An old favourite made a fleeting appearance in last night’s Doctor Who episode Empress of Mars. Interstellar hermaphrodite Alpha Centauri (or at least a member of the same civilisation, if I remember correctly they didn’t go in for individual names). Back in the Seventies Jon Pertwee’s Third Doctor encountered a forum of alien diplomats attempting to negotiate mining rights and EU-style membership for the developing world of Peladon. In two six part serials, The Time Lord had to navigate Ice Warriors, political machinations, religious prejudice, luddites and the mighty Aggador.
But the stand-out character was Alpha Centauri a squeaky green one-eyed octopus, a touch nervous for an ambassador to primitive worlds.
And rather delightfully, the high-pitch squeel last night was provided by the same actress, Ysanne Churchman, now 92.
Coincidentally, Ysanne has a notorious place in television history. She played Grace Archer in the BBC’s radio soap opera The Archers, “an everyday story of country folk”.
On 22 September 1955, the UK saw the launch of its first commercial television station (ITV). Associated-Rediffusion made its London debut broadcasting toothpaste ads. Except radio listeners were shocked as Grace Archer perished in an attempt to rescue her horse, Midnight, from a stable fire. The move took the wind out of the ITV launch as the radio drama dominated the headlines.
Apart from The Archers, Ysanne has also voiced Marla the Martian and Cassie in Space Patrol and was Soo the computer (think Alexa) in Peter Firth’s time travel drama The Flipside of Dominick Hide and its sequel.