When we first met her, Doctor Liz Shaw was civilian scientist who was clearly very sceptical about extra-terrestrial threats to our planet. ‘Little blue men with three heads?’ she scoffed when the Brigadier tried to explain what UNIT was up against, even laughing when he revealed two alien invasions had already been repelled. But she was about to come face-to-face with an alien who would change her life forever: the newly-regenerated Doctor!
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Doctor Shaw, Miss Shaw
After UNIT was formed the Brigadier quickly realised he wouldn’t always be lucky enough to have the Doctor on-hand to help deal with alien encounters, so he contacted Elizabeth Shaw – Liz to her friends - and tried to recruit her. ‘[You’re] An expert in meteorites, [and have] degrees in medicine, physics and a dozen other subjects,’ he told her. ‘Just the sort of all-rounder I've been looking for.’ Her response was unenthusiastic, believing UNIT to be an organisation that dabbled in ‘invisible ink [and] that sort of thing’ and that the Brig’s concerns were ‘…a bit alarmist’.
Either I come with you or I go straight to the Brigadier!Liz (to the Doctor)
But before she could rush back to Cambridge to continue her research programme, news reached UNIT that the Doctor had possibly been discovered. Almost without realising it, Liz was quickly drawn into the Time Lord’s adventures. She found the Doctor engaging and charming but mysterious and astoundingly clever. This strange, slightly eccentric man claimed he could communicate with an alien race by wiggling his eyebrows yet he was the one figure with the knowledge and bravery to defeat an Auton invasion launched by the hideous Nestene Consciousness.
Her plans to return to academia were put on hold and she became the Doctor’s companion, although as he was stranded on Earth during her time with him, we never actually saw Liz travel in the TARDIS. But she still encountered her fair share of trouble, facing Silurians, the so-called ‘ambassadors of death’ and the perils of Project Inferno – a lunatic scheme that almost destroyed the planet. In fact, during that last adventure the Doctor became stranded in a parallel universe where he met Liz’s counterpart – the glacial Section Leader Elizabeth Shaw who was scarily loyal to an oppressive, militaristic regime. Interestingly, this harsher version of Liz still had redeeming qualities and it was her defence of the Doctor that allowed him to escape back to our world and save humanity.
The Brigadier told the Doctor that Liz often remarked he simply required ‘someone to pass you your test tubes and to tell you how brilliant you are.’ Perhaps this attitude lay behind her decision to return to Cambridge, but whatever her reasons, Liz left the Doctor following the incident involving Project Inferno. The Time Lord’s respect for his fellow doctor remained intact and when discussing her replacement with the Brigadier he declared, ‘Liz was a highly qualified scientist. I want someone with the same qualifications.’ But we don’t always get what we want and Jo Grant was about to enter the Doctor’s life…