The companions of Doctor Who have traditionally had a rough road to travel. Exposed to the terrors of outer space, mind control, natural disasters and killer plants or household items, they were often reduced to the role of the lady in distress. After several ‘screamers,’ producer Philip Hinchcliff and script editor Robert Holmes decided that there needed to be a change in the role of the companion. Created by author Chris Boucher (later of Blake’s 7 fame), Leela was introduced in The Face of Evil as a futuristic savage from a collapsed Earth colonist society on a far off planet. Brutal and surviving on animal instinct, she proved the perfect foil to the cerebral Doctor. Leela was popular with viewers, especially young female fans looking for a tough role model. The ‘dad’ audience was also head over heels with the scantily clad warrior and Leela has since become a cult icon of Doctor Who despite the reality that she was only on the program for a short period of time.
Louise Jameson starred opposite Tom Baker from Face of Evil in 1977 to The Invasion of Time in 1978. Classically trained, Jameson jarred with the loose acting style of Tom Baker who was no doubt intimidated by her appeal with viewers. It’s no secret that Baker was egocentric and a co-star who drew attention from him was not welcome at all. The two are said to have had problems working together on the set, but it was never noticeable to me as a viewer.
In America, Leela was incredibly successful and is often regarded as one of the most important companions of the classic program. Sadly, only a few of the writers realized the character to her full potential with Terrance Dicks (Horror Fang Rock), Robert Holmes (Talons of Weng Chiang, the Sun Makers) and Chris Boucher (Face of Evil and Robots of Death) stand out adventures for the character.
(more info on the Denys Fisher line at http://doctorwhotoys.net/denysfisher.htm)
Recreated in plastic form back in 1977, Leela was released as a second-hand Barbie-doll in the Doctor Who action figure line from Denys Fisher. Just last week, she debuted at the 2011 San Diego International Comic Con as the second classic Doctor Who companion to be released by Character Options. Packaged with her knife, Janus thorn, crossbow and stazer gun from Face of Evil, she is probably the most accessorized action figure in the line!
Robots of Death clip
Next week, the Sunmakers will finally be released on DVD.
The Sun Makers DVD trailer