Wendy Padbury ("Zoe Heriot")


We talk to actress Wendy Padbury about her time playing the Second Doctor's companion Zoe and how she discovered the Eleventh Doctor himself – Matt Smith!

[Published in Doctor Who DVD Files #73 (GE Fabbri, October 2011) and posted here by kind permission of the team at Eaglemoss. NB This is the interview as I delivered it, not as published.]

Hi Wendy. What sort of character was Zoe?
She was an astrophysicist. She was very clever and there was nothing humble about her. She was often able to outwit the Doctor! And I don't think I screamed as much as some previous companions. I was lucky – screaming is never good.

How different was Patrick Troughton's Doctor from the Doctor today?
Pat's Doctor was quirky and scruffy and slightly eccentric, and you were never sure he was going to get anything right. I don't think he was ever sure, either! Matt Smith has that sort of quirkiness too. There's definitely a touch of Pat about him.

What was Troughton like to work with?
He was the most gorgeous person! He was extraordinarily professional – his job was his job and his home life was his home life. So as a young actress I had a very good teacher. He was also enormous fun. We took our work very seriously but we did laugh a lot! And Frazer Hines, playing Jamie, was hilarious. The three of us had a ball!

Before you arrived, Jamie had done all the fights and tough-guy stuff...
Yes, but have you met Frazer? (Laughs) That was a brilliant thing about Zoe. When all else failed – and it usually did – she would get stuck in, whether it was giving a computer a nervous breakdown or throwing some character who was twice her height over her shoulder!

The Invasion saw the Cybermen attack London, and introduced us to UNIT and a new, action-packed kind of Doctor Who...It's interesting: I didn't remember making that story particularly fondly, but having watched it again it's become one of my favourites. The way it was written gave it an edge, and then there's how it was shot. And the cast helps! Kevin Stoney as the baddie, Nicholas Courtney as the Brigadier... We had amazing actors working in the programme all the time – just as they do now.

That story was a template for the next few years of the series. Did they ask you to stay on?Yes, Frazer and I were asked but once we knew that Pat was leaving it just felt wrong. I was 21 and a young actress: I needed to move on. We'd had such a brilliant time, me and Frazer and Pat. I'm not sure we could have replicated that with anyone else. It seemed completely the right time to leave.

In your final story, The War Games, you forget your travels with the Doctor. Isn't that very sad?It was. Shooting it, that whole last episode was very, very sad for all of us. But memories come back! Zoe had total recall – she'll remember it all again one day! (Laughs) One day, I'll be back, an old lady with my zimmer frame. Still showing up the Doctor when he's wrong!

After you left acting, you became an agent – and discovered Matt Smith!I did! I say that very proudly. It was part of my job to go round looking at drama schools and I was a great supporter of the National Youth Theatre. I saw Matt there in a production of The Master and Margarita in 2004 and he was sensational. I couldn't take my eyes off him. He has that quirky gorgeousness about him. So I did the agent thing of saying, “If you're thinking of being an actor I'd be interested in having a chat.” He came in the next day and I took him on and then maybe three days later he was working! People realised very quickly that Matt Smith was something special. So yes, I take full credit for Matt Smith! (Laughs) Like Zoe, I'm not humble about that at all!

And what do you make of the new series?
I am very envious. The size of their TARDIS compared to what we had! It's amazing. But at the heart of it, it's the same programme and even with brilliant production values and sets and effects, it still needs good stories. That's what we had back in the 60s – our stories were really good.

Wendy Padbury, thank you very much.