The Time Lord has traveled space and time for decades, and for almost all of that time, The Doctor has taken a companion or three along for the ride. With American audiences finally getting the chance to see Doctor Who: Planet of the Dead this weekend, beginning the end of David Tennant’s run and introducing us to a new companion, it seemed like as good a time as any to take a look back. Here, in my humble opinion, are Doctor Who’s Top Ten Companions (with apologies Captain Jack and Tegan who just missed the cut).
10. Donna Noble
A runaway bride turned cosmic time-traveler. Where many of The Doctor’s companions have been demure, Catherine Tate’s Donna was anything but. Opinionated, loud-mouthed, and very entertaining, Donna traveled with the Tenth Doctor (Tennant) witnessing marvels she could scarcely believe. Donna is also one of the tragedies of The Doctor’s companions. She witnessed miraculous events, and is even for a brief time gifted with the mind of a Time Lord, but eventually all the memories of her time with The Doctor had to be taken from her in order to save her life. She was then returned and her parents were strictly warned by The Doctor never to mention her time away (since the return of those memories would cause her to burn out her brain). Ouch!
A librarian from the future who lived on a space wheel and dressed in a catsuit. Okayâ€”there’s so much there, I don’t know where to begin. Played by Wendy Padbury, Zoe Heriot was a companion of the Second Doctor (Patrick Troughton, not one of my favorites). The astrophysicist began her time as a companion after saving the lives of The Doctor and Jamie from the Cybermen. Although highly intelligent, her limited experience with the outside worldâ€”her entire life until that point had been lived inside a sterile space stationâ€”led to her getting involved in several sticky situations, thus allowing The Doctor to save the day. After The Doctor was forcibly regenerated by other Time Lords, Zoe’s memory was wiped (much like Donna), and she was returned home.
I can’t go much further down the list without mentioning the granddaughter of The Doctor and first companion of the series. Played by Carol Ann Ford, Susan sets the original template for a companion as curious, inquisitive, and often getting into trouble that The Doctor would need to sort out. The character also claims to have originally named the TARDIS, and despite her Gallifrean ancestory, is only as old as she appears in the series. Susan is the only relative of The Doctor that is seen on screen until the new series introduced Jenny in “The Doctor’s Daughter.” Eventually The Doctor abandons his granddaughter (who has stayed with him out of loyalty), a noble decision that finally allows her to live the life she wishes with David Campbell in the 22nd Century.
Not too many of The Doctor’s companions could kill, skin, and eat their prey, but Leela (Louise Jameson) wasn’t your average companion. Originally envisioned as a chance for The Doctor to play Henry Higgins, Leela was a smart, primitive warrior of the Sevateem tribe whom The Fourth Doctor took under his wing in an attempt to broaden her mind and curb her savagery. Leela is one of the few companions to make the trip to Gallifrey and even falls in love with a Gallifreyan, choosing to remain with him rather than continue traveling with The Doctor. Although Tom Baker disliked the character for her violent tendencies, the character was a hit with many fans for her skimpy cavewoman-styled costumes.
Another alien companionâ€”and hey, look at thatâ€”a guy snuck on to the list! Even though he’s a companion of my least favorite Doctor, Turlough earns himself a spot for the complexity of his character. Though most of The Doctor’s companions are good people, Turlough (Mark Strickson) is decidely not. If for no other reason, this makes him stand out. At times, Turlough worked as a double agent for both the Black Guardian and The Master, who aren’t exactly nice guys. However Turlough didn’t betray The Doctor, even if Peter Davison’s version deserved to get stabbed in the back (or, better yet, face) and was eventually returned to his home planet of Trion. The Doctor did like his eye candy and it would take 20 years for another male of any species to earn the title of companion.
The Doctor has had many companions, but Romana stands out for many reasons. First, she wasn’t a human or a being from one of The Doctor’s many travels, but instead a Time Lord (though less experienced than The Doctor). And second, she was played by the undeniably beautiful Mary Tamm. A bit of a cold fish when she was introduced, Romana eventually warmed to The Doctor and was of immense help to him in one of the series’ most memorable story arcs: “The Key to Time.” Romana is also one of the few companions not chosen by The Doctor, but assigned to him by the White Guardian. After her regeneration the character continued on as played by Lalla Wardâ€”who eventually left The Doctor with K-9 to travel into E-Space.
4. Rose Tyler
Helping to launch the new Doctor Who, pop star Billie Piper was chosen for the role as the new Doctor’s (Christopher Eccleston) companion. A favorite of Who fans, there are many reasons for Rose making the list, but also one which prevents her from pushing into the top three. Although The Doctor has had chummy relationships with his companions in the past, the series went a bit too far in trying to mold Rose into a love interest and even preeminent companion. (She is mentioned more after she leaves than any companion, ever.) The Time Lord even went so far as to set her up with a human version of him to live out their lives in blissful contentment in a parallel universe (ugh!). Her spunk earns her a spot on the list, but she isn’t my favorite companion of the new series. That honor belongs to…
3. Martha Jones
Given the choice between Rose Tyler and Martha Jones, I’ll take Martha (and not just for the red leather jacket). Although Rose is integral in The Doctor’s recovery after the Time War, it is Martha who (in an ever-increasing heart-breaking manner) attempted to live up to Rose’s memory. A trained doctor with a quick wit and an unwillingness to settle for a man she knows she can never have (making her smarter than many of the Doctor’s ladies), Martha shouldn’t play second fiddle to anyone, even Rose’s memory. Oh yeah, and there’s that time in The Last of the Time Lords where she beat The Master (John Simm) and saved the entire world all by herself. Played by the enchanting Freema Agyeman, Martha is welcome aboard my TARDIS any day.
Not number one, you say? Heresy, you say? Although I love Sarah Jane there is one companion who … well, we’ll get to that. In the old series when you think of Doctor Who, most people pictured Tom Baker and Elisabeth Sladen. Sladen, however, began her career as a companion with the Third Doctor (Jon Pertwee). This clip comes from the new series episode “School Reunion.” This reintroduced the character to fans and led to the somewhat tedious The Sarah Jane Adventures, but we won’t hold that against her. Sarah Jane remains a fan favorite and for many, she’s the standard by which all other companions are judged. She is also only one of two companions to earn herself a spot in not one but two spin-offs, the other being…
The dog? Affirmative! Voiced by John Leeson, the lovable robotic K-9 was introduced in The Invisible Enemy as the invention of Professor Marius before joining The Doctor and Leela on their adventures. K-9 had many important attributes as a companion including intelligence, loyalty, a danger sense, and a certain dispensability (the character could be killed and later replaced by a newer model). He also sports a laser and comes in quite handy if you come across a black hole that needs watching. Currently the character is being rewritten and re-imagined for use in a new non-Doctor Who series (of which we will pretend doesn’t exist). Unquestionably the coolest companion of the bunch, K-9 earns top honors on our list.