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Whatever Happened to Susan Foreman? (audio story)

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Whatever Happened to
Susan Foreman?
Main setting: Brussels, London, 1994
Key crew
Publisher: BBC Radio
Writer: Adrian Mourby
Producer: Brian King
Release details
Release number: Series 1, Episode 5
Release date: 9 July 1994
Format: 25 minutes, 16 seconds
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Whatever Happened to ...?

"Whatever Happened to Susan Foreman?" was a mockumentary that aired on BBC Radio 4 as the fifth instalment of Adrian Mourby's Sony Award-winning first series of Whatever Happened to ...?

Format Edit

Like the other episodes, it examined the life of a fictional character through the realistic lens of a researcher conducting an interview with a subject. Consequently, its format forced the actors to play the scenes "straight", which in turn enhanced the parodic elements of the piece. In a sense, its structure removed Susan (played here by Jane Asher) from the Doctor Who universe, allowing her metafictional comment upon it.

Its format also allowed the researcher to directly ask Susan many questions that naturally resulted from her appearances on Doctor Who. Whether or not one agreed with the answers, Whatever Happened was the first piece of performed Doctor Who to answer such things as:

  • Did the Doctor ever see Susan after the events of The Dalek Invasion of Earth?
  • Who were Susan's parents, and why did they let her travel with her grandfather?
  • Why did the Doctor choose 1963 London as a place to settle down?
  • What became of Susan and Ian after they stopped travelling with the Doctor?
  • Did Susan actually marry and stay in 2164 London the rest of her life?

Inconsistencies with televised Doctor Who Edit

Although the questions were firmly rooted in events that happened — or rather didn't happen — within Susan's time on Doctor Who, many of the answers given strayed from facts established in televised episodes. Humour was seen as preferable to fidelity to the programme's history. Also, as the show was written around 1994, not all of the Hartnell era would have been available on home video. Thus there is the legitimate question of whether Mourby was deliberately contradicting what was said on the show, or whether he was simply misremembering episodes he hadn't seen since the 1960s. Indeed, as a rough contemporary of Russell T Davies, he might not have even seen any Susan serials on their first transmission, and may not have had access to them all before he wrote Whatever Happened.

In any case, humour, and not faithfulness to the original show, was clearly the mission statement of the mockumentary. Here are a few discrepancies:

  • Susan claims Ian Chesterton and Barbara Wright returned to London in 1963, rather than the 1965 of The Chase.
  • Susan says that Ian and Barbara's minds were wiped by the Doctor of their travels through time and space, however, this never actually occurred, though a similar fate was bestowed upon Zoe and Jamie in The War Games.
  • Susan somehow knows about Ian being knighted in The Crusade, which post-dates her time in the Doctor's TARDIS.
  • Susan knows about Mechanus, which again apparently contradicts The Chase.
  • Susan claims the Doctor is a "retired time traveller", though this seems to contradict the fact that the First Doctor is actually young and just starting out on his travels.

Despite these, and other, "missteps", it should be added that a mainstream Radio 4 audience in 1994 would hardly have noticed any of these details. And even then, many of these errors can be rationalised by the fact Susan lived on Earth in the future, so may well have learned about Ian's knighthood, etc., at some point. In addition, according to the novel PROSE: Legacy of the Daleks, Susan later in life began travelling in time on her own.

Overall, the play did ask questions and provide answers that seemed genuinely funny in the light of general, pre-DVD knowledge about the early years of Doctor Who. Indeed, what fans might now view as "inaccuracies" with the piece did not stop it from helping the author win a prestigious Sony Silver Award for the series.

Cast Edit

Due to the way in which the credits were read at the end of the piece, only three parts can be absolutely confirmed.

The remaining parts of Jo Grant, Barbara Wright, Temmosus, Skyedron, Joey Oxford and the researcher were played by June Barry, Eva Haddon, Andrew Sachs, Peter Woodthorpe and Becky Harrison.

Releases Edit

External links Edit

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