In terms of popularity it’s your newer companions that are creating more of a buzz amongst the fans. Why is that?
I think it’s a bit of everything.
We’ve created Evelyn, we’ve created Charlie and we’ve created Erimem. And in the background we’ve done quite a lot with Bernice Summerfield as well. Why do people love them? I have to say there are some people that don’t.
With Maggie it’s obvious, we’ve gone against the grain. Rather than going for a young attractive [companion], that stereotype of a young, blond, busty Doctor Who companion in a bathing suit, we’ve gone to the other end of the spectrum. We’ve gone for someone whose brains matter more than the pin-up material of them. We’ve also gone for a fine actress, an intelligent actress and given her an intelligent character.
Again it was a part that was written for her. I’d worked with Maggie a couple of times before and thought "You’d make a great companion, let’s write a character for you," so definitely Maggie came before Evelyn and there’s a lot of Maggie or my perception of Maggie in Evelyn. In the case of Evelyn’s popularity, it’s the fact that she’s a great, terrific actress, terrific character and is different from anything that’s been done before.
India and Charlie work because India is just… well, no one else could play that part, no one else would throw themselves into that part [that way]. Unlike television Doctor Who, where the companion by necessity had to play second fiddle , it has allowed India to become a 3-D character - taking a leaf out of the books, but not going as extreme as the books go.
As writers listened to the first block of Paul McGann stories, they saw what India could bring to it, so for the second block they were going, "Right, India does this, India does that, India speaks in these idioms, you talk to India on a social basis, you know how she talks," so you can build that in. I don’t think that ever happened with TV companions because the writers never really got to know the actors.
There were certain rules they had to abide by. Well, we’ve thrown those rules out of the window so the writers are writing for the character and the actress through what we’ve already done and that helps no end.
Erimem made a very big impression in Eye of the Scorpion. She made a big impression on Jason and I. There was no intention when that script was written, or on the day it was recorded in the studio, that Erimem was going to continue as a companion.
Halfway through the first day I turned round to Jason and said "Caroline’s brilliant". I said to Ian [McLaughlin, the scriptwriter], "Rather than seeing Erimem dropped off somewhere else at the end, let’s just have her go off in the TARDIS because that would be a fun, different thing to do." So I said to Caroline at the time "Do you want to do this again?" and she was like "Yeah". I said to Ian, "Would you mind if we carried on using Erimem?" and he was flattered and over the moon.
So Erimem has stuck around. As yet we haven’t done a second Erimem story. We’re recording one quite soon which is the Church and the Crown, and then we’ve got Nekromanteia after that. We’ll see how her popularity goes, but she made a very big impression on the listeners for Eye of the Scorpion, so that was very encouraging.