Doctor Who Blog

The Mystery of April Walker

Rod scooped me on the news yesterday that the last great secret of Doctor Who’s past has been revealed, our version of the identity of Deep Throat: Who was originally cast to play Sarah Jane Smith? The identity yesterday was revealed to be April Walker, an actress who later (though not in 1973, Rod!) appeared in Fawlty Towers and other programs over the past several decades.

As I indicated a few years ago on this blog, this was one of those mysteries that fascinated me. I’m sort of disappointed that it’s turned out to be April Walker and not my own pet theory that it was Fiona Gaunt from Moonbase 3 (in the same way I’m sure people were disappointed Deep Throat turned out to be Mark Felt and not John Dean). But there are still some fascinating mysteries to be addressed, such as…

  • Why is a revelation like this tucked away in the DVD text commentary?

  • Will we actually see something about this casting on a future Season 11 DVD? Perhaps an actual interview with April Walker?

  • How the hell did this information manage to avoid discovery for all these years? You would think there would have been a paper trail somewhere in the BBC Records Centre in Cavesham.

  • Why is it coming out only now? Presumably someone knew and decided with Jon Pertwee, Barry Letts and Lis Sladen all gone now it was safe to release the information. Or did something else come to light?

  • Was April Walker cast to play Sarah Jane Smith? I’ve heard some experts say over the years that the character of Sarah hadn’t been invented fully yet and Walker was cast to play either “the next companion” or someone else entirely

  • Finally, do we actually believe the story that the reason Jon Pertwee didn’t want April Walker was she was too tall and too buxom?

    It’s nice that some smaller mysteries still persist. I’m sure many of them will be solved in the coming days and months…


Apparently the character’s name was SJS though whether or not she was a reporter etc isn’t known at this time.

Walker has done an interview that will be in the next and coming soon edition of Nothing At The End Of The Lane fanzine.

She wasn’t simply cast and let go but signed a contract and was paid for the entire season. How many times did this happen at the BBC?

Posted by Ryan  on  01/10  at  06:04 AM

Apparently Lis Sladen mentions her in her autobiography, but not necessarily by name. The Doctor Who News Page report on this suggests Barry Letts refused to discuss the change in actress, so maybe there was some legal reason? Obviously NATEOTL (what an acronym!) managed to get her for an interview so she’s not unwilling to talk. But it’s not uncommon for “first choices” to be buried. It took something like 15 years before any footage of Genevieve Bujold as Captain Janeway on Voyager to be made public and I’m not aware of any interviews with her on the subject, and we’ve never seen any footage of Elizabeth Shepard as Emma Peel even though they filmed two episodes with her before firing her and going with Diana Rigg. Apparently April only got as far as rehearsals before they decided they’d chosen the wrong person. I think the reason for “burying” her for 38 years might have to do with embarrassment or the fact the BBC had to pay out a season’s worth of licence fee to an actress they never used.

Posted by Alex  on  01/10  at  06:36 PM

Another interesting April Walker/Dr.WHO connection. In 1973 April appeared alo ngside Nicholas Courtney in the Two Ronnies spoof of ‘COLDITZ’. She played the statuesque and extremely buxom prison camp Matron. The entire sketch is posted on YOUTUBE.

Posted by Mark  on  01/09  at  06:52 AM

I think she really was gorgeous and buxom, but would’ve been a better match for the later doctors. She and Pertwee would’ve looked terrible together. I’m not sure whether it was his lines or Pertwee himself, but he was a bit rude and chauvinistic towards Joe Grant. I’ve only seen Classic Who up to Sarah Jane and it seems that Joe got the most condescending treatment of them all. Even Victoria who did seem a fairly poor choice for a companion and Susan who didn’t seem very Time Ladyish, were treated with more respect by males on the show. I don’t think the British were ready for April. Even today’s viewers seem ill-prepared for River Song and Amy, despite Martha having the athleticism and mental capabilities to be more of a companion than an assistant.

Posted by Rose  on  02/16  at  07:20 PM

Free info like this is an apple from the tree of konlwdgee. Sinful?

Posted by Elida  on  03/01  at  05:04 AM

I’ve just discovered about this so called other Sarah-Jane Smith! she only made it through a couple of rehearsals though contracted for the full eleventh series! Barry Letts discovered to late that there was no chemistry between her and john per twee so she was quietly paid off for her full contract and Lis sladen brought in whom john and Barry both approved of!.....April walker never made it to recordings err-go Lis sladen was the only sarah-jane smith that the public knew and real fans loved! I’m spitting tacks because when poor Lis past away all she got was the highest of praise and yet now people are suddenly banging on about some almost ran! I wonder if it had been any other show how many of you would give a damn? I have and always will be loyal to the one true Sarah-jane smith (Lis sladen) until death takes me! shame about some of her. other so called fans!!.....hypocrites

Posted by Michael Gordon  on  06/16  at  07:25 PM

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