At the end of the first day we had to film a scene where David and I run out of the school gym. Some things never change, I thought. Doctor Who has - and always had - more haring around than Challenge Anneka. Anyway, we just had to bolt straight forward and turn really quickly out of the door. Pretty simple stuff, really. Unless you’re on a polished parquet floor, wearing heeled boots.
We shot off on cue. In his trademark pumps, David stuck to the floor like glue. But I didn’t! As I went for the turn, I felt my standing leg slip away followed by the sound of something going ‘snap’.
‘Christ!’ I said, clutching my thigh. It felt as if I’d been shot.
‘Lis, are you all right?’ David asked, instinctively reverting to his natural Scottish accent.
‘I’m fine, it’s OK.’
But it wasn’t. I struggled on but I couldn’t put any weight on that side and I knew in my heart I needed to go to hospital. As soon as my scenes ended I fell into my car and was driven to A&E. When the doctors said I had destabilised my pelvis and torn my quad I just wanted to cry. Back in my hotel that night my thoughts turned as black as my leg. They’re going to hate me if I ruin this. What choice was I leaving them? They’d written a whole show for me, gone to the trouble of making a very specific link between modern Who and the classic series. And now, like a silly old woman, I was about to wreck everything. You don’t let people do all this for you then bleed on them! I admit, I’ve had better nights.
Eventually I decided the only thing to do was to play it down - I owed it to the team. As soon as people started worrying about me, they wouldn’t be focused on their own jobs (it’s human nature) and then the show would suffer. David already had enough on his plate without me adding to it and the last thing anyone needed was headlines saying ‘geriatric assistant ruins comeback’. So, if anyone asked I’d be just ‘sore’. If you look at the programme again, you can see Rose’s boyfriend, Mickey, occasionally helping me around. And if you look really closely, you can see one of my thighs is twice the size of the other! I don’t know how I got those jeans on and off.
During the final goodbye scene with David, walking up those park steps to the TARDIS, I was dying with every step. But I made it and I got my lines out. Job done! Then I got the call from James, ‘Can you go up a bit more quickly?’. The tears were seconds away. I’ll be lucky to get up them at all.
In hindsight, if I’d been honest, maybe we could have done it differently but the script was written and I didn’t want to be the one to change it. This was the team’s third episode together. Billie and David were just getting established - they needed to be thinking about each other, not me.
As a result, I must have come across as a mad woman - I couldn’t focus on anything apart from my leg. I remember sitting next to David between takes. He was so charming, just nattering about this and that before going on to ask about how it felt for me being there. He said, ‘It must be really strange for you coming back after all the other Doctors?’ And all the while I was screaming inside at the pain. Everything he threw at me I answered with a strained ‘Hmm’, ‘Yes’ or just a bit of nodding. He said he’d been a fan since he was a kid - I bet he wasn’t by the end of that!
It was the same with Billie. On her first day on set we were gearing up to do some more running, or limping in my case, and she said, ‘Oh, what did your character used to wear?’ My head was all over the place so I managed to spit out something like, ‘Oh yes, a funny skirt’, but it came out a bit off, really. I’m sure Billie must have thought I was a little dim."
— Elisabeth Sladen’s autobiography (via burntlikethesun)
The best week of my life.