Although I had watched Doctor Who when I was very young, 1992 was the year I became a fan of the programme. I’ve written about that in other blog posts, but one thing I haven’t mentioned is how quickly I threw myself into the whole world of being a Doctor Who fan, buying everything I could find and afford. In those days there were so few VHS releases that the BBC could print a list of them inside their video covers with room to spare, but another avenue of viewing for a fan at the time were the Myth Makers videos, unofficial interviews with people who had been involved in the making of the show. One of the first ones I got, released in 1992, was an interview with Jackie Lane (#24 in the range).
At the time I had no idea how unusual that was. Eventually I would come to realise that there are some companion actors who were delighted to be involved with Doctor Who fandom etc (conventions, interviews and then, later on, audio productions), and some who wanted to leave Doctor Who in the past. Off the top of my head, what you might call the rare list in the 90s of actors you were unlikely to find getting involved with any of that stuff, was probably Jackie Lane, Matthew Waterhouse and Janet Fielding. Waterhouse and Fielding have since become much more involved in the world of Doctor Who, doing audios and interviews, but Jackie Lane is the one surviving companion actor who remains elusive, beyond occasional signings. So I didn’t realise at the time the significance of this VHS tape. Correct me in the comments section if I’m wrong, but I don’t know of any other recorded interview with Jackie, so it’s lovely to have this.
The interviewer is a very youthful Nick Briggs, and he makes only the occasional mis-step. Although he had done a good few interviews at this point, his naivety shows a little when asking things like why the TARDIS interior was visible from outside the doors in The Massacre, a technical decision of which she would clearly have no knowledge. She also had to put him right about the idea that there was any time to build up the characterisation or look at motivation etc. This was 60s television, not theatre. There wasn’t time to do much other than learn the scripts and get on with them.
The cover blurb boasts “original video effects”, and I really wish it didn’t, because they are awful. Just because you can do something, doesn’t mean you should, and this video had me longing for the simplicity of somebody pointing a camera at somebody and just leaving it running. Instead, there is text and photos, sometimes of questionable relevance, appearing behind Nick and Jackie, and then the screen at times changes to some dodgy 90s swirly computer effect or an image of the planet, while we hear their voices but can’t see them, and then they eventually reappear as floating heads. It’s all unnecessary and such a distraction that it’s hard to concentrate on the interview at times, and there is also quite a bit of padding with on screen information, stretching what would have been approximately a half-hour running time to nearly 45 minutes.
That’s a shame, because by and large this is an excellent interview. We learn the truth behind Jackie’s rejection of the part of Susan. We learn what she felt about her co-stars, and she is so positive about William Hartnell that one wonders where his reputation for being difficult actually comes from. The majority of the interview covers her time on the show, but there is also some examination of her career before Doctor Who, and her life afterwards, which included virtually no acting after she left the show. She speaks positively about the fans, having done just one convention at the time (Monopticon), but when asked whether she would do more the answer is not what we would want to hear as fans. However, I’m a little puzzled watching this as to why Jackie has kept herself generally so separate from the world of Doctor Who. Her thoughts on Monopticon would tend to suggest that she might have enjoyed a greater involvement, and she seems in this interview to talk very positively about the show in general, and her time playing Dodo. However, she clearly feels like acting is something from her past, and a world she doesn’t really belong in any more.
Rewatching this after all these years was an interesting experience, and I came to it with no memory of seeing it the first time round. It also left me a little melancholy at the missed opportunity. I’m a big fan of Big Finish audios, and it really is a great shame that Jackie has never felt that she wanted to get involved in those. She remains something of a missing piece in our Doctor Who jigsaw. RP