And so the last vestiges of the First Doctor’s era are swept away as Ben and Polly depart the TARDIS and, eventually, apparently, wind up in India.
Ben Jackson and Polly Wright were two characters who were very much of their time and place. Polly was a swinger in the 1960s term, working at a swinging bar, and living in swinging London, in 1966. Ben was a Royal Navy sailor who thought of himself as a bit of a ladies man and was happy to get into a scrape or two.
The two made a very excellent pairing, and played well together, especially when alongside Hartnell’s more dowdy and dour First Doctor. They presented a very youthful and vibrant contrast to him; even more so than previous younger companions, like Steven and Vicki, or Steven and Dodo.
Sadly, they weren’t as much of a fit with the more wonky and crazy Second Doctor, and once Jamie turned up in the Second Doctor’s second story, they were relegated to near-permanent background status. This is a shame, as there was still much that could be done with the characters. But perhaps the TARDIS was simply too crowded; it wouldn’t have this many passengers in it until late in the Fourth Doctor’s time.
The real shame is the way the characters exited the show. They were shown the door at the end of episode two of “The Faceless Ones”, and though they did appear briefly in a farewell at the end of the story, it was still kind of annoying how much they were gone in that story.
Anneke Wills largely retired from acting after playing Polly, as did Michael Craze with Ben. Both had a few minor roles in TV, but nothing major. Wills went on to become something of a spiritual-type of person, even spending time living at Rajneespurum, a name familiar to anyone in the Pacific Northwest in the early 1980s. As for Craze, he spent time managing a pub and appearing at various conventions before dying surprisingly young in 1999.
Wills has turned to the role of Polly through Big Finish. The character of Ben continues with Big Finish as well, having been recast. I must say it’s nice to have them both back.
In the end Ben and Polly aren’t given quite as much love by the fans as they might have been. The fact that only a couple of their stories remain intact is, I feel, a large part of this. But what we have of them shows two rather wonderful characters that I can’t help but like.