One day, we would come back, yes, we would come back- and hopefully there have been no regrets, no tears, no anxieties.....we're heading back to where it all began! November 23, 1963 was the all-important date, and Coal Hill School teachers Ian Chesterton & Barbara Wright were quickly drawn into the mystery of Susan Foreman. While on the surface there was little to distinguish her from her peers, her scientific & historical knowledge put her ahead of the pack- & they wanted answers. Following her 'home' from class, they stumble across a police box parked in IM Foreman's scrapyard on Totters Lane......
Now, just why is her grandfather so suspicious of strangers? They'll soon find out. Several conflicting accounts exist as to how & why she & the man she called ' Grandfather' had to leave Gallifrey. Her 'real' name is established as ' Arkytior' ( Old High Gallifreyan for ' Rose') in both Frayed & Roses. Lungbarrow posits that she is indeed the Doctor's granddaughter, with their family tie stretching back to a time when the Doctor had been ' The Other', a mysterious third member of the post- Pythia leadership of the planet. He's said to have sent her away to save her from the Pythia's Curse- infertility. By which logic Susan was one of the last naturally conceived Time Tots!
We have to wait until The Beginning, though, to find out more of the details of their first TARDIS flight. Well before they met Mr Chesterton & Miss Wright, they had to escape. Managing to do so after being chased through a repair shop & stealing an obsolete Type 40 which had been consigned to the scrapheap, they find themselves in both Earth's primal past & exactly 450,000,000 years into its future. If that weren't enough there's a stowaway, too! His name's Quadrigger Stoyn, & he's the engineer who was working on scrapping the TARDIS before the Doctor & Susan pinched it.
Not surprisingly, the whole affair was the first time the Doctor had ever piloted such a craft! The Telos novella Frayed, though, tells things slightly differently. In this, the chameleon circuit ( the mechanism which allows TARDISes to blend in with whichever environment they find themselves in) is still working, & so the ship takes the form of a boulder. Susan is given her name by a human called Jill ( who in turn got the name ' Susan' from that of her own mother), a colonist on Iwa- where people who have been identified as potential criminals of the future (or ' Future Deviants') are given ' dream therapy' in the hope they'll be dissuaded from criminal activity in the first place.
The Doctor, meanwhile, gets his name after being given medical garb to replace his usual Victorian ensemble- burnt to avoid potential contamination. Wanting to avoid using his real name- which we still don't know 51 years later- he simply looks at his new garments & calls himself ' The Doctor'. Even after they leave Iwa, they keep the names- setting the scene for An Unearthly Child.
Mark Gatiss's An Adventure In Space & Time presents a very good recreation of the early years, including that first screened adventure...
Susan was of course played by Carole Ann Ford, who got the part at the age of 23 after being spotted during an appearance in an episode of Z-Cars. She'd made her first appearance in front of a camera at the age of just eight, and her pre & post-Who television career also includes Whatever Happened To The Likely Lads?- among many others. She'd graced many a theatre stage too! With productions ranging from The Boy Friend & Private Lives, to Sleeping Beauty & The Owl & The Pussycat, she had quite a repertoire. And if that wasn't enough she was no stranger to cinematic roles either. She's in The Great St Trinian's Train Robbery, & The Day Of The Triffids, to name probably her two best-known such appearances.
Having been the first companion on the scene, her departure marked a watershed moment at the conclusion of The Dalek Invasion Of Earth...
She would remain firm friends with William Hartnell up until his death in 1975, later returning to appear in The Five Doctors...
Ironically, with the introduction of Peter Davison's Fifth Doctor, granddaughter became older than grandfather ( in real life anyway). The rule also applies to every post- Davison incarnation too.
She'd return alongside McGann for An Earthly Child & Relative Dimensions (featuring a special recording of Silent Night by the Poringland Singers, under the direction of Jamie Robertson) as well as appearing in some Companion Chronicles set during Susan's travels with the First Doctor ( The Beginning, Here There Be Monsters, The Transit Of Venus, Quinnis, The Wanderer, The Flames Of Cadiz, The Library Of Alexandria, The Alchemists,&The Beginning). She was there for the 50th anniversary celebrations, too...
But what did she really think of the part that has come to define her? Speaking to the Daily Telegraph, she said:
“It was instant madness. There was nothing like it on television. We could go anywhere in the universe, and we gave them great cliffhangers. It was amazing, like being a pop star. I couldn’t go down the street for a bottle of milk any more.But what did she think of the programme itself?
I must say that when I left Doctor Who, I was filled with… not loathing, but I was incredibly annoyed because I wanted to do more television and films and the only thing that people could ever see me in was a recreation of what I had done. A Susan clone. Some kind of weird teenager. I wanted to do work that would disconnect me from Doctor Who. That is a very difficult thing to accomplish, as many other actors who have played the companions have found out.”
“A lot of people did not want Doctor Who to go ahead. The people high up were against putting money into children’s programmes, which is how they considered it at the time. The sets were very wobbly. They didn’t think it was going to last. The TARDIS interior was very delicate. You could practically blow on the walls like the wolf after the little piggies and it would all fall down.”Whether anyone took the trouble to remind her that that's always been part of the programme's charm for a certain section of the viewing public is anyone's guess. Indeed it's also at least part of the reason why Episode One of An Unearthly Child needed a reshoot! But perhaps the most scathing judgement comes in the form of her answer to a question on whether her whole acting career was ruined by it:
“Yeah. In no small way. Definitely. Nothing shook it off. Nothing.”
You can listen to her talking more about the early years of Doctor Who alongside the key surviving members of the crew in this episode of Radio Four's The Reunion. Alongside Carole are director Waris Hussein, William Russell ( who played Ian), Jeremy Young ( Kal) & Peter Purves ( Steven Taylor, later of course also of Blue Peter fame). If you were there first time around, feel free to slip into an easy chair & reminisce. If not, treat it as a crash course in the building blocks of the programme we know & love to this day!