History of The Doctor: The Classic Companions

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Hope in the TARDIS as our History of The Doctor series continues with The Classic Companions!

Classic Companions Featured

“There are worlds out there where the sky is burning, and the sea’s asleep, and the rivers dream; people made of smoke and cities made of song. Somewhere there’s danger, somewhere there’s injustice, and somewhere else the tea’s getting cold. Come on, Ace. We’ve got work to do.” Those were the final words of the Seventh Doctor to his companion Ace. Indeed, the Doctor’s work continues. And throughout the various versions of the Doctor, he has had a companion (or multiple companions) by his side. In this article, we’re going to look back at the companions for the first seven Doctors (and highlight some of my personal favorites).

Looking back to the beginning of the show, the First Doctor (William Hartnell) initially had three companions: Susan Foreman (the Doctor’s granddaughter), Ian Chesterton & Barbara Wright. Ian and Barbara were schoolteachers from 1963 London who unknowingly become companions with the Doctor. Several companions throughout the years would similarly join the Doctor in his travels. Overall, the First Doctor had nine companions. Probably the best companion of the First Doctor was Vicki. She was a teenage orphan from the 25th century and joined the Doctor (along with Ian and Barbara) as a companion in the serial “The Rescue” in 1965. She was the Doctor for 9 adventures before leaving the Doctor in “The Myth Makers” because she fell in love with the Trojan warrior Troilus and wanted to stay behind.

When the First Doctor regenerated to the Second Doctor (Patrick Troughton) he had two companions carry over, Ben Jackson and Polly. They would stay before they departed themselves. The ones who replaced them are probably the ones most associated with the Second Doctor. Those included Jamie McCrimmon, a Scot from the 18th century, Victoria Waterfield , a daughter of a scientist from the 19th century, and Zoe Heriot, an astrophysicist from the 21st century. My personal favorite companion for the Second Doctor was Zoe Heriot. She joined the Second Doctor (and Jamie) as a companion in the serial “The Wheel in Space” in 1968. She stayed with the Doctor through 8 more adventures before she left the Doctor. This happened at the end of the serial “The War Games” in 1969 when she was sent back to her own time by the Time Lords and had her memories of the Doctor erased.

The Third Doctor (Jon Pertwee) was banished to 20th century Earth for a large portion to his time by the Time Lords (before eventually being released from that in the serial “The Three Doctors”). He inevitably only had 3 companions. The first companion was Liz Shaw, a scientific advisor of UNIT. The second companion of the Third Doctor was the one he travelled with the longest and that was Jo Grant. Jo was a junior civilian operative with UNIT and was with the Doctor for 15 adventures before leaving the Doctor in the serial “The Green Death”. The third companion was my personal favorite not only of the Third Doctor (and Fourth Doctor) but my favorite overall of all the companions. That companion is Sarah Jane Smith. Sarah Jane was a 20th century reporter who unknowingly gets caught up with the Doctor in the adventure “The Time Warrior” in late 1973-early 1974. She would stay with the Third Doctor until he regenerated in the serial “Planet of the Spiders”.

With the Fourth Doctor (Tom Baker), he inherited Sarah Jane as a companion. He also was joined for several adventures with a (medical) doctor in Harry Sullivan. Sarah Jane would finally leave the Doctor at the end of the adventure “The Hand of Fear” in 1976. She was returned by the Doctor to her own time and home when he was summed back to Gallifrey. Overall, the Fourth Doctor would have 8 companions. These included the robotic dog K-9 (Mark I & II), Leela, a primitive from the future, and Romana, a Time Lady who during her travels with the Doctor experienced a regeneration of her own. By the time the Fourth Doctor regenerated, he had 3 companions. Those companions were Adric, a boy genius from the planet Alzarius which exists in E-Space (and who incidentally was the worst companion in my book), Nyssa, an aristocrat from the planet Traken, and Tegan Jovanka, an Australian from the 1980s who was looking to become a flight attendant when she gets caught up with the Doctor.

The Fifth Doctor (Peter Davison) inherited Adric, Nyssa & Tegan. Out of the three, the Fifth Doctor enjoyed Nyssa the most (and I would agree). Adric would be the first to leave the Fifth Doctor as he sacrificed his life at the end of the 1982 serial “Earthshock”. He would be the only long term companion to die during the classic run of the series. Nyssa would leave the Doctor at the end of the 1983 serial “Terminus” when she stays behind on a space station to help convert it into a hospital to treat those inflicted with a debilitating disease. Tegan would continue on with the Fifth Doctor for the majority of his adventures, with only a brief departure in the middle, before she left the Doctor after the 1984 serial “Resurrection of the Daleks”. Overall, the Fifth Doctor would have 6 companions. Before his time was over, he had the exiled alien Turlough, who was the last male companion for the Doctor during the classic run, and the shape shifting android Kamelion (though the android only was featured in one serial once joining the Doctor). By the time the Fifth Doctor regenerated, he had the 1980s American college student Peri Brown traveling with him.

When the Doctor regenerated into the Sixth Doctor (Colin Baker), he inherited Peri as his companion. The two pretty much were together throughout the duration of Sixth Doctor’s adventures. Given the Sixth Doctor’s demeanor, the two clashed regularly. Personally, the Sixth Doctor would’ve been better off paired with Tegan and the Fifth Doctor with Peri. Peri would stay with the Doctor until “The Trial of a Time Lord” saga. She would be kidnapped and presumed dead but would later to be revealed to be alive and safe. She would be replaced as companion by 20th century computer programmer Mel. Interesting enough, we never see her first adventure with the Doctor on screen. This would have been addressed following “The Trial of a Time Lord” but circumstances (BBC firing Colin Baker, bringing in a new Doctor) prevented this from happening.

Mel would join the Seventh Doctor (Sylvester McCoy) when he regenerated at the beginning of the 1987 serial “Time and the Rani”. She was around for 4 adventures before 20th century teen Dorothy “Ace” McShane replaced her in the 1987 serial “Dragonfire.” Ace was probably the companion most associated with the Seventh Doctor and was the last companion for the Doctor during the initial run of the show.
The Eight Doctor’s (Paul McGann) companion was 20th century medical doctor Grace Holloway. Although one could say she wasn’t a true companion as she only appeared with the Doctor in this story and never traveled with him afterwards. However, I think it’s safe to say that she could have been a long term companion if the show had been revived after the TV movie.

Doctor Who is well known not only for the Doctor but also for his companions. They are the outlet for the audience to relate to the action. Some of the companions garner sympathy, some garner frustration. Some of them bring out the best in the Doctor and some of them keep the Doctor in line. But no matter what, the Doctor would not be the Time Lord that he is without his companions.

My top 5 companions:
1) Sarah Jane Smith
2) Zoe Heriot
3) Romana I
4) Vicki
5) Nyssa

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