On Companionship

(Contains casting spoilers for Doctor Who Series 4.)

I didn't hold back about me feelings towards Martha's semi-departure last week, but unlike a lot of fans, I'm not at all upset about who they chose to replace her. If there's one thing Who fandom is good it, it's being polarized by stuff. Often, sight unseen. At least this time, there's a body of work to judge the new companion on: The individual has appeared in Who before. There's a long Whovian tradition of "trying out" companions starting with Jenny in Dalek Invasion of Earth who seemed primed to take over for Susan. The role was whittled down at the script change and Vicki had to be brought in on the next serial.

The most famous early example of this is Samanta Briggs, the "brassy scouser" from The Faceless Ones. In this case, it's the actress, Pauline Collins, who decided against joining the cast. It's too bad too, because she really gave Jamie a run for his money. So has a try out ever worked out? For actors, yes, certainly. Lalla Ward played Princess Astra in the serial before she became Romana II, and more recently, Freema Agyeman played a role in the Series 2 finale, before joining the crew as a different character in Series 3.

For characters, it seems to have worked out on a couple of occasions. Both Jamie and Nyssa appeared in a story prior to becoming a companion (joining at the end or in the next story over). In both cases, the characters had been written and cast for that purpose, so appearances are far from the truth. I guess the Brigadier, if you want to call him a companion (he's at least a regular cast member), did appear in Web of Fear, then turned up with UNIT in The Invasion, and then through a few seasons with the 3rd Doctor. But that's the closest we've come. Until now.

The new Companion has appeared in New Who before, so who could it be? I has to be someone set up as a helper of the Doctor's, companion-material if you will, and of course, that can be taken out of history (which eliminates Dickens, Queen Victoria, Madame de Pompadour and Shakespeare). Our options are:

Gwyneth ("The Unquiet Dead"): Too bad she's dead. Of course, her reincarnation seems to have joined up with Torchwood in that series (Gwen, as played by Eve Myles), but she's the heart of that series and wouldn't leave it. But since Torchwood is part of the Whoniverse, and we've seen migrations between the two shows (Captain Jack, Sato, and soon Martha), it's at least possible.

Harriet Jones ("Aliens of London"/"World War Three"): The former MP for Flydale-North is a hoot, but as soon as she became PM (in "The Christmas Invasion"), she had to put a cross on any possible time aboard the TARDIS. The last time we saw her, the Doctor was mighty peeved too.

Cathica ("The Long Game"): Her mind was too closed to new ideas, and she was way too selfish for the Doctor to take her in. Of course, the latter didn't seem to matter when it came to Rose, but... Oh, I didn't just go there, did I? Hm, yeah, seems like I did. Moving on.

Nancy ("The Empty Child"/"The Doctor Dances"): Nancy made for a great period companion, but she has a child to raise, so it's unlikely that she would board the TARDIS. After all, the Doctor doesn't "do" families.

Lynda with a Y ("Bad Wolf"): The first real substitute companion in New Who, her budding relationship with the Doctor gave credence to Rose's apparent death scene in that episode. Everybody loves Lynda. She's sweet! I even named my World of Warcraft character after her. Why did you have to kill her, RTD, why?? (Hold on, did anyone see a body? Can't the Doctor materialize in front of that window in a nick of time and save her? He totally should.)

Sarah Jane Smith ("School Reunion"): She's getting her own series instead. It would certainly have been interesting to see a former (read: Classic Who) companion join the crew, and if anyone deserved to, it's Sarah Jane. She would have made a fine mix of naive damsel in not-too-much-distress (Rose, Martha) and seen-it-all hardened veteran (Jack).

K9 ("School Reunion"): The problem with K9 is that he's not a person. The Doctor needs a person to play off of, so while you can certainly have the tin dog around, he can only really play the Mickey/sonic screwdriver role. Alone, he certainly doesn't work. Leave him in the doghouse.

Mrs. Moore ("Age of Steel"): An older, but vibrant companion would have been really cool. I loved Mrs. Moore. And like everything I love, RTD had to MELT HER! We hardly knew ye, Mrs. Moore, but you'd have made a great older Mrs. Peel kind of character.

Eddie ("The Idiot's Lantern"): The kid could become the new Adric, only with acting. And without the math. Which I think is a damn fair trade. But maybe the times aren't right for a boy-man relationship aboard the TARDIS. People are so quick to send their minds into the gutter.

Ida Scott ("The Impossible Planet"/"The Satan Pit"): Ida was great, but she has a couple things working against her. She's a scientist, but so is the Doctor. Redundancy. And she's from the future, which also alienates her from the audience. Still, she was a smart woman, and I like to identify with smart people. Statistics say I'm not a common man, however.

Elton ("Love & Monsters"): The Series 2 character with the most promise, the obsessed fan turned companion would have been a great archetype to explore. You want audience identification? You got it. Elton was extremely engaging, and definitely in my Top 3 Choices for new companion.

Tallulah ("Daleks in Manhattan"/"Evolution of the Daleks"): No, no, no! I think we were done with fake American accents when Peri left. I thought Tallulah with two Ls a really difficult character to like. Ridiculous characterization that bordered on parody. I do not see her joining the crew of the TARDIS. Besides, she's got her hands full with pig love.

Frank ("Daleks in Manhattan"/"Evolution of the Daleks"): The young Southerner from those same episodes would have been a safer bet. He got on with Martha, was extremely sympathetic, and had an accent that worked. RTD didn't melt him (to my surprise), so he would make a fine boy-companion. We know just enough to like him, but not enough that his character is a done deal.

Joan Redfern ("Human Nature"/"The Family of Blood"): Though invited to come along, it was a foregone conclusion that she would refuse. She's a period character incapable of existing elsewhere and elsewhen. The invitation was a logical extension of the story, but her joining wouldn't have made sense.

Sally Sparrow ("Blink"): Definitely in my Top 3, if not #1, Sally is a great, great character the Doctor should be able to pick up. She worked out some complicated paradoxes, so she's definitely capable. And charming. And beautiful. And witty. Heck, like Elton, she carried an entire episode on her back. That's all we need to know.

Kylie Minogue ("The Voyage of the Damned"): Well, let me see it first.

But we already know who they picked, and that's...
Donna ("The Runaway Bride"): I'm not at all a fan of the "argumentative" companion, especially when she clearly doesn't want to be there. Tegan and Peri were incredibly annoying to me. Is Donna such a character though? I don't ever want to see the Donna we first meet at the start of "The Runaway Bride", but if they remember her development and we get the Donna the Doctor actually invited aboard, I can certainly live with that. I think Donna's best feature is that she's unimpressed with the Doctor. None of this "I have faith in the Doctor" bollocks, and certainly (I hope) no more love at first sight shenanigans. By making Martha a little too close to Rose, they handicapped her. Donna's far from that type and will make a clean break from the present formula.

But what do you think?


Dorian said...

But maybe the times aren't right for a boy-man relationship aboard the TARDIS. People are so quick to send their minds into the gutter.

Especially since in earlier drafts of the script, Eddie was quite clearly gay. And people thought Captain Jack flirting with the Doctor was pushing the envelope!

FoldedSoup said...

I've been watching them as they air here, so I've only seen the first 2 of the new batch. (And pardon me if I sometimes avoid your posts marked *spolier* because of that .. and thanks for the warnings)

But, after the second one - where he invites the pre-med student to join him - I couldn't help but think to myself, "Huh. She's nice, but I would've much preferred the arrogent bride from the first episode...."

Glad to be spolied a bit on that one.

Steve Flanagan said...

Remember, it was only the parallel world version of "Mrs Moore" who was killed. She should have a counterpart on the regular Who-world. So we can live in hope.

Siskoid said...

Dorian: Yeah, it survives in the stuff about his father dictating, among other things, "who you can love".

Soup: Hope you'll revisit them as you go along. Though Martha does have something to offer, you'll see.

Steve: That's true! But she's probably with her husband and kids living a normal life.

Bill D. said...

I only just saw The Runaway Bride last week, but I was glad to hear that Donna is coming back regularly. It will be especially interesting to see how much (or how little) she's changed since her first run-in with the Doctor, and if her desire to "walk around in the dust" is/was trumped by her innate Donna-ness. I think it'll be fun.

And Nicholas Courtney counts as an actor try-out, too... he first turned up as a different character way back in The Dalek's Masterplan. He may have died, too... just about everyone else did in that one.

Siskoid said...

That's true, he was killed by his sister, short-running companion Sarah Kingdom as played by Jon Pertwee's wife Jean Marsh, who HERSELF first appeared as King Richard's sister Johanna in The Crusade.

Only the fact that many don't consider her a companion made me exclude her here.

Unknown said...

Chen Chentho tho.

Katherine said...

So how sad is it that the one of the only photo's of Nancy is on your blog. I want to cosplay, i'm a nerd, enough said. I'll watch the episodes again all will be well.

And an Adric and Teagan reference, i'm impressed. kids these days, they have no sense of history.

Siskoid said...

If you look at other Doctor Who articles on this blog, you'll find I'm a Whovian from way back. Here, only references, elsewhere, entire pieces.


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