Whatever Happened to Susan Foreman, by Adrian Mourby

BBC Radio 'Whatever Happened To? series, broadcast on BBC Radio 4 on 9 July 1994


RESEARCHER: And now Adrian Mourby finds out Whatever Happened To Doctor Who's grand-daughter, Susan Foreman of Class 5B.

(Outside, street background.)
SUSAN: I had a happy childhood myself, although I don't remember Galli particularly well.
[Galli being her abbreviation of Gallifrey.]
SUSAN: We moved to London in ... Nineteen Sixty-Three, to Coal Hill. I came here with my grandfather. My parents were too busy with the shop.
RESEARCHER: What kind of shop did they run?
SUSAN: It sold concepts. Philosophical, religious, metaphysical, you know the kind of thing. You could buy them in purely intellectual form, or printed on a T-shirt.

RESEARCHER: Ian Chesterton, Deputy Head, Coal Hill School.

(School yard background with sounds of children.)
IAN: Susan Foreman. Yeah, I remember her all right. She was the one who disappeared. Family owned a scrapyard in, erm ... oh, where was it ... Totter's Lane ... Nineteen Sixty-Three. Hmph. Yes, I'm afraid I do remember. It got me into the papers didn't it?

(Outside, street background.)
RESEARCHER: How did you come to be at Coal Hill School?
SUSAN: Well, my parents were concerned about the education I was getting on Gallifrey. It was a very science-based planet. I was fine on astronomy, thermonuclear dynamics and warping, but my French wasn't very good.
RESEARCHER: (surprised) French?
SUSAN: It's a universal language. Everyone in our galaxy speaks some French. It's invaluable in a system like Alpha Centauri where you can't get served unless ... on parle un peu de franšais.
RESEARCHER: But ... why did you come to south London, then?
SUSAN: Well, that was my grandfather. He'd just retired, so my parents sent me here with him. I was supposed to go to Elys\'e9e, but, to be honest, Grandfather was bit nervous about setting down in Paris because of the lavatories. So we landed up in Coal Hill.

(School yard background with sounds of children.)
IAN: I first became aware of ... Susan Foreman in ... Nineteen Sixty-Three. She was a new girl and I was Head of Science. She couldn't cut up a frog to save her life, but ... one day she explained Einstein's General Theory of Space and Time to the class. And I - I - I ... I was amazed.
RESEARCHER: She understood it.
IAN: Well, no, no, she didn't understand it particularly well, but she was very relaxed about the ideas, as if they were old hat. So, er ... I got talking in the staff room to Barbara Wright, who taught Susan history, and she said the girl showed a similar absurd confidence about things that happened in the past. Well ... we couldn't decide whether she was an unusual talent who needed special tutoring, or ... or just a pain in the neck. So we tried to contact her parents. And I remember Susan became very, erm ... very cagey. Said they'd got a sale on, or some such nonsense. So, er, Miss Wright and I decided ... er, and this is unethical, I admit, but, ... we decided to follow Susan home, to Totter's Lane where she was living. Now this bit is strange. She was living inside a Police Box in this scrap yard. Anyway, er, the next Monday, she wasn't at school and the phone box had disappeared and ... er ... well, that - that's ... that's all there was to it. Look, I went through all this in Nineteen Sixty-Four.
RESEARCHER: Did you meet her grandfather?
IAN: No, no. It was his scrap yard, was it?
RESEARCHER: What about the time travel?
IAN: (accusingly) What do you mean ... time travel?

(Outside, street background.)
SUSAN: If Ian Chesterton won't tell you about the trips we made, he is either lying or suffering time-lag. It can bring on amnesia. It does happen.

(School yard background with sounds of children.)
IAN: (incredulous) One hundred thousand BC?
RESEARCHER: And into the future and back to the times of Marco Polo and the Incas.
IAN: (wearily) Oh dear oh ... Look, like I said we had all this out in Nineteen Sixty-Four. Susan Foreman disappeared from school. She was sixteen. Girls of that age often did. They go down to Brighton with some boy on the back of a scooter - I mean, you know the sort of thing. Claim they'd had amnesia or been abducted by gypsies, or something.
(He sighs.)
IAN: Only she stays away. She comes back eight months later with some ... tale that Barbara Wright and me have been travelling in time with her, and that in two hundred years the Earth's going to be over-run by little men in metal boxes.
(He sighs.)
IAN: She's not still sticking to that story, is she?

(Outside, street background.)
SUSAN: Ask the Thals if you don't believe me. Ask Temmosus - he'll tell you. Everyone knows you always get an honest answer from a Thal.

RESEARCHER: Since Nineteen Eighty Seven, Temmosus Skyedron has been EC Commissioner for Overproduction.

(Temmosus speaks in a slow, measured tone. Street background.)
TEMMOSUS: Ah, yes, that unfortunate battle on Skaro. Well, I remember Ian very well from that time, Susan not so well, but of course, we often meet now at community functions. Ian was a fine physical specimen, and very active in our fight against the Daleks. I am almost certain he was not androgynous, which made him stand out somewhat amongst us Thals. I think ... there was also a woman. Barbara, who was also far from androgynous. She back-combed her hair, as I recall, and stuck out her bosoms. Ian was very angry that the Daleks were releasing radiation into the atmosphere to try and wipe us out. He insisted we fought back, and as he was a guest, of course we went along with this view. You say he remembers nothing of this?

(Outside, street background.)
RESEARCHER: What happened after your battle with the Daleks?
SUSAN: Oh, we carried on going backwards and forwards in time. It was very tedious. You see, my grandfather was showing off. When Ian - Mr Chesterton - had first come inside the TARDIS, he'd refused to believe it could move in time and space because he was an O-level Science teacher. Of course, this was just the excuse my grandfather was looking for to take us everywhere and everywhen he wanted. He used to pretend he had no control over where we landed, but I noticed we always set down somewhere with a breathable atmosphere and compatible gravity.
RESEARCHER: I get the impression you didn't really enjoy time travel.
SUSAN: Well ... you can get the most enormous time-lag. But more importantly, I was supposed to be sitting my mock O-levels while all this was going on. Barbara Wright was quite worried, too.
SUSAN: She was supposed to be invigilating.

RESEARCHER: Barbara Wright now lives in mid-Wales.

(BARBARA is on a telephone.)
BARBARA: (exasperated sigh) Why does he want to talk about Coal Hill?
FEMALE SECRETARY: We're doing a programme about the time travel girl Susan Foreman. I believe you taught her history.
BARBARA: Look, I was out of teaching for years. I've got my head together now. I don't want that stuff. I don't want to talk about her.
BARBARA: It's bad stuff, you know? Phone boxes and talking tin cans ... (Half laughing) I don't do it any more - okay? I think you've got the wrong number.

CLAIRE RAYNER: Back in the Nineteen Sixties, I did a spell as an Agony Aunt on Petticoat, the teenage magazine, and I remember getting these letters from a girl in south London who was missing her parents.
RESEARCHER: Claire Rayner.
CLAIRE RAYNER: Well, I wrote back to her twice saying that she must stand up to her grandfather, who, I think, owned a scrap yard in ... Tower Hamlets.

(Outside, street background.)
SUSAN: I never received her reply, but by then we were off with Mr Chesterton and Miss Wright in the TARDIS.

CLAIRE RAYNER: The letters dried up after that, but I did have a postcard from France dated Seventeen Ninety-Four. It said her grandfather had taken her away and she wanted either to go home to her parents or back to school. I wrote back saying that her grandfather had no legal right to take her out of full-time education, and she should ring the attendance officer herself if he wouldn't listen to reason. In my experience, you know, having a talk about these things, bringing them out in the open, it does a world of good.

(Outside, street background.)
SUSAN: I thought it was a really mean trick to take us back to Seventeen Ninety-Four. I'd made it very clear to Grandfather that I wanted to get back in time for my French Oral and I thought that's what he was going to do. But he took me back to revolutionary Paris instead. "Oral history, my girl," he said, "Oral history." That was his idea of a joke.
RESEARCHER: Didn't Ian and Barbara have any say in all this?
SUSAN: Well, Mr Chesterton went quite loopy after destroying the Daleks. He got a kind of blood-lust - titanium-lust, I suppose you'd call it. And Miss Wright had become very distant and superior since the Aztecs proclaimed her a reincarnation of the high priest Yetexa.
SUSAN: It was the back-combing. You see, in their theology, reincarnated immortals look like Kathy Kirby. So you see, it was difficult to get any sense out of either of them. And, anyway, my grandfather was a frustrated Time Lord, let's be honest.
SUSAN: They're the people who control the Space-Time continuum. They're based on Gallifrey and my grandfather got himself put up to be one, but he was blackballed. We're not quite certain why. Probably they got wind of his interventionist tendency. He preached non-involvement, but he didn't practice it, you see. Most of the times and places we visited are restricted. You'd never get a flight plan agreed for Seventeen Ninety-Four, for instance - it's too significant. Consequently, we had to use the temporal B-roads to avoid detection. I imagine that's how we sometimes got lost.
RESEARCHER: Ian Chesterton says your grandfather was a scrap merchant.
SUSAN: No. He's confusing the fact that in November Nineteen Sixty-Three our TARDIS was parked in a scrap yard in Totter's Lane. My grandfather was a retired time traveller, which is like any traveller - commercial traveller, you know, except that he used to sell things in Time and Space rather than just in the space continuum. It's quite legal.
RESEARCHER: How long did you travel in time for?
SUSAN: Eight months. My grandfather had had enough of me by then, and he locked me out of the TARDIS.
RESEARCHER: And where was this?
SUSAN: London.
SUSAN: Twenty One Sixty-Four. The Daleks were trying to mine out the Earth's core and replace it with a propulsion unit that would enable them to fly this planet round the galaxy - you know the kind of thing. The place was in a terrible mess. I was pretty angry about being dumped there.
RESEARCHER: But I understood your Science teacher had already destroyed the Daleks on Skaro.
SUSAN: Well, that's true, but that was in the far distant future. You see, so incensed were some of the Daleks by the defeat Ian and the Thals were inflicting upon them, they got in a time machine and flew back to Earth in the hope of revenging themselves on Mr Chesterton's race, or, better still, stopping him being born. That's the kind of thing you can do when you time travel.
RESEARCHER: You mean, revenge yourself for something by preventing it happening?
SUSAN: Yes. Unfortunately their TARDIS developed a leak in the fluid link and couldn't get any further back than Twenty One Sixty-Four, when Ian was in fact a hundred and fifty years dead. Not much use to them, so they set about enslaving the entire population, mining out the Earth's core ... you know how it is. Except that then we turned up there with Ian alive eight months later. It gets very confusing.
RESEARCHER: (hesitantly) Yes...
SUSAN: So, of course, we joined the freedom fighters, because that's the kind of person my grandfather is. Given a choice, he'll always join the freedom fighters. Usually, they're better-looking.

(School yard background with sounds of children.)
IAN: Twenty One Sixty-Four?
RESEARCHER: You don't remember the fight to free the Earth from the Daleks?
IAN: You're as potty as she is.

(Outside, street background.)
SUSAN: Grandfather claimed that he knew what was best for me and that I had to stay with David Campbell, the leader of the freedom fighters. But I knew what he was up to.
RESEARCHER: And what was that?
SUSAN: I was cramping his style. There he was, nipping round the back roads of the Space-Time continuum, meeting up with these blonde Thals and Aztec handmaidens and French courtesans. The last thing he wanted was some teenager calling him "Grandfather." Particularly as he'd found a way to regenerate himself.
RESEARCHER: Regenerate?
SUSAN: Oh yes. And once he'd hacked into how it was done, he went one further and made sure he came back younger. Each time he's regenerated, he's rejuvenated. And why? I think that's obvious. Every time I meet him he's with some woman. There've been so many: Zoe, Sarah Jane, Jo, Ace, Romana. He always claims there's nothing going on between them, but why does he go to such lengths to keep himself young? He's on his seventh incarnation now. Last time I saw him, he was my age.
RESEARCHER: I'm sorry, you've rather lost me there.
SUSAN: Ask him. Ask them! All the women he's had in the back of that TARDIS.

RESEARCHER: Mrs Jo Jones of Llanfairfach, Gwynedd. Formerly Jo Grant.
(Researcher pronounces the place name as Lhlan-vire-vach.)

(All Jo's dialogue with birds in background.)
JO: Susan has got this whole thing with her grandfather completely out of context. The Doctor liked female companions. Nothing wrong with that.
RESEARCHER: He was a doctor?
JO: Not a medical doctor, no. He - he'd got some Open Universe degree. He used to be a commercial time traveller, and then after he retired, he took this PHD in, erm ... Botany, I think it was.
JO: Mm. Well, there are quite a few planets where plants are more intelligent than the people, you know.
RESEARCHER: Did he have the secret of rejuvenation?
JO: I didn't know it was a secret. He used to pretend he didn't know how it happened, but we all knew it was a hormone thing. Hormone reversal treatment, I think they called it. Anyway, you were asking about sex, really, weren't you? Well, I knew the Doctor in his third incarnation and we spent a lot of time together in the TARDIS and I can tell you ... nothing happened. There was a certain sexual tension in the air. After all, he wasn't getting any older. I thought maybe in a few years when we were closer in age, you know, but ... in the end I left, like all the others. To be honest, I think he was too much of a gentleman. Also there was never enough time. I think Susan just felt hugely rejected.

(Outside, street background.)
SUSAN: Of course I felt rejected! Imagine, your nearest relative throws you outside into a post-holocaust wasteland, and claims it's because your true path lies in the arms of some urban guerrilla.
RESEARCHER: But you were in love with David Campbell.
SUSAN: I was sixteen. I was always in love with someone. I'd been in love with a Menoptra the week before, but Grandfather hadn't told me to shack up with a big furry butterfly, had he? ... There I was in the year Twenty One Sixty-Four, over two hundred years from my school in a city that was nothing but ruins. David said we could rebuild it together. "Okay," I thought, but when I looked at the size of problem ... Rebuild London after the Daleks and their Robomen had smashed it up? I thought, "No thank you," and I rang home.
RESEARCHER: Gallifrey?
SUSAN: Yes. Anyway, my godfather's brother, Terry, was very nice and said next time he was inspecting that part of the time waft, he'd pick me up, which he did.
RESEARCHER: Did he get you back in time for your O-levels?
SUSAN: Well ... to be honest, I didn't really want to go back to Nineteen Sixty-Four. You see, I'd seen a bit of the future by this time and one thing I knew was that things were pretty quiet in London until Sixty-Seven/Sixty-Eight, so I asked him to drop me off some time around then. But he said he could only obey "real time," which is a bit patronising because any fool knows time is relative. But real time meant that I'd been away eight months by now, so I had to go back to July Nineteen Sixty-Four, do you see? Anyway, on the plus side, at least I got back to somewhere that wasn't covered in rubble and bits of dead Dalek, but I missed my mocks and my O's.

(School yard background with sounds of children.)
IAN: The headmaster called me in and said ... "That girl who disappeared at the end of last year, Susan Foreman. She's turned up." And then he said - I will always remember this - he said, "I should tell you, Ian, she's making some serious accusations about you." Well, my stomach went through the floor.

(Outside, street background.)
SUSAN: I was young, I was stupid, I ... I realise that now. I should have kept quiet about what had happened, but all the girls were asking me what it had been like. I felt rather inadequate when I said I hadn't been off with some boy on a motor scooter. They even started to tease me that I hadn't had the nerve. So I told them I'd been to China and France and South America and Paris and that Mr Chesterton and Miss Wright had been with me. Well, he was a bit of a dish, you see. But then one girl, Veronica Cartwright it was, said, "But they've been here all the time, Susan Foreman. You're a liar, you are."
RESEARCHER: Wouldn't it have been easier to lie, to pretend you had been away to Brighton?
SUSAN: Well, yes, but I can't lie, you see. It's a very Earth thing, lying.
RESEARCHER: People ... don't lie on other planets?
SUSAN: Oh no. In fact, it's one of the reasons why there's so little interplanetary tourism to Earth, because you have this reputation for dishonesty. No, I can't lie, although it always gets me into trouble. It did then . You see, what I didn't know was that Ian and Barbara were already back. When my grandfather chucked me out in Twenty One Sixty-Four, they were still inside the TARDIS, but months later, you see, when he was on the planet Mechanus, my grandfather sent Ian and Barbara back to Earth, but at a point one second before they first entered the TARDIS. And, of course, the TARDIS was no longer there. So, you see, as well as suffering Time-Space amnesia, they appeared never to have left Coal Hill, although they'd actually been away a year, whereas I had come back four months before them, but only turned up now eight months after . This is the kind of irresponsible thing my grandfather does. So I had to explain about time travel if anyone was to believe me ... Which they didn't.

JOEY OXFORD: "Teenage Runaway Schoolgirls. The New 'Cathy Come Homes'."

(School yard background with sounds of children.)
IAN: At that time, the ... the Daily Sketch was doing a piece about runaway pregnant schoolgirls. And ... somehow they got on to Susan.

(Outside, street background.)
SUSAN: To be honest, it was a relief to find someone who seemed to believe me. He told me he wanted to tell the "real story" of my time away. I was staying in a YWCA by then.
RESEARCHER: So, how did you come to meet this reporter?
SUSAN: One evening I was in an espresso bar and this man offered to buy me a coffee and I thought "Okay." He seemed sympathetic and said he was just interested in telling the true story. When I started to explain that in a Hundred Thousand BC the Tribe of Gum had lost the knack for making fire ... well, I could see that I wasn't really telling him what he wanted to know. After a while, he got up to go. I was so desperate for someone to believe me, that I did something I shouldn't have. I said ... "I've got artefacts in my room." I think he misunderstood what I meant. What I'd got were bits and pieces that I'd smuggled through from different times we visited: a sou from Seventeen Ninety Four, an ancient Chinese tea bag, an early form of Aztec contraception, and some in-flight cutlery from the planet Mechanos.

RESEARCHER: Joey Oxford, former investigative reporter, currently serving six months for impersonating a gynaecologist.

(Background sound of people's voices talking like a crowded bar.)
JOEY OXFORD: Now this is a long time ago, you'll remember. I must admit, I thought, when she invited me up to her room we were in for a spot of the old "slap and tickle." I wasn't expecting a duffel bag of knick-knacks from the British Museum. "What do you say now?" she said. "Look," I said, "You're a nice girl. I don't know where you got all this stuff from, but I should put it back if I were you, or just chuck it in the river."

(Outside, street background.)
SUSAN: I was so annoyed I threw him out. Made a bit of a noise. Of course, that got me into hot water with the warden because we weren't supposed to have visitors, so ... I was asked to leave the hostel.

(School yard background with sounds of children.)
IAN: I was on my own at my digs and she turned up at the door. I said, "I can't talk to you. And I don't want to talk to you after all the things you've been saying."

(Outside, street background.)
SUSAN: He was my only chance to prove I wasn't insane. It was Mr Chesterton or Miss Wright, and she'd taken a field trip to Peru. I said, "You must remember. Try and remember. You were knighted by Richard the Lionheart, you were tried for murder in Millennius, you led the Thals' attack on Skaro." I was standing out there in the rain and I was desperate. With just me saying it, all they had was a silly schoolgirl, but if he could just remember one little bit of it, they couldn't ignore two people.

(School yard background with sounds of children.)
IAN: I shouldn't have called the police, I know. I mean she was talking nonsense ... out of her head, she was. No, I just hoped they'd warn her off. I didn't think they'd take her in and search through her belongings.

(Outside, street background.)
SUSAN: "Runaway Schoolgirl Attacks Teacher. Stolen Goods Seized." "I'm a time traveller, says teen-aged Susan." Oh, I remember those headlines. I don't blame Mr Chesterton. I don't blame the police - they were only doing their job. And so was the reporter from the Daily Sketch, I suppose. What really hurt was the man from the British Museum who turned up and identified my souvenirs as museum property. That was a complete lie! I got sent to an approved school in Barking. It was like prison. It was a very bad time for me. When I got out, I drifted. I tried religion, I tried opening a concept shop of my own, but ... people only wanted the T-shirts and you don't really make much on those. So I decided the time travel was just past history and I became an ordinary girl. I got a job as a typist with the Civil Service, and in Nineteen Seventy-Two I was involved with Britain's entry into the Common Market, and I've stayed in the EC ever since. The odd thing is, you see, when I got to Brussels, I noticed that a lot of the other officials weren't from this planet at all. In fact, there are several former time travellers who are running things here at the moment.
RESEARCHER: And you married an EC Commissioner.
SUSAN: Yes. Yes, marriage was a mistake, really, because I couldn't lie sufficiently. I just couldn't . You see, I could cheat, but I couldn't lie. After the divorce, I threw myself into this career, and did rather well. I was determined I would become a Commissioner too.

(School yard background with sounds of children.)
IAN: Oh, I'm - I'm very pleased she got on, because really, I think we all imagined she'd ... have gone the way so many girls do after approved school. No, what really galled me, though, was the fact that five years ago, up she pops as an EC Commissioner for Education!

(Outside, street background.)
SUSAN: I suppose education had always been a particular hobby-horse of mine because I'd missed out on my O-levels. So when the job in Education came up, I jumped at it.

(School yard background with sounds of children.)
IAN: It's bad enough having to deal with the National Curriculum and NMS, but ... if we're introducing all these new EC regulations as well, there is simply going to be no time for teaching. I mean, how can she expect us to predict truancy levels, special needs, and computer literacy up to the year Twenty One Sixty-Four? I mean, that's over a hundred and fifty years time! The woman clearly has no idea the damage her EC nonsense is doing to British education.

(Outside, street background.)
RESEARCHER: Why are you so keen on standardising education until the year Twenty One Sixty-Four?
SUSAN: I've been there. I know what a mess the schools were in when the Daleks attacked. The system collapsed completely.
RESEARCHER: So you're trying to prepare the Earth against another Dalek attack, is ... is that it?
SUSAN: Well ... no, not another one. The same one. It hasn't happened yet, but there's only a hundred and seventy years to go.

(Outside, street background.)
TEMMOSUS: We all admire Susan tremendously.

RESEARCHER: EC Commissioner Temmosus Skyedron.

(Outside, street background.)
TEMMOSUS: She has great energy, but she can enjoy a laugh. That's why she fits in so well in Brussels. It's important that you don't take this job too seriously, otherwise I think you could get very depressed. Next year, when Brussels announces plans to extend membership to other parts of the galaxy, I can see there will be an enormous public outrage, and the usual expressions of disbelief. You'd think they wouldn't be surprised by now.
RESEARCHER: And it's true you came here from the planet Skaro?
RESEARCHER: Six billion light years away.
TEMMOSUS: (gentle laugh) Five point six.
RESEARCHER: Are there many people from outer space running the EC?
TEMMOSUS: (confirming) Mm-hmm.
RESEARCHER: Why isn't this generally known?
TEMMOSUS: I don't think anyone's asked us before.

(Outside, street background.)
RESEARCHER: Do you ever see your grandfather now?
SUSAN: Oh yes, I see him from time to time, but I never know what he's going to look like next. Probably be about sixteen by now. In fact, for a while, I did suspect that he was one of my daughter's boyfriends. The Time Lords caught up with him eventually. He was caught speeding through the Dark Ages. because he didn't think anyone would look for him there. He claims he always files his flight plans now, though you never know with him.
RESEARCHER: When you look back to Nineteen Sixty-Three/Sixty-Four, to the time when you were in the News, do you have any regrets?
SUSAN: Oh, no. No, not at all. What's the point? Mind you, the timing of our adventures was a bit unfortunate. I mean, if we hadn't set off in November Sixty-Three, things would have been much easier. For one thing, I could've taken my mock O-levels. And I wouldn't have that terrible embarrassment every time somebody says, "Do you remember what you were doing when you heard the news about President Kennedy?" I still get the strangest looks when I say, I was hurtling back a hundred thousand years to a point where Mankind had lost the ability to make fire. That's why I like working here, to be honest. Nobody bats an eyelid. Those of them who have eyelids.

RESEARCHER: In "Whatever Happened To Susan", Susan was played by Jane Asher, and Ian by James Grout. Other parts were played by June Barry, Eva Hadden, Andrew Sachs, Peter Woodthorpe, and Becky Harrison. Claire Rayner appeared as herself. "Whatever Happened To Susan" was written by Adrian Mourby, and produced in Bristol by Brian King. Next week, whatever happened to the notorious Victorian murderer, Little Lord Fauntleroy.

Transcribed by David Tait

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