Here begins the start of a three part series looking at the importance of the role of the companion in Dr. Who.
Dr. Who is about lots of things – the TARDIS, the villains, the different worlds, the adventures and of course the Doctor. The set-up, especially in the latest run of the programme, has someone equally as important as the lead guy to help us with the story – the companion.
Getting the companion right in any adventure series is something that has to be measured just right. Make them too sycophantic and it ruins the piece and they are somewhat redundant as our eyes and ears into the story. Make them too strong and you question why they become a companion to the main person.
Unlike Sherlock Holmes, where the character of Watson is a good constant, Dr. Who is far too sprawling – walking in eternity as he does – to just have the one companion. So inevitably over the course of the 50 years he’s been on television and the 11 incarnations he’s experienced (John Hurt is not The Doctor, he is The Warrior), quite a number of folks have had a stint asking him to explain narrative points for our benefit.
On reflection of my viewing experience of watching Dr. Who both the classic and the new episodes. Getting the companion right, really is a fine art. The Hartnell companions after Barbara and Ian are much of a muchness. The combination of Troughton and Hines as the Second Doctor and Jamie was a great partnership, and whoever travelled with them reinforced the great combination.
Pertwee’s companions were interesting, three women of differing intelligence and spikiness. You could argue Jo Grant was a stereotypical perspective of a Dr. Who companion namely being pretty to look at and sufficiently lacking in intellect to require her to ask the right questions on behalf of the audience. Yet there were clear elements of Jo being someone who grew as she knew. She was not a bimbo at all, and it’s a shame that she’s sometimes viewed as rather two-dimensional.
The quintessential companion to the Doctor who has had the chance to span both classic and new series is Sarah-Jane Smith. Her dynamic with Pertwee was good, but it remains with Tom Baker that the ideal combination of the clever Doctor and the companion who could bring him down a peg or two came in. I think the role of a journalist was good in making her feisty, fearless and as curious as her friend – and like Jamie and the Second Doctor, they came across as good friends. Not Doctor and his assistant.
Find out more about my views on the companions of the Doctor in the second part of this companion piece series.
C. L. J. Dryden