Tegan was probably the companion most closely associated with the 5th Doctor. In this interview from DWM, Janet Fielding talks about working with Tom Baker on ‘Logopolis’, putting up with some of the terrible costumes she had to wear, and fighting to make sure Tegan wasn’t sent off to make tea in ‘The Five Doctors’.
“Tegan was so bolshie! She was quite aggressive, although this was naturally toned down as we went along. It was possible for a lot of people to identify with her, because the Doctor is in some ways an irritating character. You can imagine being with the Doctor and getting fed up with his whimsicality but at the same time liking him enormously because of his charisma. She gave voice to that feeling for he viewer. She was also practical when it came to getting down to things, even if she wasn’t always right.
“After a while, her lack of intelligence began to get very repetitious. I had a lot of fun, though, especially with stories like ‘Snakedance’ and ‘Kinda’. Funny that they’re my favourites! It was nice to get Tegan out of her character’s rut and change things a bit. I could do some underplaying instead of the same old exaggerations – characters don’t always do well in ‘Doctor Who’, so I was lucky with those two. After ‘Snakedance’ I never got such a good opportunity again, sadly. But when the season reviews for ‘Kinda’ came out and we got the reaction of the fanzines, it didn’t do very well. I couldn’t understand that – when we all picked up that script, we said ‘This is terribly imaginative, an amazing script with some super ideas’..
“I was full of admiration for Tom Baker with ‘Logopolis’, right up until the end he was constantly inventive, he worked very hard and had a lot of enthusiasm. Obviously I didn’t get to know him very well – he was thinking about leaving mainly, and after all, seven years is a very, very long time. Peter’s character was more vulnerable, more fallible, so that was one immediate difference, whereas Tom had been more flamboyant. Peter I loved, he was always a lot of fun, very considerate and very hard-working. He came in only ever intending to do three years – just like Patrick Troughton did. I think that because Tom did it for so long, people expected Peter to stay as well.
“On ‘Castrovalva’, I’m terrified of heights so the rocks were agony. Those tears were real. Sheer, blind terror. They took us down there on ropes with this mountain climbing lady who got us down from grip to grip, hung me on this sort of root and told me to stay put. ‘You bet,’ I said, grimly hanging on. Then the smart alec cameraman said ‘Can you just lean back a little more?’, so I replied ‘I am’. ‘Can you look a bit more upset?’, to which I replied ‘I am upset! Very upset!’.
“I did think ‘Enlightenment’ was a good script, but it wasn’t radically new. ‘Terminus’ was very hard work. I used to like all Eric Saward’s s cripts because he’s such a good straight adventure writer – I think he’s brilliant. I didn’t like my first ones, ‘Logopolis’ or ‘Four to Doomsday’, largely because I was busy finding my feet. It’s difficult to enjoy something which you’re totally unaccustomed to. They were consequently very taxing in that respect.
“I got that white outfit for ‘Arc of Infinity’. Words can’t describe how I loathed that thing – it was just so horrible, I couldn’t bear it. The new hairstyle was my idea, becuase I hadn’t gone a bundle on the first one I’d been compelled to have. Later on, I did get a say in having the leather skirt and that very bright multi-coloured mini-dress I wore from ‘The King’s Demons’. They are sort of my taste and I thought they’d suit Tegan as well. The thing I hated most about all of them was that they were totally impractical for locating filming. That’s why I’ve always preferred a studio to work in. Invariably on location it was freezing cold – I used to go literally blue. ‘The King’s Demons’ was filmed in pouring rain in the middle of December, and the worst cold I’ve ever experienced was when we filmed on the roof of Heathrow car part for ‘Time Flight’. That was agony.
“In ‘The Five Doctors’, there was a scene where I meet Carole Ann Ford and Richard Hurndall, and as it was written I was to go off meekly with Carole Ann to make the tea. When I saw this, I said that in no circumstances was this to happen – absolutely not! Not without a strong word of protest. Tegan would never just meekly comply with such orders. I’m a feminist to a reasonable extent and when I say I don’t think Tegan is, it’s because I don’t think any right-minded feminist would choose to be an air-stewardess – it’s just not a feminist occupation. On the other hand, she’s a very headstrong and forthright girl who doesn’t like to be pushed around.
“It was an abrupt departure, wasn’t it? It was so quick. I loved ‘Resurrection of the Daleks’, though – it was great fun. It was a buzz to do because the chaps who play the Daleks are terrific jokers, misbehaving in studio and having a whale of a time. There was a special feeling in rehearsal simply because the Daleks, to everybody who grew up with the series, are ‘Doctor Who’. It was a good one to leave in. A character never goes on, as viewers will know, much beyond three years so really that was one reason behind it. Also Mark had decided not to extend his contract, then Peter too, so there were three people to leave before the end of the series and new characters to be established in their places. I couldn’t – wouldn’t – have chosen to do any more. That was it.”