was blatantly patronising toward me, as Leela
Louise Jameson. Though, I found sometimes the
more patronising than Tom ..."
the departure of Liz Sladen from the TARDIS, the DOCTOR WHO team
had the unenviable task to find a new replacement - a replacement that would
both radiate charm and engage the viewers as Sarah Jane had done across the previous
The chosen one? A girl who started acting with a pronounced stammer and a plethora
of spots, finding herself as repertory player at the Royal Shakespeare Company.
Louise Jameson became Leela. Instantly popular for her intellectually vulnerability,
irrepressible feistiness and faux leather chamois 'skins' that every Ford Cortina
'dad' wanted to get their hands on.
Citing her love of the theatre, Jameson left the programme after 15 months and
just 9 stories, yet Leela's influence endures.
Mother, humanitarian, actress and theatre Director (an acclaimed A MIDSUMMER
NIGHT'S DREAM for Leamington Spa based company, Heartbreak Productions),
Louise was one of the most engaging WHO personalities I have
had the pleasure to interview. Twice (The second was live on stage at Leeds Convention, FanAid
Interview choice cuts: then click Back to return here
school panto to the RSC and then, in 1977, to the BBC for a part that would ultimately
shape Louse's career - Leela, the barbarian exile of the Sevateem.
weren't quite sure what they were looking for. They had the first story, the
costume and they saw 60 girls, then whittled down to 10, 3 and 2. Pennant Roberts
said he gave it to me because I made him work. What happens in an interview is
that your are given a script to read and the Director will read in other parts.
So Pennant was reading Tom's part and he said that he had actually respond to
what I was doing rather than just reading the lines. That was why he chose me."
back did she feel that following Sladen was difficult and how did the role change
helped a great deal as far as theatre was concerned however for TV was concerned
I didn't get an interview for 5 years after I finished Doctor Who. TENKO finally
knocked it on the head. I don't like staying in any one job for too long. I think
it was absolutely right by changing the companion character completely, from
Sarah Jane to Leela. There was no way anyone could recreate what Liz had done
because she had done it so well. I didn't feel in competition in anyway."
is recognised that Sladen played Sarah Jane as herself so were there any Leela
traits in Louise persona?
like to think that I'm as 'open' as she is. She's very honest. I don't think
I'm quite as aggressive. I based Leela on a little girl who, lived upstairs called
sally and my own dog, Bosie, I thought Leela was a mixture of instinct and naivety.
She's also very intelligent but she's uneducated, which was what those two were.
I found it hard to retain the character over the 15 months. You see, some of
the scripts I was getting were actually written for Liz Sladen, for example HORROR
OF FANG ROCK. So I was getting scripts that said Leela screams. I said no,
Leela doesn't scream. I became very centred on Leela and I knew what she'd say
and how she would behave under a given situation."
for his own addiction to role of the Doctor, Tom Baker has been frequently cited
as being difficult to work with, demanding perfection whilst concurrently unfastening
his own leash and. In the eyeofhorus.org.uk interview, Baker specifies he has
not favourite companion though enjoyed Sarah Jane's 'Pearl White' image; was
Tom as manic as he is portrayed?
found Tom an extraordinary person to work with. His energy level is higher than
anyone I have ever met. At times very difficult to work with but exciting, so
I have a mixed reaction to Tom really. He'd literally throw the script out the
Rehearsal Room's window and then this poor little Assistant Floor Manager would
trot down and get it. He cared so much about the programme.
Tom was blatantly patronising toward me, as Leela and Louise Jameson. I found
sometimes the Directors more patronising than Tom. I don't think that it had
to do with Tom and Louise personally but with the Male orientated environment.
Men operated the cameras, the lighting, the sound, the producing, the Directing
and the majority of the characters are men. So I found sexism more apparent within
what I was doing rather than patronisation".
Philip Hinchcliffe and Graham Williams moulded the series in their own imitable
way, crafting many gems for Leela; what were the highlights?
thought both Philip and Graham were very good actually in their own respective
ways. It is difficult to know what exactly goes on as a Producer because the
producer presents a face to an actor that is one of bonne-ami, generosity and
consideration. Then you realise that they are quite cutthroat really as scenes
you've recorded are on the editing room floor. It was pressured for them.
It was a 9-day turn around, doing 7 days rehearsal and then 2 days recording.
It was very tight. It was even tighter when it all started in the 60s, as they
were doing 1 episode a week. The black and whites worked, I think. For its era
it was terrific. The entire concept was unbelievable because you could anywhere.
You get something like STAR TREK, with its rigid rules that the script
writers are bound by the particular conventions that are set up.
THE SUNMAKERS was my favourite story and TALONS one of the best
for Leela. Robert Holmes wrote the best scripts of all. THE SUNMAKERS was
his last one for the series and a bit of a 'two-fingers to the BBC' as far as
Bob was concerned. A philosophy that believe in to. Much more than other stories,
it was quite 'left-wing'. Freeing oppressed workers and all that. A good idea
She came to the fore and emphasised her loyalty to the Doctor. It furthered their
relationship that isn't often considered in the programme by the writers. In THE
SUNMAKERS, as Bob created the character of Leela, he wrote much better for
 I should mention that being steamed
alive was different. When I joined the series Tom said to me 'I hope you're into
bondage because you're going to spend 70% of your time being tied up and strapped
to things'. How right he was. It was a just a giggle and a particularly nice
TALONS had the same character development. That was fun to do.
There's a nice story about that one. When I got the script it said 'Leela leaps
on to the table, somersaults over the dwarf, crashes through the window and falls
ten feet on the grass below'. I said, 'No, she bloody doesn't' so they got a
Stuntman in to double for me. Stuart had a peculiar time. Luckily I was clothed
in the story so he didn't have to wear the leotard. But he kept getting 'goosed'
from behind.you know, his bottom pinched because everyone thought it was me."
was a veiled pastiche of MY FAIR LADY, with the Leela an alien Eliza Doolittle
for the Doctor's Professor Henry Higgins.
and I debated whether to tour with that actual play. We thought we'd be rather
good - a sort of double act. I think TALONS picked out those key aspects. I think
she calmed down too. Her aggression was tamed. Like no more Janis Thorns. We
were originally going to call them Janice Thorns but it sounded like an out-of-work
actress. So Leela was educated to a certain extent but I doubt.it would be interesting
to see what she is doing now. I should imagine she's got 11 children on Gallifrey.
Back to Mother Nature."
back to the beginning for Leela, THE FACE OF EVIL. An exciting time for a young
actress; what did she remember?
the funniest thing I recall is being chased by that frigging monster - the invisible
thing. To get that effect they put translucent tripwires at the base of tress
and with my red contact lenses - used to make my eyes brown - I literally tripped
over them all. There were my first scenes and no rehearsals too. It was the first
time that the crew had seen the costume, clinging on to my dressing gown as long
as I could. The they said, 'We're going to have to light you, get that thing
off'. I took off the gown and there was this hushed silence and then this timid
voice called out - it was the head lighting man - 'Well, I don't mind lighting
this!' From there on in they were all terrific. It was fun!"
Visual Effects were the bread-and-butter of the series, with IMAGE OF THE FENDAHL
being one of the best examples within her tenure.
I learnt how a special effect was done then it washed over me. I'm not very good
with machines. I think its part and parcel of the female programming when you're
a kid - boys go with the machines and the girls do the more tactile things. So
once I've hand something vaguely explained to me I was quite satisfied."
of the most 'special effects' , according to many pubescent boys, was the Denys
Fisher action figure of Leela. With greater kudos than having a Wax dummy at
Madam Tussards, was plastic reproduction flattering?
My only view is of my bank balance! (uncontrolled laughter) I used to get a percentage
of every unit sold. My Mother stuck it up on top of the Christmas tree instead
of the Fairy. It's a bit of joke. I'm sorry, but I'm mercenary about being made
into a doll. I like it for that reason."
Fisher created other action figures of the Giant Robot, the Fourth Doctor, Dalek,
Cyberman and her companion co-star, K-9.
was wonderful and partly because I adored John Leeson. With John trotting around
on all fours during rehearsal helped to establish a relationship with his character.
At that time K-9 could climb into the TARDIS so we had to do a lot of 'head acting'
[cue example]to compensate. The camera would cut to us watching him move toward
it, then back to the dog just as he approaches and then back to us, moving our
heads. In fact he was actually stuck on the edge going yrrrr yrrrr yrrrr. He
I got on terribly well also with Annette Adelaide from HORROR OF FANG ROCK.
She played this hysterical girl - stupid and screamed a lot.
The crew of THE ROBOTS OF DEATH was a really good one because I think
it was so cosmopolitan. It wasn't in the script but just the way the Director
I tell you that we got Chris Benjamin and Trevor Baxter. They were hysterical,
giggled the whole time."
15 months of running down corridors, monsters and mild corporal punishment, Leela
elected to stay on Gallifrey having fallen in love with Andred. Did Louise depart
with the same level of fulfillment?
I was very sad to get out. It was really the first time in my life that I'd been
panicked about finding another job. The BBC is very womb-like and they value
your soul. The truth is that I was short listed for a film, YANKS, and I got
down to the last three. Yeah, so mixed feelings; sad and happy.
However, the way she went; falling in love? No, I thought it was a piece of very
bad writing. She could have died saving the Doctor's life or something. I think
the BBC idea of getting rid of woman was marrying her off. I mean she came in
with a 'whooossshhh' and I would have liked her to have gone out with in a same
way. They had not established a relationship with Andred at all, only holding
his hand in episode three - which is something I worked out. Graham Williams
wanted me to change my mind, wining-and-dining me but it was time to move on.
If I had stayed any longer I think I would have even more trouble getting back
into the real business."
a period of wearing very skimpy clothing on television, Louise continued in the
same vein with her next project - but under different circumstances. The truly
remarkable TENKO but her feisty character, Blanche Simmons, seemed jinxed and
was written out by the third season. Why?
was simply pregnant. I missed the first 5 episodes of the second season because
I was having a baby. Then we negotiated for the third season and began to feel
ill, and there I was.pregnant again. It was the happiest and most wonderful job
I've ever done. It was blissful job. Really lovely.
I don't mind stripping off for the part. I stripped off in TENKO.completely!
I stripped off for a play called PASSION PLAY, in London. In the stage
play, MOLL FLANDERS, I wear quite a lot for Moll but show a lot of boob and a
lot of thy. So if it requires it I'll do it. If it's purely for titillation value
than I won't do it. Its that simple."
roles in other popular, high-rating BBC series, such as BERGERAC (as Susan Young),
THE OMEGA FACTOR (as Anne Reynolds) CASULTY (as Janet Tolchard) and EASTENDERS
as Rosa Di Marco) , Louise Jameson has remained a true favourite on British television
with a natural acting style and distinctive charmed personality.