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Logical Progression

Wendy Padbury first played astrophysicist Zoe Heriot 50 years ago. She reveals how she got started in showbusiness – and what happened after she left Doctor Who.
Wendy Padbury pictured in April 1968.

“It’s absolutely staggering”, declares Wendy Padbury. It’s Friday 4 May, and we’re waiting for coffee at the British Film Institute in London. It’s a serendipitous date; 50 years ago to the day at around 5.17pm, Episode 2 of The Wheel in Space was broadcast. It marked Wendy’s debut as new Doctor Who companion, space-age astrophysicist Zoe Heriot.

“I had no idea all this stuff was documented”, continues Wendy as we settle down in a quiet corner to discuss her involvement in Doctor Who and life beyond the TARDIS. Archive paperwork reveals that 50 years ago yesterday, Friday 3 May 1968, Wendy was in Studio 1 at the BBC’s Riverside Studios, preparing to record The Wheel in Space Episode 5.

“It’s a very odd feeling, but a nice feeling”, says Wendy, pausing to consider that we can pinpoint exactly where she was and what she was doing all those years ago. “I remember being at a convention with Frazer [Hines, who played Jamie McCrimmon]. I couldn’t even remember what I got paid per episode, and somebody said, ‘Oh you got paid this, it’s documented.’ It’s fascinating.”

By the time Doctor Who came into her life at the age of 20, Wendy was already a busy stage and television actress. Seeking a replacement for companion actress Deborah Watling (who played Victoria), Doctor Who producer Peter Bryant saw over 100 hopefuls for the role of Zoe. Wendy was among the handful selected for a screen test in February 1968. “It was about six lines of dialogue”, recalls Wendy. “Each one was a different emotion. You stood on the spot, the camera on your eyes, and you had to portray each emotion from just one line. It was hard. You had to be funny, sparkly eyed, then you had to be a bit weepy. It was tough. Thank God it wasn’t a full length shot – my knees were knocking.

As you do, you come out and go, ‘Ugh, I was terrible, I’m never gonna get that!’” But Wendy did get the part and was offered a contract to play Zoe – a contract she almost turned down. “At the same time they were casting The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie. I was offered that. I drove my agent mad… ‘I’ll do Doctor Who.’ ‘Right’, my agent would say. ‘No, I’ll do the film!’ ‘Right.’ And tomorrow was the same.”

As we know, Wendy eventually accepted the part of Zoe and joined series stars Patrick Troughton and Frazer Hines. Episode 2 of The Wheel in Space only exists as an audio recording and telesnaps, but we loaded up the Doctor Who Magazine iPad with all Wendy’s existing episodes. “I don’t know…” Wendy responds cautiously when asked if she’d like to see Episode 3, featuring her first scenes recorded with Patrick Troughton. “I’d quite like to see it…”

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About Doctor Who Magazine

Issue includes: Exclusive interviews with companion actors Wendy Padbury, Sophie Aldred and Carole Ann Ford BACK TO SCHOOL Class cast members Greg Austin, Fady Elsayed, Vivian Oparh and Jordan Renzo, and composer Blair Mowat, talk about the spin-off series' new audio adventures at Big Finish. LONDON, 1965! An inside look at Twitch's viewing marathon which is live-streaming over 500 episodes of Doctor Who's original 1963-89 run. GLASGOW'S POLICE BOXES One man's mission to save the disappearing police boxes from the streets of Glasgow. NEW DOCTORS The third part of our series of articles looking back at the ways new Doctors have been introduced to the public. WHO, ME Australian comedian Rob Lloyd tells DWM about his Doctor Who themed show Who, Me. THE MAN WHO SAVED THE DOCTOR A tribute to Graham Strong, the man who made soundtrack recordings of 1960s Doctor Who. THE CLOCKWISE WAR Part Four of The Clockwise War, our new comic strip adventure featuring the Doctor and Bill, written by Scott Gray and illustrated by Martin Geraghty. TIME TEAM The Time Team takes a virtual trip to Gallifrey, watching three adventures set on the Doctor's home planet: 1969's The War Games, 1976's The Deadly Assassin and 2015's Hell Bent. THE FACT OF FICTION This issue's Fact of Fiction delves into the 2010 Eleventh Doctor story The Vampires of Venice. VORTEX MANIPULATOR We show you how to make Captain Jack Harkness' favourite gadget in a simple step-by-step guide. PLUS... The Blogs of Doom, previews, DVD and audio reviews, news, prize-winning competitions and much, much more!