The Doctor Who Girl 17: Melanie

Melanie Bush, who traveled with the Colin Baker and Sylvester McCoy Doctors in 1986-87, has not gone down in history as one of the great Doctor Who girls, even though she was played by one of relatively few actresses in the role to have gone on to a durable and high-profile career.

She was devised by the producer, John Nathan-Turner, who wrote an outline describing her as ‘scintillating, fascinating and irritating’ – only the last of which actually means anything definite in character terms. He was preoccupied with variety in hair color among the series regulars, and it has been said that his prime objective was for her to have red hair. And he was very publicity-conscious, and knew how to court press attention using star casting, especially of performers from the world of light entertainment.

All of this pointed unerringly in the direction of red-headed Bonnie Langford, then best known as a rather annoying child star, even though, by the time she was cast in Doctor Who, she had become a 21-year-old dancer with a solid grounding in musical theater.

She had worked with many stars, some of whom had significant pedigrees. For instance, she spent some time on Howard Keel’s knee,

and did quite a lot of dancing with Wayne Sleep.

And if you don’t see what I’m getting at there, here are two other roles played by Keel and Sleep in, respectively, 1953 and the 1980s.

Sorry, I don’t have a photo of Laura Connor being spanked by Wayne Sleep’s Widow Simone, but hopefully you get the point…

Hopefully you also realize that this is nothing more than a mildly amusing coincidence; but the centrality of showbiz in Bonnie Langford’s profile is a lot more than that. It was telling that the publicity for her forthcoming Doctor Who role had at least as much to do with her current stage role, Peter Pan, with chubby Colin Baker forced to join her on kirby wires for the photographers.

And that’s because the point of her casting was for the new Doctor Who girl to be Bonnie Langford, well-known star of musical theater, far more than she was to be a character named Melanie Bush played by a red-haired actress.

Here’s where we pick up the point that Nathan-Turner’s character outline said very little about the actual character, the things that would make her a viable dramatic role over and above the traditional Doctor Who girl functions of asking questions and screaming at the monsters. Instead, there’s a dose of twee Englishness for the American market: she comes from a Sussex village named Pease Pottage.

And to show that the venerable Doctor Who series is really up-to-date and with-it, there’s a grab-bag of mid-1980s fads: she works as a computer programmer (never once mentioned on screen) and she’s a keep-fit fanatic.

It’s all very superficial, but at least that last element could have provided some pleasing visuals.

And to an extent, it did. In the 1987 story ‘Paradise Towers’, Melanie is fixated on taking a swim in a penthouse pool, making her one of only two Doctor Who girls ever to appear in modern swimwear (the other being her immediate predecessor, Peri).

She’s also, incidentally, the only one pre-2005 to appear in her pajamas.

And her obsession with aerobics and a healthy diet created a relationship of mild animosity with Colin Baker’s overweight Doctor. On screen, this produced cringeworthy scenes of forced exercise and carrot juice, but it also provided the basis for one of the very best pieces of Doctor Who spanking fan fiction, ‘A Race through Dim Places’, written by Rutan in the mid-1990s. What’s great about it is that it’s such a perfectly judged character piece, rather than merely a vehicle for a spanking scene. It starts with the Doctor discovering that Melanie has reset the TARDIS food machine to serve a healthy and wholly unappetizing menu. A chase ensues, and here’s the climax:

Mel tripped lightly into view, casting the occasional amused glance back over her shoulder. He was irritated to see that she didn’t appear particularly fatigued, though the sweat stains on her leotard were larger than previously. Hearing no pursuit she halted to retie the laces of her shocking pink training shoes, and readjust her stripy leggings. As she bent over the Doctor got a close‑up view of her pert buttocks and the lycra that was tautly stretched over them. An idea came to him instantly. He leapt from concealment and seized Mel around the waist. Her piercing scream of mingled surprise and shock almost made him drop her again, but gritting his teeth he dragged her over his knee and proceeded to wallop that inviting behind.

“Doctor! Ow! You scared the… ow… life out of me. Yow!” Mel’s headband slipped off as she flinched with each blow, and her freed hair ballooned out, forcing the Doctor to peer through a red curtain at her struggling form.

“I. Will. Not. Have. Any. One. Alter. The. TARDIS. Machines. Without. Supervision,” he almost shouted, punctuating each word with the smack of his palm on Mel’s rounded derriere. After he ran out of complaints he noticed that Mel was no longer squealing at each blow, but was simply shuddering on his lap. Instantly he stopped. Had he gone too far? Was she hurt? Carefully he lifted her to her feet, peering anxiously at her face through the disarray of her ginger mane. She was struggling to stop laughing!

“Sorry about all that, Doc. It was the only way I could think of to get you doing some exercise!”

(You can read the whole story here; the spanking itself has been lightly rewritten from the above version.)

So the relationship works well in spanking terms, which is a major plus from our point of view: Mel may not be much of a character, but at least she’s very spankable.

But let’s return to the visual opportunities arising from her interest in exercise. The fact is that the pictures of Bonnie in a stripey leotard shown earlier have nothing to do with her Doctor Who character: they’re from her own 1984 book Fun Fitness. Some fans hopefully imagined Mel appearing in something similar:

But no, what Melanie Bush wears when she goes to the gym is, with a marked lack of plausibility:

It boils down to the fact that one thing they didn’t want Melanie to be was sexy: Peri’s revealing outfits were felt in some quarters to have gone too far, so Mel’s slighter, less womanly figure was pointedly covered up most of the time. Even the swimsuit scenes are strikingly chaste, and there are no views from the back.

The irony is is that Bonnie Langford is not a performer with inhibitions.

In 2002, she was pleased and flattered by a review of Sandi Toksvig’s play Big Night Out at the Little Palace Theatre, about a trio of usherettes at a fleapit that is closing down.

What the reviewer said about her was:

It tells you something about this show that Langford spent much of the first half with the back of her skirt tucked into her knickers, showing off the best bum since Kylie Minogue’s.

That part of her got some more attention four years later when she was a contestant in the 2006 series of the celebrity dance show with a difference, Dancing On Ice.

We’re especially interested in a routine for which she was a little more covered up,

because it included this bottom-smacking moment:

So to sum up, Melanie Bush may not have been the greatest of Doctor Who girls, but she’s undoubtedly one with a strong potential to be spanked.

And there’s one person who can do something about that.

No, that’s not who I mean. Who else but Texas Jim?

The series continues here.

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