Doctor Who's classic companions on their return: "It was a total joy"
We speak to returning cast members Katy Manning and William Russell. **CONTAINS SPOILERS**
The Power of the Doctor has finally revealed its secrets and, for some of us, it’s been a challenge to keep the lid on them during the past year. As well as the returning Doctors, fans are treated to a delightful meeting of what could be called "Companions Anonymous".
Alongside the Time Lord’s many friends already seen in the BBC centenary special, suddenly we’re in the presence of three other luminaries from Doctor Who’s distant past as William Russell, Katy Manning and Bonnie Langford return for a very special but fleeting cameo, filmed in Cardiff in autumn 2021.
Katy Manning loved the experience: "I was bundled into a car and driven to Wales," she tells RadioTimes.com in October 2022. "It was a total joy for me, such a very special, heart-warming feeling being around the Who family from all eras!"
Having broken hearts as Jo Grant in the 1970s with Jon Pertwee’s Doctor, she returned as the married Jo Jones in The Sarah Jane Adventures in 2010. "I know from that how daunting it can be, but also how exciting it is returning years later and maturing your character."
She was thrilled to meet the current stars Mandip Gill, Bradley Walsh and John Bishop, as well as Jodie Whittaker, who came on set to watch the filming. "Jodie was very smiley and hug-y. New members of the Who family love meeting us older ones, as we do the younger ones. I really am Great-Granny Jo now," she laughs.
As this scene reflects, the former stars of Doctor Who belong to a select club. Even if they didn’t appear on screen together back in the day, they’ve forged strong bonds across decades on the fan-convention circuit and making audio dramas for Big Finish. "Seeing Bonnie and William again was such a delight," says Katy. And she’s pleased to see her dear friends Janet Fielding and Sophie Aldred earning a proper comeback as Tegan and Ace. "Janet and Sophie are marvellous – making me and many Who fans everywhere very happy," she adds.
Bonnie Langford last appeared as Mel alongside Sylvester McCoy’s Doctor in 1987 and, if rumours are true, she could well resurface for a bigger role in forthcoming episodes under returning showrunner Russell T Davies.
Many of the Doctor’s other early companions were flung off into time and space, but a few should still be alive and well in England and in need of Companions Anonymous. Anneke Wills, who played Polly in the 1960s, tells RadioTimes.com that she was invited to join this happy reunion but was unavailable that day. "I heard it was quite brief so I’m glad I stayed and did my brambles instead." Anneke has a beautiful garden to maintain at her home in irresistible rural surroundings on the edge of Dartmoor.
William Russell starred as Ian Chesterton in the original Doctor Who cast of 1963, and left in 1965. Now a venerable 97, he was able to speak briefly from his home in London. "Hello, Radio Times!" he calls joyfully down the telephone line. He relished being driven to Cardiff, "dashing about, then going into the room and enjoying pleasurable conversations with the others". He’s chuffed to be back in Doctor Who after 57 years and is looking forward to seeing the centenary special. As for the future of Doctor Who…? "I think it will grow." So says the man who was right there at the beginning nearly 60 years ago...
Read more about Doctor Who:
- Interview: Doctor Who's William Russell
- Doctor Who companion Anneke Wills on achieving cultural immortality
- "I've been a naughty girl" - Doctor Who companion Katy Manning interviewed
- Doctor Who's Mandip Gill "wouldn't have wanted it to end any other way"
- Jodie Whittaker, Mandip Gill open to Doctor Who returns after exit
- Jodie Whittaker’s final words in Doctor Who were changed at last minute
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