Doctor Who ’70s legend returns for cameo – and breaks down

June Hudson makes an incredible return to Doctor Who in The Devil's Chord.

Doctor Who '70s legend returns for cameo – and breaks down

*Warning: Spoilers for Doctor Who season 14 episode 2, The Devil's Chord, ahead.*

A frisson of recognition rocked around Doctor Who fandom when June Hudson popped up in the trailer for the new season – screaming at some unseen horror.

In episode two, The Devil’s Chord, she plays a lonely old woman menaced by the new villain Maestro (Jinkx Monsoon).

Hudson was already Doctor Who royalty for her time as a BBC costume designer. In the 1970s and '80s, she created clothes for Tom Baker’s Doctor as well as his companions, Time Lady Romana (played by Mary Tamm and Lalla Ward) and air-hostess Tegan (Janet Fielding).

In 2003, she designed a brand-new costume for Baker commissioned by Radio Times. “Tom still emails me,” she says fondly.

Doctor Who '70s legend returns for cameo – and breaks down

Tom Baker and June Hudson at a Radio Times photoshoot in 2003. Andy Earl © Radio Times Archive

But in recent decades, Hudson, aged 91, has taken on acting roles, in BBC sitcom This Country, Ricky Gervais’s Derek, Class, and the 2024 comedy film Wicked Little Letters. Now she’s fulfilling her ambition to act in Doctor Who.

“I’d gone for various auditions on Doctor Who,” she tells RadioTimes.com, “including the awful mother on the train in the Egyptian one [Mummy on the Orient Express], but I couldn’t make that because I was lecturing in California".

Doctor Who '70s legend returns for cameo – and breaks down

June Hudson with director Ben Chessell and co-star Jinkx Monsoon on the set of The Devil's Chord June Hudson

Hudson reveals she was offered this latest part without an audition, but her agent nearly turned it down because there was no dialogue.

“The casting director Andy Pryor replied, ‘Well, dialogue isn’t appropriate in this case because it's about a lonely old woman living on her own. It’s a good part and requires a lot of acting. It’s not a walk-on,'" she recalls.

June Hudson with costume designer Pam Downe in her workroom with Maestro's gowns, 20233June Hudson with costume designer Pam Downe in her workroom with Maestro's gowns June Hudson

She filmed her scene in Cardiff in April 2023. “I can never walk into a studio without feeling high. It was a very big studio with lots of little sets, and mine was my living room where I had a piano.

"My character is transfixed by this strange music, raises the piano lid and this frightful monster leaps out. Jinkx Monsoon looking absolutely fabulous as Maestro!

Doctor Who '70s legend returns for cameo – and breaks down

June Hudson at TV Centre in 1987 Patrick Mulkern

“I get murdered, of course,” says Hudson, with delight. “A very gruesome demise. I’m torn to pieces, though you don’t see it on screen. In fact, the role itself required a lot of screaming.”

She enjoyed meeting her modern counterpart, costume designer Pam Downe. “I had the honour of being personally fitted by Pam. She took the time to show me her workroom and all the costumes for Jinkx. Wow, what exquisite clothes! I was lost in admiration.

“It was a very happy day,” says Hudson. “I even had my own trailer, and was introduced to the new Doctor, Ncuti Gatwa, and Millie Gibson [Ruby]. Both so lovely.”

Last October, she was invited to a sound studio in London to rerecord her wailing in sync with the edited sequence: “They wanted much, much louder screams! It was overwhelming, really, to be trusted on the show as an actor. I thought, ‘I do not want to regret not giving my all’ – to Doctor Who above all.”

Doctor Who returns to BBC One and iPlayer on Saturday 11th May 2024.

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