Born: 29th June 1943
Maureen O'Brien originally trained at the Central School of Speech and Drama to be a drama teacher. After earning her diploma in 1964, she returned to her home city of Liverpool. There she helped found the Everyman Theatre, for which she worked as an assistant floor manager and took minor acting roles. Harry Moore, one of O'Brien's instructors at the Central School, had become a BBC story editor and learned that a young actress was being sought to play a new companion, Vicki, in Doctor Who. With Moore's encouragement, O'Brien successfully auditioned for the role, despite having no prior television experience. However, she then grew reticent of the engagement, wary of deviating from the stage career she had envisioned for herself. O'Brien eventually took the job, in part to be with her boyfriend, Michael Moulds, who had relocated to London; they would marry in 1968.
O'Brien first played Vicki in The Rescue, which aired in January 1965. Unfortunately, O'Brien quickly found her Doctor Who experience to be unfulfilling. In July, she aired complaints about her dialogue to producer John Wiles. Unbeknownst to O'Brien, Wiles then decided to write Vicki out of Doctor Who, something the actress discovered only after returning from her summer holidays. O'Brien exited the programme in the final episode of The Myth Makers that November.
What followed was a fallow year for O'Brien's career, driving her to take a job as a substitute teacher. Soon, however, she began to win a number of theatre roles, which in turn led to O'Brien appearing in a number of television plays. She also made two episodes of Z Cars before a serious illness prompted a change of scenery. Moving to Canada, O'Brien appeared in The Whiteoaks Of Jalna for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, and spent a season at the Stratford Festival in Ontario.
Returning to the UK in the mid-Seventies, O'Brien divided her time between the stage, radio and television, with the latter including The Duchess Of Duke Street, The Lost Boys and The Legend Of King Arthur. During the Eighties, she appeared in programmes such as Tales Of The Unexpected, Bergerac and Casualty. She also made rare appearances on the big screen in She'll Be Wearing Pink Pyjamas with Julie Walters and the biopic Zina. As the decade came to a close, O'Brien embarked on a second career as a novelist, having previously written a stage play and a radio script. The first in a series of mystery novels starring DI John Bright was 1989's Close-Up On Death; six additional books would follow, the last being Every Step You Take in 2004.
Even as writing became an increasingly large part of O'Brien's life, she kept up a steady stream of acting engagements. In the Nineties, her appearances included episodes of Cracker, Jonathan Creek and The Bill. Her final televised roles were on Heartbeat and Doctors in 2003. As she eased into retirement, however, O'Brien finally overcame the antipathy she had felt for many years towards Doctor Who. In 2006, O'Brien began recording audio dramas for Big Finish Productions, initially as new characters in both the Doctor Who and Dalek Empire ranges. She then reprised the character of Vicki for the first time in more than forty years, starting with 2007's Frostfire, the initial entry in the long-running The Companion Chronicles strand.
|Updated 18th May 2020|
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