Classic Series

RIP Caroline John

The departure of Doctor Who companions to new dimensions is a source of sadness, but it seems particularly unfair when they leave us at what is, these days, a relatively young age.

I had no idea Caroline John was ill; the regular supply of audio dramas by various companies these days seems to keep us in touch with former DW actors – as do the regular conventions, given a boost by the New Series.

John was not in Doctor Who for long – just Spearhead From Space, The Silurians, The Ambassadors of Death and Inferno – and a cameo appearance in The Five Doctors.

There were also some late spin-off straight-to-video dramas where John reprised her role as Liz Shaw as part of PROBE, basically a British X-Files rip-off. She was reunited with Jon Pertwee in The The Zero Imperative, where Liz somehow manages to notice that a clinic’s Doctor O’Kane happens to look identical to the Third Doctor.

They do feature some very good casts – benefiting from the appearance of John, Louise Jameson and Peter Davison (enjoying one of hie lean career spells at the time) – have some nice moments are enjoyable curios, rather like The Airzone Solution.

None of them were very good and seem to be a vehicle for Mark Gatiss to figure out how the Hell you write stories – and act. Reece Shearmsith also appears.

Liz also makes an appearance in the Virgin New Adventure Eternity Weeps alongside the Seventh Doctor as well as a parallel version in Blood Heat.

John recently read a couple of audio versions of target novelisations – and I think she did some of the Big Finish plays.

Season Seven is my favourite bit of Doctor Who. As far as I’m concerned they’re four absolutely wonderful stories – and Liz is a big part of that. Supposedly the dynamic with the Doctor partnered with a clever companion didn’t work, something I never really followed, and Liz was written out after the series.

But not before Inferno, one of the best-acted Doctor Whos I think. John delivers a performance as the alternative Liz Shaw that’s close enough to ‘our’ Liz but sufficiently different. The dualism throughout the serial is what makes it a superb story, rather than just a good one. All of the elements contribute to something greater than the sum. It;s why it’s my favourite Doctor Who story.

It’s easy to be sad about the passing of Doctor Who actors – and, indeed, any death is sad. But we have a lot to be grateful for too. Thanks, Carry, for the memories.

Although Doctor Who was no doubt a tiny part of her career and I wouldn’t want to suggest there wasn’t a lot more to it I’ve included a couple of clips from the programme below.