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Victorian Values

From 1967 to 1968, Victoria Waterfield screamed her way through such classics as The Evil of the Daleks, The Tomb of the Cybermen and The Web of Fear. We pay tribute to the late Deborah Watling, who portrayed one of the series’ best-loved companions.

Early in 1967, Doctor Who producer Innes Lloyd was searching for a fresh face to accompany the Doctor (Patrick Troughton) and Jamie McCrimmon (Frazer Hines) in the programme’s fourth series. Having failed to persuade Pauline Collins to extend her guest role as Samantha Briggs beyond the conclusion of The Faceless Ones, Lloyd held auditions for a new character. Victoria Waterfield was the daughter of a nineteenthcentury scientist and would appear in the next serial, The Evil of the Daleks.

The role was initially offered to Denise Buckley, who backed out when she learned that Victoria was to be a continuing character. Lloyd instead awarded the part to a young actress he remembered seeing 18 months earlier on the cover of Radio Times. Her name was Deborah Watling.

“We knew that Anneke Wills [who played Polly] was leaving,” recalls Frazer Hines, “and Patrick and I had suggested Pauline Collins because she was great fun to work with, so we were disappointed when she turned them down. But then they suggested Deborah Watling and I remembered I’d seen her in a play called Calf Love where she was playing a sort of sweet little innocent. Patrick and I rubbed our hands together and said, ‘Terrific, let’s get her in.’ And so she joined us and she was the sweetest person ever.”

Known as both ‘Debs’ and ‘Donks’ to family and friends, Deborah Patricia Watling was born on Friday 2 January 1948 at Queen Charlotte’s Maternity Hospital in Hammersmith, London. Her father was Jack Watling, the stage and screen actor who had originated the role of Dickie Winslow in Terence Rattigan’s The Winslow Boy (Lyric Theatre, 1946). Jack had married actress Patricia Hicks in 1947 and Deborah was their first child, although Patricia already had a five-year-old daughter, Dilys, from her previous marriage to Sidney Rhys Jones, an RAF pilot who had died during flight training in February 1943.

The Watling family initially lived at The Oaks on Kendal Avenue in Epping, Essex, where Deborah and Dilys were soon joined by baby Adam. Tragically Adam lost his life when he was buried by a snow drift that slid off the roof during the winter of 1952. The Watlings’ second son, Giles, appeared in February 1953 and then another daughter, Nicola, in August 1957. All four children later followed their parents onto the stage.

In 1957 the Watlings moved to Alderton Hall, a Grade II-listed medieval farmhouse in nearby Loughton which became the family home for the next 24 years. Dating to the fifteenth century, the house had a longstanding local reputation, as the Watlings soon discovered. Each family member reported poltergeist phenomena and repeated encounters with ghostly apparitions – either a pale-faced girl dressed in white or a fair-haired cavalier in a red cloak. So many sightings occurred in Deborah’s room that it became known as ‘the haunted bedroom’.

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About Doctor Who Magazine

ISSUE 517 OF DOCTOR WHO MAGAZINE CELEBRATES 30 YEARS OF THE SEVENTH DOCTOR WITH SYLVESTER McCOY! Thirty years after he first appeared as the Seventh Doctor, Sylvester McCoy reflects on the role that changed his life... Also this issue: DEBORAH WATLING TRIBUTE DWM remembers the late Deborah Watling, who played the Second Doctor's companion Victoria from 1967 to 1978, with contributions from Colin Baker, Nicola Bryant and Frazer Hines. VICTORIA'S SECRETS A previously unpublished interview with Deborah Watling from 1990. VICTOR PEMBERTON TRIBUTE Remembering the late Doctor Who writer and story editor Victor Pemberton. GAIL BENNETT An interview with original American Doctor Who superfan Gail Bennett. FURY FROM THE DEEP This month's Fact of Fiction explores 1968's Fury from the Deep, the last story to feature Deborah Watling as Victoria Waterfield. THE PARLIAMENT OF FEAR Part Three of our brand-new comic strip adventure, The Parliament of Fear, featuring the Doctor and Bill; written by Scott Gray and illustrated by Mike Collins. DOMINIC GLYNN The composer recalls writing and recording the score for 1989's Survival. THE TIME TEAM The Time Team continues its mission to watch every episode of Doctor Who with 2012's The Doctor's Wife. PLUS! Previews, book and audio reviews, news, the Watcher's column, prize-winning competitions and much, much more.
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