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She was there when the Sixth and Seventh Doctors made their first public appearances, she helped save the series from cancellation… and she illustrated The Doctor Who Cookbook! We talk to original American ‘superfan’ Gail Bennett.
Gail dressed as the Fourth Doctor (“The scarf was made for me by a young lady in North Florida”).

It had taken a year to find Gail Bennett. In that endeavour, I’d encountered tantalising traces.

A low-resolution black-and-white photo of her sat between George RR Martin and fantasy illustrator Frank Kelly Freas at a 1987 US convention. Captured at another event on flattening NTSC-green (and now uploaded to YouTube), this time in Atlanta, 1986 – holding Peter Davison’s microphone while he performed a self-penned country song. And, of course, via her illustrations in the Make Your Own Adventure with Doctor Who series and The Doctor Who Cookbook, both from 1986.

But nothing of her beyond the 1980s, and that just increased her allure. I considered this nascent US super-fan a Zelig figure in Doctor Who history, standing off, or to the back of, frame in the photos that made their way into the pages of Doctor Who Magazine showing the stars of our show wooing their new American audience. Somehow, Gail had even put herself on the radar of producer John Nathan-Turner, who would jokingly describe himself as her ‘London agent’, pushing her forward for illustration gigs. Take another look at that Davison footage, and although he is inaudible at the start, you can read his lips. He’s calling out for ‘Gail’ to come onto the stage.

I wondered what stories she had to tell.

Last May, I made contact with someone who told me that, a few years prior, they’d spotted her at a convention in Florida. They might know someone who could pass on a message – but it came to nothing. The breakthrough, as it often is, was in asking the question to the right person.

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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.