By Owen Quinn author of the Time Warriors and Zombie Blues
In this series we look at the cast of thousands who helped make Doctor the man, em, Timelord, he is today.
Of all the Doctor’s travelling companions, Victoria was the most vulnerable and delicate and bears a very special first for a companion.
She was the first person that the Doctor revealed he had a family too. This took place in the Tomb of the Cybermen in a quiet moment with the second Doctor, played by the brilliant Patrick Troughton. And I believe this was because he had taken Victoria aboard the Tardis because she was an orphan whose mother had passed years before and her father had been forced to work for the Daleks who later murdered him. She had a very sheltered upbringing and could ‘scream for Ireland’. And now, like the Doctor, she was alone in the world and he immediately became a father figure to. Maybe he had seen too many victims of the Daleks and walked away but this time was different. Somehow he saw a kindred spirit in Victoria and the safest place for her was the Tardis.
Played beautifully by Deborah Watling, Victoria struck up a good relationship with Jamie (above with The Doctor and Victoria) straight away. Ever the gent, Jamie was very protective of her and they enjoyed teasing the Doctor. She found future women’s fashions quite startling but slipped into them easily. And Victoria was part of the true monster golden era. She met the Ice Warriors, the Yeti and the Great Intelligence (who’ll sound familiar to anyone that watched this year’s Christmas episode: The Snowmen), Cybermen and met the Doctor’s double, Salamander, before facing the seaweed monster in Fury from the Deep. Incidentally, her dad, Jack Watling, also starred in the two Yeti stories.
Many of her stories have been lost or only exist partially due to the BBC’s policy of wiping tapes after broadcast as they saw no further use for them but hope always remains that they will return. Indeed, The Tomb of the Cybermen was lost up to a few years ago before being found, allowing us to finally see the scene where the Doctor admits to family. And in the last month, 47 years after broadcast, two more episodes from the stories Underwater Menace and Galaxy Four have been found. I have no doubt someone has the rest of the missing episodes somewhere; I even heard a rumour at a convention a long time ago that a collector has all eight episodes of Marco Polo but would never give them up. We can but dream… although we still have the audio recordings of those missing stories to enjoy. Indeed, 2 Entertain issued the Troughton adventure the Invasion by replacing the missing two episodes with animation matching the dialogue alongside the televised remaining ones. Maybe we will see Victoria’s missing stories like this one day.
Long before Bonnie Langford’s Mel, Victoria was the original screamer, a gift that was the weapon the Doctor used to defeat the seaweed monster. At the end of this story Victoria decided to stay behind (see video below), being adopted by her new family years after she was born. Indeed she has been mentioned several times in the programme eg Pyramids of Mars where Sarah wore one of her dresses and returning to the Children in Need skit Dimensions in Time where she was paired with the third Doctor.
As well as numerous novels that continued to explore and highlight Victoria and her era, she has become a main fixture of the Companion Chronicle series from Big Finish that tells stories from the companion’s perspective. To this day, Deborah sounds the same and captures Victoria effortlessly. She released her autobiography and the genuine love between her, Patrick Troughton and Frazer Hines is there for all to see.
But Victoria did return once more alongside the Brigadier and Sarah Jane in the video adventure Downtime in which Victoria is now head of a company. But there is a problem as she is now possessed by the Great Intelligence who, using its robotic servants the Yeti, is once again trying to take over the Earth. This time however, Sarah Jane and the Brig are on hand to help save the day in what was quite a good adventure given the low budget and it was fantastic to see the Yeti in action once again.
Having met Deborah a couple of times over the years, she is still enthusiastic about her time on the show; a time that is fondly remembered by fans who saw it on original transmission and by those that desperately want those missing episodes returned. She and Frazer speak lovingly of Patrick Troughton and still have a great chemistry that entertains fans up and down the country.
And how nice to think that Victoria is alive and well in our time and still screaming her little lungs out at the first sign of trouble…