DR. WHO:
          Classic Companions         
       (1963 -1989)        

"My name is Romanadvoratnelundar."
"I'm so sorry about that. Is there anything we can do?"
  - Companion Romana and The Fourth Doctor

     Companions in both eras of Doctor Who are those people who traveled with The Doctor. In the classic Doctor Who era, they were a mixed bunch. There were some outstanding ones, some just okay ones, and some forgettable ones. Unlike the modern show, where we could be assured The Doctor's companion, be it Rose, Martha or whoever, would be around for at least a whole season if not more, in the old days, the Tardis sometimes had a revolving door, with some companions coming and going rather quickly.

     Others, however, spent a couple of years with their Doctor(s). There are way too many companions in the history of the original series for me to cover all of them, so below are a handful of classic companions, spanning from The First Doctor years to the Seventh, whom I think define the Classic Doctor Who era.

Picture above: Peter Davison and Janet Fielding as The Doctor and Tegan Jovanka.


SUSAN (Susan "Foreman")

Played by Carole Ann Ford
Companion/Granddaughter to The First Doctor
1963-1964, 1983 20th Anniversary Episode "The Five Doctors"
1993 Special "Dimensions in Time"

"Oh, Grandfather - I belong with you!"
"Not any longer, Susan."

     Originally developed in the pilot episode as a kind of teen space superhero with telepathic powers, Susan's was changed to a more typical teenager, albeit one from Gallifrey, in order to give younger viewers someone they could relate to. Susan was not only the first companion but also The Doctor's granddaughter (note: though there are some notions that she is not really related to The Doctor but merely a fellow traveler, I am going with the "she's his granddaughter" side on this one). Susan is the person who came up with the term Tardis, standing for "Time And Relative Dimension In Space".

     In the 1964 story "The Dalek Invasion of Earth" Susan fell in love with a human, and The Doctor, wanting her to have a safe and happy life, locked her out of the Tardis and went on his way without her. In real life, Carol Ann Ford was frustrated with her character's lack of development and opted out of the series. She returned as Susan in 1983 for the 20th Anniversary episode "The Five Doctors". Ford also appeared in the 1993 special "Dimensions in Time" and had a cameo appearance in the 2013 TV Movie "Adventures in Space and Time", as a mother calling for her children to come inside and drink their tea and watch that wacky sci-fi program they loved so much.

     In the 2013 episode "The Rings of Akhatan", the 11th Doctor mentions his granddaughter in passing to Clara Oswald. In the 2017 episode "The Pilot", The 12th Doctor  has a prominent photo of Susan on his desk.



IAN CHESTERTON & BARBARA WRIGHT


Played by William Russell and Jacqueline Hill
Companions to The First Doctor
1963-1965

Doctor: "I learned not to meddle in other people's affairs years ago."

Ian: "Hoo hoo hoo!"

       Ian Chesterton and Barbara Wright were Susan's teachers at the Coal Hill School who found her ways a bit strange. Following her home  one afternoon, they stumbled upon a junkyard and The Doctor, and essentially became becoming unwilling companions. As they got to know The Doctor, and discovered the joy of time travel, Ian and Barbara became invaluable members of the team. In "The Daleks", it was Ian who put himself in charge of getting the Thals combat-ready, and took command in the charge to defeat The Daleks. In other episodes, he was never one to back down from a fight, and he usually won. Barbara was always quick on her feet, using logic, intuition and imagination to save the day on several occasions.

     Ian and Barbara stayed with The Doctor for many adventures, but after defeating The Daleks (once again!) in 1965's "The Chase", the pair said goodbye to The Doctor and used an abandoned Dalek time machine to get back to London circa 1965.

      In an episode of The Sarah Jane Adventures, Sarah Jane Smith reveals that Ian and Barbara eventually wed and have not aged a bit since the 1960s. Good for them!

     Ian and Barbara, as played by Russell and Hill, easily deserve top honors in The Companion's Hall of Fame. They were "the adults" in the room", separating them from both the ageless Doctor and the youngsters. Their ability to carry the story even when The Doctor was not around, and their obvious affection for one another, brought an unexpected depth to what was essentially a show about a cranky old madman and his flying phone box. After they left, there were many more fine companions to come, but none with quite the adult vibe that Ian and Barbara brought to the show.

A SAMPLE OF THE FIRST DOCTOR AND HIS ORIGINAL COMPANIONS

Companions not highlighted: Vicky, Steve Taylor, Dodo Chaplet. Vicky, a quite lively and fun companion, was obviously meant to fill the spot left by Susan's absence, in the same way Steve Taylor was to fill the "Ian Chesterton" slot. Dodo was a short-lived replacement for Vicky. Then there was Katarina, who was also short-lived, figuratively and literally - she was the first companion to die while traveling with The Doctor.

Jackie, We Hardly Knew You: As will be mentioned several times in our Doctor Who sections, many prominent Doctor Who star had previously appeared as a different character before landing their starring roles. Jacqueline Hill, however, did it the other way around. She was one of the first stars of the show in 1963, left in 1965, and returned to the series much later in 1980's "Meglos" as the priestess Lexa. Jacqueline Hill died of cancer in 1993.


BEN JACKSON AND POLLY (WRIGHT)

Played by Michael Craze and Anneke Wills
Companions to the First and Second Doctors
1965-1966

POLLY: Ben, do you remember what he said in the tracking room? Something about 'This old body of mine is wearing a bit thin.'
BEN: So he gets himself a new one?
POLLY: Well, yes.
BEN: Oh, do me a favour!

     It's not easy writing about Ben and Polly because so many of their adventures are in tatters. Ben and Polly met in a London nightclub in the 1966 story "The War Machine", the only story featuring the two characters that is not lost or missing episodes. Polly was a posh, "Swinging Sixties Chick" while Ben was a navy man, solid and dependable and a just a wee bit thick. When The Doctor's companion Dodo left The Doctor, Ben and Polly brought her Tardis key back to The Doctor and, as so often happens in these early years of the show, they were taken away on an adventure without their consent. The pair, who became great friends, were the first companions to witness a regeneration. Injured on the planet Mondas, The Doctor, noting to them that he is "wearing a bit thin", collapsed on the Tardis floor and regenerated into a younger-looking and definitely wackier incarnation of himself, played by Patrick Troughton. Polly quickly figured out this new version was actually The Doctor in a new form, while Ben had his doubts.

     In the episode "The Highlanders", The Doctor and his two new companions meet Jamie McCrimmon in 1746 Scotland, who becomes yet another companion for The Doctor. When the Tardis landed to 1966 London, both Ben and Polly left The Doctor to continue their normal lives, much as Ian and Barbara did with The First Doctor.

     The characters of Ben and Polly were briefly revived in the 2017 Christmas episode "Twice Upon a Time", and were played by Jared Garfield and Lily Travers.

     Polly's last name was never mentioned in the show, as it was the same last name as one of the Doctor's previous companion, Barbara Wright.


JAMIE (James Robert McCrimmon)

Played by Frazer Hines
Companion to the Second Doctor
1966-1969, 1983 Anniversary Special "The Five Doctors", 1985 episode "The Two Doctors"

"Ooh, it's a flying beastie!"
- Jamie's reaction at seeing his first airplane

     The character of Jamie McCrimmon appeared in more episodes than any other companion in Doctor Who history, and it doesn't seem like that record will be broken any time soon.

     Unfortunately, because so many of The Second Doctor stories are missing, we may never get a full picture of just what Jamie McCrimmon, and Frazer Hines, the actor who played him, brought to the table. (The same could be said for The Second Doctor/Patrick Troughton).

     The Doctor met Jamie in "The Highlanders" (1966), set in Scotland, 1746. It was the second story of The Second Doctor's first season. At the end of the story, The Doctor invited Jamie on board the Tardis. Although flying around into the future may have been daunting for the young Scotsman, he was a quick and eager learner. While one companion, Victoria, would make way for another, Zoe, Jamie was in every Second Doctor episode after "The Power of the Daleks", although in "The Mind Robber" (1968), he was occasionally replaced in some scenes by actor Hamish Wilson.

"Look at the size of that thing, Doctor!"
"Yes, Jamie, that is a big one!"

Classic out-of-context exchange. They were looking at a space station.

     At the end of the season finale "The War Games", both Jamie and the Doctor's other companion Zoe had their minds wiped by The Time Lords and were sent back to their respective eras, with no memories of their time with The Doctor.

     Frazer Hines reprised his Jamie persona twice. The first was a small cameo in 1983's "The Five Doctors", the second a much more satisfying full adventure in 1985's "The Two Doctors", featuring the then-current Doctor Colin Baker and Patrick Troughton reprising his role as The Second Doctor.

      After The Second Doctor and Jamie's run on Doctor Who, there was an undeniable shift in the show, and dominant male companions became rather scarce. From the Pertwee years through to the Capaldi years, strong female companions would dominate Doctor Who, in the likes of Liz Shaw, Jo Grant, Sarah Jane Smith, Leela, Romanas One and Two, Nyssa, Tegan Jovanka, Ace, Rose Tyler, Martha Jones, Donna Noble, Amy Pond, Clara Oswald and Bill Potts. On the male side, we had the likes the goofy Harry Sullivan, the precocious boy Adric, Vislor Turlough, who started off trying to kill The Doctor before becoming his friend, and awkward, lovable, often confused Rory Williams who, absolutely, was one of the strongest male companions in the whole series. But overall, the ladies had become the leads; even Rory became a companion to the Eleventh Doctor simply because The Doctor already recruited Amy, and Rory was her husband.

     Not to stir up any controversy about the Thirteenth Doctor being a woman, and I have no problem with that choice at all, but the long list of strong female companions from Barbara Wright up through Clara Oswald and Bill Potts does call into question the idea that we needed a woman Doctor because young female viewers had no heroes to look up to in the show. 

Pictured above: (1) Jamie meets The Sixth Doctor (2) The Twelfth Doctor and Clara.

Companions not highlighted: Victoria, who traveled traveled with The Second Doctor and Jamie. When Victoria left, Zoe showed up. Take it away, Zoe.


ZOE

Played by Wendy Padbury
Companion to the Second Doctor
1968-1969
1983 20th Anniversary Episode "The Five Doctors"

     The First and Second Doctors went through cute, tiny female companions the way someone with a cold goes through tissues. Ever since The Doctor left his granddaughter Susan behind in "The Dalek Invasion of Earth" (1964), there seemed to have been an assembly line of Replacement Susans to take her spot in the Tardis. Zoe Heriot, played by Wendy Padbury, was the last and, in my opinion, the best of them. It's not so much that she worked well with The Doctor, which she did, but more that she fit right in with Jamie McCrimmon. With Jamie being The Second Doctor's right hand man and a kind of older brother to Zoe, a tight, solid trio was formed that lasted from 1968's "The Wheel in Space" all the way through 1969's ten-part "The War Games".

     Zoe was a mathematical genius from the future, and was often portrayed as smarter than The Doctor himself. But as The Doctor once told her, ""Logic, my dear Zoe, merely enables one to be wrong with authority."

     P.S. The Replacement Susans could be the name of a great band.


BRIGADIER ALISTAIR GORDON LETHBRIDGE-STEWART

(aka "The Brigadier")
Played by Nicholas Courtney
Companion to The Second, Third, Fourth, Fifth and Seventh Doctors
1968-1989
1993 Special "Dimensions in Time"
Other: The Sarah Jane Adventures: "Enemy of the Bane" (2008)

"Thank you, Brigadier - but do you think for once in your life you could manage to arrive before the nick of time?"

     Brigadier Alistair Gordon Lethbridge-Stewart (hereby known as "The Brigadier") is a companion who has rarely if ever traveled in the Tardis with The Doctor (if he did, it was probably against his will), yet was one of his closest and longest running allies. The Brigadier first met The Second Doctor in 1968's "The Web of Fear" and reunited with him later that year in "The Invasion". When a strange man showed up in a hospital in 1970's "Spearhead from Space", The Brigadier soon figured out it was The Doctor, regenerated into a new body.

     Most of The Brigadier's adventures would be with The Third Doctor, who was marooned on Earth without a working Tardis.  The head of UNIT (United Nations Intelligence Taskforce and later United Intelligence Taskforce), The Brigadier was attuned to all kinds of alien activity and actively helped The Doctor in defeating them.

"You know, just once I'd like to meet an alien menace that wasn't immune to bullets."

     The Brigadier had a low-key sense of humor that belied his stuffy, by-the-book demeanor. When the Second Doctor mentioned he couldn't find his recorder, otherwise he could play a tune to pass the time, The Brigadier replied "We must be thankful for small mercies." As he watched his friend The Third Doctor regenerate into The Fourth, his only reaction was "Well... here we go again."  His most famous utterance, "Five rounds rapid", became the title of actor Nicholas Courtney's autobiography. *

    The Brigadier would continue working with the various incarnations of The Doctor on and off until the original series was canceled in 1989. Nicholas Courtney worked with six of the seven Doctors in the original series. He appeared in the First Doctor adventure "The Dalek's Master Plan", but not as The Brigadier, but eventually caught up to the First Doctor, played by Richard Hurndall, in 1983's "The Five Doctors". His last appearance in the original series was in the Sylvester McCoy adventure "Battlefield" (1989) and in 1993, he finally got to work with Colin Baker's Sixth Doctor in a special crossover episode with EastEnders, thus working with every Doctor who had appeared in the original series.


"Well, I didn't know he'd go off like that - the man's so infernally touchy."
- The Brigadier on The Third Doctor's temperament.

      Nicholas Courtney returned to the Doctor Who Universe, if not the show itself, in 2008. When Freema Agyeman, who played The Tenth Doctor's companion Martha Jones for a season and a half, became unavailable to guest star in the Sarah Jane Adventures episode "Enemy of the Bain", Russell T Davies rewrote the script to feature Courtney as The Brigadier instead. It turned out to be his last acting role. The actor passed away in February of 2011 after a long illness.

     The character's final appearance in the modern series was as a Cyberman in 2012's "Death in Heaven", though he was obviously not played by Nicholas Courtney.

"But, Doctor, it's exactly your cup of tea. This fellow's bright green, apparently, and dead."

     The Brigadier's daughter, Kate Stewart, had several adventures with Doctors Eleven and Twelve.

* The book title "Five Rounds Rapid" comes from a classic nonchalant exchange between The Brigadier and one of his men while fighting a winged monster known as a Dæmon:

"Jenkins?"
"Sir?"
"Chap with the wings there... five rounds rapid."



LIZ SHAW

Played by Carolyn John
Companion to the Third Doctor
1970
1983 20th Anniversary Episode "The Five Doctors"
1993 Special "Dimensions in Time"

     Not only did The Doctor regenerate in 1970, but so did the entire show. With The Doctor being denied his Tardis, the stories became Earth-centric as The Doctor fell in with UNIT to fight alien invaders and, more often than not, The Master.

     Liz Shaw was a UNIT scientist The Doctor took to immediately, ladies man that he was in his third incarnation. At the end of the first Pertwee story, "Spearhead from Space", The Doctor agreed to work for UNIT but with some demands, one of them being appointing Liz Shaw as his personal assistant. Shaw was not an exciting companion, but she was a solid character, and a far cry from the often tiny and cute companions that traveled around with The First and Second Doctors. Like Ian and Barbara from the early days, Shaw, although fairly young, was clearly an adult, and not one to go screaming for The Doctor's help every five minutes. The team of The Doctor, The Brigadier and Liz Shaw battled evil in four stories together, for a total of twenty-five episodes.


LIZ: "What are you a doctor of, by the way?"
DOCTOR: "Practically everything, my dear!"

     Actress Caroline John left the show at the end of her first season due to pregnancy. Producer Barry Letts was set to let her go anyway, as he felt, wrongfully in my opinion, that her character didn't work, being too intelligent and too much like The Doctor himself.

     An underrated companion, sez I!

THE DOCTOR, LIZ SHAW AND THE BRIGADIER



JO GRANT

Played by Katie Manning
Companion to the Third Doctor
1971-1973

"Doctor, stop being childish!"
"What's wrong with being childish? I like being childish!"
 - Jo Grant and The Doctor, "Terror of the Autons"

    The Third Doctor had a trio of great companions in his day. The first was UNIT Scientist Liz Shaw, played by Caroline John. The third was journalist Sarah Jane Smith, played by Elisabeth Sladen, of whom, see her own section below this one.

     The one in the middle, my favorite of the three, was Jo Grant, played by Katie Manning.

     A junior operative at UNIT, Jo Grant was the replacement for Liz Shaw. Instead of a companion nearly as smart as The Doctor, the powers that be wanted a "What does that thing do, Doctor?" type character the audience could cling to, and Jo Grant fit the bill perfectly. What the writers essentially did was create a stereotypical pretty "sci-fi girl" who was always getting in deadly trouble and needed the help of the male hero. Then, they ever-so-slowly pulled the rug out from underneath the viewers as Jo Grant's character grew stronger with each new episode.

     Although not a scientist, and with few skills beyond the occasional lock-breaking, she nevertheless endeared herself to The Doctor quickly, and the pair has an easy-going, affectionate relationship - one of the sweetest friendships in the entire series. Grant was cute, bubbly, clumsy, loyal to a fault, and always fun to watch. She once called herself "exceedingly dim" but this wasn't true. Although she would often get herself into danger, she also got out of danger using her wits almost as often.


"I'm up on the slag heap with the Professor. He's hurt, and we're surrounded by maggots."

     Jo Grant's goodbye scene after three years with The Doctor is one of those moments that remind you of how touching a series about a flying alien madman could be at times. If you think that the first time The Doctor fell in love with a companion was during the David Tennant - Rose Tyler years, watch the end of "The Green Death" to see what a Doctor in love looks like when his companion "flies the coup".

     In 2010, Manning reprised her role as Jo Grant in "Death of the Doctor", an episode of The Sarah Jane Adventures also featuring Matt Smith as The Doctor.



SARAH JANE SMITH

Played by Elisabeth Sladen
Companion to The Third Doctor and The Fourth Doctor
1973-1976,
1983 20th Anniversary Episode "The Five Doctors"
1993 Special "Dimensions in Time"
Modern Series: "School's Out" (2006), "The Stolen Earth/Journey's End" (2008), "The End of Time 2" (2009)
Other: The Sarah Jane Adventures (2007 - 2011)

     If they ever build a Companions Hall of Fame, there would surely be a statue of Sarah Jane Smith at the entrance. Sarah Jane is the only Classic Era companion who, as of 2017, has also appeared in the Modern Era series as the same character. She met The Tenth Doctor (six regenerations after she last saw him) in the 2006 episode "School Reunion" and showed up again in the 2008 two-part season ender "The Stolen Earth/Journey's End" and 2009's two-part special "The End of Time".

     However, the character is best known for her appearances in the original series with The Third and Fourth Doctors. Sladen joined the cast in 1973's "The Time Warrior", the first episode of Jon Pertwee's fifth and final season as The Doctor. When The Third Doctor regenerated at the end of the season, Sarah Jane continued her adventures with The Fourth Doctor, now played by Tom Baker. Many long time fans consider the Tom Baker/Elisabeth Sladen years to be the "Golden Age" of Doctor Who. After one season with The Third Doctor and two-plus with The Fourth, Sarah Jane Smith was written out of the series in 1976, the pretext being that The Doctor had been called back to Gallifrey, where humans were not permitted.

     Elisabeth Sladen opined that her popularity may have sprung from the fact that she was working with two Doctors who had become instant favorites with the public, and that indeed may have been a factor, but there is more to it. Her character, Sarah Jane Smith, was a step up from Jo Grant. Whereas Grant was a bit flaky and occasionally scatterbrained, Smith was a smart, confident journalist whose intense curiosity about things fit right in with The Doctor's similar passions. It was, of course, the Seventies and the rise of the Women's Liberation Movement, and though this doesn't mean Sarah Jane was burning her bra and participating in marches every episode, she was a strong independent female character who stood toe to toe with the rather imposing male hero. Considering the times and some of the companions from the earlier years, that was enough.

     In the aftermath of the Sarah Jane years, I believe the writers attempted to make each new companion essential to the series, and did a fairly decent job of it.


"He talks to himself sometimes because he's the only one who understands what he's talking about."

     In 2007, Sladen helmedthe Doctor Who spinoff The Sarah Jane Adventures, a fun show geared more for teens but quite enjoyable for adults too. It last until her death in 2011.

     Toby Whithouse, who wrote 2006's "School Reunion", described Sladen/Sarah Jane quite nicely in a 2012 BBC America interview:

"[She] redefined the role of the companion... She changed the companion from being a rather helpless hysteric to being a feisty, opinionated, strong equal to the Doctor... I think what Lis Sladen did with that character is quite extraordinary. We forget how revolutionary she was at the time."

     In short - Sarah Jane Smith deserves her title as The Most Popular Classic Companion, though... truthfully...

     Jo Grant was more fun.

Directly above: Billie Piper, David Tennant and Elisabeth Sladen in the 2006 Doctor Who episode "School's Out".

DR. HARRY SULLIVAN

Played by Ian Marter
Companion to the Fourth Doctors
1974-1975

DOCTOR: "You're improving, Harry."
HARRY: "Am I really? "
DOCTOR: "Yes, your mind is beginning to work. It's entirely due my influence, of course. You mustn't take any credit."

     When I first came across UNIT Doctor Harry Sullivan while making my way through the original series, I wrote him off as a non-descript, one-note character who was not special in any way I could think of, and so I didn't add him to the pantheon of Classic Companions. Yet, upon rewatching a couple of first season Tom Baker episodes a year later. I realized I was wrong about Harry. It was his very "Everyman" quality that made him special. He was just an ordinary, average guy, somewhat dull and awkward, but sweet and brave, and in his short time with The Doctor, he proved himself worthy of his role as companion. Harry was the kind of character whom you might overlook because he simply feels like he has always been there and always should be there. Perhaps his greatest moment was when he rescued The Doctor from a land mine, without any regard for the danger that may have also killed himself in the process.

     Actor Ian Marter only appeared in seven stories as Harry Sullivan before the powers that be decided he was surplus to the needs of the show. A shame and a mistake. It would be many years before a strong male Doctor Who companion, Rory Williams, would rise from the sea of beautiful, resourceful females and take his rightful place at The Doctor's side.

     Aside from being a cast member, Ian Marter was also known for penning some of the most popular and beloved novelizations of Doctor Who stories for Target Books. Sadly, the actor died at age forty-two on his birthday in 1986, succumbing to a heart attack brought on by his diabetes.



LEELA


Played by Louise Jameson
Companion to the Fourth Doctor
1977-1978
1993 Special "Dimensions in Time"

"Never mind, Doctor, I've found the answer.... knife them in the neck."

     The Pertwee-Baker era was a marvelous time for memorable companions. After one companionless episode following the departure of the always well-dressed and perky Sarah Jane Smith, fans were treated to the violent warrior Leela running around in a skimpy outfit just one or two steps above what Linda Harrison wore as "Nova" in the Planet of the Apes movies. Within minutes of meeting and befriending The Doctor, Leela killed somebody because... well, she just had to. She'd use anything as a weapon, from a golf club to a ball peen hammer, and she usually got the job done. When The Doctor saved her from being killed by members of her own tribe, Leela instantly became his new best friend, willing to die for him, or better yet, kill for him.

     In short, you don't want to mess with Leela.


"Silence! You will do as the Doctor instructs, or I will cut out your heart!"

     Leela came from the future, and had violent and savage instincts. She was quick to maim or kill, but she also completely understood the concept of loyalty and friendship and was very loving and protective with those she considered friends and allies. However, she never became the Eliza Doolittle figure The Doctor attempt to make her. When, on The Doctor's suggestion, she dressed in sophisticated nineteenth century clothes to fit in with the specific time period of one of their adventures, she still ate her food with her hands and drank straight out of the punch bowl. She also had the habit of ignoring The Doctor and walking away in mid-sentence, usually with knife in hand, without him noticing, much to his annoyance. In short, Leela was not Sarah Jane Smith, and that was a good thing. Every companion should bring something new to the table, just to shake things up, and Leela brought an entire dinner course. And then probably ate all the food with her bare hands and drank straight from the punch bowl. And stabbed somebody for eying her dessert.

     When Professor Marius introduced his robot dog K9 to the Doctor and Leela, she took an immediate shine to him. And him to her too - when, at the end of "The Invasion of Time", Leela randomly decided to stay behind on Gallifrey to get married, K9 insisted on staying also to look after the woman he called "Mistress". (See more on K9 directly below).


DOCTOR: I wonder.

LEELA: What?
DOCTOR: Shhhh. I'm wondering.

     As pointed out in several sources, Leela, unlike many other companions, rarely screamed in terror when facing danger. Her usual response when faced with pain or certain death was to boastfully curse whomever was threatening her ("Enjoy your death, as I enjoyed killing you!")

     Louise James as Leela was only on the show for a relatively short period, but she made for a fun, exciting and unforgettable companion. One of my favorites.

     We Interrupt This Program For An Important Message: In 1987, during a Chicago broadcast of the Doctor/Leela adventure "The Talons of Weng-Chiang", some still unknown person hijacked the television transmission for nearly five minutes, and America was introduced to Max Headroom!



K9 (aka "K-9")


Companion to the Fourth Doctor
1977-1981,
1983 ("The Five Doctors")
1993 Special "Dimensions in Time"
2006 ("School Reunion"), 2008 ("Journey's End")
Other: The Sarah Jane Adventures
(Pronounced "kay - NINE" or "KAY-nine". Your choice.)

     One of the most admirable aspects of the modern continuation of Doctor Who is the love and respect for everything that came before. With better makeup and effects, old villains and monsters may have been spruced up from their original designs, but the Dalek from 2005 were instantly recognizable as being one of the same creatures that first appeared in the 1963 season. Thus, when Sarah Jane Smith showed up in 2006's "School Reunion", the mechanical dog K9 she had with her was the same goofy, lovable, sometimes annoying K9 that traveled around with The Doctor back in the Tom Baker days. *


"Your silliness is noted."

     K9, the most polite robot dog you could ever hope to meet, spent four seasons on the show before The Doctor handed off the little dog-bot to Romana and both she and K9 were written out of the series. (Before this, Leela also left with a K9 - see the tiny note below for an explanation of multiple K9s). A planned "K9" series went nowhere after the initial pilot, but after his appearance in 2006's "School Days", he became a recurring cast member of Russell T Davies' Doctor Who spinoff The Sarah Jane Adventures, and also had a one-season series all to himself.


"Affirmative!"


K-9 AND LEELA

     Tom Baker had a great friendship with John Leeson, who provided the voice of K9 in most of the original series appearance of the character, and who acted as K9 during rehearsals. Baker, however, despised K9.

     I, however, loved K9, even though I thought I was going to hate him. My silliness is noted.

* K9 was actually a series of mechanical dogs throughout his lifespan.


ROMANA (I and II)


Played by Mary Tamm
1978-79
Played by Lalla Ward
1979-1981
1993 Special "Dimensions in Time"
Companion to the Fourth Doctor

      Romana was a Time Lord (also known as "Time Lady") who traveled with The Fourth Doctor in two different incarnations, with a couple of quick regenerations in between. Traditionally, fans identify the two versions of Romana as "Romana I" and "Romana II". Romana I was posh and charming, and while there was some friction between her and The Doctor at first, they soon settled down to a comfortable friendship. Perhaps too comfortable; despite Mary Tamm's talent and perfect 1980's "Bond Girl" looks, Romana I as written had little of the chemistry with The Doctor that made companions such as Jo Grant, Sarah Jane Smith or Leela so much fun to watch. Granted, there wasn't anything wrong with the character of Romana, and in the one season Mary Tamm appeared in, she did excellent work and was certainly an asset to the series. It was a truly entertaining season overall.

     Tamm, dissatisfied with what she was given to do, left the series at the end of her one and only season. The 1979 season began with Lalla Ward as a suddenly newly regenerated Romana, one that looked exactly like Princess Astra, whom Ward had played the previous season in the six-part story "The Keys to Time". No explanation of why she regenerated was given, the whole regeneration sequence being played as as gag.


'Doctor, I've been calculating our chances of success."

"I don't want to hear them!"
"Very wise."


     Romana II was not all that different from her predecessor; there were just some minor tweaks to her appearance and character. A little less glamour, a little more quirkiness, and an actress with a smile that could light up the Tardis and - voila! - Doctor Who had a companion that fit better with The Doctor and the show. Lalla Ward and Tom Baker had chemistry to spare, which overflowed into real life when they got married in 1980. The marriage was short-lived; they got divorced in 1981.

     Romana's quick regenerations in Ward's first episode, often described as trying on new outfits, have been a matter of debate for a long time. Time Lords, such as The Doctors we know of, usually regenerate only as a last resort, when they are mortally wounded. Judging from Romana's actions, though, I assume that a Time Lord can regenerate any time he or she likes, but I would venture a guess that it eats up regenerations best saved for moments where they really need it.

     Befitting her quirkiness, Romana II had a rather abrupt exit, leaving The Doctor with nary any warning at the end of 1981's "Warrior's Gate". The Doctor impulsively gave her K9 as a parting gift and went on his way with the stowaway Adric.

     As always, the above thoughts on both Mary Tamm and Lalla Ward are just my opinions, and although I enjoy Ward more, many fan polls have Mary Tamm's version of Romana more popular than Lalla Ward's. I have no problem with that. Same character, two different incarnations, I like them both.


Pictured above: Lalla Ward and Tom Baker in a 1980's Prime Computer advertisement.


ADRIC


Played by Matthew Waterhouse
Companion to the Fourth and Fifth Doctors
1980-1982

     Adric was a young orphan boy who lived with his brother on the planet Alzarius in the alternate Universe known as E-Space (got all that?). When the Tardis accidentally wound up to E-Space, Adric met The Doctor, and later stowed away in the Tardis. When The Doctor discovered him, Adric quickly became a companion.

     SPOILERS: Adric is best known in Doctor Who history for his unexpected death. Although he wasn't the first companion to die in the series, Adric's death was the most dramatic up to that point, and unlike some later companions who had an equally shocking death, Adric stayed dead. Attempting to prevent a freighter from crashing into the Earth, Adric used his mathematical prowess to try to change the course of the ship, but a stray shot from a dying Cyberman blew apart the ship's controls, and as The Fifth Doctor and his other companions watched helplessly from the Tardis, Adric and the freighter crashed to Earth. His final utterance before dying - "Now I'll never know if I was right" - goes down in Who History with "Don't worry - it's far from being all over" and "You were fantastic, absolutely fantastic. And you know what? So was I!" as famous last words.

     P.S. "A Stray Shot from a Dying Cyberman" would make a great song title. Maybe The Replacement Susans will record it.



NYSSA

Played by Sarah Sutton
Companion to the Fourth and Fifth Doctors
1981-1983
1993 Special "Dimensions in Time"

     Quite possibly the nicest companion to ever fly in the Tardis,  Nyssa first met The Fourth Doctor and his companions on her home planet in "The Keeper of Traken". Late in the final episode, Nyssa's father is killed by The Master (played by Anthony Ainley) and the last we see of Nyssa, she was looking for her dad, unaware yet that he is dead. She then suddenly showed up in "Logopolis" where she joined Adric and Tegan Jovanka as a new companion to The Fourth Doctor. When The Doctor was mortally wounded and regenrated into The Fifth Doctor, Nyssa stayed on with him, as did Adric and Tegan, for a brand new set of adventures.

     Nyssa was a kind of one-woman sea of tranquility, a person who could easily befriend the headstrong Adric and the highly excitable Tegan as well as be a great asset to The Doctor himself. Because of her gentle nature, she was always good for some non-confrontational story exposition. In general, though, if Doctor Who were Three's Company, Nyssa would be Janet - a necessary and useful character, but not a terribly fun one.



TEGAN JOVANKA


Played by Janet Fielding
Companion to the Fourth and Fifth Doctors
1981-1984

      Tegan Jovanka was a stewardess whose car broke down as she was trying to get to Heathrow Airport. When she walked into a police box looking for help, she found herself lost in what she later learned was The Doctor's Tardis. As happens so often with people who accidentally enter The Doctor's life, she soon became a companion. Like Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz, though, Tegan had one wish throughout much of her time with The Doctor: getting back home, something The Doctor somehow always found difficult to schedule in his travels. Of course, by the time The Doctor attempted to grant her wishes, she no longer wanted to leave.

     Tegan can be seen as a forerunner to the later Donna Noble, not afraid to stand up to The Doctor. Like Donna, Tegan could often be loud, emotional and argumentative (she described herself as "a mouth on legs") but was fiercely loyal to The Doctor and her friends. She didn't get to spend much time with The Fourth Doctor, as he was "killed" by The Master shortly after Tegan showed up. However, when he regenerated into his fifth incarnation, she stayed with him. And like Ian and Barbara and the later Martha Jones, Tegan also left The Doctor on her own terms. Having seen too much death, including the above-mentioned Adric, she departed Doctor rather abruptly at the end of the episode "Resurrection of the Daleks", by which time she had become one of my favorite companions.

     Tegan and Nyssa made for a nice team, one reminiscent of Star Trek's Mr. Spock and Doctor McCoy, with Nyssa was the smarter, less emotional crew member and Tegan the perpetually skeptical and irritable "human" one.


TEGAN: Come on, Doc... you can make it."

FIRST DOCTOR: "Well of course I can, young woman... and kindly refrain from addressing me as 'Doc'!"

     In the 2013 episode "The Crimson Horror", The Eleventh Doctor tells companion Clara Oswald that he "once spent a hell of a long time trying to get a gobby Australian to Heathrow Airport", hearkening back to his time with Tegan, if somewhat dismissively. I think The Fifth Doctor would have said it in a nicer way.

     As one YouTube fan writes in a tribute video to Tegan, "She takes on The Master, The Cybermen, a slew of creatures and people who only want to capture and harm her or her friends, and she does it all while running around in high heels."

     By the way, dressed up in 1920's flapper clothes and dancing the Charleston in the episode "Black Orchid", Tegan looks quite charming, happy and carefree. Though she was undoubtedly the strongest companion the Fifth Doctor had, it would have been nice if we could have seen more more of this fun side of her. Evil "Tegan Possessed by The Mara" was pretty cool too.

     Here is Tegan, saying goodbye to The Doctor:



VISLOR TURLOUGH


Played by Mark Strickson
Companion to The Fifth Doctor
1983-1984

     Vislor Turlough (I so want to type "Victor" every time!) is the first adult male companion to hang with The Doctor since Harry Sullivan back in the early Tom Baker days. Like many male companions of the old and new series, Vislor usually played second fiddle behind the ladies, and it didn't help that he started his appearance on the show as a weak-willed man who was under the control of The Black Guardian, who demanded he kill The Doctor. Once free from that constraint, Vislor Turlough becomes more interesting, even if his still had a streak of cowardice that was unbecoming. Though he did have some heroic moments, Vislor was usually the first one to say "Let's get out of here!" at the sign of trouble. Still, he was a serviceable companion, but, just as one by one Adric, Nyssa and Tegan exited, so did Vislor, leaving only new companion Peri to carry The Doctor through his next regeneration.



PERI (Perpugilliam Brown)


Played by Nicola Bryant
Companion to the Fifth and Sixth Doctors
1984-1986
1993 Special "Dimensions in Time"

      In an attempt to get more viewers from The U.S., the powers that be added actress Nicola Bryant to the show as Perpugilliam ("Peri") Brown, a botany major from California. It was the first time The Doctor would have an "American" companion, though Bryant was actually born in Surrey, England. Both Bryant and her character Peri had their ups and downs in the series. Bryant sometimes had trouble with her American accent, and yet, so as not to confuse fans from the U.S., she had to use that accent at all public Doctor Who functions. The show was also not above exploiting her flattering figure; in her first appearance, she is in a bikini, and for much of her run in the show, you might suspect that the director is stopping every few minutes to yell "MORE CLEAVAGE!".

     Poor Peri - saved from drowning by Vislor Turlough, she immediately became the main pawn in a dangerous game between The Doctor and The Master. When The Master was defeated, Peri, now The Fifth Doctor's only companion, took part in one one adventure before The Doctor regenerated into The Sixth Doctor (Colin Baker), who, due to a problematic regeneration, was choking her to near-death within minutes of regenerating, often considered to be one of the lowest moments in the series.


"I am The Master!"

"I am Perpugillium Brown and I can yell as loud as you can!"


     A long break between seasons kept Doctor Who off TV for 18 months, and when it returned, The Doctor was put on trial by the Time Lords for breaking several Gallifrey laws. At the end of the series, Peri was gone and Colin Baker was fired from the show. All in all, not Doctor Who at its best.

     Brought into the show as eye-candy, and yes, she was undeniably a lovely woman, Nicola Bryant  asked for permission to tone down the sexy outfits in her second season with Colin Baker. It was a season that sometimes showed The Doctor and Peri really enjoying each other's company, something that was almost completely missing in the first season. It was nice to see.

     Take away the wandering accent, the frequent "Lord, that girl is HOT!" reactions from the villains, and the general feeling that the show was faltering, and you still have a good companion in Peri. She was fun to watch, sweet and friendly, and she eventually developed a nice friendship with The Sixth Doctor (the whole "choking" thing was just a blip on the radar), and remained his trusted companion until the very end, even if, it seems to me, she is one of those companions who, like Tegan, never really seemed to enjoy flying around in time and space.    

     One final thought on Peri/Nicola Bryant: there is a moment at the end of Peri's run, in the final episode of the story titled "Mindwarp", where her body is inhabited by somebody else. In those few last moments, brief though they are, we see what a wonderful actress Nicola Bryant truly was. If only they had given her more to do than just play Peri.



ACE


Played by Sophie Aldred

Companion to the Seventh Doctor
1987-1989
1993 Special "Dimensions in Time"

"And naturally, you wouldn't do anything so insanely stupid as to carry around [Nitro-9 Explosive] with you, would you?"
"Of course not. I'm a good girl and do what I'm told."
"Excellent. Blow up that vehicle."

     Ace, a girl sixteen going on forty, was yet another forerunner to the Modern companions such as Rose Tyler, Martha Jones, et. al. Ace, the last companion of the original series, was young, pretty, tough, energetic and intelligent, but without much of a future ahead of her, and it's not a stretch to think that Russell T Davies had a character like her in mind when he created Rose Tyler for the new series. It's easy to see picture Ace fitting right in with Christopher Eccleston or David Tennant. She would have probably have pummeled Matt Smith once or twice, and definitely would have nicknamed Peter Capaldi "Gramps" or, more likely, "Methusela". Whatever modern Doctor you could imagine her traveling with, there would certainly be a lot more explosions.

     Like the Fourth Doctor's companion Leela, Ace rarely screamed in terror. When in trouble, she assessed the situation and came up with a plan, or just ran headlong into danger, guns a-blazin' and bombs a-burstin'. If she was with a group of people but separated from The Doctor, she usually became the leader. And, oh, the nicknames! Just in her first adventure with The Seventh Doctor alone, she coined him "Professor", insisted on calling his first companion Mel "Donut" and renamed mercenary Sabalom Glitz "Bilge Bag". The girl had a nickname for every occasion, and, judging from her frequent use of the word "scumbag", she had a bit of a potty mouth too.


"Wicked!"

     Not only was Ace one of the best companions to come down the pike since the days of Sarah Jane Smith or The Romanas, but she was also one of the most active companions of the original series since the afore-mentioned Leela, always ready to crash through a window, rip a robot's arm out of its socket, or blow up something with her homemade explosive Nitro-9. She certainly made an impression in "Remembrance of the Daleks",  her first full story with The Seventh Doctor, where she blew one Dalek's head off with a bazooka and batted around another one with a baseball bat. In short, she was much fun to watch.

     There was a nice father / daughter feel to her relationship with The Seventh Doctor, akin to that of The First Doctor and Susan. Sophie Aldred had a great rapport with Sylvester McCoy, and by the 26th season, the show seemed to be maturing with more intriguing stories and a special emphasis The Doctor's increasingly dark side and Ace's troubled past.


"Do you know any nice people? You know, ordinary people, not power-crazed nutters trying to take over the galaxy?"

     However, the show went off the air in 1989 after "Survival", leaving the fate of Ace in the air. In the Sarah Jane Adventures episode "Death of the Doctor", it is revealed that a certain "Dorothy" (Ace's real first name) runs an organization called A Charitable Earth.

ACE IN ACTION

Companion not highlighted: Mel Bush. She screamed a lot. See my thoughts on the previous page concerning Mel's time as The Seventh Doctor's companion.
My Classic Companion Rankings

The companions highlighted above are the ones I think defined the original series. However, that doesn't mean I love every companion I highlighted. Here is a list of my favorite companions from the original series. All the companions I wrote about above have now been ranked. If you disagree, just reverse the polarity of the neutron flow.

1. Ace
2. Ian and Barbara (they just go together)
3. Jo Grant
4. Leela
5. The Brigadier
6. Tegan Jovanka
7. Romana II
8. Sarah Jane Smith
9. K9
10. Liz Shaw
11. Harry Sullivan
12. Jamie McCrimmon
13. Romana I
14. Susan
15. Zoe
16. Peri
17. Vislor Turlough
18. Nyssa
19. Adric
20. Ben and Polly

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"Crush the lesser races! Conquer the galaxy!
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- The Seventh Doctor