Leela (Doctor Who)

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Doctor Who character
Leela of the Sevateem
First appearance The Face of Evil
Last appearance The Invasion of Time (regular)
"Dimensions in Time" (charity special)
Portrayed by Louise Jameson
Affiliated Fourth Doctor
Species Human
Home planet Unspecified
Home era Far future

Leela is a fictional character played by Louise Jameson in the long-running British science fiction television series Doctor Who. Leela was a companion of the Fourth Doctor and a regular in the programme from 1977 to 1978. Writer Chris Boucher named her after the Palestinian hijacker Leila Khaled.[1] Leela appeared in 9 stories (40 episodes).



Leela was the daughter of Sole. She first appears in the 1977 serial, The Face of Evil, where she was a warrior of the savage Sevateem tribe, who were amongst the descendants of the crew of an Earth ship from The Mordee Expedition that crash-landed on an unnamed planet in the far future. The name of her tribe, "Sevateem", was a corruption of "survey team". Although the Doctor at this point was content to travel alone, Leela barged into the TARDIS and continued to accompany the Doctor on his journeys.

Although Leela was a primitive, she was also highly intelligent, grasping advanced concepts easily and translating them into terms she could cope with. Despite the Doctor's attempts at "civilizing" her, however, Leela was strong-willed enough to continue in her ways. She usually dressed in animal skins, and was armed with a knife or a set of poisonous Janis thorns which she did not hesitate to use on people who threatened her, much to the Doctor's disapproval.[2] Leela frequently demonstrated a highly accurate sense of danger.

In her travels with the Doctor, Leela faced killer robots, murderous homunculi, the Rutan Host, and the Sontaran invasion of the Doctor's home planet of Gallifrey. It is during this final adventure, The Invasion of Time, that she meets and falls in love with Andred, a native Gallifreyan, and decides to stay behind to be with him. The first K-9 remains with her. This exit for her character was created when Louise had announced her intention to leave the show.

Other media[edit]

Leela's subsequent life on Gallifrey is not explored by the television series, although the spin-off media have done so to an extent. In the Virgin New Adventures novel Lungbarrow, by Marc Platt, Leela and Andred are expecting a child, the first naturally conceived baby on Gallifrey for millennia. Louise Jameson reprised the role of Leela for the 1993 charity special Dimensions in Time, and has voiced the character in six series of audio plays for Big Finish Productions taking place on Gallifrey, alongside Lalla Ward as Romana and John Leeson as K-9. In the Gallifrey audio series, Leela acts as Romana's bodyguard, advisor and friend. Being a human in the presence of so much Time Lord Biology vastly extends Leela's lifespan, as well as keeping her relatively youthful. However, if she ever left them, she would quickly age to death. During the course of the Gallifrey series, Leela and Andred separate after Andred fakes his death to infiltrate the Celestial Intervention Agency. (He killed a would-be assassin before regenerating himself and subsequently claimed that he was the assassin who had just killed Andred, never considering how his actions would affect Leela due to post-regenerative trauma.) Andred is subsequently killed and Leela is blinded during a Gallifreyan civil war, which also results in her version of K9 (the original) being destroyed. She is then taken out of time, to avoid her perishing with the rest of Gallifrey. She follows Romana through several alternative universes, regaining her eyesight in one when she chooses to ingest vampire blood to enhance her physical capabilities, her unique physiology allowing her to be physically enhanced by the blood without experiencing the negative mental side-effects that others have endured. How she returns to her universe has yet to be divulged.

Leela joins the cast of the Jago & Litefoot audio series at the end of the second series. She is sent by Romana to investigate breaks in time in Victorian London.

Leela does not appear in any of the Virgin Missing Adventures, but has appeared in several of the Past Doctor Adventures including four novels by Chris Boucher pairing her with the Fourth Doctor.

Leela seems to survive The Time War and features in a trilogy of Companion Chronicles audio stories in which she is now dying, aging a year per day as the powers of the Time Lords no longer keep her from death. Starting with The Catalyst, which is primarily a flashback to an adventure before Horror of Fang Rock, elderly Leela is being interrogated by a Z'Nai warrior (a race encountered by the Third Doctor). How Leela ends up in their custody is unknown, but they question her to learn what secrets she may know of a legendary "lost world" (presumed to be Gallifrey). It is almost certain that her sight has returned, as she can describe her interrogator's armour. Leela manages to trick him and he dies at her feet, while she is still strapped to machines that are just barely keeping her alive. She tells more stories of her past to a child that is also held prisoner in the room. In her final tale, The Time Vampire, she recalls how K9 briefly flew into the Time Vortex and she had a vision of an "ancient" woman. Once her tale is told and she feels ready to die, K9 suddenly appears before her, frees her from her shackles and guides her soul to its next stage.

In 2011, Jameson reprised the role of Leela alongside Tom Baker as the Fourth Doctor for a series of audio dramas for Big Finish. These dramas began to be released in January 2012 and are adaptations of stories planned for the TV but never produced, as well as original storylines set in the gap between The Talons of Weng-Chiang and Horror of Fang Rock.



The character of Leela was first conceived by producer Philip Hinchcliffe and script editor Robert Holmes. They wanted a companion in the mould of George Bernard Shaw's Eliza Doolittle: a bright but unsophisticated primitive who would learn from the Doctor. Writer Chris Boucher had submitted a story proposal titled The Mentor Conspiracy which featured a character named Leela, fitting Hinchcliffe's and Holmes's ideas.

Although The Mentor Conspiracy was not produced, Boucher reused the character of Leela for The Day God Went Mad (later renamed to The Face of Evil), seeing her as a mixture of Emma Peel from The Avengers and Leila Khaled.[1][3] Boucher was asked to write two endings to Face, one in which Leela left with the Doctor, and one in which she stayed behind. The decision to have Leela become a companion was made soon after. An oft-repeated story (also stated in the DVD commentary to The Robots of Death) is that Leela's skimpy leather outfits were very popular with the "dads", which kept them watching the programme.


According to the official DVD release of the story The Face of Evil in 2012,[4] Louise Jameson won the role of Leela over 26 other hopeful actresses auditioned between August 10 and August 25, 1976. Emily Richard was producer Philip Hinchcliffe's first choice, but when she proved unavailable, Celia Foxe, Colette Gleeson, Elaine Donnelly, Gail Grainger, Belinda Sinclair, Ann Pennington, Sally Geeson, Pamela Salem, Carol Leader, Heather Tobias, Marilyn Galsworthy, Katherine Fahey, Deborah Fairfax, Irene Gorst, Kay Korda, Lois Hantz, Belinda Low, Gail Harrison, Michelle Newell, Philippa Vazey, Sue Jones-Davies, Lydia Lisel, Janet Edis, Susan Wooldridge and Carol Drinkwater were all seen for the part. The latter five actresses were shortlisted with Louise Jameson and all recalled. Auditions took place in batches of eight actresses, with Jameson amongst the first batch. As Tom Baker was not available for her audition, director Pennant Roberts played the part of the Doctor. Jameson was given the role on August 26, 1976. Despite not being on the final shortlist, Pamela Salem won a small voice role in Leela's debut story, The Face of Evil, followed by a substantial part in the next story The Robots of Death.

Although Jameson's eyes are naturally blue, as Leela she initially wore red contact lenses to make them brown. However, the contact lenses severely limited her vision, and producer Graham Williams promised her she could stop wearing them. To explain the change in-story, writer Terrance Dicks wrote a scene in the 1977 serial Horror of Fang Rock in which Leela's eyes suffer "pigment dispersal" and turn blue after viewing the explosion of the Rutan ship.

Tom Baker disliked Leela's character concept because he felt that she was too violent.[5] Jameson reports that he was cold to her for the first several stories they did together.[6] Eventually, during the filming of Horror of Fang Rock, she insisted on multiple takes of a scene in which he repeatedly entered the scene early, thereby upstaging her. This incident appears to have increased Baker's respect for her, and their working relationship substantially improved thereafter.[6] Aside from feeling that Baker was "competitive", Jameson suffered from glandular fever in the middle of her time on the show and also was allergic to dry ice.[7]

Graham Williams offered to rewrite the end of The Invasion of Time so Leela could stay, but Jameson declined as she was already committed to a play of The Merchant of Venice.[7] Jameson was also offered to return for a whole season when Peter Davison became the Doctor and ease the transition, but she only wanted to do one story.[8]

List of appearances[edit]


Season 14
Season 15
30th Anniversary Charity Special


Virgin New Adventures
Past Doctor Adventures

Short stories[edit]


Audio dramas[edit]

New Fourth Doctor Adventures
Companion Chronicles
Jago & Litefoot
Main Range
Gallifrey (Season 1)
Gallifrey (Season 2)
Gallifrey (Season 3)
Gallifrey (Season 4)
Gallifrey (Season 5)
Gallifrey (Season 6)

Short Trips audios[edit]

  • Death-Dealer


  1. ^ a b Sullivan, Shannon Patrick (2008-04-13). "The Face Of Evil". A Brief History of Time (Travel). Retrieved 2008-07-27. 
  2. ^ "BBC - Doctor Who - Classic Series - Companions - Leela". 
  3. ^ Viner, Katharine (2001-10-26). "'I made the ring from a bullet and the pin of a hand grenade'". The Guardian. Retrieved 2007-03-18. 
  4. ^ Doctor Who: The Face of Evil. BBC DVD/2Entertain. ISBN 0-7806-8517-2
  5. ^ Rigelsford, Adrian (1994). "The Vortex of Immensity". The Doctors: 30 Years of Time Travel. London: Boxtree. p. 111. ISBN 0-7522-0959-0. 
  6. ^ a b Jameson, Louise (Episode commentary) (2005). Horror of Fang Rock (DVD). BBC DVD. 
  7. ^ a b Cook, Benjamin (28 May 2008). "Who on Earth is...Louise Jameson". Doctor Who Magazine. Royal Tunbridge Wells, Kent: Panini Comics (395). 
  8. ^ Rawson-Jones, Ben (17 February 2008). "Louise Jameson ('Doctor Who')". Digital Spy. Retrieved 30 November 2013. 

External links[edit]