The Kat’s Character Guides: Leela

Before we jump into the era of the Fifth Doctor (Peter Davison), let us stay for a little while longer in the Fourth Doctor’s (Tom Baker) era, as I believe that we cannot truly move on without talking about the other companions of the Fourth Doctor. I’ve already talked about Harry Sullivan (Ian Marter), Sarah Jane Smith (Elisabeth Sladen) will get her own post sometime in the future, so let’s turn our attention to Leela, warrior of the Sevateem Tribe.

Leela was the Fourth Doctor’s companion from Season 14 to 15. She was the companion after Sarah Jane, and made her debut in “The Face of Evil”. She officially departed the show at the end of Season 15 in “The Invasion of Time”, but since then, Jameson has reprised her role as Leela in Big Finish Audios, until today. True, she is older and her voice is a little bit deeper in the Big Finish Audios, but aside from that, Jameson easily slips into portraying Leela as if it were only yesterday.

Leela was a warrior woman of the Sevateem Tribe, and had a “Pygmalion”-esque relationship with the Doctor, something that she actually does mention in one of the Big Finish stories.

Leela is strong, independent, and brutally honest. In fact, she’s one of the very few people who can and does call the Doctor out when she thinks he’s being silly without ever losing respect for him. Despite becoming a little bit more educated, Leela never forgot where she came from, and never lost her abilities as an expert tracker and huntress. This, coupled with her firm belief in the Doctor, more often than not, allowed her to be more fearless in the face of great danger.

Personally, even though I haven’t listened to all of the Big Finish material that Leela is in, I loved how they are able to take this wonderful character and allow her to grow more, and gave her more even more depth, as I felt that she wasn’t given enough time to develop fully into her own. Also, I’m glad that they were able to continue her journey from after “The Invasion of Time”, as that wasn’t a really good exit for such a great character.

Jameson will always continue to astound and amaze me as she gives one hundred percent of herself in her portrayal of Leela both on screen and off. Her physicality and her voice intonation are some of the aspects of her performance that I really loved, and even in the Big Finish stories, you can almost see her physically as Leela.

Now before we talk more about Leela, please be warned that beyond this point, there will be spoilers.

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When I first started watching Classic Who, I stumbled across Leela when I was watching “The Talons of Weng-Chiang” for the first time, and I remember thinking that this character was an interesting companion. During my second watch, I was able to appreciate Leela and Jameson’s performance more, which, of course, made me annoyed at how Leela’s character wasn’t developed much in Season 15 and that exit in “The Invasion of Time”. So, naturally, because of that, I am very much tempted to get my own copy of Big Finish’s “Gallifrey” series so that I can hear what happened to Leela while she was Time Lady President Romana II’s bodyguard.

Despite the fact that Leela’s character was neglected in Season 15, we the series did show that Leela had grown from someone whose first instinct is to kill, to someone who asks the right sort of questions first while still keeping her guard up at all times. Leela’s learning phase is also seen in the Big Finish audio dramas such as the “The Fourth Doctor Boxset: The Lost Stories” and in the first series of “The Fourth Doctor Adventures”.

I also love how Jameson was able to keep up with how her character was growing and developing, as there is a clear differentiation between Leela in Season 14, 15, “The Fourth Doctor Boxset: The Lost Stories”, and “The Fourth Doctor Adventures” with the older and wiser Leela in “Jago & Litefoot”. In the “Gallifrey” series, she is also shown at another point in her life, and in stories such as Big Finish’s “The Catalyst”, and probably in other Leela-centric Big Finish stories that I haven’t yet been able to get a hold of, they are able to present an even older Leela. I love it when characters come full circle within their respective franchise, and Big Finish was certainly able to tap into great material and Jameson to make Leela an even more well rounded character.

Interestingly enough, as a companion, Jameson had some very large shoes to fill in, as her predecessor, Sladen’s Sarah Jane Smith, is one of the most beloved companions in “Doctor Who”. However, Leela quickly won people’s hearts by being a companion who could definitely travel to distant worlds and still be able to fend for herself jut in case something happens.

Some of my favorite Leela stories include “The Face of Evil”, “The Robots of Death”, “The Talons of Weng-Chiang”, “The Horror of Fang Rock”, “The Wrath of the Iceni”, “The Catalyst”, “The Foe from the Future”,  and “The Valley of Death”.

All in all, Leela was definitely a unique companion for the Fourth Doctor, who was portrayed by an amazing actress. She is iconic, a well made character, and one that has already made her mark in pop-culture, as a character in  “Futurama” is named after her.

Did you like or not like Leela and why? Was “Gallifrey” worth the buy from Big Finish? What was your favorite Leela story? Let me know what you think in the comments below!

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