The Doctor's Companions

Sergeant Benton Liz Shaw Jo Grant
Spearhead from Space - Inferno
Liz Shaw
Liz Shaw
Caroline John
 Caroline John trained at the Central School of Speech and Drama before working at repertory theatre. She received much praise for her work with the National Theatre Group in a number of productions. In the late Sixties she understudied for the role of Minnie in D.H. Lawrence's Daughter in Law which went on tour to Yugoslavia, Romania and Italy. She also appeared in a number of films an on television including an episode of ITV's The Power Game. After Doctor Who she continued to work in theatre and only returned to television in the Eighties in various programmes including BBC's The Hound of the Baskervilles with Tom Baker in 1982 and The Harry Enfield Show. She also made a brief return to the role of Liz in the 20th anniversary special "The Five Doctors" in 1983 and also in the Children in Need charity special "Dimensions in Time". She also co-stared in the BBV video production Breech of the Peace in 1994 and also, reprising the role of Liz, in the P.R.O.B.E. series along with some of the actors who played The Doctor.

Unfortunately Caroline John died in June 2012 at the age of 71.
 We first see Liz Shaw, an intelligent Cambridge scientist, being driven to a meeting at the Headquarters of the United Nations Intelligence Taskforce (UNIT). She has been invited by Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart to be offered the post of scientific adviser. Believing that the organisation is some kind of spy group she is hardly flattered 'I am not interested in security work. Producing invisible ink. That sort of thing' she declares. It took a considerable while for the Brigadier to make her understand that this was not what UNIT was about.

Spearhead From Space
Spearhead From Space
 Her dislike of anything to do with secrecy and military-related work was eventually overcome when she realised that the Brigadier was neither joking nor insane and he really did want her help regarding some meteorite showers that UNIT were investigating. As the Brigadier reminds her that with 'An expert in meteorites, degrees in medicine, physics and a dozen other subjects' she is the ideal person to be UNIT's scientific adviser. However, she was finally hooked when her curiosity became aroused when the Brigadier receives a phone call about a police telephone box that has been found in the middle of a wood and a strange man who has been found collapsed outside.

 This stranger turns out to be the newly regenerated Doctor and after he has recovered from his regeneration, an attempted kidnap and then being shot he makes his way to UNIT HQ to be reunited with the TARDIS. As soon as they meet they strike up a partnership of investigation and Liz, realising that The Doctor is more suited for the task of scientific adviser, soon becomes relegated to being his assistant.

 Liz felt in awe of The Doctor and his casual remarks and staggering knowledge of science showed her that he had a far greater understanding of the Universe than she could ever dream of having. She was a decent and intelligent individual who found herself accepting new, and sometimes out of this world, scientific facts. She was not however, entirely certain that she believed all of The Doctor's wild tales of roaming through time and space and the alien beings and cultures he claimed to have met, showing scepticism about The Doctor’s claim that they had travelled into the future - albeit only by a few seconds - after a temporary malfunction in the TARDIS ("The Ambassadors of Death").

 Like her predecessor Zoe, Liz was an exceptionally bright young lady who added her own contribution to the events in the stories. She had an air of warmth and was never aloof despite her academic background. Even so she was a very sophisticated and independent young woman, which suited the more adult-orientated stories, as opposed to the previous young naive female companions that had been mostly used in the past.

 It has been said that Liz was never really a 'companion' of The Doctor and this is true insofar as she never actually travelled in the TARDIS, although The Doctor did take her and her ‘successor’ Jo Grant on a trip after his time-travelling abilities were restored as a ‘present’. Being a very independent person she was never totally reliant on him. Also because they shared a similar intellectual level she was not the sort of companion who had to ask 'what do we do now?' and she was also less likely to end up screaming at the slightest horror. She was however shocked, like The Doctor, at some of the Brigadier's actions, even if she showed more understanding of such actions as the Brigadier’s decision to destroy the Silurians rather than try and negotiate.

Doctor Who and the Silurians
Doctor Who and the Silurians
Even though she was happy for The Doctor to take the post that was originally offered to her she soon realised that even though her own scientific experiences was vast it was generally not required. With The Doctor clearly on Earth to stay, Liz soon came to recognise that UNIT and The Brigadier did not really need her; more than once Liz recognised that she was out of her depth in her work with The Doctor, such as when she and The Doctor, along with a group of UNIT officers, accidentally changed history when The Doctor developed a time bridge while trying to solve the mystery of a crashed alien ship. Following the discovery of conspiracy at the heart of UNIT, resulting in Liz being nearly killed by an Auton-augmented agent ("The Scales of Injustice") and subsequently witnessing the Waro massacre ("The Devil Goblins From Neptune"), she resigned from UNIT, no longer able to cope with the death that she had witnessed, returning to a research post at Cambridge in the hope that she could continue to make a difference with her work based on what she had learnt from The Doctor.

 Despite her departure, it was evident that The Doctor held her in high esteem, developing a certain tentative friendship even with her more militant alternate self when he accidentally travelled sideways in time in "Inferno" and arrived on an alternate Earth, reflecting when she resigned from UNIT that he regretted how they had failed to find the time to bond outside of work ("The Scales of Injustice"). After his ability to use the TARDIS was restored, The Doctor offered to take Liz on a trip to any location in history she wanted, but unfortunately the TARDIS materialised at the St Petersburg docks in 1916 rather than the Siberian explosion of 1908. During this trip, Jo and Liz had particular difficulty getting along due to their differing opinions of Rasputin, with Liz initially regarding Rasputin as the monster history would portray him as while Jo - after meeting with Rasputin himself - quickly recognised that it was only Rasputin’s enemies who had written him as such. Despite this disagreement, the two eventually became friends, working together to track down the stolen TARDIS and escape being framed for Rasputin’s murder, although both regretted that they were unable to save him from his destined fate. Even after this final goodbye, The Doctor kept Liz’s old UNIT pass until at least his seventh incarnation, as seen when the Seventh Doctor gave the pass to his current companion Ace in an attempt to bluff their way onto a UNIT base in "Battlefield".

 Liz did make a reappearance in the 20th anniversary show "The Five Doctors" in 1983, when Rassilon used her image to ward off The Doctor in the Dark Tower, and again in the BBC Children in Need charity special "Dimensions in Time" in 1993. The Seventh Doctor, accompanied by Ace and Benny, encountered an alternate version of Liz during the events of "Blood Heat", where the TARDIS was transferred to a universe where the Third Doctor was killed during his confrontation with the Silurians and humanity had thus been decimated by the Silurian virus. Working with the alternate Liz to create a telepathic dampening field to limit the effects of race-memory malaise - a dormant human memory of Silurian oppression which caused all humans to instinctively panic in the presence of Silurians - The Doctor learned the history of this timeline, Liz’s compassion for a dead Silurian child helping the embittered Brigadier to realise what he had become after The Doctor risked everything to prevent a nuclear holocaust.

 The Seventh Doctor had another, final encounter with Liz during the events of "Eternity Weeps", when his old companion Bernice Summerfield accidentally activated a transmat device that sent herself and Captain Imrud Tammuz, an Iranian soldier who assumed she was an American spy, to the moon, where they discovered Liz serving as the leader of a UNIT team investigating a dimensional anomaly on the moon that concealed an alien facility. Unfortunately, the now-insane Tammuz accidentally transmatted a chemical compound known as Agent Yellow back to Earth along with Liz. As The Doctor discovered during his subsequent research, Agent Yellow was designed to terraform worlds to fit the environment of the alien species who had built the facility... and, on a more personal note, the chemical transformations being triggered turned the water in Liz’s body into sulphuric acid before spreading out to infect the environment. Although The Doctor, Benny and Chris were able to prevent Agent Yellow from destroying Earth, The Doctor was still forced to sacrifice a tenth of Earth’s population by destroying the areas most contaminated by Agent Yellow, Chris left feeling particularly guilty when he realized that Liz had managed to pass the formula for the antidote on to him before her death too late for it to be of any use.

 The deaths of the humans they were forced to sacrifice to save humanity - and Liz’s death in particular - left The Doctor and Chris deeply affected for some time, leaving both of them doubting their roles in the universe before they managed to avert a war in sixteenth century Japan and forgive themselves for their past failures.
Memorable Moment
Section Leader Shaw
Section Leader Shaw
 The most memorable moment of Liz Shaw's time in Doctor Who was when she was seen in the parallel universe that The Doctor visited during the story "Inferno". Playing the part as Section Leader Shaw her attitudes and character were the exact opposite to that of the Liz we all new and liked. Here she was an unpleasant person who obviously had no qualms about being in the military. However, eventually the Third Doctor did find a pleasant side to her and managed to persuade her to help him obtain a power supply to the console so that he could return to Earth and prevent the same catastrophe happening there.

 During this story we also see alternative versions of the Brigadier and Sergeant Benton both of who were much more aggressive and less likeable ("Inferno").

Television Stories
Format Story Doctor Fellow Companions Season Episodes
Television Spearhead From Space The 3rd Doctor The Brigadier Season 7 4
Television Doctor Who and the Silurians The 3rd Doctor The Brigadier Season 7 7
Television The Ambassadors of Death The 3rd Doctor The Brigadier & Sergeant Benton Season 7 7
Television Inferno The 3rd Doctor The Brigadier & Sergeant Benton Season 7 7
Total Stories:   4 Total Episodes:   25
Other Stories
Format Story Doctor Fellow Companions Season Source
Book The Straw that Broke the Camel's Back The 3rd Doctor The Brigadier Season 7 Decalog
Audio The Blue Tooth The 3rd Doctor   Season 7 The Big Finish Audio Stories
Book Cancer: Still Lives The 3rd Doctor The Brigadier Season 7 The Big Finish Short Trips
Book The Eye of the Giant The 3rd Doctor The Brigadier, Captain Mike Yates and Sergeant Benton Season 7 The Missing Adventures
Book The Scales of Injustice The 3rd Doctor The Brigadier and Captain Mike Yates Season 7 The Missing Adventures
Book The Devil Goblins From Neptune The 3rd Doctor The Brigadier and Sergeant Benton Season 7 The Past Doctors Stories
Book UNIT Christmas Parties: First Christmas The 3rd Doctor UNIT Season 7 The Big Finish Short Trips
Book Prisoners of the Sun The 3rd Doctor Captain Mike Yates Season 7 Decalog
Audio Shadow of the Past The 3rd Doctor   Season 7 The Big Finish Audio Stories
Book Hiccup In Time The 3rd Doctor   Season 7 The Big Finish Short Trips
Book The Science of Magic The 3rd Doctor   Season 7 The Big Finish Short Trips
Audio The Sentinels of the New Dawn The 3rd Doctor   Season 7 The Big Finish Audio Stories
Audio Binary The 3rd Doctor   Season 7 The Big Finish Audio Stories
Audio The Last Post The 3rd Doctor   Season 7 The Big Finish Audio Stories
Book The Wages of Sin The 3rd Doctor Jo Grant Season 10 The Past Doctors Stories
Book Flashpoint The 5th Doctor   Season 21 The Big Finish Short Trips
Book Blood Heat The 7th Doctor Ace, Bernice Summerfield, Jo Grant, The Brigadier and Sergeant Benton - The New Adventures
Book Eternity Weeps The 7th Doctor Bernice Summerfield and Chris Cwej - The New Adventures
Total Stories:   18
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Parts of this article were compiled with the assistance of David Spence who can be contacted by e-mail at
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