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John Hussey continues his 50th anniversary retrospective, this time looking at the companions.
2013 is a milestone year for all things Whovian as Doctor Who reaches its grand 50th anniversary, marking 50 years since the show first materialised on our screens back in 1963. Along with my 50th Anniversary Doctor Retrospectives (the 11th Doctor will be published in December following Matt Smith’s final episode), I will add another tribute to Doctor Who TV with ’50 Years of Who’ which serves to look over the different elements of the show that have kept it running throughout its long legacy.
First things first, the companions.
The companions have been a part of Doctor Who since the very beginning and are, in some respect, the main highlight of the show. They are physically placed within the confinements of the mad, blue multi-dimensional box to serve as a bridging point between us the audience and the Doctor’s wild adventures through time and space. Without the companion there wouldn’t be a link between us and the Doctor. We all follow the Doctor, who is the main protagonist of the show, but it’s through the companion’s eyes that we really get to see just who exactly the Time Lord is. The Doctor opens up to the companion, in both a good way and a bad way. We get to see the Doctor’s different layers of both his alien nature and humanity seep through piece-by-piece through the different companions.
The function of the companions
Their function within the show is pretty clear: they are there to serve as our eyes. The companion asks the questions that we, the viewer, want to know about the Doctor, the TARDIS and all the other things that go on both inside and out the Police Box’s doors. The companions are us, but as with all things, it isn’t always that simple. Sure, their function on the outside is to help us the audience delve into this mysterious world that the Time Lord leads, but it’s also inside that counts.
The companion is essentially there for the Doctor. Plain and simple. The Doctor was an old man, even when the show started back in 1963 in ‘An Unearthly Child’. They are his company within his journey of discovery across time and space. At least that’s how it began with his granddaughter Susan Foreman. With his other original companions, they were there against their own free will after stumbling into the Doctor’s life through curiosity. So in reality, Ian Chesterton and Barbara Wright were the First Doctor’s ‘hostages’; at least at first anyway. Over time they became fond of the First Doctor as did he to them and they formed a very close friendship.
This brings us to the other reason the Doctor likes to have companions – a form of friendship – which was first developed through Ian and Barbara. Also through Ian, the companion’s role became that of a protector towards the Doctor, although this was more due to the First Doctor’s older appearance. But that fundamental role still remained throughout the years with future and present companions.
With Barbara, it became about showing the Doctor right and wrong and basically stopping him, if necessary. The Doctor is an alien and what might seem rational to him might not apply to his companions, especially back in his earlier days when his alien side was more dominating and he lacked a sense of human intuition. The amount of times a companion has confronted the Doctor about his actions is almost uncountable (because it happens nearly every episode). The Doctor has even admitted that the companion’s function is to stop him if required, with many telling him that is what he needs. Sometimes the Doctor requires the companion to simply think outside of the box and collect information/point things out that he might not necessarily spot because of his alien way of thinking.
The other main reason the Doctor has a companion is to forge a friendship. The Doctor from time to time (like the best of us) gets lonely and needs someone to talk to. Being as old and wise as the Doctor, I’m guessing you wouldn’t want to be alone in case you talk yourself to death. Answer: have someone travel with him so he can share his knowledge, which on many occasions you can clearly see how happy it makes the Doctor.
In some ways the Doctor just loves to show others the wonders of the universe and on many occasions he has wondered why anything else can compare, demonstrated most recently when Amy Pond and Rory Williams speak about dealing with their own lives outside of the TARDIS. The companions are there for both us and the Doctor, allowing the Doctor either to gain friendship, company or somebody there to stop him on his journeys in the TARDIS, while at the same time the companions serve as our eyes and ears and bridge us with the world of the Time Lord.
The different companions and their different personalities
There are various types of companions within the show and each of them are very different. The most common type of companion is one that provides the Doctor with friendship on his travels through time and space. The majority of the Doctor’s companions fall under this category forming the basic relationship between Time Lord and companion during their travels. One of the prime examples is Donna Noble with even the Tenth Doctor admitting that all he wanted was a mate to travel with him in his blue box.
The next most common companion is one that provides protection to the Doctor. The first to establish this role was Ian Chesterton who protected the First Doctor during his early days. Other companions took on this role, the next main one being Jamie McCrimmon; the Scottish boy from the Highland Wars. As well as being the Second Doctor’s best friend, he at all times acted as a guard for the Doctor and resorted to action in order to deal with enemies that threatened the Time Lord.
Then there are the companions who are simply loyal to the Doctor. These appear in two kinds of forms; those who simply follow the Doctor throughout his travels and trust him no matter what, and then there are those who follow him from a more militaristic perceptive. A main example of the loyal-type would be Sir Alistair Gordon Lethbridge-Stewart who worked alongside the Doctor from his second incarnation all the way up to his seventh. Although the pair didn’t always see eye-to-eye, the Brig always retained a sense of loyalty to the Doctor no matter what and was in many ways fond of him and they were the best of friends. The most recent example of this is Captain Jack Harkness who retains a similar type of loyalty as the Brigadier and also like the Brigadier acts a form of protector to the Doctor on his travels.
There is then the one-off companion who simply travels with the Doctor for one consecutive story before departing for whatever reason. This is either because they do not wish to join the Doctor on his travels, they die during the events of the adventure or the Doctor simply doesn’t want them to travel with him.
One of the more rare and unique type of companions are those who form a more romantic bond with the Doctor. The first companion the Doctor really showed true feelings for was Sarah Jane Smith, a bond that was strongly hinted upon during their reunion in ‘School Reunion’. Romana (in my opinion) was the first companion relationship that really showed spark onscreen with the Fourth Doctor, and Romana II really intensified their chemistry.
Grace Holloway was the first companion to passionately kiss the Doctor but this was as far as the relationship went for their one-off adventure together. Rose Tyler was the first to fully form a relationship with the Doctor which was far beyond friendship. Although nothing ever really came out in the open between them, the signs were all there that they had feelings for one another, but like with a lot of people, it’s simply getting the urge and confidence to speak one’s mind when in love with someone. The romantic thing was played out with Martha Jones but in a more rebound kind of a way. She loved the Doctor but he was still damaged by the loss of Rose Tyler and never really saw the signals she tried sending to him. The only companion (or in her case one-off companion) to fully fall under the romantic category is River Song who in fact married the Doctor and has a clear onscreen romantic relationship with the Doctor.
The new series has introduced another different type of companion and that is the ‘tag-along’. This has been established through the main companion having a partner and they join them and the Doctor on their journeys within the TARDIS. This type of companion doesn’t last long though because the said tag-along ultimately works their way up the rank of companion type and becomes a more dominant role within the TARDIS rather than being there solely because their partner is there. This best suits Rory Williams who was essentially there at first as Amy Pond’s fiancée before slowly becoming a good friend to the Doctor and in some ways became his protector from time to time, even sacrificing his existence once to protect the Doctor.
With Clara Oswin Oswald, the companion became about curiosity as the Eleventh Doctor tried desperately to find her, after encountering her twice in different lifetimes, and attempting to uncover the mysteries behind the Impossible Girl. So far she has served a unique case after being revealed to be the Doctor’s protector throughout his entire timeline.
Not only do you have the different personalities to consider with companions, there’s also time, i.e. the time periods the companions come from. This also helps to create another layer of uniqueness when it comes to the companion’s importance in making the show more interesting. By having a companion from the past you add the factors of them not understanding more scientific elements along with having no knowledge of future events from our present adding new educational purposes for the Doctor. Plus, it also allows the audience to delve into the past and be themselves educated by elements of history.
Present day companions have the obvious potential of linking themselves with the audience due to them being contemporary and they have a better understanding of how they feel towards the new environments the Doctor is leading them into. Companions from the future however opens the doors to many possibilities as to how the writers wish to perceive future events and how people think and act. It does allow for a different kind of character which is open to more fictional elements while still maintaining a sense of realism when it comes to their emotions and how they think. The final kinds of companions are ones that don’t even come from Earth which, like the companions from the future, opens the doors to more fictional elements and adds in new layers of ideas with the Doctor interacting with another alien on a daily basis.
By having all these different types we get more of a variety of characters within the companion and it allows the show to remain fresh; filled with new ideas and directions.
The post 50 Years of Who: The Companions appeared first on Doctor Who TV via http://www.doctorwhotv.co.uk/50-years-of-who-the-companions-53311.htm
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