Bookmark and Share Caroline John (1940-2012)

6/21/2012 01:51:00 pm - Reported by John Bowman

The actress Caroline John - who played companion Liz Shaw - has died aged 71, it was announced today. The news came via a tweet from the BBC on the Doctor Who Twitter feed.

She passed away on 5th June but the news was not made public by her family until after the funeral, which took place yesterday in south-west London. The cause of death is unknown as yet.

Born in York in September 1940, John trained at the Central School of Speech and Drama then worked in theatre, touring with the Royal Shakespeare Company and the National Theatre.

In 1969, she won the part of scientist and companion Dr Elizabeth Shaw opposite Jon Pertwee as the Doctor when the show was revamped for its seventh season, seeing the title character exiled to Earth. Liz Shaw appeared as a regular character for one season in 1970, with John playing two roles in the final story of that year, Inferno, the other character being Shaw's parallel-universe counterpart, Section Leader Elizabeth Shaw.

After leaving the series she had many theatre and television roles, including, in 1982, appearing in the BBC TV adaptation of The Hound of the Baskervilles, which starred Tom Baker as Sherlock Holmes. John returned to Doctor Who in 1983 for the 20th-anniversary special The Five Doctors, in which she played a fake Shaw. She reprised the role of Shaw for the 1993 BBC Children In Need special Dimensions In Time.

Married to Geoffrey Beevers, John appeared as Madame Salvadori with him in the Big Finish audio drama Dust Breeding, which was released in 2001. She also portrayed Liz Shaw for Big Finish for four stories in the Companion Chronicles range, starting with The Blue Tooth in 2007 and most recently in Binary, which was released just three months ago in March. In addition, she appeared as Shaw in the straight-to-video P.R.O.B.E. stories of the 1990s, which were written by Mark Gatiss and co-starred Pertwee, Peter Davison, Colin Baker, and Sylvester McCoy.

Paying tribute, Companion Chronicles producer David Richardson said:
Carry was the first assistant I ever saw in Doctor Who, and through meeting and working with her many times she remained a favourite over the years. She was an accomplished actor, and the most lovely, warm person you could ever hope to spend time with. Carry loved working on the Companion Chronicles and came in to record what would be her final contribution, The Last Post, on January 26.
Colin Baker tweeted:
Devastated to hear that the lovely, talented, wise and gentle Caroline John is no longer with us. So sad. Thoughts with Geoffrey and family.
while Mark Gatiss also paid tribute via Twitter:
Very sad to hear that the lovely Caroline John has passed away. RIP.
and on the official site Steven Moffat wrote:
Caroline was a brilliant actress and in her role as Liz Shaw, a tremendous co-star for Jon Pertwee in his first year as the Doctor. She was not just a sidekick but a scientist in her own right and a match for the universe's number one know-all. The Doctor's companions should never be his assistants - they're the people who keep him on his toes, and that's what Caroline did. From everyone at the show, our thoughts go out to Caroline's family.
Big Finish executive producer Nicholas Briggs said:
I met Carry many years ago while filming. She was the Detective Inspector and I was her assistant. We had such a laugh working together, and when we came to record a Myth Makers interview a few weeks later, we just couldn't stop giggling. She was a lovely lady who was always so much fun to be with, and even though she could enjoy a saucy joke or two, there was also something of a delightful prudishness about her. When I think of her smile and her warmth now, it brightens my heart.
John and Beevers also starred together in the Agatha Christie's Poirot episode Problem At Sea on ITV in 1989. In addition, the couple had roles in the Channel 4 adaptation of the political thriller A Very British Coup in 1988. They had three children: a daughter, Daisy, and sons Ben and Tom.

Her most recent screen appearances included the 2003 rom-com film Love Actually (written and directed by Richard Curtis and featuring Bill Nighy as well as Steven Moffat's Curse of Fatal Death Doctors Rowan Atkinson and Hugh Grant) and the ITV drama series Vital Signs (with Gugu Mbatha-Raw) in 2006 and the BBC daytime drama Doctors (with Malcolm Tierney and Matthew Chambers) in 2008.

She also narrated the audiobook of Elisabeth Sladen's autobiography, which was released last November, and narrated the audiobooks of Doctor Who And The Auton Invasion (2008) and Doctor Who And The Cave Monsters (2007), which were adaptations of her first and second Doctor Who stories respectively.

UPDATE (22nd June): A spokeswoman at Caroline John's agency, Shepherd Management Ltd, confirmed to Doctor Who News that John had died of cancer.