In over 50 years of Phone Box travel, the Doctor has had many traveling companions. Some left the Doctor to settle down, others left the Doctor for adventures of their own, a few sadly had their adventure end in sacrifice and death. When the show returned ten years ago (Yes… Ten YEARS!), the producers made a very strong choice to not make too many direct connection to the original series, which went off the air in 1990. There was no regeneration scene from the earlier Doctor (like there was for the ill-fated 1996 attempt, which brought us the excellent Paul McGann, in bad wig, and a worse screenplay). No, Christopher Eccelston, just appeared, fully formed, as the Doctor, and grabbed Rose by the hand, and by extension all of fandom, and said the word every companion before and since has heard him say. “Run”
The Doctor, and the show has been running ever since. Usually the show has run forward, to the future, which it should. The Doctor very seldom looks back. Sure, there have been allusions to the past, but it has taken very special circumstances to actually revisit the series’ classic era. The episode School Reunion introduced Sarah Jane Smith (Elisabeth Sladen), and K-9 (John Leeson) to a whole new generation of fans. It was also a love letter to the original series, finally allowing the fans of the previous series to see that this new show really continues the story of the Doctor. It’s not a reboot, or a “re-imagining”. It also led to extending the Doctor Who universe. The Sarah Jane Adventures, a spinoff series following Sarah Jane, and her young friends in modern London shortly followed.
While many of the Doctor’s enemies from the series have returned, from the Daleks and Cybermen to the Master and Davros, it’s important to note they have all taken on new forms. Like the show itself, they had been reborn, in new casings, or new regenerations, played by new actors. That is something that could be done for the monsters, but to have a friend, a human friend, return, they have to be played by the same actors. It would be unacceptable to recast a companion, so the passing years would have to be accounted for, and some of these actors could be 50 years older than the last time we saw them.
Which companions could convincingly make a return? Which should? As the show begins it’s 52nd year, here is our list of old friends who should make a reappearance. Some of these characters have had their stories continued in other mediums, books and in Big Finish’s excellent range of classic Doctor Who audios. It would not be the first time that the new series adapted material from other sources, but it shouldn’t limit itself to the series’ extended continuity. Jo Grant (now Jones) has already met the 11th Doctor, in the Sarah Jane Adventures, so we have taken her out of consideration.
Ace (Sophie Aldred) was the last companion of the original series. She was a streetwise girl, who found herself swept up in a timestorm and dropped down in the middle of Iceworld, where should would run into the Doctor. She was a rough and tumble tomboy, with a penchant for taking smack, and blowing things up with home-made nitro.
When the series ended back in 1990, Ace was last seen walking arm and arm with the Seventh Doctor (Sylvester McCoy) as they headed on to unknown adventures. But when we next saw the Doctor, in San Francisco, 1999, he was traveling alone. So clearly at some point she left the TARDIS. She may have gone on to get more military style training, others say she became the first non-Gallifreyian to attend the august Prydonian Academy, and became the first human Time Lord. Either fate would have put her on the front line of the Time War. Her skills and time with the Doctor would most likely guarantee she’d survive. I could see a story where she is marooned, alone, and still fighting the Time War, not knowing it’s over, like a Japanese solider lost in the south Pacific, only to be found and rescued by the Doctor and Clara. It could be a powerful story about the effects of war, and the post traumatic stress our soldiers face in the world after coming home.
Jamie McCrimmon (Fraser Hines), the 18th Century Scot appeared alongside Patrick Troughton for almost the entire run of the Second Doctor’s stories. He first appeared in The Highlands, the Second Doctor’s second story, Jamie stayed with the Doctor right through the end of season 6. He was returned to Earth by the Time Lords at the end of The War Games, with the memories of his travels in time and space erased, except for that first adventure. A future Doctor Who story could easily be set in Scotland, in the late 18th century, where an older Jamie could be found. He could have been haunted by dreams of the magic box that took him to the stars, and strange beasties that he faced there.
The trio of Big Finish stories featuring Fraser Hines, opposite Colin Baker’s Sixth Doctor would be a great source of material to adapt.
Perpugilliam ‘Peri’ Brown (Nicola Bryant), the young American botany student who met the Doctor and Turlough on the island of Lanzarote, and suddenly found herself on the desert alien world of Sarn, and facing off against the Master.
Her time as companion was a tough time, having to help the Doctor as he regenerated for a fifth time, which was more difficult than previous times. The Doctor was experiencing fits of anger, fear and paranoia which made him very dangerous to be around. Even after he stabilized, he could be insufferable. Her exit from the show was just as traumatic, where we are first lead to believe that she was left to die, after the Time Lords abducted the Sixth Doctor for his trial. Peri’s body was taken over, used in a brain swapping experiment, then shortly after the lab was run over by barbarian King Yrcanos (played by the delightfully loud Brian Blessed!), only having it revealed at the end of the 14 part Trial of a Time Lord that she was in fact, saved by Yrcanos, and became his queen.
Again Big Finish has explored the life of Peri after the events of season 23. Just recently they reunited the Doctor with Peri in The Widow’s Assassin, which could easily be adapted for television, and Nicola Bryant has somehow managed to barely age in the last 29 years, and could easily step back into the role. (But hopefully with her 1980’s wardrobe (headband, spandex, et al) left behind.
As a Time Lady, the possibility of Romanadvoratrelundar (First played by the late Mary Tamm, then regenerated into Lalla Ward) still being out there is a subject of debate among fans. Her story with the Doctor ended, when she elected to stay behind and help the Tharils, a young time sensitive race who once ruled a empire. They had abused their time powers, conquering many races, before being nearly wiped out themselves by their former slaves, the survivors had become the victims of slavers themselves. Romana, along with her K-9 unit, stayed behind in E-Space to help restore the Tharils, and lead them to a more productive future. Many books, and audios would go on to establish the Romana eventually returned to Gallifrey, and eventually became President of the High Council of the Time Lords.
Like most of the classic series companions, Lalla Ward reprised the role for Big Finish, in stories opposite the Sixth and Eighth Doctors, before getting her own series, Gallifrey which also stars Leela, the companion who stayed behind on Gallifrey at the end of The Invasion of Time. The audio series goes on to introduce a future incarnation of Romana, played by Buffy the Vampire actress Juliet Landau.
Bringing Romana back to the TV series wouldn’t have to negate any of the extended canon appearances (timey-wimey!) a post Time War Doctor could meet a pre-Time War Romana IN E-SPACE!
Ian Chesterton (William Russell) was a science teacher at the Coal Hill School in 1963, when he and history teacher Barbara Wright decided to investigate the strange new student they both had, Susan Foreman. Little did they know that it was a decision that would take them across all of Time and Space with the mysterious stranger known only as the Doctor. After 2 years of wandering, the two teachers, via a stolen Dalek timepod.
I was surprised that Russell didn’t appear in the 50th anniversary special. It is established there that current series companion, Clara Oswald (Jenna Coleman) teaches at the same Coal Hill School, and if you were paying attention at the start of the 5oth anniversary special The Day of the Doctor, you may have spotted a familiar name on the school’s sign. I can’t imagine that Clara got the job there without a letter of recommendation from the Doctor to a certain Chairman of the Governors, or how she could keep it, with her strange behavior and frequent disappearances.
Series 8 spent a lot of time at the Coal Hill School, and perhaps a return there could feature one of the first companions of the Doctor to share his experience with the most recent. The story would have to really need his character tho, I would not want to see him in a glorified cameo. I would want to see him alongside the Doctor and Clara. It would especially be interesting to see how Ian compares younger Doctor he traveled with, compare to the older version.
What do you think? Is there another companion you’d like to see make a return?