Carole Ann Ford starred in the first ever series of Doctor Who as Susan Foreman, the Doctor’s granddaughter, between 1963 and 1964. CultBox caught up with Carole for a look back…
How was working with William Hartnell?
“It was delightful, I loved him dearly and we got on terribly well, he had a naughty twinkle about him. It upsets me when I hear people saying he was difficult to work with, he was very sweet. Well, he wasn’t always sweet, he was very opinionated and did occasionally flare up, it was an enormous strain to do the show. We’d go to the BBC club for a cooling-down drink after filming, but Bill related to me as a 15-year-old granddaughter rather than a 21-year-old actress and wasn’t very happy with me drinking! We got rather mad at each other about it one time, but then the next week he came in with a big bottle of champagne for me. He had a lot of opinions about my clothes too – well, it was the 60s and there some wonderful designers, so I’d parade around in new clothes each week and he said I shouldn’t waste my money!”
Is it true that you had to shoot each episode in one take?
“Yes, we did them like it was a theatre. If we wanted to shoot again then we would pretend to accidentally swear, then they had to stop filming. We had limited studio time and if we overran then somebody would come down and just switch the power off.”
Why did you decide to leave after only 18 months?
“I would have liked to leave even earlier! I was being offered other fantastic work, and my character was going nowhere. I was just doing the same thing every week – we arrived somewhere, I got into trouble and then I got saved! Originally I was supposed to be supremely intelligent and have telepathic capabilities. They let me do the telepathy once after I nagged them, but the interesting aspects of the character were just wiped out. I wanted her to be like Emma Peel from The Avengers, but I suppose then I wouldn’t have needed rescuing all the time! I would have loved to be Rose from the new series, she’s great, I’m so envious!”
Are you a fan of the new series then?
“Absolutely, I watched every episode! The one with the gas masks was terrific!”
Do you get fans writing to you still?
“Yes, I still get loads of letters, I thought nobody would care about us oldies once the new series started but it seems to have reinvigorated it all, I get even more now! When I’m at the conventions, I sign autographs for little kids who watch the old episodes and they tell me they like watching them because there are “really good stories”, it’s lovely.”
Elisabeth Sladen is back for an episode next series as 1970’s companion Sarah Jane Smith – having returned before in ‘The Five Doctors’ back in 1983, would you consider making an appearance as Susan if they asked?
“I’d love to, yes, it would be very exciting! I must ask Lizzie about it actually!”
Which was your favourite episode that you were in?
“Oh, it was a two-parter where I went mad and tried to kill the other companions, I actually got to do some acting in it!”
Were you happy with how Susan left the series?
“Oh, I wouldn’t have cared either way at the time!”