Classic Companions

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

     Companions, also known as "assistants" in the original series, are those people who travel with The Doctor. In the classic Doctor Who era, they were a mixed bunch. There were some outstanding ones, but for every Jamie McCrimmon, Sarah Jane Smith or  Ace, who all brought skill and intelligence to Team Who, there were others whose only functions seemed to be screaming, running, falling, or just being obnoxious and useless. In the old days, the TARDIS seemed to have a revolving door, with some companions showing up for only a few episodes before moving on, but others 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 my favorite companions from that 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"

"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, the character of Susan was changed to a more typical teenager, albeit one from Gallifrey, in order to give younger viewers someone to whom they could relate. 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 serial "The Dalek Invasion of Earth" Susan fell in love with a human, and The Doctor, wanting her to have a happy life, locked her out of the TARDIS and went on his way without her. The character of Susan returned to the series for the 20th Anniversary episode "The Five Doctors" where she once again teamed with her grandfather, this time played by Richard Hurndall as the original actor, William Hartnell, had passed away. 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.

     Actress Carol Ann Ford had a cameo in the TV Movie "Adventures in Space and Time", as a mother calling for her children to come inside because their favorite show, Doctor Who, was on.


Played by Jacqueline Hill and William Russell

Companions to The First Doctor

Barbara Wright and Ian Chesterton were teachers at the Coal Hill School who found young Susan Foreman's ways a bit strange. Following her home from school one afternoon, they stumbled onto The Doctor and were soon hijacked into the TARDIS, becoming essentially unwilling companions. They stayed with The Doctor even after Susan left, eventually becoming close allies with The Doctor. After several adventures, including a few encounters with The Daleks, they hijacked a Dalek spaceship and, after bidding a sad goodbye to The Doctor, made their way back to London.

      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!

JAMIE (James Robert McCrimmon)

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

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

     A companion with staying power, Jamie McCrimmon first showed up in  1966's "The Highlander", The Second Doctor's second complete episode, and stayed around until the Second Doctor's final episode, 1969's "The War Games". The character of Jamie 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 episodes are either in tatters or completely 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 Doctor met Jamie in "The Highlanders", set in Scotland, 1746. 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 Scot, he was a quick and eager learner and a valued member of The Doctor's team.

     At the end of "The War Games", both Jamie and then-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.


(aka "The Brigadier")

Played by Nicholas Courtney
Companion to The Second, Third, Fourth, Fifth and Seventh Doctors


"That, Brigadier, was the beginning of the end of the world."
"Same as ever, eh, Doctor?"

     Brigadier Alistair Gordon Lethbridge-Stewart (hereby known as "The Brigadier") is a companion who, as far as I know, never flew in the TARDIS with The Doctor, yet was always one of his closest and longest running allies. He 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.

     Many 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.

     The Brigadier often displayed a low-key sense of humor. As he watched his friend The Third Doctor regenerate, his only reaction was "Well... here we go again." 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." His most famous utterance, "Five rounds rapid", became the title of actor Nicholas Courtney's autobiography. *

     The Brigadier would continue working with various Doctors on and off until the original series was canceled in 1989. Actor Nicholas Courtney's last appearance as The Brigadier was in the 2008 episode of The Sarah Jane Adventures "Enemy of the Bain". The actor passed away in February of 2011.

     The Brigadier's daughter, Kate Stewart, who is featured on our "Friends of the Doctor" page, had several adventures with Doctors Eleven and Twelve. One of the most poignant moments in the series is in 2011's "The Wedding of River Song" when The Eleventh Doctor attempts to call his old friend The Brigadier only to find out he has passed away. The character's final appearance in the series was as a Cyberman in 2012's "Death in Heaven", though he was obviously not played by Nicholas Courtney.

* 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:

"Chap with the wings there... five rounds rapid."


Played by Elisabeth Sladen
Companion to The Third Doctor and The Fourth Doctor
1973-1976, 1983 20th Anniversary Episode "The Five Doctors"

     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. 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". Elisabeth Sladen also starred in her own spinoff series The Sarah Jane Adventures.

     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. After several seasons, she left the series at the end of 1976's "The Hand of Fear".

     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."

     With the exception of Clara Oswald, and possibly River Song, Sarah Jane has met more Doctors than any other companion - The First, The Second, The Third, The Fourth, The Fifth, The Tenth, and then, in The Sarah Jane Adventures, The Eleventh.

K9 (aka "K-9")

Companion to the Fourth Doctor
1977-1981, 1983 ("The Five Doctors"), 2006 ("School Reunion"), 2008 ("Journey's End")

     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. *

     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. 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.

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


Played by Mary Tamm
Played by Lalla Ward
Companion to the Fourth Doctor

      Romana was a Timelord who traveled with The Fourth Doctor in two different incarnations, with a couple of quick regenerations in between. Her first incarnation was somewhat cold and snobbish, her second lighter and more fun. The behind the scenes reasons for the two Romanas was that actress Mary Tamm did not like the way her character was being developed and left the show, with Lalla Ward then arriving as a newly regenerated Romana, taking the form of Princess Astra, a character Ward had played the previous season. After an objection from The Doctor, she regenerated into several other forms until The Doctor somewhat reluctantly allowed her to keep the original Princess Astra look. Thus Ward belongs to the Multiple Who Characters Hall of Fame, along with Colin Baker, Freema Agyeman and Peter Capaldi, all of whom played at least one different minor character one season before playing a major character later in the series.

     Romana's quick regenerations, often described as trying on new outfits, have been a matter of debate for a long time. Timelords, such as The Doctors we know of, usually regenerate only as a last resort, when they are mortally wounded. Some, such as The Tenth and The Twelfth, put it off as long as possible ("I don't want to go!" said Ten, while Twelve was weary of endless changing throughout his lifetime). Judging from Romana's actions, though, I assume that a Timelord can regenerate any time he likes, but it does eat up a regeneration best saved for moments where they really need it.

     Also, the appearance of a female Timelord in the show was possibly one of the things that paved the way, albeit two decades later, for the appearance of the The Thirteenth Doctor, the first female Doctor in the series.


Played by Matthew Waterhouse
Companion to the Fourth and Fifth Doctors

     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 he was discovered, The Doctor accepted him as companion.

     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 in the series up to that point, and unlike much later companion Clara Oswald, 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 the ship's controls, and as The 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.

     The final word The Fifth Doctor uttered before regenerating into his sixth incarnation was "Adric".

     P.S. "A Stray Shot from a Dying Cyberman" would make a great song title.


Played by Janet Fielding
Companion to the Fourth and Fifth Doctors

      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 from The Wizard of Oz, though, Tegan had one wish throughout her time with The Doctor: get back home, something The Doctor somehow always found difficult to schedule in his travels.

     A somewhat underrated companion, 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 once 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 the later Martha Jones, Tegan left The Doctor on her own terms. Having seen too much death, including the above-mentioned Adric, she left The Doctor rather abruptly at the end of the episode "Resurrection of the Daleks".

     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."

(Perpugilliam Brown)

Played by Nicola Bryant
Companion to the Fifth and Sixth Doctors

      In an attempt to get more viewers from The U.S., actress Nicola Bryant was added to the show as 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 often 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 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!".

     As Peri, she watched The Fifth Doctor (Peter Davison), with whom she just met and liked, regenerate 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. An 18-month break between seasons kept Doctor Who off TV, and when it returned, The Doctor was put on trial by the Timelords for breaking several Gallifrey laws (yet, I somehow feel it was poor Colin Baker put on trial for doing his best on a show that was not what it used to be) and at one point, he is shown Peri being killed. (It was faked). 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.

     Yet... 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, solid companion in Peri. She was fun to watch, she was sweet and friendly, and she remained The Sixth Doctor's solitary companion in the series until just before the very end of Colin Baker's run, when "Mel" walked in unannounced as the new companion.


Played by Sophie Aldred

Companion to the Seventh Doctor

"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 was yet another forerunner to the Modern companions such as Rose, Martha, et. al. who were an integral part of Team Who. Ace, the last companion of the original series, was young, pretty, tough, energetic and intelligent, but with not 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.
     Ace was one of the most active companions of the original series, always ready to crash through a window, blow something up, or bludgeon a Dalek to death with a baseball bat. There was a father / daughter feel to her relationship with The Seventh Doctor, akin to that of The First Doctor and Susan or The Twelfth Doctor and Clara Oswald. Sophie Aldred had a great rapport with Sylvester McCoy, which helped keep even some lesser episodes watchable.

     The show went off the air in 1989, leaving the fate of Ace in the air, but Sarah Jane Says: A certain "Dorothy" (Ace's real first name) runs an organization called A Charitable Earth.

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