STACK caught up with former Doctor Who companion Katy Manning – aka Jo Grant – to discuss her time on the show and the release of the Classic Season 8 Collection on Blu-ray.

Katy Manning will never forget her first day on the job after joining the regular cast of Doctor Who in the opening story of the show’s eighth season, Terror of the Autons.

“I’m extremely short sighted and they didn’t know that I couldn’t see,” she tells STACK. “My very first day on the job, I fell and injured the ligaments in my foot while we were filming on location and this naughty PA told me that it was okay, they would simply recast the role. I was in tears when Jon Pertwee came to my rescue… I was too young and inexperienced to know that it was a joke.

“Jon and I hit it off from day one,” she adds. “He really taught me so much and was very protective and supportive.”

Katy Manning

Pertwee’s wonderfully flamboyant portrayal of the Doctor begs the question – was he essentially playing himself? Katy is quick to point out that this wasn’t the case.

“Jon was from a light comedy background, so this was his first straight role, and he did it brilliantly.”

Season eight – the second to feature Pertwee as the third Doctor – saw a major shake-up in the show’s format, with Katy onboard as new companion Jo Grant, along with a more active role for UNIT (the United Nations Intelligence Taskforce) and the introduction of a Moriarty-like nemesis for the Doctor – The Master (played to perfection by the late Roger Delgado).

As the gutsy and groovy Jo, Katy was the perfect fit for the series, her youthful energy and bubbly personality instantly endearing her to fans and her fellow cast members – an ensemble that would affectionately become known as “the UNIT family.”

The UNIT family: L-R Nicholas Courtney as Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart, Jon Pertwee as The Doctor, Roger Delgado as The Master, Katy Manning as Jo Grant

“That was very much the case,” says Katy of the term. “We’d drive into work together every day and eat lunch together – we were inseparable.”

Arguably the definitive Master, Roger Delgado’s charmingly evil villain proved to be a ruthless adversary, but Katy says it was a different story behind the scenes.

“Roger was a wonderful actor and a beautiful man,” she recalls fondly. “You do find that with actors who play a lot of villains. I mean, I’ve played mass murderers and I’m a nice person,” she laughs.

Katy’s first round of stories comprise a truly cracking season of Doctor Who. Those creepy plastic mannequins return in the aforementioned Terror of the Autons; the Master plans to nuke a peace conference in The Mind of Evil; the vampiric Axons attempt to suck the lifeforce from Earth in The Claws of Axos; the third Doctor makes his first trip to an alien world in Colony in Space; and the Master raises hell in an English village in The Daemons.

The Claws of Axos

While Katy doesn’t have an all-time favourite story from her time on the show, she is particularly fond of The Mind of Evil.

“That was my second story – I loved the leather jacket that they gave me to wear! And, of course, I love my last one, The Green Death, because of the [environmental] message there.”

But what about The Daemons – a fan favourite considered to be one of the finest stories of the Pertwee era?

“It’s not a personal favourite, but I understand why people love it,” she says. “We filmed on location in Wiltshire; the village still gets a lot of visitors because of Doctor Who, and even has a Dalek-shaped rubbish bin now!”

The Mind of Evil

As is customary with the classic Doctor Who Blu-ray collections, a special mini-episode was created to promote the Season 8 release, featuring Jo and the Autons.

“That was delightful,” Katy recalls. “It was written and directed by Pete McTighe [who has also penned episodes of Aussie series Wentworth] and we shot that in two hours – it was pouring rain that day, so we had less time to get it all done.”

An Australian citizen, having lived Down Under during the 1980s, Katy has a special relationship with local Whovians and – COVID permitting – is eyeing a return visit later this year.

“I hope to come to Australia in October and look forward to seeing you all.”

• Doctor Who: The Collection Season 8 Limited Edition is now yours to own on Blu-ray (while stocks last) 

Buy now at JB Hi-Fi