Welcome to the first in an occasional series of list-based blogs inspire by the fact that I’ve read Cracked.com too much. Hurray! And sorry…
If you’re a relative Doctor Who newbie, you’re frankly a little spoilt for spin-offs, offshoots and other means to really flesh out a franchise – see Torchwood, the resurrected Sarah-Jane Adventures and Vastra/Jenny/Strax for examples. However, you may not know about a whole raft of characters from the original series who made fleeting, yet memorable, appearances and earned every right to their own parades. Here, in transmission order, are just a few – feel free to leave a comment on any that you think I’ve missed out.
1. Anne Travers (Tina Packer) The Web of Fear (1968)
Daughter of recurring Yeti-botherer Professor Travers, Anne was the only woman in a bunker full of blokes whilst big furry robots and colossal cobwebs invade London – and she was a total badass.
Her character arc is basically this: be head-fuckingly cool with everything from smarmy reporters to boorish soldiers, effortlessly nail long-term companion Victoria Waterfield for the whiny, spoilt idiot she truly was, and be instrumental in inventing the gadget with which the Doctor saves the day. Oh yes, and have one of the most empoweringly feminist tech lines in the history of television:
Soldier: What’s a girl like you doing in a job like this?
Anne: Well, when I was a little girl, I thought I’d like to be a scientist – so I became a scientist.
Anne represents the tantalising direction the show’s female companions could have gone in had the producers not wanted them to show up the leading man – see Caroline John’s magnificent Liz Shaw (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Liz_Shaw#Casting_and_characterisation) for more on how intelligent female characters got shat on during this general era.
2. Miss Hawthorne (Damaris Hayman) The Daemons (1971)
Parachuting into the occult-tinged Pertwee classic like someone who accidentally missed their cameo in a Hammer movie, Miss Hawthorne’s main function was to warn of the inevitable shitstorm caused by the Devil’s End barrow being opened (spoiler alert: Devil gets out). It might have ended there but for several key contributions throughout the rest of the story:
– she banishes an angry wind spirit using an incantation, i.e. with what we assume must be ACTUAL magic, as this implication is never challenged.
– she calmly lays out an violent Morris dancer (no, really), using a crystal ball in her handbag and follows up with the James Bond-level quip “on these occasions the outcome’s a certainty”.
– her ongoing enthusiasm for jumping the bones of UNIT stalwart Sergeant Benton.
Imagine a sexed-up Miss Marple battling crime using white witchcraft. If you don’t like the sound of that, then I don’t like you.
[PS. In case you think I’m being wildly fanciful with all this, in October 2014 THIS SHIT WILL APPARENTLY GO DOWN: https://www.galaxy4.co.uk/product.thtml?id=3556]
3. Rogin (Richardson Morgan) The Ark in Space (1974)
He’s brought out of cryogenic suspension three episodes into a four-part story. Pretty much his first line is ‘I said five thousand years ago, “There’ll be a snitch-up!”‘. He unfussily gets on with his job as insectoid aliens menace the last of humanity. However, nothing becomes his life like the leaving of it…
Needing to manually launch a rocket to despatch the deadly Wirrn swarm into deep space, the Doctor is punched out by Rogin, who insists:
‘You don’t want trouble with the Space Technician’s Union, Doctor – that’s my job!’
He’s the only declared union member in the history of the show, and sacrifices himself BECAUSE of that. Give this comrade a prequel.
4. Bettan (Harriet Philpin) Genesis of the Daleks (1975)
From the harrowing, apocalyptic ashes of the Daleks’ origin story rose not only their status as a Nazi archetype, but also the last vestiges of their eternal enemies, the Thals.
With a certain poetic justice, they’re led not by one of the plentiful old white dudes that magically ended up running EVERY ALIEN RACE THAT WAS EVEN REMOTELY HUMAN, but by an infinitely capable, emotionally literate and (above all) practical young woman who leads the survivors of her race in sealing the Daleks into their bunker and giving them enough breathing space to re-establish civilisation on the planet.
That, friends, is a story that deserves to be heard, not least because (as indeed with Anne Travers) the writers resist giving Bettan a drippy ‘for the ladies’ romantic subplot of any kind – and, more troublingly, because she appears to be the only woman left on Skaro…
5. Mags – Jessica Martin The Greatest Show in the Galaxy (1988)
Mags starts as a put-upon companion to a booby-ish explorer, bonds wonderfully with Ace (AKA the companion without whom Rose Tyler simply wouldn’t have existed), and then only goes and does this:
…because also she’s a werewolf.
Mags winds up playing a pretty sizeable part in defeating a bunch of bored chaotic gods, sticks one to the patriarchy in fine style by killing her ‘handler’ (who by this point has gone to the dark side in a properly twattish way), and predates both ‘Buffy’ and ‘Being Human’ by having a good old subtextual young adult fret about how to manage her burgeoning power.
The fact that TV never got around to making a show about a spunky young lady werewolf who runs an intergalactic circus is one of the reasons I get so famously, celebrity-baitingly annoyed at what’s on TV.
6. Control (Sharon Duce), Redvers Fenn-Cooper (Michael Cochrane) & Nimrod (Carl Forgione) Ghost Light (1989)
If you claim to enjoy the new stories whilst never having seen the high-Gothic, delightfully bonkers and infamously confusing Ghost Light, then what are you doing reading this stupid blog? GO AND WATCH IT BECAUSE IT’S AMAZING.
I can’t adequately sum up the story, except it revolves around evolution (in both character and nature in general) and responsibility for one’s scientific and/or emotional creations. Along the way we encounter a wonderfully tally-ho Victorian adventurer (Cochrane), an understatedly eloquent Neanderthal butler (Forgione) and a fabulously abrasive human test subject (Duce), who is trying to learn what civilised society even IS. Long story short, they end up flying off in a space ship to have adventures together.
Don’t question this – just accept that it’s the best idea anyone’s ever had, and that it hasn’t been written because the human has not yet been invented that could do it justice.
Henry Gordon Jago & Professor Litefoot (The Talons of Weng Chiang)
Everyone wanted their favourite theatrical impresario and proto-Holmes to have their own franchise – so Big Finish, erm, gave them a franchise which is currently in its TENTH GODDAMN SERIES: http://bigfinish.com/ranges/v/jago-litefoot