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Doctor Who For Newbies: The Companions, Part One

With the announcement of a new companion joining Doctor Who during the next series, and because I hadn’t done this yet, I thought it apropos to resurrect “Doctor Who For Newbies” and discuss the various companions who’ve traveled with the Doctor over his many adventures. In an effort to keep you from having to read eleven different posts, I’m going to split it up by decade. But, the companions, by and large, are not very deep characters, so a brief overview will do nicely. And you bet your collective sweet ass I’m going to talk about the controversial choices, the ones where debate rages about whether they are, indeed, companions. That’s half the fun! So, we begin in the 1960s, with the companions of the First and Second Doctor. The First Doctor had the most companions of anyone, so this is going to be fun.

Played by Carole Ann Ford
10 Stories
Susan was the very first companion, since she was travelling with the Doctor when the series began. Susan is the Doctor’s granddaughter, meaning at some point the name “Susan” was in a Gallifreyan Baby Name book. She’s the typical angsty teenager, despite her being an alien, and she represented the youth of Britain. She screamed a lot and fell and twisted her ankle a few times, but she was smart and enjoyed traveling with her teachers, Ian and Barbara. She left at the end of “The Dalek Invasion of Earth” to be with a handsome freedom fighter making her the first companion to depart the show. Susan did return for the 20th Anniversary story, “The Five Doctors,” in 1983, where she promptly falls and twists her ankle.

Played by William Russell
16 Stories
Ian was a science teacher at Coal Hill School, where Susan was a student. He and history teacher Barbara Wright become concerned about Susan and go pay a visit to her address only to end up in a police box that’s bigger on the inside, traveling in both time and space. Ian was the ostensible hero for the first two seasons of the series. The Doctor was initially a mysterious and amoral character and Ian acted as both man of action and barometer of right and wrong. Though he and the Doctor had an adversarial relationship at first, they eventually became firm friends and allies. Ian and Barbara both left after the events of “The Chase” when the Doctor finally returns them to close to the time they left. Relatively.

Played by Jacqueline Hill
16 Stories
Like fellow teacher Ian, Barbara was taken by force through time and space in the TARDIS. Unlike many female companions to follow, Barbara was strong and didn’t do a whole lot of screaming. She was smart and forthright and would often act as mediator to diffuse situations. During “The Aztecs,” she was believed to be the reincarnation of the high priest Yataxa, and tries to use this influence to make the Aztecs give up human sacrifice, thus changing the course of history, something to which the Doctor vehemently objects. Barbara also seemed to find some guy to flirt with on a lot of these adventures. Good for her, although when she and Ian leave the TARDIS at the end of “The Chase,” it’s generally believed that they got together and led a happy life.

Played by Maureen O’Brien
10 Stories
The first “new” companion, Vicki was a 25th Century teenager who was rescued by the Doctor in the story, “The Rescue.” She joined the crew, both in story terms and production terms, to fill the void left by Susan and to give the Doctor someone to look after. She’s very compassionate and friendly and even convinces the Doctor to take Ian and Barbara home during “The Chase.” She eventually leaves the TARDIS, like Susan, after falling in love with a Trojan guy named Troilus during “The Myth Makers,” a story that is entirely missing.

Played by Peter Purves
10 Stories
The crew first meets Steven, a young space pilot from Earth’s future, having crash landed on the planet Mechanus during “The Chase.” While it appeared that Steven perished in the massive fire in Mechanus City, it is revealed in the next story, “The Time Meddler,” that he stowed away aboard the TARDIS in order to escape the whole dying-in-a-fire thing. He’s initially very skeptical of the ship’s ability to travel in time, but he eventually gives in when they, you know, travel through time. Steven, like Ian, took on the role of the action hero, but was much more cynical and disagreed with the Doctor on several occasions, being especially peeved that the Doctor could not prevent the deaths during “The Massacre of St. Bartholomew’s Eve.” During his final story, “The Savages,” which is wholly missing, Steven stays on a far and distant planet to lead the new society of Savages and Elders. Whatever that means.

Played by Adrienne Hill
2 Stories
Katarina was a young Trojan girl who was Cassandra’s handmaiden during “The Myth Makers” and joined the TARDIS crew to fill the spot vacated by Vicki. This was not a good idea at all. The character was not what the producers wanted and so they killed her off during the first third of the 12-part epic “The Daleks’ Master Plan” after appearing in a total of five episode, only one of which exists.

Played by Jean Marsh
1 Story
This is one of those controversial cases I mentioned earlier. She only appeared in one story, “The Daleks’ Master Plan,” but appeared in 9 of the 12 episodes and in more total eps than did Katarina. Sara Kingdom was a security officer for Mavic Chen, the sinister Guardian of the Solar System who was in league with the Daleks; however, she eventually teamed up with the Doctor and Steven. Her companion status is in question due to only being in the one story and dying at the end of it (this story was murder on companions…); However, she did fulfill some of the narrative functions of a companion. By today’s standards, she’s similar to some of the one-off companions the Tenth Doctor had during the specials year, like Lady Cristina or Adelaide Brooke. Only 3 of the 12 episodes of “The Daleks’ Master Plan” survived the junking.

Played by Jackie Lane
6 Stories
The contrivances to get companions on the TARDIS hit their early-period nadir with Dodo Chaplet. During the aforementioned “Massacre” story, there was a 16th Century French girl named Anne Chaplet who gets killed. At the very tail end of the story, the Doctor and Steven go to 1960s London and meet Dorothea “Dodo” Chaplet, a weird, mod English girl who is apparently a descendent of Anne. Boo, writers. Boo. For having 13 of her 21 episodes still around, she’s not a very memorable companion. She’s nice, I guess? Even the Doctor doesn’t remember her, as she goes to have a lie down during “The War Machines” and never comes back.

Played by Anneke Wills and Michael Craze
9 Stories
Polly works as a secretary for Professor Brett, the scientist who built the supercomputer WOTAN, which The Doctor and Dodo come to investigate during “The War Machines.” Dodo and Polly go to a nightclub where they meet Ben Jackson, a Navy Seaman who protects Polly from a jerk at the club. Eventually, the two aid the Doctor and Dodo in fighting WOTAN and they come to bring the news to the Doctor that Dodo is staying on Earth when they’re taken away in the TARDIS. They have the distinction of being the very first onscreen companions to witness a regeneration, as the First Doctor collapses at the end of the first Cybermen story, “The Tenth Planet,” and changes into the younger, stranger Second Doctor. They spent the bulk of their time with the Second Doctor and leave at the end of “The Faceless Ones,” a story that takes place on contemporary Earth. Due to junking, nearly all of Ben and Polly’s episodes are missing, including episode four of “The Tenth Planet,” which sees William Hartnell exit, as well as all six episodes of Patrick Troughton’s inaugural story, “The Power of the Daleks.”

Played by Frazer Hines (and Hamish Wilson for 2 eps)
20 Stories
In terms of episodes and stories, the longest-serving companion ever, Jamie first appeared in Troughton’s second story, “The Highlanders” as one of the eponymous Scotsmen. Being from the middle-1700s, Jamie often was completely out of his element when confronted with futuristic things, but he usually took everything in stride, referring to most things as “metal beasties.” Jamie and the Doctor made one of the best teams in the show’s history, with Jamie’s well-meaning bravery playing well off of the Doctor’s somewhat devious intelligence. During the serial “The Mind Robber,” Frazer Hines came down with a bad case of the chicken pox and had to be briefly replaced with actor Hamish Wilson and, seeing as the story took place in the land of fiction, it was written into the story that his face changed due to the Doctor not solving a puzzle correctly. In the final story from the 1960s, “The War Games,” the Time Lords catch up with the Doctor and force him to regenerate and exile him to Earth, but not before wiping his companions’ minds, save their first adventure with the Doctor. As a result, Jamie forgets everything except the events of “The Highlanders” and loses all memory of later companions and friends Victoria and Zoe. He appears again in “The Five Doctors” as a mental projection and in 1985’s “The Two Doctors.”

Played by Deborah Watling
7 Stories
First debuting in the 1967 story “The Evil of the Daleks,” Victoria was a 19th Century girl whose scientist father was experimenting with time travel, drawing the attention of the annoying pepper pots. In order to insure Professor Waterfield’s help, the Daleks keep Victoria prisoner. Eventually, she was rescued by the Doctor and Jamie, but her father was killed in the process, precipitating her to join the crew. Victoria was the typically fragile lady of the era, screaming when confronted with any kind of monster; However, her screaming and crying was knowingly used as a distraction by the Doctor against the Ice Warriors in the serial of the same name. Jamie had a real fondness for Victoria and tried to get romantic on a few occasions, but they were firm friends right until she departed at the end of “Fury from the Deep.” The only complete story featuring Victoria is “The Tomb of the Cybermen”; It remains not only an excellent story, but probably Victoria’s best.

Played by Wendy Padbury
8 Stories
Despite being very young, Zoe was already an astrophysicist when the Doctor and Jamie meet her on a space station in the 21st Century (you know, the century we’re in now). She’s a genius in mathematics and understands computers and robotics much more than even the Doctor. Because she’s so young, she’s quite naïve about the ways of the universe beyond that which she’s learned in books, but she’s nevertheless quite an able crew member. She had an excellent sibling relationship with Jamie, and together they were great foils for the Doctor. Like Jamie, her memory was also wiped at the end of “The War Games,” as she is sent back to the space station with only the memory of her first meeting with the Doctor. Zoe is the luckiest of the Second Doctor’s companions in terms of episodes still existing. Only two of her eight stories are incomplete so most of what new fans have seen of the Troughton years is also the Zoe years.

We’ve gotten through the hardest bit. The ’60s were chock full of companions and unfortunately, due to junking, there’s not as much of any of them as maybe we’d like. Next week we’ll look at the 1970s companions, those of the Third and Fourth Doctor, and see discuss the finer points of whether or not UNIT counts.

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  1. Char says:

    I’m sorry I missed this when you first posted it. I just wanted to add that in the Sarah Jane Adventures it’s suggested that Ian and Barbara are a couple and haven’t aged since the ’60s. But I’m sure you knew that.

  2. Kenw says:

    Great job! Can’t wait for the next installment. I agree with Bill D., Unit is definitively a companion, especially the Brigadier.

  3. Will says:

    Love the feature. When’s the next one coming?

  4. Bill D. says:

    Glad to see this feature make a comeback, and I always enjoy reading up on the companions. Can’t wait to see what you make of Kamelion.

    And I say UNIT totally counts. Or the Brig, Benton, and Yates do, anyway. They might not have traveled as extensively as other UNIT employees like Liz, Jo, or Harry, but they shared enough screentime to qualify, I think.

  5. Watsonholmes says:

    Yea Jamie, one of the men who made wearing a Kilt look so good :). I can’t wait for the next group, especially when you start working up to Jack Harkness, a man who made wearing nothing look good.

  6. Josh says:

    The real tragedy is the fact that most of Victoria Waterfield’s episodes are missing.
    Best companion of the classic series as far as I’m concerned.

  7. jonr says:

    good stuff… i haven’t seen many of these companions in action, save for jamie/zoe, and the initial ian/barbara/susan pairings. Definitely not among my favorite companions, but Zoe is rather cute

  8. This is really great! I’m totally looking forward to the next installment