This week saw the untimely passing of Deborah Watling, best known for playing Victoria Waterfield in Doctor Who. Sadly, many of her episodes were purged by the BBC but the character is fondly remembered as an integral part of Season 5 and for two iconic scenes.
Season 5 is sometimes referred to as the monster season. It introduced the Ice Warriors and Yeti as well as the recurring character of Brigadier, then Colonel Lethbridge-Stewart. The structure was deceptively simple, with six of the seven stories featuring a group of trapped humans fighting an alien threat. It never feels repetitive because of the variety of locations and the strength of the supporting cast. Amongst them were several female characters, working in business, politics and science. One now features in a new range of novels based on Lethbridge-Stewart. The nineteenth century Victoria, like most female viewers, had limited exposure to equal opportunities. Writers used her, and her fellow companion Jamie, to contrast contemporary and historical attitudes. The audience related to her in a way that they didn’t to her more intelligent successor.
Victoria’s childlike curiosity exposes her to danger and leads her to ask the Doctor about his family, in a still extant scene. It has no bearing on the narrative but effectively demonstrates the relationship between the characters. Later in the season we say farewell, when Victoria opts to be adopted by a modern family. Most companion departures were an afterthought. This one is logical, well signposted and not overtly sentimental. We believe in the characters and share their pain.
I suggested last week that Doctor Who was losing its family audience. The family of the Second Doctor, Jamie and Victoria were much appreciated by the viewers and Deborah Watling’s place in the wider Doctor Who family is assured. Rest in peace.