The Modern Companions
and Fellow Time Travelers

“Is this actually what you do? Do you just crook your finger and people just jump in your 'Snog Box' and fly away?"
"It is not a 'Snog Box'!"
"I'll be the judge of that."
- Clara Oswald and The Eleventh Doctor

     When Russell T Davies restructured the show in 2005, he made the companions more important than they were in the original series, reaching a status nearly as important as The Doctor himself. He also limited them to one main companion per season (with occasional guest travelers), a tradition the next show runner Steven Moffat continued. Even if The Doctor sometimes still usually into his new companions in a purely haphazard way, they all turned out to be important and loyal assets. Not only important to him, they are important to us: from Rose Tyler to Bill Potts and beyond, the companions are our gateway into the adventures of Doctor Who.

Rose Tyler

Played by Billie Piper
Seasons 1 (2005), 2 (2006) and 4 (2008)
Specials: "The Christmas Invasion" (2005), "The End of Time Part 2" (2010), "The Day of the Doctor" (2013)
Companion to The Ninth and Tenth Doctors

THE DOCTOR: "I'm a Time Lord. I'm the last of them. They're all gone. I'm the only survivor. I'm left traveling on my own because there's no-one else."
ROSE TYLER: "There's me."

    Shop Girl Rose Tyler's mundane life was saved, and turned upside down, by The Doctor in the premiere episode "Rose", in which she and The Doctor battled the Autons, a race of killer plastic manikins. At the end of that adventure, she risked her life to save his, and just like that, The Doctor had his new companion.

      In her travels with The Doctor, played in Season One by Christopher Eccleston, Rose Tyler saw the end of the world, met Charles Dickens, encountered her first Dalek, went back in time to save her father's life, much to the displeasure of time itself, and was nearly killed by the Mighty Jagrafess of the Holy Hadrojassic Maxarodenfoe (or "Max", for short). At the end of the season, Rose poisoned herself while fighting The Daleks, and The Doctor transferred the poison from her body to his, forcing a regeneration. As Rose watched in horror and confusion, The Doctor exploded in blinding light, acquiring a new body and personality, but with all the memories of his previous incarnations. Already in love with the Doctor she knew, it didn't take long for Rose to accept and love the new handsome, dashing and sometimes borderline insane version of The Doctor, played by David Tennant. More adventures followed in Season Two, of course, as did a definite romance, but by the end of the season, Rose and The Doctor parted ways.

     Family Ties: Rose lived with her Mom, Jackie Tyler (played by Camille Coduri) and had a boyfriend Mickey Jones (played by Noel Clarke) whom she took for granted. Her father Pete (played by Shaun Dingwall) was run down by a hit and run driver when Rose was only a baby, but... this is Doctor Who so....

     Billie Piper was a huge factor in the success of the new Doctor Who series. The pop star turned actress did a superlative job as Rose Tyler, a beautiful, likable, quick-witted young woman with almost no prospects until she met The Doctor and became a Time Traveler. Piper's presence as Rose in the first two seasons of the new show bridged the gap between Christopher Eccleston's departure and David Tennant's arrival, giving viewers at least one familiar, well-loved character to follow during the transition. Her rapport with both Eccleston and Tennant was always utterly believable.

"When he's stressed, he likes to insult species... Cuts himself shaving, does half an hour on life forms he's cleverer than. "

     At the end of Season Two, Piper bowed out of the show, but she returned for a few episodes in Season Four and was a welcome part of the 50th Anniversary episode Day of the Doctor. Outside of Doctor Who , Piper played the lead in the TV series Secret Diary of a Call Girl and had a role in another series, Penny Dreadful. She also starred in the 2-episode series The Sally Lockhart Mysteries.

Martha Jones

Played by Freema Agyeman
Seasons 3 (2007) and 4 (2008)
Special: "The End of Time 2" (2010)
Companion to the Tenth Doctor

"He never stops. He never stays. He never asks to be thanked. But I've seen him, I know him... I love him... And I know what he can do."

     The Tenth Doctor seemed to have scoped out Doctor-in-Training Martha Jones well before her first adventure. If that is the case, he did a great job. When the hospital she and The Doctor were in was transported to the Moon and invaded by the space police known as The Judoon ("A Judoon platoon on the moon!"), Martha hardly batted an eye, her instinct being one of helping the injured and keeping frightened people calm. Her transition into full-time companion did not come easy; still hurting from losing his beloved Rose, The Doctor often unintentionally treated Martha poorly. She, on the other hand, fell in love with him almost immediately. Yeah, there was some tension there. Still, even with all that emotional baggage they carried around, they became best of friends, and Martha proved her worth to The Doctor many times over, culminating with saving him, and the world, before The Master could complete his scheme of ruling the Universe. And when all was good with the world, she was done. Realizing he would never love her in the same way she loved him, she parted ways with him; a good move, as, generally speaking, the longer a companion travels with The Doctor, the better the chance something bad will happen to them. Martha escaped that fate.

     With her medical skills and her known association with The Doctor, Martha Jones found a spot at UNIT ("Unified Intelligence Taskforce"), where she met up with The Doctor once again and hung around for several more adventures in Season Four. By this time, she had moved on from her crush on The Doctor, instantly took a liking to Donna Noble when they met, and genuinely happy for The Doctor when she learned Rose Tyler had come back. An underrated companion, Miss Martha Jones, and my favorite of the series. And yes, she ranks among the most beautiful companions ever, but don't love Martha because she's beautiful, love her because she's frakking awesome!

     Family Ties: Martha had an extended family, perhaps too extensive for the audience to get to know all o them. Most memorable were her long-suffering mother (played by Adjoa Anoh) and a sister (played by Gugu Mbatha-Raw) as beautiful as Martha herself, and in the episode "The Lazarus Experiment", as equally willing to throw herself into danger to help The Doctor.

     Freema Agyeman auditioned for several roles before being chosen as Martha Jones. Prior to getting the nod for that role, Agyeman appeared as Adeola Osholi, a worker at Torchwood, in Season 2's episode "Army of Ghosts". Her character died in that episode, but Agyeman later won the role of Martha. To explain why Martha looked so much like Adeola, it was revealed in the Season Three opener that she and Adeola were cousins. Apparently identical cousins, like on The Patty Duke Show.

     Martha could easily move from one series to another because of her medical background and affiliation with UNIT. Russell T Davies certainly picked up on that aspect of the character he created,  shifting Agyeman to and from Doctor Who and the spinoff series Torchwood. He also had her set for an episode of The Sarah Jane Adventures but before that could happen, Agyeman jumped at the chance of a lead role on the new program Law and Order: UK, and her Doctor Who career came to an abrupt halt.

"The Doctor sort of travels through time and space and picks people up. God, I make us sound like stray dogs. Maybe we are."

     Aside from Doctor WhoTorchwood, and Law and Order UK, Agyeman has appeared in an excellent 2008 adaptation of Charles Dickens' Little Dorrit, and the TV series The Carrie DiariesNorth and South and Sense8. She was also a cast member in the first series of the children's show Old Jack's Boat (2013), which starred beloved comedian Bernard Cribbins, better known to many Doctor Who fans as Wilfred Noble, Donna Noble's Grandfather.

Donna Noble

Played by Catherine Tate
Season 4 (2008)
Specials: "The Runaway Bride" (2007), "The End of Time 1" (2009), "The End of Time 2 (2010)
Companion to the Tenth Doctor

"You fought her off with a water pistol! I bloody love you!"

     After losing Rose Tyler and being dumped by Martha Jones, The Doctor seemed determined to (a) not fall in love with his next companion and (b) not have his next companion fall in love with him. Enter temp worker Donna Noble. The Doctor first met Donna under very weird circumstances, when, on her wedding day, she was accidentally transported from the church to the TARDIS (full explanation too complicated to explain - see "The Runaway Bride", Season Three). After that adventure, in which Donna lost her fiancé, she and The Doctor went their separate ways. A season later, he finally met Donna once again and after their first proper alien mystery, featuring dealing with the evil Adipose Industries, she became his full-time companion. She brought her own luggage, which included a giant hat box in the event they ever landed on The Planet of The Hats. Unlike the more romantic couplings of the previous two seasons, Donna and The Doctor were more like brother and sister. There was a lot of love there, but no romance, and that's the way they both wanted it.

     They flew around time and space freeing a race called The Ood from slavery, arriving at Pompeii the day before the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius eruption, meeting Agatha Christie, and other capers, culminating in defeating Davros, creator of The Daleks, whose plan was to destroy the entire universe, leaving only The Daleks alive. Although many of the Doctor's closest friends pitched in to help, it was Donna in the end who managed to save the day, and the world.

     Family Ties: In the  Christmas Special "The Runaway Bride", Donna was about to get married but... things happened.  She lived with her parents Geoff and Sylvia Noble (played by Jacqueline King and Howard Attfield). By the time of her first official episode as a companion ("Partners in Crime"), Donna had lost her father but gained a grandfather, Wilfred Mott, played by beloved comedian Bernard Cribbins.

     Catherine Tate had her own popular sketch comedy show and appeared with David Tennant in the Doctor Who
Christmas Special "The Runaway Bride" that heralded the coming of Season Three. Russell T Davies liked the way she played against Tennant in the special and contracted her to be the full-time companion in Season Four. It was an excellent decision. Tate not only had great comedy instincts, but also stellar acting skills, and the chemistry and repartee between Tennant and Tate was outstanding, possibly the best of the entire series so far.

"Is that why you travel round with a human at your side? It's not so you can show them the wonders of the universe, it's so you can take cheap shots?"

     Aside from her own show and Doctor Who, Tate has appeared in such various projects as the TV mini-series Bleak House,  the Jack Black comedy Gulliver's Travels, and the American version of The Office. She also can be seen in Much Ado About Nothing where she reunited with her friend and former Doctor David Tennant.

Amelia "Amy" Pond ("The Girl Who Waited")
and Rory Williams ("The Last Centurion")

Played by Karen Gillan and Arthur Darvill
Seasons 5 (2010), 6 (2011) and 7 (2012)
Specials: "A Christmas Carol" (2010), "The Doctor, The Widow and the Wardrobe" (2011), "The Time of the Doctor" (2013 - Karen Gillan only)
Companions to The Eleventh Doctor

AMY: "I've got my space ship, I've got my boys... My work here is done!"
RORY: "We are NOT her boys!"
DOCTOR: "Yeah, we are."
RORY: "Yeah, we are."

       Amy Pond and Rory Williams were the first married couple to accompany The Doctor on his adventures in the "New Who" era. The Doctor first met Amy when, after his regeneration from his tenth incarnation, he crash-landed in front of the house of young Amelia Pond, who was only 7 years old at the time. Establishing a quick friendship with her, The Doctor promised the young girl a trip in his TARDIS in five minutes, right after he got back from a quick errand. Due to the vagaries of time travel and The Doctor's usual lack of attention span, he missed the few minutes by twelve years. Amelia, now known as Amy, had grown up a young woman with a shelf full of homemade "Doctor and His Blue Box" toys as well as a head full of psychological issues. That same day, The Doctor met Rory Williams, Amy's best friend and fiancé. At first, The Doctor only took Amy on space-time trips, but soon Rory became a regular companion and a vital member of the Eleventh Doctor's team.

"Does anybody else find this day just a bit difficult? I'm getting a sort of banging in my head."
"Yeah, I think that's Hitler in the cupboard."
"That's not helping."

     While every companion was essentially loyal to The Doctor, "The Ponds" were loyal to a fault, sticking with The Doctor through thick and thin and enduring many awful hardships that would have made other companions run away screaming at the sight of a TARDIS or a madman with a bow tie and a sonic screwdriver. After a near-divorce and reconciliation, the Ponds eventually gave in to domestic life, only occasionally joining The Doctor. In one late adventure, they came across a young woman named Oswin Oswald, who was trapped in her spaceship on a planet of Daleks. Oswin would become much more important in The Doctor's life later.

     Family Ties: Writer-show runner Steven Moffat wasn't big on families. In the fifth season opener "The Eleventh Hour", young Amelia Pond lived alone, explaining to The Doctor that she had no mother or father, but had an aunt who wasn't around. We finally see her parents Augustus and Tabetha Pond (played by Halcro Johnston and Karen Westwood) at the end of the season-ender "The Big Bang" but never again after that. In Season Seven, we do get to meet Rory's father (played by Mark Williams) and he sticks around for two whole episodes! Though not exactly a family tie, Amy meets her younger self Amelia (well played by Caitlin Blackwood, Karen Gillan's cousin) in the season-ending "The Big Bang". As far as Amy's family ties with The Doctor and River Song go, well...  no spoilers here, but let's just say just say it's Moffat-y to the max.
     Karen Gillan was part of the ensemble sketch comedy series The Kevin Bishop Show, starred in the horror movie Oculus (worth a look!), played Eliza Dooley in the short-lived American comedy series Selfie, and is probably most recognized, or not, because of the heavy CGI makeup, in the Guardians of the Galaxy movies. In 2017, she was also in the thriller The Circle with Emma Watson and Tom Hanks and Jumanji with The Rock and Jack Black.

     Arthur Darvill had a role in the Dickens mini-series Little Dorrit (which also featured Freema Agyeman and Torchwood's Eva Myles) and is known for the series Legends of Tomorrow and Broadchurch, which also starred David Tennant.

     Flying Fish-Finger Factoid: Like Freema Agyeman before them, Karen Gillan and future Doctor Peter Capaldi had both appeared in a Doctor Who previously, coincidentally in the same episode, Season Four's "The Fires of Pompeii".

Clara Oswald ("The Impossible Girl")

Played by Jenna Coleman
Seasons 7  (2012 - 2013), 8 (2014) and 9 (2015)
Specials: "The Snowmen" (2012), "The Day of the Doctor", "The Time of the Doctor (both 2013), "Last Christmas" (2014), "Twice Upon a Time" (2017)
Companion to The Eleventh and Twelfth Doctors

"Run, you clever boy - and remember."

     The Eleventh Doctor had met Clara Oswald twice in time and space, once in the future when he and The Ponds were kidnapped by The Daleks, and then again, in the past where she was a pub waitress and a nanny. Not understanding how the same girl could exist in separate times, he made it his mission to find her again in the present, but when he finally did find her, she had no memory of him. Nevertheless, "The Impossible Girl" became his new companion.

     Although we'll never know if she and The Doctor had any adventures we haven't been told about, on the show, she was only with him for half a season in TV time. In the final episode of Season Seven, "The Name of the Doctor", we discover how Clara had existed in different times and places. Clara next appeared with The Doctor in "The Day of the Doctor", a celebration of all things "Doctor Who" which also featured guest stars such as Billie Piper, David Tennant and John Hurt. In the last Matt Smith / Jenna Coleman episode, the Christmas special "The Time of The Doctor", Clara witnessed The Doctor regenerate into his twelfth incarnation, played by Peter Capaldi. Though she had a difficult time trying to adjust to new, older, and much more cynical Doctor, she remained his companion through two seasons.

"Someday, you could just walk past a fez."

     If you read Doctor Who boards or venture into any Doctor Who related internet discussions, you would be led to believe that everybody hates Clara Oswald.  I don't get it. Clara Oswald was one of the most well-rounded characters in the new series, one who had a life outside of traveling with The Doctor. Rose Tyler lost her job the day The Ninth Doctor showed up and she never looked back. Donna Noble was a temp worker who seemed to have a lot of time on her hands. When we first meet the older Amy Pond, she was a "Kiss-o-gram" girl. Later she became a model, but neither one of these occupations seemed like she was smothered with work.

     Not counting her past incarnations, Clara worked as a nanny and taught at the Coal Hill School. She had a boyfriend, Danny Pink, who worked at the same school. Whereas the previous companions always seemed ready to go on any adventure with The Doctor at the drop of a hat (or a fez), Clara often needed advance notice (she hardly ever got it) and, being a figure of authority at both her jobs, she took very little guff from The Doctor. Thus, she seemed to rub some fans the wrong way, who complained the the show was becoming Clara Who. I never got this at all. What's wrong with having a well-rounded, three-dimensional character who had a life outside of being The Doctor's time-traveling companion? Do these fans not want strong females in the show? If you look objectively at seasons eight and nine, you will may find a fascinating story about a two-way friendship that drastically changes both The Doctor and The Companion, with Clara's influence making The Doctor more "human", and The Doctor's influence making Clara more of a "Time Lord in Training". If I were to rank my favorite companions (oh, you know I will!), Clara Oswald would be right near the top of the list. So there, Clara-haters. In the words of the woman herself: "Shuttup!"

     Family Ties: Clara is the daughter of Dave and Ellie Oswald. Her mother Ellie did when Clara was young. She also has a grandmother, seen in "The Time of the Doctor" (2013).

     Jenna Coleman made her first television appearance in 2005 in the series Emmerdale, the same year as the new Doctor Who series premiered. She worked in several other British productions over the years, and also had a small part in the super hero flick Captain America: The First Avenger. According to Stephen Moffat, she won the part of Clara Oswald because she was the only actress they auditioned who could keep up with the hyperactive Matt Smith.

     Immediately after her two and a half year run on the show, Coleman became the star of the historical mini-series Victoria, where she did a splendid and often Clara-like job portraying the young Queen Victoria. In the show, she proved once again, as she did several times in Doctor Who, that she was born to wear period costumes (See "The Snowmen" or "Robots of Sherwood" for validation).  No word yet on whether in a future season of Victoria, she will meet The Doctor, fight werewolves and establish Torchwood.

     Jenna ended her Doctor Who career (for now, at least!) with a short appearance in 2017's Christmas special "Twice Upon a Time".

Clara, Our Clara:
Clara Oswald has seen and/or interacted with more Doctors than any other companion in history. All twelve up to that point in time, in fact, plus the unnumbered War Doctor. How? Well, rather than spoil things, I'll just point you to the 2013 episode "The Name of the Doctor".


Played by Matt Lucas
Season 10 (2017)

Specials: "The Husbands of River Song" (2015), "The Return of Doctor Mysterio" (2016), "Twice Upon A Time" (2017)
Companion to the Twelfth Doctor

"That's The Doctor for you: never notices the tears."

     Prior to Nardole, the only full-time male companion The Doctor had in the new series was Rory Williams, husband of Amy Pond. Nardole was also the first "alien" companion The Doctor had since the old series.  A sweet, simple guy, Nardole was originally an employee of River Song's. In "The Husbands of River Song", his head is taken from his body and placed into a mechanical body, one he eventually had to share with the head of one of River's husbands, Ramon (just go with me on this). Many years later, The Doctor went back and reassembled Nardole into his proper body (again, don't ask questions) and made him a companion. Although seemingly a simpleton, Nardole became an ace at flying the TARDIS, savvy enough in "The Return of Doctor Mysterio" to go back in time to 12th Century Constantinople ("I ruled firmly but wisely") and make it back just at the precise moment The Doctor needed him back in the 21st Century.

"I’m the only person you’ve ever met or will ever meet who is officially licensed to kick the Doctor’s arse."

       Matt Lucas has appeared in several movies, but his best work is probably in the sketch show Little Britain, which also featured none other than Tom Baker as the show's narrator. David Walliams, Matt's co-star in Little Britain, appeared as an alien in the fifth season episode "The God Complex". Lucas is pictured above as the annoying foul-mouthed chatterbox Vickie Pollard, one of many characters he created for Little Britain.

Bill Potts

Played by Pearl Mackie
Season 10 (2017)
Special: "Twice Upon a Time" (2017)

Companion to the Twelfth Doctor

BILL: "Why did you run like that for?"
THE DOCTOR: "Like what?"
BILL: "Like a penguin with his arse on fire."

     Bill Potts was a young cafeteria girl,  slinging French fries/chips to students at St. Luke's University where The Doctor had settled as a professor. He noticed her attending his lectures even though she wasn't officially a student, and was impressed that whenever she didn't understand something he mention in a lecture, she smiled instead of looking puzzled. Thus, The Doctor took Bill under his wing and became her tutor. But time travel, as it always will, got in the way. In her first adventure, she learned what a Dalek was (the only appearance of the often over-used Daleks in the whole tenth season). More adventures followed, including one in which she managed to save the world from the mysterious "Monks" who had taken over. Bill also met "Missy", the female incarnation of The Master, and joined her, along with Nardole, in a rescue mission that soon took a very bad turn. 

"This is the most exciting thing that's ever happened to me in my life! The only exciting thing!"

     Pearl Mackie had only two small roles on TV before being cast as Bill on Doctor Who. She did have theatrical training and appeared on stage in The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night. Her character in Doctor Who is the first openly gay companion of the series, unless we count fellow time traveler Captain Jack Harkness as a companion.

      Mackie was scheduled for only the tenth season, after which Chris Chibnall takes over show runner duties and we'll see a new Doctor (Jodie Whittaker as the new female Doctor) and most likely a new companion or companions. Mackie, as Bill Potts, played a major part in the 2017 Christmas special "Twice Upon A Time".

Here is my rankings of favorite modern companions from the characters highlighted above. Your mileage may vary. And please, no hate mail.

1. Martha Jones
2. Clara Oswald
3. Amy Pond
4. Donna Noble
5. Rory Williams
6. Rose Tyler
7. Bill Potts
8. Nardole

Note: I do not in any way hate my lower-ranked companions. So again... no hate mail.


Captain Jack Harkness

Played by John Barrowman

Seasons 1 (2005), 3 (2007) and 4 (2008)
Special: "The End of Time 2" (2010)
Friends with The Ninth and Tenth Doctors

"Who looks at a screwdriver and thinks 'Ooh, this could be a little more sonic.'?"

     Captain Jack Harkness met Rose Tyler and The Doctor (Christopher Eccleston) in the first season episode "The Empty Child". At the time, he was a Time Traveling con artist who passed off useless space junk to collectors. He  developed into a fine extra hand to have around, though the Doctor, in whatever incarnation, always kept him at arms length. His preferred method of Time Travel was via a Vortex Manipulator, essentially a time machine wrist watch. Owing to circumstances too spoilery to talk about, Captain Jack could not die. He was also omni-sexual; he hit on men, he hit on women, he hit on aliens. If it was sentient, he hit on it.

     After parting ways with The Doctor in the first season finale, Jack accidentally got stuck in the 1800s when his Vortex Manipulator broke, causing him to have to wait decades to catch up with The Doctor again (David Tennant). Jumping onto the outside of the TARDIS as it was taking off, Jack caused himself, Martha and The Doctor to wind up at the end of the Universe. When they got back to their normal time, they combined to defeat The Master, who was attempting to (say it with me) take over the Earth. A year later, he was back at, with The Doctor and hordes of others former and present companions and fellow travelers, trying to keep Davros and The Daleks from (say it with me) destroying The Universe. As of this writing, this is the last time Captain Jack appeared in a Doctor Who episode, aside from a quick cameo in "The End of Time Part 2". He did, however, spend five years (in TV time) running Torchwood in the show of the same name.   

"Wish I'd never met you, Doctor. I was better off a coward."

     John Barrowman has become a staple of superhero shows, appearing in The FlashArrow and Legends of Tomorrow.

Dr. River Song

Played by Alex Kingston

Seasons 4 (2008), 5 (2010)), 6 (2011), 7 (2012), 9 (2013)
Special: "The Husbands of River Song" (2015)
Friends (usually) with the Tenth, Eleventh and Twelfth Doctors

"Hello, Sweetie!"

   Doctor River Song has more spoilers in her timeline than any other character on television ever. Her timeline is so convoluted and full of surprises that it's difficult to describe her without giving away any secrets of the show. So in short - River Song's timeline intersects with The Doctor's in reverse. When she meets the Tenth Doctor, he has no idea who she is. Later on as her and The Doctor's move in opposite timeline directions, the Eleventh Doctor and his companions know who she is, but she doesn't not know them. At times, she is the Doctor's closest friend, at other times, she is his deadly enemy. And, one spoiler that doesn't spoil much, she is also The Doctor's wife.

"We're traveling in opposite directions. Every time we meet, I know him more, he knows me less."

      And that's about all I can say except that she is a whole lot of fun to watch.

     Although she spent most of her Doctor Who days with Matt Smith, River Song's first appearance was with David Tennant in the fourth season episode "Silence in the Library" and what may be her last appearance in the series was with Peter Capaldi in the 2015 special "The Husbands of River Song".

    Alex Kingston has been in many movies and TV series on both sides of the pond. While a favorite of Doctor Who fans, she is obviously more well known Elizabeth Corday in the American TV series ER. She also played a recurring character in Arrow.

Next: The Almost Companions

Go Back: The Doctors (Timeline: 2005 to Present)

Doctor Who Main Page

The Secret Vortex

""Some left me, some got left behind and some... not many but... some died."
- The Eleventh Doctor, on companions