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Polly Wright

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Polly Wright
PollyFO
Species: Human
Place of origin: London
First seen in: The War Machines
Appearances: see list
Main actor: Anneke Wills
Memorable moment

Polly Wright was a companion to the first and second incarnations of the Doctor. She travelled in the TARDIS with her future husband Ben Jackson and Jamie McCrimmon.

Biography

Early life

Polly was born in 1942 in London, England. (PROSE: The Murder Game) She spent much of her early life in Devon. (PROSE: Invasion of the Cat-People). She was the only daughter of Dr. Edward Wright and his wife, the former Miss Bettingham-Smith.

Polly's father, Edward, was the second of three sons, younger than Charles and older than Randolph. He and his wife married in around August 1939 and had a son soon after. Polly was their second child. At this time, Dr. Wright and his family lived "in a big, old house in the country." Polly's paternal grandmother and her two paternal uncles were still alive at the time of her birth.

By 1944, her father's younger brother, Randolph, had been imprisoned in a Nazi prisoner of war camp, where he died. In contrast, Edward survived World War II. He fathered three more sons and told Polly stories of her uncle.

In young adulthood, Polly reflected on her parents and said that she had always "taken them for granted" while she was away from home enjoying herself, but that they were always there for her when she needed them. (AUDIO: Resistance)

In 1948, when Polly was six, she was separated from her mother on a shopping trip to Fortnum & Mason. In 1952, when she was ten, she attended a fair with her uncle Charles and had her fortune told by a gypsy, who warned her of a tall, dark stranger. (PROSE: Invasion of the Cat-People)

Joining the Doctor

PollyKittyInTheInferno
Polly in the Inferno with her friend Kitty, the proprietress. (TV: The War Machines)
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Before meeting the Doctor, Polly was a typical 1960s London twenty-something. She lived in Chelsea, worked as Professor Brett's personal assistant and was unhappy that WOTAN's typing was faster and more accurate than hers. She had an active social life and enjoyed her time off work. On 20 July, 1966, she met Ben Jackson at one of her favourite haunts, the Inferno nightclub, where they were joined by the First Doctor, who expected to find Dodo Chaplet there.

When Dodo failed to show by closing time, the three went out into the night together and soon became embroiled in the fight against WOTAN. Polly's mind fell under WOTAN's control. Ben freed her just as WOTAN was destroyed by one of its own War Machines. When Ben and she found the Doctor beside an old Police box, Polly told him Dodo would be staying in England. Miffed, the Doctor bid the couple adieu. As they walked away, Polly turned to see the Doctor had used a key to enter the police box. Remembering that Ben had found a key that had earlier fallen out of the Doctor's cloak, she dragged Ben back to the police box to see if it would fit. They ended up inside the ship just as it took off. (TV: The War Machines)

Early travels with the Doctor

PollyProfileSmugglers
Polly desperately searches for the First Doctor in Cornwall. (TV: 'The Smugglers)
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The Doctor first took Polly and Ben to 17th century Cornwall, where they ran into smugglers. (TV: The Smugglers)

In Antarctica in December 1986, Polly helped fight off an invasion by Cybermen from Mondas. After these events, the Doctor, exhausted, collapsed and went through his first regeneration. (TV: The Tenth Planet)

On the planet Vulcan, Polly adjusted quickly to the Doctor's having changed into a new and younger persona, while Ben was less accepting the change, speculating that an imposter had replaced the Doctor. On Vulcan, Polly and Ben encountered the Doctor's archenemies, the Daleks. (TV: The Power of the Daleks)

Later travels

PollyAndKirstyHighlanders
Polly and Kirsty in the Scottish Highlands. (TV: The Highlanders)
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Polly was confident and not afraid to use her feminine wiles to enlist the help of Redcoat Algernon Ffinch while the travellers were in the Scottish Highlands. Polly also encouraged Kirsty McLaren to lure Algernon into a pit, where they took his money, identity disc and a lock of his hair. She struck up a relationship with Ffinch and teased him whenever they met, calling him "Algy". She realised that he admired her and gave him a kiss goodbye. Polly asked for the young Jacobite piper, Jamie McCrimmon, to come with them in the TARDIS, as she feared for his safety. (TV: The Highlanders) She and Ben came to see Jamie as a younger brother. (AUDIO: The Forbidden Time)

When Polly found herself in Atlantis, she was initially slated to be converted into a Fish Person. The Doctor interrupted the power supply as her operation was about to begin, allowing her to escape Damon's medical bay and rejoin her friends. She took on the disguise of an Atlantean in a seashell dress. She and Jamie escaped the rising water that flooded Atlantis, fearing that the Doctor and Ben had perished. They were relieved to find that they too had survived. (TV: The Underwater Menace)

PollyMoonbase
Polly on the Moonbase. (TV: The Moonbase)
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Beautiful Polly was more than just a pretty face. When the TARDIS crew arrived on the Moonbase in 2070 and faced the Cybermen, she soon realised the Cybermen's plastic parts could be attacked with a mixture of solvents. She thought of the way nail polish was dissolved by nail varnish remover and concocted a mixture including acetone, benzene, ether and epoxy propane to make a substance, called "Cocktail Polly" by Ben, which was shot at the Cybermen with adapted fire extinguishers. (TV: The Moonbase)

Although Polly enjoyed her adventures, she couldn't hide her desire to return home. After an adventure with the alien Chameleons in 1966, the travellers found the TARDIS had returned to London just before they had departed. With Ben, Polly left the TARDIS and returned to her life, appearing never to have been missing. (TV: The Faceless Ones)

Life after the Doctor

Ben & Polly the Love Invasion
The Ninth Doctor witnesses Ben propose to Polly. (COMIC: The Love Invasion)
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Ben proposed to Polly in 1966 at the top of the Post Office Tower, which was witnessed unbeknownst to them by the Ninth Doctor and Rose Tyler. (COMIC: The Love Invasion) Polly brought home Ben, much to the horror of her parents. Of particular note was her father's face. (AUDIO: The Five Companions)

Their relationship did not last. They eventually married other people. On New Year's Eve 1986, Ben and Polly reunited. Having visited the year 1986, they anticipated the arrival of Mondas, the planet of the Cybermen. (PROSE: Mondas Passing) In 1999, Polly had been manipulated into travelling through time and interfering in history. However, the Second Doctor and Jamie McCrimmon resolved these disturbances, and helped Ben meet Polly once more. They were now both widowers, and admitted their love for each other. (PROSE: That Time I Nearly Destroyed the World Whilst Looking for a Dress)

By 2009, she worked in a government office.

At that time, Polly went onto the Internet to search for others who had known the Doctor. However, Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart had had all information about the Doctor deleted. Nevertheless, they corresponded by e-mail and were joined by another former companion, Thomas Brewster. At first, Polly did not believe that their "respective" Doctors were the same person when she saw a UNIT party photo with the Doctor in his third incarnation. Then they realised they had known him during his first and second incarnations. The three former companions rescued the TARDIS from Garry Lendler and saved the Earth from dying and from a Coffin-Loaders, a beast which fed on dying worlds. (AUDIO: The Three Companions) Polly gave a presentation on her experiences with time travel to a disbelieving audience. She hung on to her secretarial Dictaphone recordings of Jamie, which had chronicled their adventure with the Time Walkers. (AUDIO: The Forbidden Time)

Eventually, she reconciled with Ben Jackson and they married. Polly was later transported to an alternative version of the Death Zone on Gallifrey by Borusa using a Time Scoop. She came into contact with the Fifth Doctor, Ian Chesterton, Steven Taylor, Sara Kingdom and Nyssa.

She was soon caught in the middle of a fight between the Daleks, the Sontarans and a Tyrannosaurus rex. She killed a Sontaran by stabbing her stiletto heel point into his probic vent. Polly voiced her feelings of inadequacy and called herself not courageous, until the Doctor reminded her of having stood up to the Cyber-Leader Krail. Polly and the others expressed their hopes that the Doctor might visit them some day, though they doubted if he ever would. (AUDIO: The Five Companions)

In 2010, Sarah Jane Smith said that Ben and Polly were running an orphanage together in India. (TV: Death of the Doctor)

Personality

Polly teased and bantered with those she cared for. She hid her affections, particularly for Ben, behind this façade. She chatted him up when they met and she was still chatting him up when they left the TARDIS. When her friends were in trouble, Polly was completely serious — particularly if Ben was in trouble. Polly would drop the banter and flippancy to work towards practical solutions.

Like the earlier Wright to travel in the TARDIS, she hoped to find her way back to her own time period. She was heard to be thinking "Please let it be Chelsea, 1966," when guessing what would be outside the TARDIS doors after it landed on the extinct volcanic island where Atlantis was located. (TV: The Underwater Menace) On the first landing in mid-1960s London, Polly left the Doctor with Ben, just as Barbara had left with Ian Chesterton. (TV: The Faceless Ones)

During their travels together, she and Ben thought of Jamie as being like their "baby brother." (AUDIO: The Forbidden Time)

Nicknames

She was also often called "Poll" by Ben; this was adapted to "Paul" when she was pretending to be a boy in 17th century Cornwall. (TV: The Smugglers) He also described Polly as "our little dolly-rocker Duchess" (TV: The Smugglers) or simply "the Duchess".

Behind the scenes

Is "Polly Wright" right?

Like Vicki Pallister before her, Polly's surname never appeared in any televised episode. "Wright" only came to Polly in stories in other media. The first story to give her the surname was the 1995 novel by Gary Russell, Invasion of the Cat-People, one of the earlier Virgin Missing Adventures. Once BBC Books took back the original novel license from Virgin, it became effectively "house policy" of the BBC Past Doctor Adventures line to call her "Polly Wright", as evidenced by Steve Lyons and Mark Gatiss' use in their 1997 novels The Murder Game and The Roundheads respectively. Prior to this, the name was the subject of speculation.

In the introduction to Invasion of the Cat-People, Gary Russell made his case for the surname, claiming that "Wright" was used in the audition script read by Anneke Wills and others. Indeed, David J. Howe, Mark Stammers and Stephen James Walker unearthed the original audition script for their First Doctor Handbook. It does indeed include the character identifying herself as "Polly Wright" in a telephone conversation with the Doctor. However, the name never made it into the recording of The War Machines. It's unclear why the surname was dropped, but it could have been because a previous companion, Barbara, had the same last name. Had she been called "Polly Wright" in 1966, viewers might well have wondered whether she was related to Barbara, last seen on television just a year earlier.

The matter became more complicated during the early days of organised fandom in the late 1970s, when the surname "Lopez" was applied to the character. This surname was the result of not one but two misunderstandings, both having to do with Episode 2 of The Faceless Ones. As the cliffhanger to Episode 1 suggested, Anneke Wills was not then playing Polly, but a duplicate of her created by the alien Chameleons. At the start of Episode 2, the Doctor asked Anneke Wills's character her name. She replied, "Michele Leuppi from Zurich". This name was later confirmed in the serial's novelisation.

Fans listening to off-air audio recordings of The Faceless Ones Episode 2 transcribed the name as "Lopez" and believed, for reasons obscure, this was the surname of the real Polly. Subsequently this surname was used by Doctor Who non-fiction author Jean-Marc Lofficier in 1992's The Universal Databank, in which he referred to her as "Polly Lopez". In this way, the name "Polly Lopez" came to be used in one of the most prominent Doctor Who reference works at the start of the 1990s.

Then, in a 1993 Myth Makers interview with Nick Briggs, Anneke Wills confided that Polly's surname was actually "Bettingham-Smith". However, in her 2007 autobiography Self-Portrait, Wills changed her mind and said that her character had no surname and was simply "Polly".

These questions have been resolved by the 2009 Big Finish Productions audio story, Resistance. In Resistance, Polly encounters what she believes is her patrilineal uncle, Randolph Wright. The Second Doctor dispenses with the possible relationship to his former companion Barbara by revealing that, in independently deducing Randolph was her uncle, he considered the fact that "Wright was a very common name". Later, it is revealed that "Bettingham-Smith" is actually her mother's maiden name. Finally, she is directly called "Polly Wright" in the play, several times by the Doctor himself.


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