By Owen Quinn author of thee Time Warriors and Zombie Blues
Once again we look back at the long history of Doctor Who – coming up on 50 years young – and celebrate the characters, big and small, who have helped create the man and the myth. This week we go right back to the start to Vicki, who travelled with William Hartnell’s first Doctor.
In the wake of Susan’s departure from the Tardis, albeit forced on her by the Doctor, there was a gap in the crew. Ian and Barbara knew the grumpy old man was missing his granddaughter like crazy and it wasn’t long before they came across someone that might fit right in with them.
Vicki’s introduction came in the two-part story The Rescue. On a planet in the future, the Tardis crew came across Vicki and her friend, paralysed in a spaceship crash. They were being menaced by a spiky headed alien called Koquillion. In the end it is revealed he murdered the crew and caused the crash. Alone, Vicki was offered the chance to come aboard the Tardis and travel with them. In a way, it helped ease the Doctor’s loss and he quickly came to adore her. She was sassy for a girl from the future but often fell into the old writer trap of making her a screaming victim.
She faced the Zarbi on the Web Planet and the Daleks in the Chase which saw the departure of Ian and Barbara but they soon discovered that Steven Taylor had stumbled aboard the Tardis in the battle between the Daleks and the Mechanoids. She and Steven bonded quickly and they became the first companions to meet another member of the Doctor’s race though at this point no one knew they were called Time Lords.
The Time Meddler showed their playful side as they tried to figure out why modern devices were turning up in medieval England and it wasn’t long before they discovered another Tardis and the monk in question. In Galaxy Four Vicki learned the truth about the Rills and can be seen in an upcoming DVD release as episode three of this story has just be found after 47 years, giving us a clear look at this under-rated story about how appearances can be deceiving and the first time the Doctor had encountered an all-female warrior race.
But Vicki was soon to leave in the Myth Makers as the Trojan horse is wheeled out at the battle of Troy. The Doctor never could keep his mouth shut as he gives the Greeks the idea by accident. She falls in love and elects to stay behind, ironically dying thousands of years before she is even born, much to Steven’s dismay.
It is almost as if the discovery of this episode and the Troughton story Underwater Menace is a reminder from the fates that there were companions long before Rose and Amy that need to be remembered in the approaching fiftieth anniversary celebrations. Maureen O’Brien who played Vicki didn’t really associate herself with the role for a long time but others didn’t forget. She was part of the Missing Adventures range, in particular the Man in the Velvet Mask, and her character again expanded in other novels like Empire of Glass along with Steven. It’s a tribute to these characters that they are remembered and loved enough for modern writers to breathe life into them again for a brand new audience.
And, like the others, Maureen has featured in the Big Finish range as both Vicki in the companion chronicles and other characters. Vicki is as loved today as she was back then and we look forward to seeing more in the fiftieth anniversary. She’s always welcome.