Janet Fielding: “I Was On Doctor Who For The Dads”

With a certain Time Lord soon to celebrate his 50th anniversary, I travel back in time to the early noughties where he met the woman who’ll always be Tegan Jovanka...
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With a certain Time Lord soon to celebrate his 50th anniversary, I travel back in time to the early noughties where he met the woman who’ll always be Tegan Jovanka...

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“I was always told I was on Doctor Who for the dads.” So says Janet Fielding, aka Tegan Jovanka, Aussie air stewardess and erstwhile companion of the fourth and fifth incarnations of the world’s most celebrated Time Lord. “It was made very clear to me that, while Doctor Who was a children’s programme, some of the content was designed to attract the older generation. And that content was me!”

The year is 2004 and Janet Fielding – born Janet Mahoney - is in Sydney, Australia, together with fellow companion Wendy Padbury to attend a Doctor Who convention. With this still one year BRTD (before Russell T. Davies), you could be forgiven for thinking the event wouldn’t register on Sydneysiders’ to do lists. But while the Emerald City is hardly an anorak-friendly environment, the sold-out expo would suggest there’s been a recent, rather healthy run on Peter Storm.

“It never ceases to amaze me how a show that was all but shelved in the late ‘80s still commands such a following,” says Fielding whose on-screen work lead to a successful second career as an actors’ agent. “I’m always being asked whether I think an interest in Doctor Who is a healthy thing for someone to have? Well, I certainly don’t think it’s unhealthy. As obsessions go, it’s pretty harmless. And while you do meet the occasional fan who’s… let’s say, rather too ‘involved’ in the series, most everybody else is utterly charming and incredibly kind and complimentary.

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Whether she’s being asked about her favourite villains (“The Daleks, naturally”) or very specific plot inconsistencies (“You’d be amazed the microscope people put the show under”), Brisbane-born Janet is in a better position than most to discuss the ins and outs of Doctor Who. “I’ve worked with every Doctor post-William Hartnell [Again, this is before Christopher Eccleston donned his leather jacket.] Besides working with Tom Baker and Peter Davison, I appeared in The Five Doctors which meant I appeared alongside Patrick Troughton, Jon Pertwee and Richard Hurndall [who subbed for the deceased Hartnell]. And through my post-Who stage work, I also got to act opposite Colin Baker and Sylvester McCoy. And then when I became an agent, one of my first clients was Paul McGann.

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So, come on then, Janet - who was your favourite Gallifreyan? “Oh, I couldn’t possibly single anyone out.” And what about the rumours that Tom Baker didn’t leave the show under his own volition? “You might think that but I couldn’t possibly comment!”

Fielding’s time on Doctor Who coincided with the reign of John Nathan-Turner, a producer it now appears was rather too in touch with the kids. But this being 2004, the only gossip is about whether or not the Tardis might be about to revisit time and space.

“There’s always talk about a Doctor Who revival being around the corner,” cautions Janet. “Do you happen to know who’s involved? Russell T Davies! Wow, it’ll probably be excellent then.

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So while it might be several decades since she bid farewell to Peter Davison’s Doctor, it would appear Janet Fielding’s time-travelling left her with the gift of foresight.