Whatever Happened To The Doctor Who Companions? The Original TARDIS Team - Warped Factor - Words in the Key of Geek.

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Whatever Happened To The Doctor Who Companions? The Original TARDIS Team

On the anniversary of Doctor Who, we explore whatever happened to the original wanderers in the fourth dimension of space and time...

Traveling in time and space can be a lonely affair. So the Doctor surrounds him/herself with companions, joining him in adventures against adversaries old and new. But what happened to those companions when they left the TARDIS behind? Or more specifically, what did the actor or actress who portrayed that companion get up to next and where are they now? Join us as we explore whatever happened to the First Doctor's original TARDIS team traveling companions who 57 years ago today began their adventures together in time and space...

Carole Ann Ford (Susan Foreman)
Technically not a companion, rather the Doctor's granddaughter, she still traveled with him from (and before) An Unearthly Child to The Dalek Invasion Of Earth.

It was her appearance in a March 1963 episode of the thriller anthology Suspense, playing the character Jackie in an installment titled The Man On The Bicycle, that bought Carole Ann Ford to the attention of BBC director Waris Hussein. Several months later, Hussein remembered Ford when he was assigned to 100,000 BC/An Unearthly Child and recommended her for the role of Susan Foreman.

Outside of that, in her pre-Doctor Who days, Ford had appeared as a supporting actor in several quite notable productions, ones that were often repeated in later years and would cause me to stop and say "that's Susan from Doctor Who". For instance, she appears in the 1959 Cliff Richard film Expresso Bongo, and plays Betina, the blind French girl, in the 1962 production of The Day Of The Triffids.

After leaving Doctor Who, Carole Ann Ford found herself typecast as Susan, being offered very similar 'teenage girl' roles - even though when she left the series she was 25 and had had her first child. Because of this much of her post-Who work was in the theatre but she was still often seen on the small screen as a favourite on youth panel shows like Juke Box Jury and various quiz shows, she also had dramatic roles in Whatever Happened to the Likely Lads? (in the episode "Affairs and Relations"), Moonstrike, Compact, and Dial M for Murder. Ford also appeared in several films including The Man Outside (1967), The Hiding Place (1975) and The Incredible Sarah (1976) and, probably most notably, in a typecast-busting appearance in the 1966 film The Great St. Trinian's Train Robbery.

Reprising the role of Susan Foreman has been the only on-screen work Carole Ann Ford has had since 1976, largely through choice as she mostly stopped acting following an illness in 1977 which led to a dramatic weight reduction and the loss of her voice (it recovered later). She then began teaching voice and presentation skills and dialogue coaching to politicians, business people, after-dinner speakers, and actors.

Playing Susan again in both The Five Doctors and Dimensions In Time, Carole Ann Ford then made a limited return to the profession, reprising the role in a number of Doctor Who audio plays by Big Finish Productions. She had a small cameo role in the 2013 BBC Two docu-drama An Adventure in Space and Time, and also appeared in the one-off 50th-anniversary comedy homage The Five(ish) Doctors Reboot.

A return to Doctor Who for Susan has long been mooted - the Twelfth Doctor clearly hasn't forgotten his granddaughter, keeping a picture on his desk as glimpsed in The Pilot - and if you ask me it's well overdue, even if just a cameo. Surely, catching up with his only known direct family member (established in television canon) and finding out whatever happened to Susan would be a fan winning addition to any series.

Jacqueline Hill (Barbara Wright) 
As Susan Foreman's history teacher during her time at Coal Hill School, Barbara Wright spoke the first words heard in Doctor Who before she found herself whisked away in An Unearthly Child. Jacqueline Hill, who portrayed the character, eventually left Doctor Who at the culmination of The Chase, returning in 1980 for an appearance in the serial Meglos, as the Tigellan priestess Lexa.

Jacqueline Hill had begun her acting career a decade before she appeared in Doctor Who when, after graduating from RADA, she began to secure jobs in the theatre, as a model, and made her film debut as Maureen Maguire, the female lead, in the 1953 crime drama The Blue Parrot.

Jacqueline Hill would only make on further movie (1964s The Comedy Man) as she spent the majority of her career in the theatre or on the small screen including many collaborations with Alvin Rakoff, a Canadian who had become the BBC's youngest producer/director and eventually, in 1958, her husband. It was Hill who encouraged Rakoff to cast an unknown actor named Sean Connery in a 1957 edition of BBC Sunday Night Theatre; five years later, he would skyrocket to international stardom as James Bond.

Before they were married, Hill and Rakoff had worked together on an episode of Armchair Theatre, where they had struck up a friendship with production assistant Verity Lambert who remembered Jacqueline when she was made producer of an upcoming BBC science fiction series that debuted on November 23rd 1963.

Shortly after leaving Doctor Who in 1965, Hill gave up acting in order to raise a family, resuming her career in 1978 when she starred in the BBC Television adaptation of Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet (as Lady Capulet), which was again directed by her husband and featured a young Alan Rickman (as Tybalt) among the cast. Later credits include two episode of Tales of the Unexpected and the 1986 mini-series Paradise Postponed, where she played Mrs. Mallard-Greene.

Jacqueline Hill retired from acting in the mid-80s after being diagnosed with breast cancer. She sadly passed away in February 1993 at the age of just 63.

William Russell (Ian Chesterton)
As Coal Hill School science teacher Ian Chesterfield Chatterton Chesterton, William Russell's character was often the recipient of a 'Billy Fluff' or two. His time on Doctor Who ran concurrent with that of Jacqueline Hill, the pair departing in the 1965 adventure The Chase.

William Russell Enoch, his given name, had begun his acting career in 1952 using the stage name Russell Enoch. After discovering another actor with a very similar name he switched to William Russell. As well as supporting roles in many films, including Norman Wisdom vehicle One Good Turn and the Clifton Webb spy movie The Man Who Never Was, the mid-Fifties would see Russell land several leading roles in major television productions of the day.

Russell played the title role in an adaptation of Nicholas Nickleby, Lancelot in The Adventures Of Sir Lancelot and the titular character in the BBCs adaptation of Robert Louis Stevenson's St. Ives. The latter was adapted by producer Rex Tucker who, in mid-1963, would find himself acting as interim producer for Doctor Who  and recalled Russell from their previous collaboration, recommending him to Verity Lambert as a suitable candidate for Ian Chesterton. Aware of his work as Lancelot, Russell became Lambert's one and only choice for the role.

After leaving Doctor Who, William Russell concentrated on stage roles. Ironically, his first project saw him cast alongside Jacqueline Hill in a successful run of the play Separate Tables, before she retired from acting entirely. Russell, though, continued to amass a long list of credits in the theatre, including the first of several stints with the Royal Shakespeare Company. He also made sporadic television appearances, such as Dr Finlay's Casebook, Father Brown and Crown Court, and in 1978 returned to the big screen with a small role in the first Christopher Reeve Superman movie, where he played a Kryptonian elder.

Throughout the 1980s, Russell had many notable guest roles in popular television shows of the day, including playing two Dukes; Winchester in the first series of Blackadder, and Gloucester in Robin Of Sherwood. In 1992, Russell joined the cast of Coronation Street as Ted Sullivan, appearing in 46 episodes.

Russell had been approached about returning to Doctor Who as Ian Chesterton on more than one occasion; he was offered a substantial guest role in the 1983 serial Mawdryn Undead (where he was ultimately replaced by Nicholas Courtney as Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart), and he was invited to make a cameo appearance in The Five Doctors. On both occasions he had to decline due to his theatre commitments.

It would be 1999 when William Russell finally returned to the role of Ian for the VHS release of the story The Crusade, of which the second and fourth episodes are lost, when he recorded several in-character scenes to camera, which helped to bridge the gap between the existing episodes. Since then he has often contributed to the Doctor Who DVD range, having participated in several audio commentaries and on-screen interviews, and joined the Big Finish family appearing as Ian in their range of audio dramas (starting with 2009s The Transit Of Venus from the Companion Chronicles range, although previously voicing other characters, like Lord Carlisle in 2005 main range release The Game) as well as often filling in for William Hartnell with uncanny First Doctor vocal mannerisms - something he also does on many of the BBC audiobook releases of the televised First Doctor adventures.

William Russell's last on-screen appearance came in a small cameo during An Adventure In Space And Time when he played a BBC security guard called Harry. "I. Chesterton" was teased as now being Chairman of the Governors of Coal Hill School during the 50th anniversary special The Day Of The Doctor, and a potential cameo return for the character seemed to be a given when later stories like The Caretaker and spin-off Class were to be set in the old comprehensive, now academy. Sadly, for whatever reason, it never happened, but Russell still remains connected to the world of Doctor Who through Big Finish, appearing in the 2020 release Susan's War, and the occasional audiobook release of novelisations originally published by Target Books.

As the male lead created to do much of the heavy lifting for William Hartnell's aged Doctor, appearing in that very first episode 57 years ago and still playing Ian Chesteton today, it could be argued that William Russell is Doctor Who's most loyal companion. Although now in his eighties, a cameo at his desk in the school the Doctor seems forever drawn to would surely be a fitting tribute to both actor and character.

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