The Doctor’s granddaughter discusses Christmas, and how her grandfather has become a “sexy beast”…
This interview originally appeared in DWM 429, published in December 2010.
Hello, Carole Ann. Are you looking forward to Christmas?
“Well, after February, I’m going to be a huge fan of Christmas, because my daughter Tara is having a baby, so the following Christmas is going to be great. We’re all very excited.”
Congratulations! Can you describe a typical Christmas in the Ford household?
“My other daughter, Miranda, usually brings my two grandchildren over. That’s not going to happen this year, it’s going to be quieter, but it’s usually very family-orientated. I always have my mum round. She’s 97. And we have nice food to eat. We’ll be playing on the Wii quite a lot this Christmas.”
What do you play on the Wii?
“I love the table tennis, and the skiing, and the circus tricks. Everybody who’s coming has been warned that they have to participate.”
Let’s talk about Susan. She’s the Doctor’s original travelling companion –
“[Cutting in] I never think of her as a companion. I get quite spiky when people refer to her as a companion. They were only called companions later. That grandfather/granddaughter relationship was special. She’s the only relative he’s ever had on board.”
If Susan weren’t the Doctor’s granddaughter, do you think she’d be a very memorable character?
“Well, she’s one of the youngest people the Doctor has ever travelled with, but that made her frustrating to play, because she wasn’t allowed to develop. Time was going by, and she wasn’t allowed to progress beyond – what? – 15 years old.”
Big Finish’s Doctor Who audio dramas allow Susan more space to develop.
“Thank God, yes. I love them. They give her wonderful new dimensions, and that’s really fascinating for me. One slips straight back into it.”
You’re reprising the role of Susan in no less than two Big Finish releases this December…
“They’re very different, but both very good. They do some wonderful stuff, Big Finish. I’m so privileged to work with them.”
In Relative Dimensions, you’re playing opposite Paul McGann. How would you describe the dynamic between Susan and the Eighth Doctor?
“He’s protective of her, and she of him. He’s a sexy beast. He obviously likes the female sex very much. The Paul McGann Doctor is much more humorous than the original, Bill Hartnell rendition. Hardly grouchy at all. There are little elements of the grouchiness, but I think really just as a reference to Bill’s Doctor.”
Paul is 51. You’re 70. He’s playing your grandfather. Do you agree that’s a bit odd?
“It’s just one of those strange things that can happen to Time Lords. We don’t focus on it too much. One always wonders if it will work, especially in this one, because we have the extra element of Susan’s son [Alex, played by Paul’s real-life son Jake McGann] – in other words, Doctor Who’s great-grandson. But if it holds up in the writing, it’s okay. Big Finish has some really good writers. This one is written by Marc Platt.”
Marc scripted December’s other release, too –
“Oh, Quinnis. I’ve just been listening to it. It’s fantastic. I don’t usually say that when I listen to things I’ve done, but Marc has excelled himself this time. He writes in such a pictorial, poetic way.”
Quinnis is set before the TV series, back when the Doctor and Susan were travelling alone.
“It is, yes. It’s extraordinarily strange, and so filmic. Odd things happen in it, but not conventional, monster-type things. It’s just me and one other performer, so I have to play lots of different characters. In fact, the other performer is my daughter, Tara. She enjoyed it tremendously.”
Is this the first time you and Tara have worked together?
“Yes. I was thinking I might be a bit nervous on her behalf, because obviously you want your daughter to do well. Luckily, once you’re in the little recording booths, it’s just another actress playing a part.”
Does Tara ask your advice about the profession?
“Well, I wouldn’t have advised her to enter the profession. I didn’t protest, but I didn’t encourage it. It can be terribly rewarding when you’re working, but very frustrating when you’re not. It’s such a personal thing – it’s you that you’re selling – and there’s so much rejection. It’s very difficult to take that, constantly.”
Did you catch any of Matt Smith’s first series as the Doctor?
“I’ve watched all three of the most recent Doctors. Have you?”
Yes. How do you think the 2010 series measures up to your TV episodes?
“Honestly? I think it’s almost unrecognisable. I think it’s absolutely amazing, and the production values are fantastic, and the writing is superb, but it’s far removed from what we were doing. You have the odd reference back, which is quite amusing, but the show today doesn’t have a huge amount to do with what we were doing. I’d like the Doctor to have more gravitas. It’s great fun to see younger people doing it, but – obviously, you tend to favour the Doctor you worked with, and as I worked with Bill Hartnell – I like to look at the Doctor and think, yeah, I can imagine that you’re a few hundred or even a few thousand years old. All those places he’s been to, all those things he’s done, he has all that behind him – I like to see that in him somewhere. As good as they are, and they are good, I just don’t get that from the most recent Doctors. How old is Matt Smith?”
“Right. The way they’re going, the next one is going to be about 12. [Laughs] But indeed, why not? The thing with Doctor Who is, anything is possible, and that’s why it’s gone on and on. It’s limitless.”
What do you think William Hartnell would have made of Doctor Who today?
“God, he would have loved it. It’s such a pity he’s not around to see it. Maybe he is. Maybe he’s up there somewhere, looking down and having a giggle, saying, ‘I told you so!’ He said it would last for ever, and ever, and ever. He was right.”
Carole Ann Ford was talking to Benjamin Cook. Relative Dimensions and The Companion Chronicles: Quinnis are released by Big Finish on 31 December.