Hello Whovians, and welcome back to ‘New to Who,’ where I, Hello McFly, will be your guide through Doctor Who. Being the last of your kind is a sobering concept to grasp, one the Doctor is unfortunately familiar with (well, until last Christmas, that is). For millennia he traveled the stars in his TARDIS, wandering the vast reaches of time and space as the only Time Lord left in the universe – that would make anyone a bit lonely. So it’s no wonder that he invites others to travel with him to combat the loneliness of being the last of his species.
With the universe at his fingertips he’s bound to pick up a few people who are excited enough (or just plain crazy enough) to travel with a madman in a box. Let’s take a look at the Doctor Who companions.
Back to Basics
A “companion” is someone who travels with the Doctor knowing that he is a humanoid alien – a simple enough description with a very exciting and often dangerous travel package. These companions, often human and female, traverse the universe with the Doctor acting as a surrogate for the audience – whenever there’s a plot or item that that needs to be explained to the viewer, the companion acts as the “unknowing human” so that the Doctor can exposit. While they typically travel side-by-side with the Doctor, they can also travel on their own and meet with the Doctor repeatedly throughout the series. They can also serve a number of different purposes – a moral compass, a savior, and even occasionally a martyr. Nearly all travel with him due to his magnetic and enigmatic personality and the chance to see wonders, often not fully comprehending the risks and weight their choice has on their life and the Doctor’s.
Companions of the Past
There are far, far too many companions to include in one simple overview, so I’ll share some of the most popular companions. If your personal favorite isn’t here, don’t worry – I will give each companion their due in future posts. Now without further ado, it’s time to meet the people that make up the Doctor’s wildly huge and dysfunctional surrogate family.
One of the more unique of the Doctor’s traveling companions, Romana is a fellow Gallifreyan and Time Lady (hence the two images, as she regenerated during the show) assigned to him during his fourth incarnation in his quest for the Key to Time. Unlike most companions, she was his intellectual equal and officially his Superior, becoming the Lady President of the Time Lords at the end of her character’s arc. While a bit mischievous and occasionally snotty, she was kind and reasonable to a fault, even having some romantic stirrings during her second on-screen incarnation. Fun fact – the actress for Romana’s second incarnation Lalla Ward later married Tom Baker, the Fourth Doctor!
At the opposite end of the spectrum is Leela, a fearsome warrior from the tribe Sevateem, a group of regressive humans. While technologically ignorant and naive, she was intelligent and fierce, often saving the Doctor instead of vice versa. Though she was direct and brutally honest, Leela’s characterized by her humor, ferocity and sharp wit. She was a brilliant companion in not only acting as an audience surrogate but learning other things from the Doctor, and even found love on Gallifrey at the end of her character arc.
Captain Jack Harkness
One of the few companions to be so beloved by fans to warrant his own spin-off series, Jack Harkness is a roguish Time Agent and con man whose humor is as diverse and alluring as his romantic ambiguity. Through an incident releasing the TARDIS’ time vortex energy, he became an immortal being stranded in mid 19th century Earth forced to live through the years until he could meet with the Doctor again. During these years and for some after he joined ‘Torchwood,’ resulting in two spin-off series. With time on his side and the charm of a swashbuckling rogue, Captain Harkness won the hearts of fans easily.
Another companion from the New Who era, Donna Noble did not originally choose to join the Doctor on his adventures; she appeared on the TARDIS in a wedding gown confused, angry, and loud after an incident with Huon particles, an evil fiance, and an alien species. In the next season she chose to travel with the Doctor full-time, bringing her brash and vivacious nature to the Doctor when he needed it most after having lost a companion to another dimension. Yet her crass exterior didn’t hide her warm, caring nature, as she brought humanity and empathy with her role. While she left just as jarringly as she arrived, she not only saved the entirety of creation but the Doctor as well during one of his darkest hours.
Sarah Jane Smith
One of the most beloved companions in the history of Doctor Who, Sarah Jane Smith had an impact not only on the Doctor but the future of the show and how it portrayed female companions. An investigative journalist, she was funny, intelligent and fiercely independent in a way no companion had ever been before, daring to go out on her own during their adventures and uncover the truth behind sinister plots. Her cunning and resourcefulness ended up saving the Doctor as many times as he saved her, and her bravery in the face of interstellar threats showed both her fear and her strength to overcome it. She is by far the fan-favorite companion of Doctor Who, and with good reason.
It’s no surprise why people want to travel with the Doctor – the adventures, the intrigue, the wonders to behold. Many have taken a ride in the TARDIS only to never show up again in the series, getting their fill of wanderlust for a lifetime in one time-traveling trip. It’s those who choose to stay, to go beyond the horizon of time and space into the unknown, who stay on the show. It’s not just that they have adventures but who they have adventures with – they befriend the madman alien with a blue box against all reason. In traveling with him they learn the immense weight of responsibility and loneliness that the Doctor bears and help him through his most trying times. Ultimately, that is what gives them the title of ‘companion.’
Sorry if your favorite companion wasn’t mentioned above (then again, if I took the time to write on every last one I’d be as old as Jack Harkness), but fear not – every companion has their day. If your companion isn’t listed above, post a reply on who your favorite is and why. The companion with the most mentions will be the first to get their own fully-realized blog post!
Until next time, Whovians – time travel responsibly!