On the surface, traveling with the Doctor seems like a dream. As the Fifteenth Doctor said, you don’t have to worry about a job, boss, bills, or anything else that stresses the average human. You can fill your life with adventures and go practically anywhere in the TARDIS. But, as fans of the show know, life as a companion can get really complicated and downright sad. In the show’s more recent seasons, we’ve seen several companions go through the wringer in different ways. Sometimes, it is permanent, like Bill Potts’ sad ending. But even when it doesn’t last, seeing bad things happen to the Doctor’s friends is distressing. 

old Clara, Ruby, and Amy in Doctor Who
BBC/Bad Wolf Studios/Disney+

The Doctor’s current companion, Ruby Sunday, went through a timeline where she lost everyone she loved and spent 65 years being stalked by an older version of herself. We watched her go through an entire lifetime trying to solve a mystery without the Doctor. The worst part is, this isn’t the first time that a Doctor Who companion got left (or separated) from the Doctor and got older while waiting for their return. Here are a couple other companions who went through a similar experience. 

Amy Pond – “The Girl Who Waited”

Eleventh Doctor companion Amy Pond has a rather unique relationship with the Doctor. She met him as a child and grew up talking about her imaginary friend in the blue box who promised to come back soon. He did return, but it was years later when she was an adult and preparing to marry Rory Williams (who became a companion, too), and they began to travel.

Later on, in “The Girl Who Waited,” she got separated from the Doctor and Rory in a quarantine facility on a foreign planet. Time passed much quicker there, leading to her being there for 36 years. We meet an older Amy and the Doctor has to leave her behind to save younger Amy to avoid a paradox. Once again, Amy (or at least a version of her) had to wait a long time for the Doctor’s return.

Amy and Rory eventually leave the TARDIS after a Weeping Angel sends them back in time. The Doctor cannot reach them and we learn that they die of old age, together. What a wild journey.

Rory Williams – “The Doctor’s Wife” and “The Angels Take Manhattan”

Speaking of Rory and those Weeping Angels, we do get to see an older Rory in “The Angels Take Manhattan.” Before it all ends, Rory ends up in Winter Quay, a hotel full of aging people who are being used by the Weeping Angels to zap their time energy. Amy and Rory go through extreme measures to free Rory from this imprisonment but we do see him in there in old age.

Before all of this, “The Doctor’s Wife” shows poor Rory getting trapped in a TARDIS maze where his timeline speeds up quickly while trying to escape. Amy finds him and he is older and hysterical. Thankfully, this time conundrum works itself out as the episode progresses.

Clara Oswald – “Last Christmas”

We love a weird Christmas episode. “Last Christmas” is a dream-within-a-dream-within-a-dream type of story. It is, well, about crabs that latch onto your face and force you into dreams while they devour your brain. Fantastic. This happens to the Twelfth Doctor’s companion Clara Oswald, who ends up with a crab on her face so long that she appears elderly. She says 62 years have passed. Of course, the Doctor gets Clara back as a young person and she decides to continue traveling with him. 

Sarah Jane Smith – “School Reunion”

Now this one is quite different. Instead of everything happening in an episode or two, this legitimately takes decades. Sarah Jane Smith is one of the most beloved Classic Who companions who spent time with the Third and Fourth Doctors. In the 1976 serial “The Hand of Fear,” The Fourth Doctor is summoned to his home planet of Gallifrey and says she cannot go with him. He drops her off on Earth (in the wrong place) and goes off in the TARDIS. Sarah makes an appearance in an anniversary story in 1983. But, because of timey wimey things, Sarah ends up going back to her life investigating weird things on Earth with K9, a robot dog.

Thirty years after her initial exit, Sarah Jane crosses paths with the Tenth Doctor. It is a reunion that causes tension between her and his current companion Rose Tyler. Sarah Jane is upset that he never came back for her all those years. Rose is upset that the Doctor could be so close to someone and just leave them. And the Doctor is stuck in the middle. For Sarah Jane, there was no timeline reversal or different versions of her. It was simply having to wait and wonder for years and years while getting older. 

Sometimes, traveling with the Doctor can lead to years of heartbreak, pain, and longing, indeed.