Sunday, 24 June 2012


A happy Caroline John poses for a publicity photo in her 1970 debut as Dr. Elizabeth Shaw in DOCTOR WHO.  Images: BBC.

More sad news for DOCTOR WHO fans came this past week with the loss of one of the Jon Pertwee eras classic companions, as distinguished TV/theatre character actress Caroline John, well known in the legendary series as the one season playing Dr. Elizabeth Shaw, tragically passed away earlier in the month. She was 71.

A leggy Caroline poses for another promotional image.
The actress would enjoy her singular season stint with flamboyant leading man Jon Pertwee.

Liz Shaw would prove to be an important new companion to the Doctor in 1970, part of what was to be a bold and distinctive new colour re-invention of the series, which saw the Time Lord and his always malfunctioning TARDIS time/space vehicle confined to 20th century Earth in banishment by the all-powerful Time Lords. Helping, if sometimes reluctantly, his trusty friend Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart and his military UNIT organisation fights various alien invasions and arrivals on Earth, as well as other strange forces, Liz Shaw, also prior reluctantly recruited as well, would work side by side with our alien hero on an equal scientific footing, as well as becoming firm friends in the adventures to come. Liz would prove a resilient, thoughtful and brave companion to the Time Lord through a series of four gritty QUATERMASS-style adventures that brought the series into more glossy, well made territory, full of drama, scary monsters and action at the start of a popular and iconic period often far removed, but no less enjoyable, to what had been seen before with William Hartnell and Patrick Troughton's monochrome eras.

The first seventies WHO "family": the Brigadier (Nicholas Courtney), the Doctor and Liz Shaw.

Surviving the first attack of the plastic controlling Autons, helping to discover the reawakened Silurian caves in Bedfordshire (and working against the clock to find a cure for their released killer plague), averting the abuse of captured powerful alien ambassadors from Mars, and then trying to stop the end of the world with the dangerous scientific drilling endeavour, helmed by a loony scientist, known as Project Inferno (Miss John's best performance in the series, playing two versions of her character: one her normal friendly self, the other a colder, more authoritarian alternate universe figure that was a member of an almost Gestapo-like military police), Shaw eventually went back to Cambridge to resume her original, all-encompassing scientific studies, and was quietly replaced the following season in the UNIT set-up by then new producer Barry Letts, who, with no disrespect to the actress (who at the time was also about to have a baby) or the Shaw character, thought that Pertwee and the series needed a slightly younger and more vulnerable, perhaps more audience accessible figure to identify with: the energetic and enthused (though also sometimes deliberately less resourceful) Jo Grant, as played by Katy Manning. Miss John would happily return to WHO for a welcome cameo in the shows 1983 Twentieth Anniversary story THE FIVE DOCTORS, playing a ghostly apparition version of Liz, as well as making an appearance in the 3D dramedy DIMENSIONS IN TIME for the 1993 CHILDREN IN NEED television event linked to WHO's later Thirtieth Anniversary celebrations.

John and Courtney would excel playing parallel universe versions of their characters in the classic story INFERNO.
The Doctor and Liz in their final story together: INFERNO.

Beyond the classic WHO series, of which she was also partaking in various DVD and audio projects (both fan based, licensed and official originated BBC titles) right up to her passing, Miss John was an acclaimed actress in world touring theatre and had appeared in many noteworthy UK TV series, too, including Tom Baker's memorable 80's BBC TV version of the SHERLOCK HOLMES classic THE HOUND OF THE BASKERVILLES, POIROT and MIDSOMMER MURDERS, and comedy series like HARRY ENFIELD'S TELEVISION PROGRAMME.

Quiet, seemingly sometimes reserved, but always a very friendly, enthusiastic and highly likable person, Miss John, survived by her husband, fellow actor Geoffey Beevers, and her three children, will be sadly missed by her family, friends, WHO fans and the acting community at large...

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