Doctor Who’s Carole Ann Ford wishes Susan was “more interesting”, like Rose
"I could have broken the mould."
The classic companions of Doctor Who are still beloved 60 years after the show's beginnings, but that doesn't mean they were without their flaws.
Carole Ann Ford played Susan, the very first companion, who travelled in the TARDIS with her grandfather, the First Doctor (William Hartnell). She's now revealed that she remembers her time on the show with mixed feelings, ultimately wishing she had more to do.
Speaking exclusively to RadioTimes.com, Ford said she looks back on her experience "with great fondness and sometimes with great frustration."
She added: "The initial conversation I had with Verity [Lambert, founding producer], they asked me what my skills were and at the time, I was a trained dancer, acrobat, swimmer, horse-rider, so just think of what they could have flung at me - which they didn’t.
"As it happened, what [Susan] did was... I wouldn’t say boring because it was an interesting thing to do and it was great to be in something with such marvellous people, but if only they had allowed me to do some more courageous things, or more interesting and exciting things. I mean, imagine getting on horseback and running away from the Daleks - that would be much more fun than just trying to find a little corridor somewhere I could hide in."
"They didn’t use any of these things, which is a shame," Ford continued. "She could have been a much broader personality, a much more interesting personality. They wanted her to identify as the girl next door so all the interesting - I think the interesting things anyway - that I was trying to put into it were all eliminated after the first episode, which was a shame."
Comparing Susan to more modern companions, like Billie Piper's Rose, Ford went on: "[I have] moments of envy...
"I could have done all sorts of stunts, I was very fit. When I saw Billie Piper doing that incredible thing she did swinging across on ropes above a fiery pit [in the 2005 episode 'Rose'], I thought, “That’s not fair! I could have done that!”
"There were so many things I kept thinking, 'That’s not fair! Why did they get the chance to do that and not me?' I could have broken the mould."
Ford departed Doctor Who in 1964. In the show, Susan falls in love with a human man, David Campbell, and the Doctor decides she should stay with David, locking her out of the TARDIS and leaving her on Earth.
Responding to the exit years later, Ford joked: "I could have gone out with more of a boom but that probably would have meant exploding me or sending me off into space or something. That would have been interesting, wouldn’t it? Just push me out of the TARDIS and say 'Okay, look after yourself now.'
"There were a million different ways of getting rid of her if they wanted to get rid of her without having her marry against her will. The idea, when you come to think of it, of a grandfather who’s supposed to love her, sending her out into a world inhabited by Daleks and that was being destroyed generally is a bit unbelievable really - but he obviously had great faith in me!"
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Susan's characterisation aside, Ford has countless fond memories of filming Doctor Who and working with the late Hartnell, saying: "It was absolutely great, we got on terribly well. He was extremely helpful, a very experienced actor. He kept trying to help me find my light!"
She counts 'The Edge of Destruction' as her favourite episode of all time and she's a big fan of "super duper, energetic" Christopher Eccleston - but when asked about her favourite Doctor, there's only one clear answer.
"My grandfather! He was the defining one, I think. There are loads of other good ones too, but he was the defining one. I felt he really personified the essence of the Doctor, he really did."
Ford has also revealed she couldn't be more ready to return to the show, and even has an idea of how it could happen - so watch this space!
Doctor Who is available to stream on BBC iPlayer with episodes of the classic series also available on BritBox – you can sign up for a 7-day free trial here.
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