Remember the first year of Russell T Davies reboot of Doctor Who? That season eased viewers back into the world of the Doctor, re-establishing a few classic villains such as the Daleks and the Autons, but also using the Time War as an excuse for avoiding references to the past.
Contrast that to the past few years, in which the show has no concerns with going back to previous adventures. Modern Doctors have met previous incarnations — sometimes in older form (as in the returns of Peter Davison and Tom Baker), sometimes recast (as in the case of David Bradley stepping in for William Hartnell), and sometimes in digital form (basically every other case). Classic villains have returned, not just the Master, the Daleks, or Cybermen, but even odd-balls like the Toymaker, whose one previous appearance can’t be watched in any form anymore. Most common, Doctor Who has brought back past companions, starting with Sarah Jane during the Tenth Doctor era, all the way up to Mel Bush in the 60th Anniversary specials.
The show continues that tradition with its announcement trailer for Doctor Who: The Collection – Season 15, which features a whole new scene starring former companion Leela. In the short “Leela vs. the Time War,” Leela, played again by Louise Jameson witnesses the final moments of the Great Time War on Gallifrey. As she watches the Daleks decimate the remains of the Time Lord capitol, a soldier arrives with a gift from the Doctor, forcing her to make a decision. Check out the full scene here:
For those who only follow the Doctor Who television series, they haven’t seen Leela since her cameo in the 1993 30th anniversary special “Dimensions in Time,” her first live-action return since her departure in the 1978 Fourth Doctor serial “The Invasion of Time.” Leela made her debut in the 1977 serial “The Face of Evil” as a warrior of the Sevateem tribe, a group of savage humans on an Earth-style planet. Although initially confused by the technology she experienced with the Doctor, Leela eventually decided to stay on Gallifrey and marry the Time Lord Andred in “The Invasion of Time.”
That conclusion left plenty of space for more Leela stories, which you can find in the tie-in materials. Serving as the bodyguard of Romana in Big Finish’s Gallifrey audio series, Leela distinguished herself during her service, which included fighting in a civil war on the Time Lord homeworld. During these events, Andred died and Leela lost her sight and memories, at least for a time.
For NuWho fans, the most recent Leela stories saw her navigating the Great Time War. In the Big Finish audio drama The Devil You Know, Romana sends Leela with the War Master (played here by Derek Jacobi once again) on a secret mission. Lord Rassilon (Richard Armitage instead of Timothy Dalton) conscripts Leela into the war against her will in The Last Days of Freme. She later teamed with the War Doctor (first voiced by John Hurt, then by Jonathon Carley) in the dramas The Lady of Obsidian and The Enigma Dimension.
“Leela vs. the Time War” picks up after these War Doctor stories, which explains Leela’s attitude when she learns the Doctor has gifted her a wayfinder in order to escape Gallifrey before it’s too late. While it’s clear by the end of the scene that Leela survived the Time War, the short doesn’t seem to set up anything for the upcoming Doctor Who season, starring Ncuti Gatwa as the Fifteenth Doctor and Millie Gibson as his companion Ruby Sunday. But as we’ve seen time and again, NuWho loves to revisit past stories, so Leela may yet fight again.
The Doctor Who Season 15 boxset is out later this year. A new season of Doctor Who is set to air on the BBC and Disney+ in May.
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