In the grand scheme of Doctor Who, there are The Doctor, the TARDIS, and those who are along for the ride. Another trait which has endeared Doctor Who to generations of viewers is the inclusion of the companions. Without the companions, The Doctor is an alien wanderer who spouts a lot of technical gobbledygook. Narratively speaking, it’s necessary to have a friend by the Doctor’s side to help the audience comprehend the severity of the situation. Recently, they have served as a type of endearment to The Doctor and as a sort of motivation that keeps The Doctor going. Some have joined The Doctor on his travels by chance, some by wanderlust, and some have even joined The Doctor by being assigned to assist him. What is more important is their significance to the development to the entire mythos of Doctor Who. Presented here for our month long tribute to Doctor Who‘s forty-fifth anniversary is a list of the fifteen companions who have made the biggest impact on The Doctor and the series at large.
15) Zoe Heriot from “The Wheel In Space” to “The War Games”
Don’t be fooled by the flashy glitter catsuit and the screaming. It turns out that Zoe has a first class mind in the field of mathematics, and she knows how to use it. She can alter the trajectory of a missle strike in one minute flat, using mental math alone. That, and she can talk to computers and make the computer kill itself! Her vulnerabilities are totally countered by her exceptional skills in times of crisis. This makes her an incredible asset to her friends. The combination of The Second Doctor’s mischievous nature, Jamie’s bravery, and Zoe’s intelligence made the trio a pivotal component in the mythos of Doctor Who.
14) Nyssa of Traken from “The Keeper of Traken” to “Terminus”
Nyssa is a companion whose destiny becomes intertwined with The Doctor’s because of the manipulations of The Master. When she begins her travels, she is orphaned, and her entire planet is destroyed. All she has left at this point are her travels with The Doctor. Given her inquisitive nature, that isn’t a bad place to be. Her skills as a biochemist are unrivaled, and her grace under fire is quite admirable. Both of these traits are put to the ultimate test when she decides to brave the hostile environment of Terminus, a slave run hospital in the center of the universe, designed to be the place where Lazar’s disease is treated. During her travels in the TARDIS all she thought that she needed was The Doctor. Instead she found a world where she could be The Doctor. She decided to stay on Terminus to put her skills to use and rid the universe of Lazar’s disease.
13) Leela of the Sevateem from “The Face of Evil” to “The Invasion of Time”
Don’t be distracted by the skimpy leather leotard. Leela is a warrior, and as such she is not to be trifled with. The Doctor’s relationship with Leela was a sort of Pygmalion affair. He made it his mission to teach Leela the ways of her ancestors, the ways of human civilization. Of course, you know what they say. You can take the girl out of the jungle, but you can’t take the jungle out of the girl. Leela may have learned a lot during her tavels with The Doctor, but that didn’t change the fact that she was still raised by way of the knife and of the janus thorn. So you can imagine The Doctor’s frustrations towards Leela’s constant insistence on using more primitive methods of subduing her foes. Then again, The Doctor can always be a bit too proud to admit that he may be wrong. Leela has always been a woman driven by instinct, which may be why she opted to stay with a guard on Gallifrey without really putting much thought into it.
12) Captain Jack Harkness from “The Empty Child” to “Journey’s End”
He’s like The Doctor in a lot of ways. He’s charming, charismatic, intelligent, has a hard time dying, he has years of experience with fighting nasty alien menaces, and when The Doctor’s not around he’s the go-to guy in a crisis. The main thing Captain Jack has over The Doctor is an overactive libido and the skills to use it. His virility may be everyone’s favorite trait of Captain Jack, but the thing that makes Captain Jack a great companion is that he has absolutely no problem getting his hands dirty to do the right thing. As the head of Torchwood, Captain Jack has to deal with some of the less glamourous aspects of the Doctor Who universe. The Doctor’s methods are most effective, but when it comes to dealing with a family of cannibals, time-jumping madmen, rogue time agent/ex-boyfriends, and brassed off long lost brothers, Captain Jack’s methods are the only way to go.
11) Ian Chesterton from “An Unearthly Child” to “The Chase”
When we first met The Doctor he was a most disagreeable chap, stubborn to an irritating fault, particularly when he first met Ian Chesterton. It would be safe to assume that it was Ian’s eagerness to help others that led The Doctor down his path. Ian really became the heart and soul of the group in the beginning of the series. He was an intellectual collaborator with The Doctor. He was a figure of solace for Barbara and a constant mentor to Susan. Never once in his travels did Ian ever do anything that could be construed as selfish or inconsiderate. The Doctor may have found himself to be constantly flabbergasted by Ian’s simple-minded humanity, but that was because The Doctor was an alien, and he still had some things to learn. Good thing Ian is a good teacher.
10) Jo Grant from “Terror of the Autons” to “The Green Death”
Josephine Grant intended to be an opportunist and used her Uncle’s connections to obtain a post with U.N.I.T. Of course, she didn’t count on having her world flipped upside-down upon meeting The Doctor. Strangely enough, The Doctor didn’t count on taking a shine to Jo’s scatterbrained enthusiasm. The Doctor was ready to dismiss Jo as his new assistant, but when she showed incredible pluck in her confrontations with Autons, The Master, and Daleks, The Doctor developed a kind of fondness for Jo that was almost akin to a surrogate father. Jo’s fondness for The Doctor was equal but she found herself to be discontented with The Doctor’s distant nature. She winds up falling in love with a brilliant chemist who revealed himself to be a lot like The Doctor, except more human.
9) Brigadier Alistair Gordon Lethbridge-Stewart from “The Web of Fear” to “Battlefield”
The Doctor always prefers to confront his enemies through more subtle methods, but there are times when subtle just can’t cut it. For that, there’s U.N.I.T. and Brigadier Alistair Gordon Lethbridge-Stewart. The friendship between the The Doctor and the Brig has always been one of mutual frustration and mutual respect. Where other companions approach The Doctor’s world with awe, The Brigadier tends to always be on edge when it comes to any alien encounters. He is always on the alert in case Earth’s visitors are on the hostile side. To his credit, his caution is always justified. It’s his methods that tend to be entirely slapdash. Of course that doesn’t keep him from respecting The Doctor’s expertise, while The Doctor embraces The Brigadier’s friendship. Particularly during The Doctor’s exile when he needed a friend.
8) Martha Jones from “Smith & Jones” to “Journey’s End”
After Rose was taken away, The Doctor was ready to shut out the rest of the world. Then he met Miss Jones, a dedicated medical student as selfless as she was adventurous. This was a woman who has absolutely no problem putting others before herself in times of peril. When she met The Doctor he complained of a physical pain just so he could sneak into her hospital. Ironically, she saw that there was a real pain in The Doctor, the kind of pain that can only be remedied through constant supervision. Martha saw the fantastic things that The Doctor could do and she knew that he needed someone to keep him going. Unfortunately she was hoping for something more from The Doctor. At the end of the third series Martha realized that in order for her to find her true happiness, she would have to find it somewhere outside the TARDIS. Subsequently when we see her again in Series Four, we discover that Martha found what she was looking for.
7) K-9 from “The Invisible Enemy” to “Journey’s End”
The Doctor’s most faithful companion isn’t human. Not even an alien. It’s a little robot dog. Given to The Doctor as a gift by a kindly professor, K-9 shows a considerable amount of pluck and resilience for a big hunk of tin. K-9 is always at the ready to aid The Doctor in perilous situations. Armed with a laser nose and an excellent intellect, K-9 has always been an asset in the field. Which says a lot, considering he has a hard time getting around on certain types of terrain. Still that doesn’t stop K-9 from being there to help The Doctor. Like The Doctor, K-9 has gone through many models. The Doctor left K-9 (Mark I) with Leela on Gallifrey. K-9 (Mark II) was a constant companion to The Doctor and Romana until The Doctor decided to leave him with Romana at The Warrior’s Gate. K-9 (Mark III) was a gift for Sarah Jane Smith, and together they have been a perfect alien fighting duo. Even after the decades of separation, K-9’s dedication to his master never changes. So much so that when K-9 is reunited with The Tenth Doctor it’s just like old times. K-9 even sacrifices himself to save the day, but you just can’t keep a good dog down, because The Doctor left Sarah Jane with K-9 (Mark IV)!
6) Romana from “The Ribos Operation” to “Warrior’s Gate”
When Romanadveratrelundar meets The Doctor she is convinced that he is just a puerile renegade, but in time she gets a wake up call. She soon sees that the universe doesn’t play by the Time Lord’s rules. She proceeds to help The Doctor in their quest to recover the Key To Time, and then she regenerates. The new Romana winds up adopting a bit of The Doctor’s thirst for adventure. She begins to understand what’s important in the universe. It’s a lesson she learns so well that when she finally takes leave of The Doctor it’s to continue fighting a battle that The Doctor is not in a position to finish. Her story doesn’t end there. According to later reports Romana went on to become Lord President of Gallifrey all the way to the end… the very end.
5) Jamie McCrimmon from “The Highlanders” to “The Two Doctors”
One look at Jamie and you would never expect that a highlander from eighteenth century Scotland would turn out to be one of the most loyal and stouthearted companions amongst The Doctor’s entire entourage. It was a surprise to The Doctor that in lieu of his origins, Jamie was able to take on Cybermen, Daleks, Yeti, and Ice Warriors without having to suffer the pain of culture shock which many other companions find themselves enduring when they begin their travels. Though the high roads and the low roads were always fraugt with peril, it was always a guarantee that James Robert McCrimmon would face the peril by The Doctor’s side to the very end. So it’s quite the tragedy when he is sent back home with all of his experiences with The Doctor wiped from his memory.
4) Rose Tyler from “Rose” to “Journey’s End”
When The Doctor was afraid that he would never be able to press on after The Time War, it took a shopgirl to renew his zest for living. Rose Tyler was the perfect companion to kick off the new series with. Here is a nineteen year old girl with no prospects and nothing spectacular to look forward to. What made Rose endearing was that she was willing to brave the violent waters of The Doctor’s world and find out the essential truths to making your life better. Her forced separation from The Doctor is heartbreaking because at that point it was not about her wanting to be with him forever; it was about her wanting to be there for The Doctor for as long as possible, because she understood why The Doctor needed someone.
3) Ace from “Dragonfire” to “Survival”
She has the street smarts of Rose and the warrior spirit of Leela. Her bravery is abundant, which is clear as you see her take on a Dalek with a baseball bat or a squad of Cybermen with a slingshot. However, it was the hardships of her past that made Ace such a standout character. Ace was one of the few companions in the classic series where said companion’s past history became a driving force in the series. Her relationship with The Doctor was almost like a teacher and pupil. In her travels with The Doctor, Ace was able to face her inner demons and fears. She was able learn how to forgive, and inevitably she was able stand alone. Tragically it is not known what really happened to her after the conclusion of the classic series, but hopefully one day we’ll find out.
2) Donna Noble from “The Runaway Bride” to “Journey’s End”
After The Doctor botched things between himself and Martha, Donna became a much needed breath of fresh air. Donna was a companion who was eager to do great things with her life. She wanted to become extraordinary, and in no time flat she did. Donna is a woman of incredible empathy. She always reaches out and always finds herself more than willing to do good. The friendship between Donna and The Doctor was pure magic owing to their mutual desires to live every minute of their lives to the fullest. Through her, The Doctor was able to keep on going. Through him Donna was able to become so much more. Now, though, she’ll never be able to remember it. Songs will be sung about her throughout the cosmos, but she’ll never be able to hear them.
1) Sarah Jane Smith from “The Time Warrior” to “Journey’s End”
Though there are many companions with whom The Doctor has shared great adventures, none of them has evolved on such a scale as Sarah Jane Smith. She starts out as a tenacious journalist eager for a story. Soon she becomes a free-spirited time/space traveler who displays incredible loyalty and devotion to The Doctor. What happens next surprises even The Doctor. Inevitably Sarah Jane breaks out on her own and becomes an intergalactic hero whose impact on the Earth practically matches that of The Doctor on almost every level. Never in the history of the series has a companion evolved the way Sarah Jane has, and it’s amazing how her story still continues.
Tribute Video by Stuart “BabelColour” Humphries