Starburst has learned of the death of actress Caroline John, best known for her role as Cambridge scientist Dr Liz Shaw alongside third Doctor Jon Pertwee in his first season in Doctor Who, the show’s first year in colour, in 1970. Liz was created as an attempt to move away from the stereotypical screaming “dolly bird” image of many of the later 1960s Doctor Who companions but producer Barry Letts quickly realised that creating an intellectual equal as a companion for the Doctor had a detrimental effect on the show’s character dynamic and planned to write the character out of the series after just 25 episodes. Caroline John later explained that she’d intended to leave the show in any event as she had become pregnant during the filming of the series.
Born in York in 1940, Caroline John studied at the Central School of Speech and Drama and toured extensively with the National Theatre and the Royal Shakespeare Company. Although best known for her work in Doctor Who Caroline appeared in supporting roles in dozens of British drama and comedy series such as The Bill, A Very British Coup, Casualty, The Hound of the Baskervilles (with former Doctor Tom Baker), Chancer, several episodes of Harry Enfield’s Television Programme, Wish Me Luck, London’s Burning, EastEnders and most recently Doctors in 2008 and also appeared on the big screen in Richard Curtis’ Love, Actually. Caroline also revisited Liz Shaw in a number of Doctor Who fan-produced spin-off videos in the 1990s and on TV in the 1983 twentieth anniversary TV special ‘The Five Doctors’ and the 3D thirtieth anniversary mini-episodes ‘Dimensions In Time’ in 1993. Liz returned again via Big Finish Productions in 2007 as part of the Companion Chronicles series with a fifth recording yet to be released.
Caroline John, who died on June 5th after a short illness, was married to actor Geoffrey Beevers, who memorably portrayed the emaciated Master in the 1980 Doctor Who series ‘The Keeper of Traken’ and also starred with his wife in an episode of Poirot in 1989.
Starburst sends its sincerest condolences to Caroline’s family.