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Doctor Who Companion Profile: Liz Shaw

Caroline John as Doctor Who Companion Liz Shaw

Liz Shaw

Portrayed by: Caroline John

Doctor(s): Third Doctor

Tenure: 4 stories, from Spearhead from Space (Jan, 1970) to Inferno (June, 1970)

Background: Dr. Elizabeth Shaw is a scientist with a physics degree and a medical degree, among others. She’s an expert in meteorites as well and is initially brought in from Cambridge by the Brig to serve as UNIT’s scientific advisor. Though initially skeptical, after encountering the Doctor and fighting the Autons, she stays on and becomes the Doctor’s assistant, after he takes the job initially offered to her.

Family/Friends: Little is known of Liz’s family, but during her tenure, due to the Doctor being grounded on Earth, the UNIT team functions as the main characters in every story, allowing their relationships to develop and eventually build into a pseudo family.

Personality: Liz is highly intelligent and skeptical. She is scientific and analytical in her interactions and relationships as well as her work. Despite her work with the Doctor, for example, she has a hard time believing the TARDIS is actually a timeship, never having seen it function in that capacity. Liz is confident and outspoken, sticking up for herself in her interactions with the Doctor. She’s also wryly humorous, incredibly level-headed and composed, particularly under pressure, and absolutely dedicated to her work.

Special Skills: Scientific expertise, quick thinking, cool composure

Best Story: Inferno is a blast, the only Evil Alternate Dimension story in the show’s run, and it gives Caroline John the opportunity to have some fun with Liz

Worst Story: All four of Liz’s stories are pretty great, so it seems wrong to single one out as the worst.

Highlights of tenure: Her introduction in Spearhead from Space, pretty much everything with Evil Fascist Liz in Inferno

Lowlights of tenure: The fact that she leaves after only four stories?

Memorable quotes: [while being handcuffed] “Don’t worry. I won’t hurt you” The Ambassadors of Death

Other notes: Caroline John left the series after one season upon becoming pregnant with her first child. She’d come to find the role limiting, as she felt there was more of an emphasis on Liz’s look rather than her intellect. The producers meanwhile wanted to change out the Companion because they found Liz’s intelligence and scientific expertise limiting- there was no one to act as an audience surrogate and believably ask the Doctor to explain what was going on. Because Liz never actually travels with the Doctor in the TARDIS, some do not consider her a Companion (referring to her instead as solely his assistant). Considering the Doctor himself didn’t travel in his TARDIS during this period, and that Liz filled the role usually occupied by the Doctor’s traveling companion, this feels like a rather pedantic distinction to get caught up on.


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