|Image from Katy Manning's Twitter|
"How was Friday night [and the screening of Death of the Doctor at the BFI]?"
"It’s really well done. The production values are fantastic. I’m very impressed with the quality of the actual show. The Sarah Jane Adventures is right up there. It’s almost beyond a children’s show in quality… No, that’s not the right thing to say because everything should be quality. But it is an extremely well put-together, well written, beautifully shot piece of television. The only problem for me was that I’m not a watcher of myself or a listener to myself, because I do something and I move on. If I don’t, there’s nothing I can do to change anything and you waste an awful lot of your life dwelling in the wrong place. I always give it 190 per cent but you’re always looking to what you can do to better yourself. So after I’d got over the shock of myself, everything was fine. I think I look like a massive Muppet!"
"A lot of kids watching will be meeting Jo for the first time. So what can you tell us about her?"
"Something that has got lost in the mists of time is that Jo was 18 when she joined the Doctor, so she was straight out of school and she’d done just under a year with UNIT which trained her in all these different things. In actual fact she finally admitted that she’d not passed the exams in science and so forth. She did escapology, cryptology, all sorts of things. I was asked about what she did yesterday. I know escapology was one, one was like Sanskrit or something weird like that."
"Wasn’t she trained in spying?"
"No, I don’t think she ever said that. That’s something that’s come from the back of Cornflakes packets about a year later. You have to keep correcting these things because everything goes up on the internet as gospel. But I know she never said she did spying. She said she did science when the Doctor asked her a question about science. He said, ‘I thought you took A-level science?’ And she says, ‘I never said I passed.’ So I think science and spying got confused. Jo wasn’t fully trained. She got into UNIT because she had an uncle who worked very high up in UNIT. So she was forced upon the Doctor and he took one look at this little tiny creature and thought, ‘Oh, my Lord!’ But it worked very well because Jo turned out to be bright, courageous and in virtually every story at some point she offered her life for the Doctor’s. She was fiercely loyal to the Doctor and felt truly that his life was more important than hers."
"At the end of The Daemons, she offers her life for his – and that’s what stops the monster."
"And in a couple of other episodes of other stories she did the same thing. So she really was fiercely loyal and very brave. She was 18 and grew up in front of your very eyes. By the time she left she’s met a Nobel Peace Prize winner who was trying to change our planet. She felt very strongly about doing the same thing and married to him! You actually watched her grow up from a schoolgirl, having just left school, to getting married - which I think’s rather lovely. What got lost in the mists of time was that Jo was also terribly trendy. People remember her as being slightly ditzy and there were moments where she kind of lost the plot. But she was never stupid: she did stupid things for the right reasons. Don’t we all! I thought she was a lovely character. Also, for the children to know: when I was cast as Jo, they were going to change an awful lot of Doctor Who. They had some more money to work with special effects. They wanted the audience to grow from children but to never forget the children. I was there to say, ‘What does that mean? What are you doing?’ And to get into trouble so the Doctor had someone to save, apart from a planet and various other things that were going on. That was rather sweet, too. She was there to make sure that the children never got left out but we also went into a teenage and an adult audience during the Jon Pertwee era. So because she was trendy and of the moment you got a lot of teenagers looking in, saying ‘Wow!’ She was quite groovy and cool, too."
"How much has she changed? Is she still the same character to play?"
"It was a character I played 40 years ago. I’m the kind of actor who went on to do so many different things. I had a very assorted career, so it wasn’t like I’d stayed with her. But when I looked at Russell’s script it made an awful lot of sense to me, from what we saw on screen for those three years. I then had to put myself into having lived that life and make it absolutely as if this was a continuation of her life 40 years later. Somebody like Jo, who was brave, courageous and adventurous, what would she have done? Well, she did it. Including seven children and 12 grandchildren – 13th on its way. And what a handsome one she brought with her! Named after somewhere where I think they just had the baby at the bottom of the mountain! It was a tremendous script from Russell and followed perfectly. Not that I’d ever thought about where Jo’s life would have gone because, in all honesty, she was a character that I played – not a real person. People used to say, ‘What do you think happened to her?’ And I’d say, ‘I don’t know – she wasn’t real!’ But if you look at somebody’s life, say I look at my own, where I was at that age and where I am now, my life has gone in the direction that it was obviously going to go. So it was an absolute joy to continue, to bring back this character but with all the differences that would have come with it. How life affects you and what you do makes you become who you are. Having worked with the Doctor and gone to all these other planets and seen all the problems, not only in the universe but on this planet, Jo felt very strongly about these things. And is still doing it - fighting for things to be better."
"Did you compare notes with Lis Sladen?"
"Oh yes. Lis and I, obviously having both worked so close together and also being among the first girls to see regeneration as such and to go through what we went through, as actresses, yes. A lot of memories of people and places."
"You mentioned regeneration. How does Matt’s Doctor compare to Jon's Doctor? Can you believe he’s the same person?"
"Yes. The concept to me is so clear that anybody who is purportedly 2,000 years old can look any age. Although for Jo it is a bit of a shock because the only Doctors she’s ever seen have all been rather elderly – certainly to somebody of the age she was then. When we’re 18, we look at anybody over 35 as being terribly old. That changes when you get older! There’s a line she says, when he says he can he regenerate: ‘Yes, but into a baby?’ Jo is now 40 years on with children and had only ever met three Doctors who were all of a certain age. I think it’s wonderful that you can do that with a character. Matt is one of the most sensational Doctors ever. He is the most fabulous actor and the most delightful young man. I rate him as an actor hugely."
"People have said you can believe Matt is much older than he really is."
"He is an old soul, absolutely. I believed totally that he had lived this long life and been this many people. He’s got that wonderful ethereal, other-worldly quality. He’s done an amazing job. Apart from anything else, even as an old lady, I can stand back and say, ‘Isn’t he gorgeous?’ I’ve loved the whole of the new series - right from Chris Eccleston. I think Matt’s just wonderful. People were saying, ‘How are we going to top Tennant?’ You don’t top someone, you try and bring something to the part that is completely different and that is exactly what Matt has done. I’ve never been a Doctor comparer – is that Doctor better than that Doctor? They are all part of one person to me and have all done a superb job. Matt has just come in and blown me away. And he’s so sweet to work with."
"What did he do that won you over?"
"First of all, just watching this boy, this young actor, and how his mind is working, how totally he has immersed himself in this character. And all the very clever little eccentricities that he’s brought, all his physicality. He’s still a very caring Doctor, which is something I loved about Jon Pertwee – he was very caring about everybody and certainly about Jo. Matt has all of that and this extraordinary physicality. I don’t know how else to put it. It’s stunning to watch. You know, when we first meet him and he was all a bit wobbly? It started there and I watched from that point. He’s thinking, thinking, thinking all the time. When you look into his eyes, he’s right with you – absolutely lovely."
"So will we see more of Jo after this?"
"I think we might have had enough of her, don’t you? Are we over her yet? She is a lovely creature. You know what I like about Jo? It was always in the old series as well as in bringing her back. She has no sides to her. She’s very loving and caring, which is nice to see."
"She’s got lots of empathy."
"For everybody and everything. She always did, even in the old days. She was always concerned, even about the bad guys. That’s a nice part of her nature. Hopefully the children will understand that although she’s now a grandmother she’s a groovy granny! It’s not bad to have a granny that says, ‘No, you don’t have to go to school, we’ll educate you along the way. We’ll go off and save the world.’ When you think of the things she’s done, that’s exactly what she has been doing. She’s never, never stopped. That’s quite a groovy granny. It was so lovely working with Lis, too, who is such a generous and such a good actress. Anjli and Daniel are sensational, I just wanted to eat them up they were so fabulous. That was lovely for me. I just felt tremendous warmth towards them."