More proof that the Seventies are starting to be a long time ago: Caroline John, who played Liz Shaw opposite Jon Pertwee in the first color season of Doctor Who back in 1970, has died at age 71.
Caroline John as Liz Shaw.
The character of Liz was part of a new, Earthbound, UNIT-centric format for Who, and in some ways Liz was a new kind of companion: a sensible, skeptical scientist with a raft of degrees from Cambridge who could stand next to the Doctor in a white coat and meet technobabble with technobabble--but a sensible scientist who also wore the shortest microskirts anyone had ever seen. This wasn't quite unprecedented: the previous female companion, Zoe, was a genius who had famously worn a silver catsuit that showed off her backside in "The Mind Robber"; but Zoe was in many ways a pixie-ish girl, and Liz was a serious woman.
Doctor Who Magazine assistant editor Peter Ware told the BBC News website that John's character was "a very different type of companion than any that had come before": "For the first time, the Doctor had an assistant who was basically an equal and he treated her as an equal," he added. "Intelligent, beautiful, her character was a genius and in real life she was intelligent and beautiful too."
Liz Shaw was only in one season, participating in four extra-long stories; but her role in helping inaugurate Who's brash new color era and the action-oriented regime involving Pertwee, UNIT, producer Barry Letts, and script editor Terrance Dicks made her an integral part of the Who fabric and indelibly remembered by all fans of the classic series.
John had fun reprising her role, very briefly (and rather pointlessly) in The Five Doctors and much more extensively in the Big Finish audio series. "Carry was always delighted to return to Liz Shaw and reprised the role several times in our audio series," said David Richardson of production company Big Finish. "She was a brilliant actress and a lovely, kind soul who was a joy to be around and who was interested in everyone. She will be greatly missed."
Her additional, ancillary connections to the series--her husband, Geoffrey Beevers, plated the desiccated Master in "The Keeper of Traken" and her niece, Souska John, coincidentally played a child in "Castrovalva"--are the kind of thing that underlines how fans feel like Doctor Who is a kind of family.
Current Who head writer Steven Moffat said that praised John as a brilliant actress who portrayed Liz as "not just a sidekick but a scientist in her own right and a match for the universe's number one know-all. The Doctor's companions should never be his assistants--they're the people who keep him on his toes, and that's what Caroline did."
|Tags: Doctor Who, Caroline John, Liz Shaw|
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