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Doctor Who For Newbies: The Companions, Part Four

by on April 20, 2012

After 26 seasons from 1963 to 1989, Doctor Who was cancelled. But you can’t keep a good Time Lord down: After seven years off the air, a TV movie was produced in 1996, shown on both the BBC and FOX, though a series was not in the cards. Then, after a further nine years, Russell T. Davies officially brought the series back, which you may have heard is currently filming its seventh series. I’m sure most of you will be familiar with these companions, but for the sake of completeness, I’ll talk about them. The first six years of the new series had about as many companions as there were in the original series’ first six years, so best to just tuck in.

Played by Daphne Ashbrook
1 Story
Grace was the de facto companion for the TV movie. She has the strange distinction of actually being the one who triggers the Doctor’s regeneration. The Seventh Doctor is shot by Chinese gangsters immediately upon landing in San Francisco and Grace was the opera-loving cardiologist who didn’t listen to the Doctor about not using anesthesia, which kills the Doctor and holds off the regeneration until much later. The Eighth Doctor is a bit amnesiac when he awakens in the morgue and finds Grace for help. Talk about Stockholm Syndrome. For only having one adventure, Grace certainly made it a doozy, helping the Doctor prevent the Master from opening the Eye of Harmony and destroying the Earth. Grace also shares the Doctor’s first on-screen romantic kiss, something which caused more than a little bit of a stir in the fandom community.  The Doctor asked Grace to come with him but she declined. It’s just as well; we wouldn’t have gotten to see any of their further adventures anyway.

Played by Billie Piper
30 Episodes (ish)
Rose Tyler was a 19 year old shop girl who ran into some Autons whilst looking for her boss after hours. Luckily, she was saved at the last minute by the Ninth Doctor. The Doctor was damaged, having destroyed his entire race in order to destroy the Daleks (didn’t take, sadly), and it was Rose who softened him and made him see that being alone wasn’t the best. Rose’s family gets a much larger story than any companion had to date. Her mother, father, and boyfriend all featured prominently in the storylines and it’s Rose’s desire to travel with the Doctor and the way her family reacts to it that create much of the drama in Series 1.  In order to save the Doctor from the Daleks, Rose absorbs the heart of the TARDIS and obliterates the shrill, metal bastards (not to mention giving Capt. Jack his little death allergy). The Doctor is forced to absorb the energy into himself through kissery in order to save her and this causes his regeneration. Rose develops romantic feelings for the Doctor that only get compounded when he becomes the Tenth Doctor. Eventually, Rose is pulled and sealed into a parallel dimension during a run-in with the Cybermen and Daleks and she seems never to return. Fortunately, she finds a way back through in order to help the Doctor fight the Daleks yet again, and even gets a human version of the Doctor to take home for herself. All in all, a pretty good parting gift.

Played by Bruno Langley
2 Episodes
Russell T. Davies made some amazing decisions in his 2005 reboot, but combining the irritating know-it-allness of Adric with the superfluocity of Kamelion wasn’t one of them. Working for greedy American billionaire Van Staten, Adam was one of a small number of employees not to get exterminated. He and Rose made googly eyes at each other and she convinces the Doctor to take Adam with them. In the next story, he defies the Doctor’s explicit instructions and gets his brain upgraded so he can take in heaps and gobs of information through a big hole in his skull. The Doctor, of course, kicks him to the curb immediately, taken back home to terrify his mom, and he’s never seen again. Good use of screen time, Russell.

Played by John Barrowman
10 Episodes
“Captain” Jack Harkness is a 51st Century omnisexual former time agent and con artist who met the Doctor and Rose in 1941 during the London Blitz when he tried to sell them a Chula ambulance full of stupid nanogenes (“The Empty Child/The Doctor Dances”). He comes along with them to finish out the series and is eventually exterminated by the Daleks, only to come back to life all kinds of immortal thanks to Bad Wolf Rose. He gets his own spinoff series, Torchwood, where we find out all kinds of crazy and kinky stuff about his life and past, like being buried for hundreds of years and having been brutally murdered a whole heap. He eventually returns to join the Doctor and his new companion (Martha) when they come to Cardiff to refuel and he sends them to the very end of the universe, where they meet a kindly old man who happens to be the Master in human form. Jack is captured and of course tortured a bunch, but eventually everything works out and he’s free to rejoin his Torchwood cronies. It’s implied that Jack may eventually get so old that he becomes the Face of Boe and lives in a jar. Jack eventually returns again to help the Doctor and every companion ever (except Adam) destroy the Daleks yet again, but with Davros this time. Whether Jack returns to Doctor Who is uncertain, but he’s got plenty of time now that it looks like Torchwood won’t be back any time soon.

Played by Noel Clarke
5 Episodes (as Companion)
Mickey was Rose’s boyfriend and could be modestly described as “clingy.” He’s jealous of the Rose’s relationship with the Doctor and the fact that she’s gone for long stretches of time. When she initially leaves, she doesn’t return for a year and Mickey is suspected of murdering her. Eventually, after meeting past companions Sarah Jane Smith and K-9, Mickey decides he wants to be part of the team officially. In only his second adventure with the Tenth Doctor and Rose, they go to a parallel dimension where they fight the Cybermen. He sees that in this universe, his grandmother isn’t dead and his counterpart, called “Ricky” here for some reason, is a resistance fighter helping to liberate the world from the control of Cybus Industries and their mind controlling ear piece things. When Ricky dies, Mickey decides to stay in the alternate universe and take up his fallen self’s mantle. He returns to this universe to help stop the Cybermen and Daleks and seal the tear in the universe forever… at least, until he, Rose, and Jackie Tyler come back to again stop the Daleks. Instead of going back to the alternate universe this time, he goes off with Martha and Captain Jack and in one of the billion denouements in “The End of Time,” it’s revealed that Mickey and Martha have gotten married and fight Sontarans with big guns together.

Played by Catherine Tate
2006 Special, 2008-2009
16 Episodes
Donna initially appeared suddenly in the TARDIS on Christmas, which was also her wedding day. Turns out her no-good fiancé was working for a giant spider monster. Happens to the best of us, Donna. She initially turns down the Doctor’s offer to join the TARDIS, but spends the next year looking for him. Eventually, they find each other again and they have grand adventures as friends. Donna keeps the Doctor morally in check and convinces him to save one family from the volcano of Pompeii, a thing he could not prevent. Donna is very brassy and loud and can come across as abrasive, but she’s one of the most kindhearted and compassionate companions ever. While she never thinks much of herself, Donna eventually becomes one of the most important people in the universe, as she joins with the Doctor’s hand-full-of-regeneration to create “The Doctor-Donna,” and she alone basically saves the entire universe from Davros’ Reality Bomb. A major downside of this is that the Doctor is forced to wipe her mind of every memory of her time with him in order that her brain doesn’t explode from all the knowledge.  Not since Jamie and Zoe has a companion’s ending been as sad. She eventually gets married to a good man and the Doctor goes back in time to get her now-deceased father to buy her a winning lottery ticket as a wedding gift.

Played by Freema Agyeman
18 Episodes
Martha is a young medical student who meets the Doctor when the Judoon send the hospital they’re both in to the moon to retrieve a fugitive. The Doctor initially doesn’t want a new fulltime companion, despite them working quite well together, but he does allow her one trip in the TARDIS, though it becomes three. She immediately fancies the Doctor, but because he is who he is, and he’s still hung up on Rose, he treats her rather poorly in this department. She perhaps spends the most non-televised time with the Doctor, traveling with him to 1913 and becoming a maid while the Doctor turns himself human to avoid being detected by “The Family of Blood,” then getting trapped in the 1960s and forced to get another job thanks to the Weeping Angels. She also spends a year forming an underground resistance against the Master in what eventually becomes an aborted timeline. After leaving the Doctor, Martha becomes a doctor herself and joins UNIT as their scientific advisor. She joins the Doctor and Donna in adventures against the Sontarans and even sees the creation of the Doctor’s clone-daughter, Jenny. Martha also has a few adventures with Torchwood, a couple of which are even watchable.  She marries Mickey, for no reason other than it’s the least credible pairing since Leela and Andred. Yes, that was an Invasion of Time reference.

Played by Alex Kingston
11 Episodes (as companion, it’s unclear)
One of the strangest companions ever, River Song still has yet to be seen as a fulltime companion, if ever she will be. Meeting the Doctor almost routinely out of order, usually in reverse order, the Doctor first meets her on her final adventure with him. She knows all about him, the TARDIS, has a sonic screwdriver, and even knows his real name. She gets killed by the Vashta Nerada; However, the Doctor is able to upload her mind into the Library Planet’s databanks.  We eventually discover that she is the offspring of the Doctor’s future companions, Amy Pond and Rory Williams, who, having been conceived aboard the TARDIS, gained the ability to regenerate, though she donated all of her remaining lives to save the Doctor. She has been programmed, since birth, by the fanatical group called The Silence, to kill the Doctor, though she no longer wishes to. She marries the Doctor in an aborted timeline. She is involved in some of the Eleventh Doctor’s most dangerous and world-shattering adventures, including the Weeping Angels, the Pandorica, the TARDIS exploding, the Silence, etc. We don’t know if and when she’ll be back, but it’s pretty clear her history with the Doctor has not all been uncovered.

Played by Various People
During the specials, the Doctor had a different companion each time. Donna started as a one-off companion in “The Runaway Bride,” but eventually became a fulltimer. Some of the Doctor’s other one-offs include the ill-fated Astrid Peth (Kylie Minogue) in “Voyage of the Damned”, Jackson Lake (David Morrissey) in “The Next Doctor”, Lady Christina de Souza (Michelle Ryan) in “Planet of the Dead,” and the also-ill-fated Adelaide Brooke (Lindsay Duncan) in “Waters of Mars.” The Tenth Doctor’s final companion is Donna’s grandfather Wilfred Mott (played by the brilliant Bernard Cribbins) in the two-part “The End of Time,” though he’d appeared in several episodes already. As with any of the one-offs, their official companiondom is in question, though they serve the function of the companion in terms of the story. It could be argued that both Kazran Sardick and Abigail from “A Christmas Carol” are companions, as they both spend a lot of time with the Doctor even though that only spans one onscreen adventure. Similarly, the members of the Arwell family could be argued as companions in “The Doctor, the Widow, and the Wardrobe.” Splitting hairs, really. Still, of any of these one-offs, Wilfred has the most right to be called a companion.

Played by Karen Gillan and Caitlin Blackwood (young Pond)
28 episodes (though it’ll end up being 32 after series 7)
Amelia was a little girl when the newly regenerated Eleventh Doctor crash-landed in her garden. She had been praying to Santa to send someone to help with the crack in her wall (that ended up being the crack in time and space). The Doctor agrees to take the little girl with him, but because the TARDIS is all haywire, he is forced to leave for five minutes, which ends up being twelve years. The Doctor returns to find Amy, as she is now called, a grown up with a lot of psychiatrists in her past. She, as the Doctor puts it, makes no sense as she lives in a huge house all alone. She also has no memory of the Daleks invading or of anything that she should have seen from being alive in the UK for the last several years. After two more years of waiting, she becomes an official companion, neglecting to tell the Doctor that she’s getting married in the morning. Amy is one of the most erratic companions, being clever and competent in some episodes and flighty and disinterested in others. She nevertheless is compassionate and loyal, though she doesn’t always treat Rory very well. She finally marries Rory after remembering the Doctor back to existence and is at some point replaced by a Flesh duplicate after getting pregnant with Melody-Mels-River. She stops traveling with the Doctor after he’s forced to shake her faith in him and goes off to live with Rory. Amy is set to depart the show in the first five episodes of series 7.

Played by Arthur Darvill
20 episodes (though it’ll end up being 25 after series 7)
Initially appearing as Amy’s doofusy nurse boyfriend, and then fiancé, Rory has had one of the best arcs of a companion in a while. While his devotion for Amy is unflinching, he has come into his own as a brave and noble companion. He also is one of the few companions who doesn’t really want to be one. If given the choice, he’d gladly go back to living a normal, peaceful life with Amy, but he goes along with to be with her.  And he’s paid for it. He’s been disintegrated in a dream world, shot by a reptile lady, erased from existence, made to kill the woman he loved as an Auton, chose to guard a prison box for 2000 years, been healed to death by an alien Doctor, had his wife and child turn out to be Flesh, and been forced to erase an alternate version of his wife from existence; dude deserves a break. He’s also one of the few who has dared call the Doctor on his shit, especially in “The Girl Who Waited,” in which he accused the Doctor of trying to make Rory like him. Rory is set to leave the show during series 7 along with Amy. One can hope for a happy ending for these two, but that doesn’t usually make for good drama. We’ll have to see.

All right, phew… that is all of the companions from televised Doctor Who up to this point.  We know that in this year’s Christmas special, Jenna Louise Coleman will join Matt Smith in the TARDIS, but we do not know who she’ll be playing. Odds are she’ll have an interesting story. For the show to have lasted as long as it has there needed to have been some new blood once in awhile; that’s the beauty of the show. Let’s hope Ms. Coleman’s character will be more Sarah Jane and less Adric.

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