This one’s harder than I thought it would be.
Last July, I was on a long drive from Fredericksburg, VA to Frederick, VA, and then to Cape May, NJ, before heading to Philadelphia, PA and back to Fredericksburg, all over the course of two days on the Fourth of July holiday. I had the Pirates on the radio, but I also came prepared with two Big Finish CD’s. The Land of the Dead with Five and Nyssa, and The Marian Conspiracy, with Six and…Evelyn Smythe, a companion I had never heard before, but had heard good things about.
The Land of the Dead was passable, but slow enough that it took me two days to listen to. It wasn’t until I had left Philly and was driving back to Fredericksburg that I finally had the urge to pop in The Marian Conspiracy. The story opens with a history lecture in progress, and as usual, the Doctor just wanders in. The lecturer calls him out, the Doctor casually responds…
…and the lecturer keeps calling him out. She’s not buying his story and wants to know the truth. No matter how far fetched. And when confronted with the truth of time travel, she wants to go. From the very beginning, Maggie Stables’ performance grabbed the Doctor Who community, making it stand up and notice. She was the first, dare I say, “eldery” companion for the Doctor, and her take-no-crap attitude was the perfect balance against the Sixth Doctor’s personality. The chemistry between Stables and Baker was evident in their very first conversation together.
A French teacher who, upon retired, decided to give stage acting a try, she met Nicholas Briggs in a 1991 production of Jane Eyre. It was that friendship that led Briggs to cast Stables in Big Finish’s very first story, The Sirens of Time, and that performance led Gary Russell to cast her as Big Finish’s first original companion. In a way, I’m lucky that I still have 11 stories to go with Evelyn Smythe, including one opposite the Seventh Doctor. But more importantly, “Doctor Who” fans were lucky to have had such an incredible woman share time with us and the Doctor, entertaining us by creating an original and beloved character. Maggie Stables wasn’t a household name. Indeed, a lot of Whovians might not even know who Evelyn Smythe is. They’re lucky because they have a chance to be introduced to a great character and her full story arc, including the incredible stories Arrangements for War and A Death in the Family.
RIP, Ms. Stables, and thank you for your time with old Sixie and with us fans.