bold decision was to strand the Doctor on Earth. This meant that Liz Shaw became the first (and only) companion not to travel in the TARDIS.

Season seven had a distinctly Quatermass feel to it as the new production team aimed the program for a more mature audience. The monsters were still there but more often than not, the real monsters were shown to be man, whether it was the slaughter of Silurians or the continued drilling into the core of the Earth regardless of the consequences.

Dr. Liz Shaw was a different character from previous companions in that she was able to, at least partly, understand the Doctor’s scientific explanations.  Unfortunately this would prove to be a problem. Whereas Zoe, who also had an above average intellect, had Jamie to explain things to (and being able to give this information to the viewer) Liz didn’t have someone to act a go between between the Doctor and the viewer and so the decision to replace her was made.

During the filming of the final story of the season, the excellent Inferno, Caroline John was also looking to leave the series due to her pregnancy. Her final performance in televised Doctor Who (although she did return for a brief appearance in the 20th  anniversary story, The Five Doctors) saw her play Dr. Liz Shaw and Section Leader Liz Shaw in Doctor Who’s first foray into the realms of parallel universes.

Although the Liz Shaw experiment was not deemed a success, Caroline John’s contribution to season seven was very important and easy to under rate. The season consisted of only four stories (1 four parter and 3 seven parters); Spearhead From Space (the story that introduced the Autons), Doctor Who And The Silurians (the only televised story to have “Doctor Who And The…” as part of the title), The Ambassadors Of Death (a very Quatermass like story written by David Whitaker, Doctor Who’s first script editor) and the aforementioned Inferno (written by the future creator of Scottish soap opera “Take The High Road”). The Autons and Silurians were to make a comeback not just in the classic series (Terror Of The Autons and Warriors Of The Deep respectively) but also in the new series, notabley Rose (the Autons) which saw the return of Doctor Who to our screens and the two part story The Hungry Earth and Cold Blood (The Silurians).

Caroline John reprised the role of Liz Shaw for the Companion Chronicles, produced by Big Finish. She got to meet with an iconic monster that was noticeably absent from the third Doctor’s era, the cybermen (The Blue Tooth). The other stories to feature Liz Shaw are Shadow Of The Past, The Sentinels Of The New Dawn, Binary and the forthcoming The Last Post.

Carolin John was also the narrator for the audiobook of another sadly departed member of the Doctor Who family, Elizabeth Sladen.

Caroline John will be missed and my thoughts go out to her family and friends.

Caroline John 1940-2012 R.I.P.


Teachers’ Farewell

Two teachers go home

Using Dalek time machine

It’s back to school time

The Daleks return for the second time and once again the story ends with a farewell. This time, Ian and Barbara return to earth, using the Daleks’ time machine, at the conclusion of The Chase, which seems to work more accurately than the TARDIS.

With the departure of Ian and Barbara, the viewers have lost the viewers entrance into the ongoing story and indeed three quarters of the original cast. Season two of Doctor Who was definitely one of change with only William Hartnell remaining from the original cast by season’s end.

But the departure of Ian and Barbara marks a big shift from the original premise of being “educational” and transforming into science fiction. An example of this is the very next story which is set in 1066. Barbara would be very familiar with this year and the most famous battle of this year is the battle of Hastings but this story does not focus on this but on a Viking invasion that happened before the battle. And just to remove this from the elements of a purely historical story, another time traveller is involved.

Doctor Who was evolving…

Barbara Wright: A school teacher who taught history, her cardigans were ruined in her last two stories but she had also been mistaken as an Aztec god and also managed to acquire a suntan while left on a space ship in The Sensorites.

Ian Chesterton: A science teacher who was the action man of the series (a role that future companions Steven Taylor, Ben Jackson, Jamie McCrimmon and Harry Sullivan would step into).

Although the characters never returned to Doctor Who, Jacqueline Hill would return to play Lexa in the fourth Doctor story, Meglos and Ian Chesterton was scheduled to make a return to Doctor Who in 1983. Unfortunately, William Russell wasn’t able to return so another character from the Doctor’s past [or his future from this point in time], Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart (retired). This change in cast has led to real problems for any fans trying to make sense of the UNIT timeline but more of that later.

What are your favourite episodes featuring Barbara and Ian?

Remembering Susan

First companion,

And one of the family

Doctor’s Granddaughter

In a previous post (Dalek Invasion of Earth), the series did something for the very first time. A main character left. In this case it was Susan who became the first of a long line of ex-companions and so I thought I’d do the first of what will be a series of posts about the Doctor’s companions ~ those regular (and irregular) folk who accompany the Doctor and are often the viewer’s access point to the series. They ask the questions that we would ask and get captured/injured on a regular basis.

Lets have a look back at these companions and I hope that YOU will contribute to this post by sharing your memories and opinions about YOUR favourite companions (or feel free to have a rant about your least favourite companions). I will post after I reach a story

Susan Foreman: The Doctor’s grand daughter and only known (or mentioned) relative in the clasic series. She has been travelling with the Doctor before the series started but it hasn’t been revealed (on tv) how she came to be travelling with the Doctor. She is teeneage in appearance (which is not a clear indicator as to her true age as the Doctor’s various regenerations have shown) but it is believed that she is a teenager. She leaves the Doctor when the Doctor locks her out of the TARDIS after she is struggling to decide whether to stay with David or continue her travels.

The character of Susan was, at times, inconsistent. She is enigmatic and wise at times (especially in her debut story, An Unearthly Child) but at other times she is a screaming one dimensional character in need of rescuing. This can be a common problem for companions. They need to be interesting characters but they can’t develop too much or they may out evolve their usefulness to ask questions.

Carole Ann Ford reprised the role of Susan for the 20th anniversary story, The Five Doctors. A story that saw her character trip and fall, injuring her ankle. This kind of harked back to her farewell story when she fell and injured her ankle. She has also contributed to some Big Finish audio stories. The Companion Chronicles, a Doctor Who special (given away if you subscribe in the month of December) called “An Earthly Child” a sequel of sorts featuring Doctor 8 (Paul McGann) and the Earthly Child of the title is Susan’s son played by Paul’s real life son, Jake. Susan has also appeared in the Lost Stories which were stories written for tv but were never made, the stories featuring Doctors no longer with us are performed in a similar way to the Companion Chronicles (in this case with Carole Ann Ford and William Russell on narration duty).

What are your thoughts? What is your favourite Susan story?