Admit it: the first thing you do when opening up an autobiography is turn to the photos section.
In her autobiography, first published in 2010, then reprinted in 2013 and 2016, Deborah Watling included 16 pages of black and white pictures; as an extra treat, Fantom released an accompanying slim volume, Daddy’s Girl In Pictures.
It’s a really nice addition to the reams of biographical work from Doctor Who cast and crew, but takes the bold decision not to primarily feature photos from the show. In fact, there are only a few images from Who at all, none of which come from behind-the-scenes – instead, they’re from conventions.
But don’t let that put you off! Because this is a slight but interesting look at Watling’s other roles and the film and TV industry in the 1960s and 1970s.
Admittedly, In Pictures is a slight volume, comprising of just 36 pages; nonetheless, it takes you throughout Deborah’s fascinating life. It opens with a lovely full-page photo of her parents, Jack Watling (who fans will know as Professor Edward Travers from The Abominable Snowmen and The Web of Fear) and Patricia Hicks, then continues with childhood snaps of Debbie.
It’s a solid mix of personal photos and her life as an actress, plus newspaper cuttings dotted throughout. We see her with her father on The Power Game, The Wednesday Play, and Take Me High, the latter by her own admission described as “the worst film on general release in 1974.” Raunchier content comes with coverage of Danger UXB, in which she played Norma Baker. It’s nothing too scandalous though, sorry.
Most of the Doctor Who-related polaroids come near the end, including shots taken with a Dalek, and a gorgeous snaps with Anneke Wills and Wendy Padbury, who obviously played Polly and Zoe in the Second Doctor’s era.
Nonetheless, there’s enough here to interest fans. Some might skim through the book relatively quickly, but if you give it all due attention, you’ll discover a lot more. There are, for instance, fun little newspaper cuttings about her family being haunted by the ghost of a sad-faced girl who apparently lived in the same 15th Century Alderton Hall in Loughton.
You really need to purchase this alongside her main autobiography, Daddy’s Girl – otherwise, you might get a little lost, and some of it will be meaningless. At least this book features colour photos. What photos they are too! Deborah’s personality is at the fore in every image, and you realise once again why we fell in love with her as Victoria Waterfield and beyond. And of course what a tragedy it is to have lost her so recently.
The major drawback of this book is that it comes largely without captions, so you have to infer who everyone is, and where images are taken from. Still, quotes are scattered amongst the pictures.
The respect she has for family and friends really shines through, and accordingly, there are plenty of pictures of her with Jack. One shot of her as a youngster comes with the frank admission: “Mummy and daddy were not too sure whether it would be wise to let me go into the business as a child. Would it be worth scarifying my education to send me out into the big wide world of work so early on? Father later told me that he felt he never truly knew if they had made the right decision.”
We have no such qualms. It really was the right decision. The acting world, and the Doctor Who universe, would’ve been a considerably lesser place without Deborah.
Daddy’s Girl In Pictures is available now from Fantom Books from £6.99. Or you can also receive a special bundle (limited to 100 copies) which features Daddy’s Girl (alternative 50th Anniversary cover), In Pictures, and a pack of five The Abominable Snowman Location postcards for only £19.99.