TRIBUTES have been paid to former Doctor Who companion Deborah Watling, who has died following a short battle with cancer, aged 69.

The actress was best known for her role as Victoria Waterfield – the companion of second doctor Patrick Troughton in the BBC’s long-running sci-fi series Doctor Who.

Deborah, who lived in Thorpe-le-Soken with husband Steve Turner, was diagnosed with lung cancer just six weeks ago. She passed away on Friday.

She was the daughter of 1940s and 50s film star Jack Watling and actress Patricia Hicks and sister of actress Dilys Watling and Clacton MP Giles Watling.

“She was bubbly, vivacious, with a great sense of humour," said Giles.

“We grew up together – she was ahead of me in the acting game. She had a great career.

“We toured together all over the country and shared digs – we had a wonderful life.

“She lived quietly in Thorpe-le-Soken for a few years, but that didn’t stop her from travelling to Doctor Who conventions all over the world.

“She was supposed to be going to New Zealand, but was too poorly.

“In the last week she moved into Beaumont Manor nursing home. She passed away peacefully.”

Clacton and Frinton Gazette: Deborah Watling alongside Patrick Troughton in the BBC’s Doctor Who

  • Deborah Watling alongside Patrick Troughton in the BBC’s Doctor Who

Deborah was born in Loughton on January 2, 1948, and made her first television appearance as a child in an episode of William Tell, before landing the part of Sally Wilson in HG Wells' The Invisible Man.

The following year she made her stage debut in Roar like a Dove at Frinton Summer Theatre before being cast in Dennis Potter's version of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland.

Deborah got her big break in 1967 when she landed the part of Victoria Waterfield in Doctor Who – and appeared opposite her father Jack in two episodes.

Many of Deborah's episodes have since been wiped by the BBC. Only Tomb Of The Cybermen exists in its entirety after being discovered in Hong Kong in 1992.

It was later released on DVD.

After appearing in the hit show, Mrs Watling opened her own boutique but later decided to return to acting, appearing in The Newcomers and and Danger UXB, as well as co-starring with Cliff Richard in Take Me High in 1973. She also appeared in an episode of Rising Damp.

Deborah reprised her role as Victoria Waterfield for a Children In Need short, Doctor Who: Dimensions In Time in 1993 and again in the video Downtime, which also featured her father.

Frinton Summer Theatre’s Ed Max paid tribute to Mrs Watling, who appeared in numerous plays at the theatre over the years.

He said: “She was kind and fun and talented. She was just lovely.

"She worked a lot alongside Giles and her father Jack.

“I have know Deborah since the 80s and even directed her in my first season as a producer in 2004, when she played Mrs Alving in Ghost, which was quite an unusual part for her, but she played it extremely well.

"It’s a sad loss for all of us at Frinton Summer Theatre."

Mr Max added that the repertory theatre would pay tribute to Deborah at its performance this evening.