This is the final part of a three part series considering the role of the companions in the hit sci-fi programme Dr. Who as it celebrates its 50th anniversary. You can see my views on the companion in the first three Doctors by clicking here. Then go on to see what my views were on those that were with the Doctor from Leela through to Martha Jones by clicking here.
The outstanding companion of New Who is Donna. The relationship between her and the Tenth Doctor struck all the right notes. The comedy, the drama, all made the tragedy of how it ended for her all the more touching. It worked. Of all the companions, she was the one that you wanted to keep travelling most with the Doctor – though it’s a sign of good timing and scripting when you can see one depart where you wanted to see more.
Lots can be said about Amy Pond, but she was a strong companion who evidently grew as she travelled with the Doctor. The dynamic really worked, because it was no longer a love triangle when Rory came on board the TARDIS. Sure there were vestiges of it that seeped over from the end of series five to the beginning of series six, but by The Angels Take Manhattan, everything was as it should have been.
I loved Rory as a companion. He worked far better than Mickey did in his brief excursions. Like Amy we got to see the evolution of Rory in the role and saw the effects of time travel on how he behaved, from a wimp of nurse, to a stronger sort who could look after himself and his wife when it came to tough decision-making. I’d say Rory is the best male companion in the TARDIS since Jamie with the Second Doctor. To be fair, though, Rory doesn’t face that much competition when you consider how nondescript the likes of Adric, Turlough and Mickey turned out to be.
The current incumbent, Clara, has had it tough. She has had to follow a really strong companion team, in a somewhat disjointed season and a significant mystery behind her character. I think, to her credit, she’s had some really strong stories to appear in – like Hide, Journey to the Centre of the TARDIS, Nightmare in Silver and The Name of the Doctor. She’s bright chirpy and a match for the Doctor in not following the stereotypical route in the TARDIS. It will be intriguing seeing how she ends up, and what her dynamic will be with the Twelfth Doctor.
The likes of Captain Jack and River Song are different types of companion. They may have been on the odd adventure with the Doctor, but they were hardly companions. This is just like I wouldn’t call Jackie, Rose’s Mum, a companion although she was on the TARDIS in the finale of series 4.
In this brief jaunt over the companions things that appear obvious to me are the following:
- The more companions on the TARDIS the harder it is for any one of them to stand out.
- The best combinations tend to be the Doctor with one companion.
- The challenge remains to write a decent male companion to the Doctor who is connected directly to him, not through another companion.
Strong companions are those who still ask the Doctor the key questions, but in a way that brings out a good relationship with the Doctor, without it becoming ‘complicated’.
The Twelfth Doctor offers a chance to return to a different dynamic of relations between the Doctor and the companion. It need not be the love-interest thing anymore. It could revert to some of the strengths of the Seventh Doctor’s one with Ace. It’s a great writing and acting challenge for whoever gets to take it on.
I’m not endeared to the ‘he must not travel alone’ ethos that has been the standard for New Who. If the Doctor needs humans to do what’s right, it detracts from the mystery of his alien nature – he should be fine on his own. Having said that, I hope, however, that companions for the future make travelling with the Doctor the dangerous, exhilarating and personally fulfilling adventure it can be at its best.
C. L. J. Dryden