Polly as in The War Machines
Played by: Anneke Wills / Lilly Travers
Tenure 25 June 1966-13 May 1967 & 25 December 2017
First appearance The War Machines (regular)
Last appearance The Faceless Ones (regular)
Last appearance Twice Upon A Time (guest)
Number of series 1
Appearances 9 stories
click on images to enlarge
Polly Wright was a companion of the First and Second Doctors.
She was one of the very first people to witness the Doctor regenerating. She travelled in the TARDIS with her future husband, Ben Jackson and Jamie McCrimmon. She also became acquainted with Dodo Chaplet before she left the Doctor’s company.
Polly was born in 1942 in London, England. (The Murder Game) She spent much of her early life in Devon. (Invasion of the Cat-People). She had brown eyes. (Lost and Found). She was the only daughter of Dr Edward Wright and his wife, the former Miss Bettingham-Smith.
Polly’s father, Edward, was the second of three sons, younger than Charles and older than Randolph. He and his wife married in August 1939 and had a son soon after. Polly was their second child. At this time, Dr Wright and his family lived “in a big, old house in the country.” Polly’s paternal grandmother and her two paternal uncles were still alive at the time of her birth.
By 1944, her father’s younger brother, Randolph, had been imprisoned in a Nazi prisoner of war camp, where he died. In contrast, Edward survived World War II. He fathered three more sons and told Polly stories of her uncle.
In young adulthood, Polly reflected on her parents and said that she had always “taken them for granted” while she was away from home enjoying herself, but that they were always there for her when she needed them. (Resistance)
In 1948, when Polly was six, she was separated from her mother on a shopping trip to Fortnum & Mason. (Invasion of the Cat-People)
In the same year, Polly saw baked beans for the first time on a visit to the department store Henrik’s. During the same trip, she lost her teddy bear. On that day, she briefly met the Second Doctor, Ben and her future self, though she remained ignorant as to her identity. (Lost and Found).
In 1952, when she was ten, she attended a fair with her uncle Charles and had her fortune told by a gypsy, who warned her of a tall, dark stranger. (Invasion of the Cat-People).
As a child, Polly lived in Hampshire and had a Golden Retriever named Belle. (Lost and Found).
Joining the Doctor
Before meeting the Doctor, Polly was a typical 1960s London twenty-something living in Chelsea. She had a budding career as a model but left when she began to feel exploited by the industry. (The Murder Game). She also fell in love with a boy named Roger who did not love her the way she loved him. Eventually, Roger broke off the relationship. Shortly after, Polly caught him in a new relationship with Lucy Miller. Tired of being exploited, she accepted an offer from her uncle Charles, a supporter of WOTAN and Professor Brett, of a job at the Post Office Tower, (Invasion of the Cat-People) although a part of her regretted leaving the modelling industry for such a monotonous alternative. (The Murder Game).
Polly began working as Professor Brett’s personal assistant and was unhappy that WOTAN‘s typing was faster and more accurate than hers. She had an active social life and enjoyed her time off work. On 20 July, 1966, she took Dodo Chaplet to one of her favourite haunts, the Inferno nightclub, where they met Ben Jackson, who later saved Polly from a drunken patron. They were later joined by the First Doctor, who expected to find Dodo there. Dodo later arrived back at the club, but was now under the control of WOTANN.
Polly’s mind later fell under WOTAN‘s control. She was sent to work at the warehouse, where she was assigned to watch over Ben , who had been captured. However, Polly’s mind resisted WOTAN‘s control long enough for Ben to escape. For punishment, Major Green sent her to Brett’s office, where she assisted Brett and Krimpton with running WOTAN. Ben later freed her just as WOTAN was destroyed by one of its own War Machines.
When Ben and she found the Doctor beside an old police box, Polly told him Dodo would be staying in England. Miffed, the Doctor bid the couple adieu. As they walked away, Polly turned to see the Doctor had used a key to enter the police box. Remembering that Ben had found a key that had earlier fallen out of the Doctor’s cloak, she dragged Ben back to the police box to see if it would fit. They ended up inside the ship just as it took off. (The War Machines)
In his investigation of reports of a series of agent provocateurs known as “the Doctor” who had been involved in numerous unusual incidents, the journalist James Stevens discovered evidence of Polly’s involvement in the C-Day fiasco. (Who Killed Kennedy)
Early travels with the Doctor
The Doctor first took Polly and Ben to 17th century Cornwall, where they ran into smugglers. (The Smugglers)
The Doctor, Polly and Ben later arrived in New York City in the 1890s where four Ovids — being of pure thoughts who travel from world to world in crystal spheres — had become trapped. Their presence caused people’s dreams and nightmares to manifest in reality. The time travellers were able to free the Ovids with the assistance of Harry Houdini. (Smoke and Mirrors)
In Antarctica in December 1986, Polly helped fight off an invasion by Cybermen from Mondas. After these events, the Doctor, exhausted, asked Polly and Ben to get him back to the TARDIS. As the trio took off, the Doctor collapsed and went through his first regeneration. (The Tenth Planet).
On the planet Vulcan, Polly adjusted quickly to the Doctor’s having changed into a new and younger persona, while Ben was less accepting of the change, speculating that an imposter had replaced the Doctor. On Vulcan, Polly and Ben encountered the Doctor’s archenemies, the Daleks. (The Power of the Daleks)
Polly was confident and not afraid to use her feminine wiles to enlist the help of Redcoat Algernon Ffinch while the travellers were in the Scottish Highlands. Polly also encouraged Kirsty McLaren to lure Algernon into a pit, where they took his money, identity disc and a lock of his hair. She struck up a relationship with Ffinch and teased him whenever they met, calling him “Algy”. She realised that he admired her and gave him a kiss goodbye. Polly asked for the young Jacobite piper, Jamie McCrimmon, to come with them in the TARDIS, as she feared for his safety. (The Highlanders) She and Ben came to see Jamie as a younger brother. (The Forbidden Time).
When Polly found herself in Atlantis, she was initially slated to be converted into a Fish Person. The Doctor interrupted the power supply as her operation was about to begin, allowing her to escape Damon’s medical bay and rejoin her friends. She took on the disguise of an Atlantean in a seashell dress. She and Jamie escaped the rising water that flooded Atlantis, fearing that the Doctor and Ben had perished. They were relieved to find that they too had survived. The Doctor then promised them a trip to Mars. Taking off, the TARDIS went out out of control. (The Underwater Menace)
The TARDIS had brought them to the Moon. When the TARDIS crew arrived on the Moonbase in 2070 and faced the Cybermen, Polly soon realised the Cybermen’s plastic parts could be attacked with a mixture of solvents. She thought of the way nail polish was dissolved by nail varnish remover and concocted a mixture including acetone, benzene, ether and epoxy propane to make a substance, called “Cocktail Polly” by Ben, which was shot at the Cybermen with adapted fire extinguishers. (The Moonbase)
After seeing a giant claw as warning about their next destination on the Time scanner the TARDIS landed on what appeared to be a peaceful Colony planet. There Polly and her friends had a makeover much to Polly’s delight and much to the Doctor’s displeasure. However all was not well as the next day Ben became brainwashed and hostile towards his fellow travellers. Polly and the others soon discovered crab like creatures called the Macra had infested the colony and were using the people for their own ends to harvest gas deep underground. Polly and Jamie were also pressganged into harvesting this gas until the Doctor found a way to defeat the Macra. (The Macra Terror)
She was interested in the fact that the TARDIS used many different calendars. The TARDIS had landed near a train station, and she met with Frances who told her about the unknown soldier. After the train that carried the soldier back stopped at the station she tried to stop Frances but couldn’t and ended up on the train. (The Mouthless Dead)
The Doctor decided to teach Ben and Polly how to pilot the TARDIS. After the TARDIS faltered in the vortex, they landed in New Houston. She noticed that what they had been watching on a screen was a funeral. Polly realised that Meg Carvossa was manipulating the figures in order to get more funding from Earth which could be shared out more equally. (The Yes Men)
She became distressed when she realised that the TARDIS had brought her and her friends to Nazi occupied France, this was because her uncle, Randolph Wright, died in the war. The Doctor and Polly met with the resistance who wanted to get them to escape to Spain. (Resistance) She warned Jamie about touching the forcefield that surrounded the TARDIS. The Doctor managed to organise her release as a hostage after the Selachians attacked the bank. (The Selachian Gambit) She didn’t like Casinos when the Doctor landed them in one. She was threatened by a member of the Sidewinder Syndicate when she was found with a time band. (House of Cards)
Arriving in 1648 just after the Roundheads victory in the English Civil War and being separated from her friends, Polly found herself inveigled in a plot to rescue King Charles I from captivity. This plot was ultimately unsuccessful and the King was recaptured by the Roundheads and Polly was reunited with her friends. (The Roundheads)
Polly, Ben, Jamie and the Doctor landed in Kenga, Singapore during World War II. Soon after arriving she saw something the looked like the Grim Reaper. Clive Freeman found them looking around and took them to the local hotel. She got annoyed when the Doctor told her to stay behind when they went to search for the killer in the hotel. After Maggie Bishop was killed she helped the Doctor search for clues. When the Forsaken was attacking her she started chucking the contents of the hotel’s bar at it and ran away from it. (The Forsaken)
Although Polly enjoyed her adventures, she couldn’t hide her desire to return home. After an adventure with the alien Chameleons in 1966, the travellers found the TARDIS had returned to London just before they had departed. With Ben, Polly left the TARDIS and returned to her life, appearing never to have been missing. (The Faceless Ones)
Edward Waterfield, forced by the Daleks to track down the Doctor, originally targeted Polly as part of the plan. He had a photograph of her to identify her. However, when his agent informed him that Polly, as well as Ben, had left the Doctor’s company, Waterfield decided not to involve them further. (The Evil of the Daleks)
Life after the Doctor
At some point, Polly was taken to the Black Archive by UNIT to have her record as a companion of the Doctor taken. Her memories of the visit were subsequently erased and she was sent on her way. (The Day Of The Doctor)
Polly brought home Ben, much to the horror of her parents. Of particular note was her father’s face. (The Five Companions) Ben proposed to Polly in 1966 at the top of the Post Office Tower, which was witnessed unbeknownst to them by the Ninth Doctor and Rose Tyler. (The Love Invasion)
When the time came that Polly and Ben were to move house, Polly feared letting go of the past. After she recalled a time during her travels with the Doctor, Polly spoke to Ben and told him she was ready to let go, and told him she loved him. Afterwards, green feathers fell from the sky, notably from the Angel encountered in the adventure she had previously recalled. (Falling)
Their relationship did not last. They eventually married other people. On New Year’s Eve 1986, Ben and Polly reunited. Having visited the year 1986, they anticipated the arrival of Mondas, the planet of the Cybermen. (Mondas Passing) In 1999, Polly had been manipulated into travelling through time and interfering in history. However, the Second Doctor and Jamie McCrimmon resolved these disturbances, and helped Ben meet Polly once more. They were now both widowed, and admitted their love for each other. (That Time I Nearly Destroyed the World Whilst Looking for a Dress)
By 2009, she worked in a government office. At that time, Polly went onto the Internet to search for others who had known the Doctor. However, Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart had had all information about the Doctor deleted. Nevertheless, they corresponded by e-mail and were joined by another former companion, Thomas Brewster. At first, Polly did not believe that their “respective” Doctors were the same person when she saw a UNIT party photo with the Doctor in his third incarnation. Then they realised they had known him during his first and second incarnations. The three former companions rescued the TARDIS from Garry Lendler and saved the Earth from dying and from a Coffin-Loader, a beast which fed on dying worlds. (The Three Companions) Polly gave a presentation on her experiences with time travel to a disbelieving audience. She hung on to her secretarial Dictaphone recordings of Jamie, which had chronicled their adventure with the Vist. (The Forbidden Time)
Still married to Ben, Polly was later transported to an alternative version of the Death Zone on Gallifrey by Borusa using a Time Scoop. She came into contact with the Fifth Doctor, Ian Chesterton, Steven Taylor, Sara Kingdom and Nyssa.
She was soon caught in the middle of a fight between the Daleks, the Sontarans and a Tyrannosaurus rex. She killed a Sontaran by stabbing her stiletto heel point into his probic vent. Polly voiced her feelings of inadequacy and called herself not courageous, until the Doctor reminded her of having stood up to the Cyber-Leader Krail. Polly and the others expressed their hopes that the Doctor might visit them some day, though they doubted if he ever would. (The Five Companions)
In 2010, Sarah Jane Smith said that Ben and Polly were running an orphanage together in India. (Death of the Doctor)
Polly remained friends with the Doctor on Bookface. She liked some of the Eleventh Doctor’s status updates. (Timeliney Wimey)
When the Cybermen allied with Rassilon to take over history, they manipulated the encounter at the Moonbase leading to the Second Doctor being partially cyber-converted. (Prologue: The Second Doctor)
Polly teased and bantered with those she cared for. She hid her affections, particularly for Ben, behind this façade. She chatted him up when they met and she was still chatting him up when they left the TARDIS. When her friends were in trouble, Polly was completely serious — particularly if Ben was in trouble. Polly would drop the banter and flippancy to work towards practical solutions.
Like the earlier Wright to travel in the TARDIS, she hoped to find her way back to her own time period, thinking, “Please let it be Chelsea, 1966,” when guessing what would be outside the TARDIS doors after it landed on the extinct volcanic island where Atlantis was located. (The Underwater Menace) On the first landing in mid-1960s London, Polly left the Doctor with Ben, just as Barbara had left with Ian Chesterton. (The Faceless Ones)
During their travels together, she and Ben thought of Jamie as being like their “baby brother.” (The Forbidden Time) In the 2000s, she described Jamie as being “brawny and reckless but lovely” and “a bit slow on the uptake” to Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart. (The Three Companions)
Polly had an aptitude for languages, being able to speak Spanish, French and German. (The Underwater Menace)
She was also often called “Poll” by Ben ; this was adapted to “Paul” when she was pretending to be a boy in 17th century Cornwall. (The Smugglers). He also described Polly as “our little dolly-rocker Duchess” (The Smugglers) or simply “the Duchess”.
Behind the scenes
Is “Polly Wright” right?
Like Vicki Pallister before her, Polly’s surname never appeared in any televised episode. “Wright” only came to Polly in stories in other media. The name “Wright” does date back to the character’s creation. The name first appeared in the character breakdown created by Gerry Davis and Innes Lloyd. The audition script read by Anneke Wills and others included the character identifying herself as “Polly Wright” in a telephone conversation with the Doctor. However, the name never made it into the recording of The War Machines. (The First Doctor Handbook) It’s unclear why the surname was dropped, but it could have been because a previous companion, Barbara, had the same last name. Had she been called “Polly Wright” in 1966, viewers might well have wondered whether she was related to Barbara, last seen on television just a year earlier.
The matter became more complicated during the early days of organised fandom in the late 1970s, when the surname “Lopez” was applied to the character. This surname was the result of not one but two misunderstandings, both having to do with Episode 2 of The Faceless Ones. As the cliffhanger to Episode 1 suggested, Anneke Wills was not then playing Polly, but a duplicate of her created by the alien Chameleons. At the start of Episode 2, the Doctor asked Anneke Wills’s character her name. She replied, “Michele Leuppi from Zurich”. This name was later confirmed in the serial’s novelisation.
Fans listening to off-air audio recordings of The Faceless Ones Episode 2 transcribed the name as “Lopez” and believed, for reasons obscure, this was the surname of the real Polly. Subsequently this surname was used by Doctor Who non-fiction author Jean-Marc Lofficier in 1992’s The Universal Databank, in which he referred to her as “Polly Lopez”. In this way, the name “Polly Lopez” came to be used in one of the most prominent Doctor Who reference works at the start of the 1990s.
Then, in a 1993 Myth Makers interview with Nick Briggs, Anneke Wills confided that Polly’s surname was actually “Bettingham-Smith”. However, in her 2007 autobiography Self-Portrait, Wills changed her mind and said that her character had no surname and was simply “Polly”.
The first story to give Polly a surname was Gary Russell’s 1995 Virgin Missing Adventures novel Invasion of the Cat-People. Russell decided to reuse “Wright” from the original audition scripts and character outlines. Since then, “Polly Wright” has been universally used for the character. When Polly next appeared in the 1997 BBC Past Doctor Adventures novels The Murder Game and The Roundheads, both used “Wright”.
The 2009 Big Finish Productions audio story Resistance expanded upon the business of Polly’s surname by revealing that “Bettingham-Smith” was her mother’s maiden name. The story also references the possible relationship to former companion Barbara by having the Second Doctor say that “Wright was a very common name”. Most Big Finish audio stories to feature Polly have listed the character as “Polly Wright” in their cast lists.
▪ In April 2015, Polly was added as a playable character to the game Doctor Who: Legacy. Notably, her initial costume was never actually worn by Polly, it was instead taken from Anneke Wills’ guest appearance as Fran Roeding in the 1966 episode of ITV spy thriller television series, The Saint, entitled “The Helpful Pirate”, which was broadcast in colour in America due to the show being picked up by NBC.
Polly first image in Moonbase, row 2 picture 3, thanks to Classical Gallifrey