I was very saddened this week to hear about the death of Caroline John, the lovely actress who played feisty Liz Shaw in Doctor Who.
Caroline passed away at the age of only 71, after appearing in five classic Who stories during the Third and Fifth Doctors’ tenure – who can forget Spearhead From Space, Inferno and The Silurians?, Who at its absolute best – and later reprised the role in various audio and straight-to-video spin-offs.
Liz Shaw wasn’t one of the longest serving characters in Doctor Who, but she certainly made her mark, combining beauty and sexiness with brains and personality. I always recall a newspaper article from when Caroline was first cast as Liz, showing her posing in a bikini - Caroline later went on to say that this was never the way she'd envisaged Liz, and how right she turned out to be. It was quite a culture shock back in 1970 for the Doctor to have a companion who knew almost as much as he did when it came to astrophysics, and who had no hesitation in pulling him up if she thought he was out of line.
I never got to meet Caroline unfortunately, though she appeared very recently in a Doctor Who audio drama I wrote called THE SENTINELS OF THE NEW DAWN, from Big Finish. The story centres around Liz as she was in later life – a retired Cambridge scientist, whose days as a UNIT officer had come under scrutiny thanks to government officials detecting a blank space in the service record. In the story, Liz recalls an incident involving herself and the Third Doctor, which occurred after her official departure from UNIT, but which she’d clearly hoped had been forgotten. (The remarkable piece of artwork you see at the top, is taken directly from the SENTINELS cover, though it will now have taken on a whole new resonance in the eyes of many).
I won’t say too much in case I spoil it for anyone who hasn’t yet heard it, but Caroline, as always, was superb in the role, bringing it her traditional authority and allure. It will always be a deep regret of mine that I had the chance to meet her during the recording, but for once was not able to attend as I had somewhere else I needed to be that day.
Anyway, RIP Caroline (1940-2012). In the words of Big Finish: Lovely, kind, brilliant.
It seems almost irreverent to mention anything else this week, but I doubt Caroline would have minded too much. So, in other Doctor Who related news, fans may be interested to know that a PODCAST for COUNTER MEASURES is now available to be listened to (just follow the link).
COUNTER MEASURES is a new Doctor Who spin-off from Big Finish, concerning the adventures of a small but elite military/scientific cadre who, after helping to fend off the Dalek menace in REMEMBERANCE OF THE DALEKS (first screened in 1988, though it’s actually set in 1963), are charged with defending the Earth against all kinds of extraterrestrial and home-grown horrors. I was very pleased to be asked to write the pilot episode, THRESHOLD, and from what I’ve heard so far the team more than do it justice. (The banner shows actor Simon Williams as Group-Captain Chunky Gilmore).
Anyway, check out the PODCAST – for those of you who prefer your Who to be old-school, with more than a hint of Quatermass, it should whet your whistles nicely.