Top 10 Doctor Who Companion Farewells

There have been upwards of 30 Companions following the Doctor through space and time, and while the show has lasted more than 30 (non-consecutive) years, that still means one heck of a turnover. Some left of their own accord, others were left on the sidewalk without so much as a by-your-leave as the TARDIS dematerialized before them, never to return, and some went off in between episodes. Some goodbyes were emotional, others downright contrived - beware the dreaded "married off to first comer" farewell! But which are the very best Companion departure scenes? Here are my top picks, but feel free to add Nyssa in the comments. (For purposes of this article, I've only included farewells from the TV series - and thanks to the magic of the internet, they're all here.)

10. Jamie and Zoe in "The War Games"

Starting us off is the twin departure of the second Doctor's loyal companions, Jamie and Zoe. When the Time Lords condemned the Doctor to exile on Earth and to the face of Jon Pertwee, they also decided to ship the Doctor's two young companions back to where they came from, with only the memory of their first (read: non-companion) adventure. Zoe and Jamie always were very child-like, and this is almost like having them wake up from a dream in which they had crazy adventures with an imaginary friend. While the show rarely told us how companions reintegrated into their old lives, The War Games gave each scenes, both exciting and wistful. Zoe's is the heart breaker of the two, and I especially appreciate the return of another guest-star from Zoe's first ep returning to recreate her world. A proper send-off to some of the longest-running companions of the black and white era.

9. Martha Jones in "Last of the Time Lords"

I was rather miffed when my favorite companion at the time left the show, but Martha went just like she spent the whole of her time: Telling it like it is. The Martha I love is the one who sits the Doctor down on New Earth and forces him to tell her what's going on, the one that angrily tells him "I do what I like" when he forbids her to try and save her parents. Rose would do anything the Doctor said. Martha was something else entirely. When she leaves, it's because she chooses to, and on her terms. I now love how she returns to the TARDIS not to change her mind, but to bravely explain herself and to leave him the phone. She's getting out, but she's not letting him get out. Good girl.

8. Adric in "Earthshock"

The first true-blue companion to die had to make this list. Granted, he's one of the worst companions ever, and his death probably inspired more cheers than tears, but still, there's something rather epic about his blowing up the dinosaurs, dying bravely if futilely, clutching his brother's belt. It's kind of touching really... The TARDIS crew's reactions, the silent credit scroll showing Adric's gold star just used to save them. But it's still Adric. It's hard to compel these eyes to shed their water.

7. Tegan in "Resurrection of the Daleks"

[best from 1:20] From the same era as Adric, Tegan was often written as a shrill whiner, but Janet Fielding really did imbue her with a humanity that wasn't always on the page (at least, on her better days). This is a character that so often bitched about wanting to go home and then taking another trip that she almost has to storm off here to force herself to make it real. Like Martha, she leaves on her own terms, and there's a similar sense of a girl who can't wait anymore for the boy she fancies to fancy her back. Tegan returns to see the TARDIS take off - would she have let herself climb back aboard? - and can only quote the Doctor "Brave heart, Tegan" before she breaks down and the emotion-shy camera of the era cuts to credits.

6. Susan in "The Dalek Invasion of Earth"

The first companion to leave was the Doctor's granddaughter, and it's one of those terrible unmotivated departures (married off to a character she had no chemistry with). Of course, it's not her choice, it's the Doctor's. He wants more for her than a life of constant danger. What makes it memorable is the Doctor's speech (reused in The Five Doctors), even of the Doctor never did return. He's essentially making a sacrifice for her happiness, but check out that funereal music as she leaves with her husband-to-be! These are beautiful moments. Only their contrivance keeps Susan out of the Top 5.

5. Jo Grant in "The Green Death"

Jo's relationship to the Doctor was perhaps the first "romantic" Doctor-companion relationship in the show's history, even if it was never overtly physical. Here she is going off with a man she called a "younger version of [the Doctor]", someone she met in the same screwball way and who will soon be off on adventures into the unknown. The only problem with the Doctor himself was that their romance would have been impossible. The Doctor lets her go, but is obviously embarrassed by the whole affair. He downs his drink and drives Bessie off into the night, never admitting to how jilted he feels.

4. Sarah Jane Smith in "The Hand of Fear"

Just prior to the clip, Sarah Jane got in the Doctor's face about not being listened to and she stormed off to get her things, throwing a cute tantrum. Circumstances make the Doctor absent-mindedly call her bluff. It's a charming and affecting exchange, and Sarah has never looked more adorable. The Doctor knows what he's losing and silent pauses replace his usual banter. Sarah doesn't leave kicking and screaming, she's entirely mature about it, though as usual, Liz Sladen gives a textured performance putting a brave front on her disappointment and resentment. Like her time on the series, a satisfying mix of humor and pathos. And she never did forget him, though his promise to her would only be accidentally fulfilled in the new series.

3. Donna Noble in "Journey's End"

It shouldn't be surprising that two out of three departures in the Top 3 are from the new series. Russell T Davies gave the show an emotional core that was rarely present in the classic series, consistently pushed by Murray Gold's monstrously manipulative music (not a complaint, I eat it up). Though Zoe and Jamie were mindwiped long before, it wasn't played like this. Donna is the Old Yeller of companions, put down before she could die a horrible death. Her ending shows there are worse fates than death, in her case, an oblivious return to a mediocre life. All her realized potential, unrealized at once. In an era that told us that the Doctor made individuals he met better people, this was one of the worst falls of all.

2. Rose Tyler in "Doomsday"

Two years in the making, Rose's farewell had many of us sobbing (someone at my house actually BAWLED). I can't hear the "Doomsday" piano theme without welling up myself. The clip starts after the music ends (sadly), but the goodbye on Bad Wolf Bay is a powerful one. Symbolically, we have the Doctor burning out a star to see his love one more time. They're being together would collapse two universes. When RTD lays it on thick, there's more butter than there is bread! Rose's breakdown is a real tearjerker, and I mean, it speaks for itself. It's really too bad they had to give them a second farewell, this one much weaker and even cynical.

1. Ian and Barbara in "The Chase"

Maybe it's because it's the most recent one I've seen, but I love Ian and Barbara's departure scene. The last two original companions to leave and it's got it all. There's their resolve and the Doctor selfishly refusing to take them home aboard the Daleks' DARDIS. Vicki's maturity. "What's two years amongst friends?" The special effect of the DARDIS blowing. The kooky photo montage. The teachers acting like kids (in love). The use of the spacetime viewer. And of course, the Doctor's touching speech at the end. They, after all, taught him how to be human and a hero.

What are YOUR favorites?


Tim Knight said…
I think you've pretty much nailed it, especially for the Classic Era. Susan's is one of my favourites but purely for The Doctor's speech.

I'm afraid Adric's just made me giggle and Rose's did nothing for me - THAT was the most contrived of all companion departures for me because I NEVER bought into the Rose/Doctor "love story".

It never made any sense why after hundreds of years he should fall so heavily for this non-entity of a human being compared to the many, many far more interesting characters he'd met over the years.

Great list, some good memories there ;)
Anonymous said…
They could "fix" Donna Noble, to my satisfaction, just by having her become a champion of some earthbound cause. It could even be done in passing, where (for example) there's a news report in the background of a scene, talking about how this formerly unknown "Donna Noble" burst suddenly onto the local political scene and did something constructive. Just some sort of hint that her life has changed for the better, even if she doesn't know why herself.
Matthew Turnage said…
I don't disagree with the list, but I'd rearrange the order. My top five (in order) would be Donna, Jo, Ian and Barbara, Susan, Rose.

Thinking about it further, I might bump Adric out of the top 10 and slip Mickey's departure in "The Age of Steel" in there. I thought it was a great moment that highlighted the change in the character from his first appearance.
James Ashelford said…
Not sure I'd really call it a departure but... Rory in Cold Blood because of a) how dumbfounded Arthur Darvill looks when he realises he's been shot and b) the sterling acting from Matt Smith and Karen Gillan in the TARDIS afterwards.

Also, even though its a contrived marriage-type departure there's a special place in my heart for Leela's swansong, just for the fact the Doctor can't bring himself to say to her face that he'll miss her as well.
LiamKav said…
Not going with the CGI+camera wibble version of Adric's departure, I see.
Siskoid said…
James: I don't count Rory because he doesn't leave quite yet, but if it were his departure, then yes, it would have been worthy.

Liam: Just a question of what You-Tube I found. Either version works. Obviously, the refurb CGI version is the prettier and clearer of the two.
Mitchell Craig said…
Yeah, I'll pimp for Nyssa's departure in "Terminus". My favorite companion in Classic Who (tied with Sarah Jane Smith), she went from being an orphaned scientific genius to a confident young woman putting herself in harm's way to help others. And that gentle kiss she gives the Doctor just gets to me.
Kandou Erik said…
Can you show all the death (and resurrection) scenes of the Doctor as well. I tried looking for that on Youtube once, but couldn't find anything showing them all.
Siskoid said…
I'm sure they're all there though. It's a deceptively complex question for an article though. Maybe some day.

I did a card series devoted to the regens though. Not quite animated, but there you go.
LiamKav said…
There's the montage sequence they used for this years "Doctor Who at the Proms". I don't know how easy that is to see in other countries. Set to (I think) "This is Gallifrey" and the music used for the 10th Doctor's regeneration. It was very nice. Every Doctor got a cheer, the audience started crying for Tennant's regeneration. I didn't. I was a man. Yes.

(They do a similar thing for the Doctor Who tour that's currently doing the rounds over here in the UK. And, again, some people start blubbing for Tennant. He's a national treasure!)