Tuesday, 25 July 2017

Deborah Watling R.I.P.

Deborah Watling, an actress perhaps best known for playing The Doctor's companion Victoria Waterfield on Doctor Who, died on July 21 2017 at the age of 69. The cause was lung cancer.

Deborah Watling was born on January 2 1948 in London. Her parents were actors Jack Wilding and Patricia Hicks. Her half-sister Dilys, her brother Giles, and her sister Nicky also went into acting. Deborah Watling grew up in Epping, Essex until the family moved to Alderton Hall in Loughton, Essex. She attended various schools and considered becoming a dentist until she found out how many exams would be required to do so. She then enrolled at the Italia Conti stage school.

Miss Watling made her television debut in 1958 as a regular on the TV show The Invisible Man. She played Sally Wilson, the niece of Peter Brady (the invisible man of the title). She was also a regular on the comedy A Life of Bliss. She guest starred on the TV shows William Tell and The Wednesday Play.

It was in 1967 that she began playing Victoria Waterfield, one of the companions of the Second Doctor (played by Patrick Troughton) on Doctor Who. Deborah Watling appeared in 40 episodes of the series, and left the show in 1968. Sadly, because of BBC's policy wiping programmes at the time,  "The Tomb of the Cybermen" and "The Enemy of the World" are the only serials in which she appeared that have survived. Miss Watling was later a regular on the drama The Newcomers alongside her father Jack Watling. She guest starred on the shows The Power Game, This Man Craig, Out of the Unknown, Horizon, and No Hiding Place.

In the Seventies Miss Waterfield had a recurring role on Danger UXB. She guest starred on such shows as Crimes of Passion, ITV Sunday Night Drama, Doctor in Charge, Arthur of the Britons, Rising Damp, and Lillie. She appeared in the films That'll Be the Day (1973) and Take Me High (1973).

In the Eighties she had a recurring role on The Jim Davidson Show. She later reprised her role as Victoria in Dimensions in Time (a charity crossover between Doctor Who and EastEnders), Downtime, a direct-to-video spinoff of Doctor Who, and various Doctor Who audio dramas. She appeared as herself in the Doctor Who 50th anniversary homage and spoof The Five(ish) Doctors Reboot.

Even though only two of the serials survive in which she appeared, it seems likely that Deborah Watling will always be remembered as Victoria on Doctor Who. Victoria was a somewhat naive, young orphan taken in by The Doctor. It was not unusual for her to scream when frightened, something which proved to be of use in the last serial in which she appeared. In Fury from the Deep, the sentient and malevolent seaweed can only be repulsed by loud, shrill noises, including Victoria's screams. Of course, Deborah Watling was much more than Victoria. On Danger UXB she played a character very far removed from the innocent Victoria--the nymphomaniac Norma. In Take Me High she actually got to perform a duet with Sir Cliff Richard in his final film. Deborah Watling may always be remembered as Victoria, she appeared on several other TV shows and in films. 

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