Very sad news this morning: Caroline John, the actress who played Third Doctor Jon Pertwee’s very first companion, passed away on June 5th, BBC America reports. She was 72.
Caroline had over 50 credits on film and television and had done stage work with the likes of the Royal Shakespeare Company; However, to us Whovians, she’s best known as Dr. Liz Shaw, UNIT’s science officer and the Third Doctor’s first companion, and the first to be filmed in color. She was a regular only for one season, but that happens to be arguably the classic series’ best. She played Shaw with a toughness and intelligence not seen in many Doctor Who companions, and was able to match wits with the Doctor and stand up to the Brigadier while still wearing the obligatory miniskirt and go-go boots. You can see Caroline’s work as Liz Shaw in the Season 7 stories “Spearhead From Space,” “Doctor Who and the Silurians,” “The Ambassadors of Death,” and “Inferno,” the last in which she plays double-duty as the Liz from this universe and the one from the dystopian parallel world. The character was decided to be too smart and she was written out for Season 8, replaced with Katy Manning’s Jo Grant.
She reprised her role briefly for the 20th anniversary story, “The Five Doctors,” and for the 30th anniversary Children in Need special/stupid piece of crap, “Dimensions in Time.” She also appeared as Liz in a series of spinoff, direct-to-video adventures called P.R.O.B.E. in the early 90s, written by future Doctor Who and Sherlock writer Mark Gatiss, and in a series of audio adventures.
Though her onscreen Who output was limited, Caroline John nevertheless had, and continues to have, a huge impact on fans of Doctor Who, and she stands as one of my top three companions of all time.
Here you can see Caroline’s first appearance from “Spearhead From Space” in a scene opposite the late Nicholas Courtney’s Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart:
And here she is as the fascist version of herself in “Inferno”:
Rest in peace, Ms. John; you’ll be missed.