Goodbye, Ms. Shaw

PlayItGrand June 26, 2012 No Comments »

Last week sad news for classic Doctor Who fans made its way on to the Internet. Actress Caroline John, known for her role as Liz Shaw, passed away on June 5th at the age of 71.

Ms. John joined the Doctor Who cast at a very interesting time in the series. Jon Pertwee had just taken on the role of the Third Doctor, and for the first time he was stuck on Earth in 1970, exiled there by the Time Lords with a defunct TARDIS and no memory of how to fix it. Elizabeth Shaw was introduced as a skilled scientist assigned to U.N. I. T., an elite task force led by Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart (Nicolas Courtney). Liz was a strong woman with enough intelligence to keep up with the Doctor and enough self-confidence to tell the Doctor when he was being arrogant. At first she thought he was crazy for claiming to be an alien time traveler, but time and the Brigadier’s assurances eventually brought her around. Sadly her intelligence might have been why Liz only accompanied the Doctor for one season (4 stories). Doctor Who was intended as an educational children’s show. As a scientist, Liz understood the Doctor well enough that she didn’t need to ask many questions. Since this didn’t help to the show’s educational aspirations, the producers decided not to bring her back.

This didn’t make Liz any less appreciated my fans. She played a leading role in Mark Gatiss’ four episode spin-off series, P.R.O.B.E. Sadly fans that can’t get their hands on the original tapes may never see it because Gatiss has declined to allow the series to be re-released on DVD. Liz also appeared in Dimensions in Time, a Doctor Who special that featured many of the surviving cast members.

More recently, Ms. John participated in Big Finish’s audio novel series.  In The Blue Tooth, Liz recounts an adventure she had with the Doctor. In Dust Breeding, Ms. John played a character other than Liz. She also played Liz in four more Companion Chronicle audio plays Binary; The Sentinels of the New Dawn; Shadow of the Past; and yet to be released at her death: The Last Post.

Caroline John will be missed as an accomplished actress and truly appreciated Doctor Who companion.


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