Portrayed by: Louise Jameson
Doctor(s): Fourth Doctor
Tenure: 9 stories (40 episodes), from The Face of Evil (Jan, 1977) to The Invasion of Time (March, 1978)
Background: Leela of the Sevateem is a warrior from a tribe of humans who have, over time, lost the technology that brought them to their planet in the first place.
Family/Friends: Leela has father who dies during her first story, taking her place in a trial. Other than this, we know little of her immediate family, but we do get a sense of her community, and why she leaves, from this story.
Personality: Leela is fierce, bold, and combative. She’s surprisingly flexible to life aboard the TARDIS, given her background, and she bonds quickly with the Doctor, who takes it upon himself to sand down her rough edges. As a warrior, her initial instinct in any given situation is to quickly and permanently shut down threats. This makes her a natural counterpoint to the Doctor and while she grows tremendously due to her travels with him, she never entirely abandons her more physical approach to conflict resolution. Leela is a woman of few words and an ally to the oppressed. She has little patience for weakness however, finding those unwilling to help themselves, relying instead on others for protection, obnoxious and unworthy of assistance. She’s incredibly determined and self-motivated, jumping aboard the TARDIS after the Doctor denies her request to travel with him, and despite these many elements to her gruff exterior, Leela can be sensitive and emotionally vulnerable from time to time.
Special Skills: Warrior upbringing, ability to see simple truths through clouds of deception. Leela also develops some telepathic abilities during her tenure
Best Stories: The Talons of Weng-Chiang is one of the standouts of the entire Fourth Doctor era, as is The Robots of Death. Both are atmospheric, entertaining, and highly memorable.
Worst Story: Underworld is certainly one of the weak points in the Tom Baker era and The Invisible Enemy, which features clones of the Doctor and Leela getting shrunk down and injected into the Doctor’s bloodstream to fight an infection, is only noteworthy for introducing K-9. This storyline is never a good idea, no matter how many shows try it on.
Highlights of tenure: Dealing with the less-than-warrior-like women in Horror of Fang Rock, generally being a badass and the only woman to fill the (previously Male) Action Hero role
Lowlights of tenure: Leela’s departure is one of the most significantly botched in the series’ run.
– “Enjoy your death as I enjoyed killing you!” Horror of Fang Rock
– “A waste of time. I too used to believe in magic, but the doctor has taught me about science. It is better to believe in science.” Horror of Fang Rock
Other notes: Leela’s ridiculous out-of-the blue love of Andred, and decision to stay with him on Gallifrey, came about when the actress elected not to return to the series. The writers had to write her out with very little notice and this is what they came up with.