I have been watching Doctor Who, intermittently, since it slipped onto our screens in 1963 as one of the components of “Children’s Hour” on the
I won’t pretend that I could recognise it as a classic from the very first episode. The line about “Sorry, I forgot you haven’t invented that
yet” sounded particularly lame and artificial, since it had been included in the trailers.
It has become explosively popular, of course, and a vital factor in the popularity has been the interaction between the Doctor himself and his fellow
Anyone who watches the current format may notice a repeating pattern in the relationship between the Doctor and his main companion. It comes to an
end, almost every time, when she experiences a catastrophe of some kind.
It seems to me that this catastrophe is a necessary consequence of the difference between the old Doctors of the twentieth century, and the new
Doctors of the revival.
To wit, that the old Doctor was a homeless nomad, while the new Doctor has made himself at home on our own planet in a version of our own time.
The old Doctor was an incessant wanderer through the galaxies and through the timeline. When we first meet him, he is “on the run” from his own
authorities. There are long periods when the TARDIS is malfunctioning and he cannot entirely control where he is going. Sometime he responds, or is
forced to respond, to appeals for help from the nearest planet. The “Key to Time” series is a mission imposed upon him from above. At the end of
that series, to evade pursuit, he deliberately sets his controls to operate randomly, so that his movements cannot be predicted even by himself. These
wanderings are interrupted only by the period of his “exile” on Earth, when the TARDIS has been disabled by the Time Lords.; during this time he
works as an insubordinate member of UNIT, the United Nations military taskforce set up to tackle alien threats to the planet. Apart from that
interval, he is always arriving in new and exciting and dangerous places.
This lifestyle governs his relationship with his fellow-travellers, in the beginning, in the middle, and at the end.
the Doctor by entering the TARDIS as their new home.
They may be picked up at any point in his travels. Some come from “the present day”, some (like Jamie) are taken from past eras in history, and
some are descendants of human colonists on other planets, met when the Doctor travels into the future. At least three of them (Romana, Adric, and
Turlough) have non-human origins, despite being humanoid in appearance.
Many of the companions enter the TARDIS when they are invited on board, perhaps because they need a refuge of some kind. Some of them smuggle
themselves aboard, whether deliberately (like Sarah-Jane) or accidentally (like Tegan). Ian and Barbara make a forceful entry which turns into a
kidnapping. Romana was originally sent into the TARDIS by the Time Lords, for the sake of the mission carried out in the “Key to Time”. His
granddaughter Susan may well have been born there.
Once again, this principle of “entering the TARDIS” does not apply to his period of exile under UNIT, when he simply works alongside assistants
who have been assigned to him by the Brigadier.
They remain with
the Doctor by necessity, as semi-captive passengers in the travelling TARDIS.
For most of their planetary landfalls are not attractive enough to tempt them away. This means there is no need to account for their presence in
subsequent adventures, and the writers can experiment with stories about strained relationships.
the Doctor by leaving the TARDIS while the Doctor moves on.
The death of Adric is almost unique (the death of Peri is ambiguous). A companion’s departure happens naturally enough when they decide they want to
adopt a new life in the location which the TARDIS has reached. Romana (“You were the noblest Romana of them all”) wants to evade a summons to
return to Gallifrey. Alternatively, the Doctor can simply take them back to the place where they first came from, or as near as he can get (sorry
about that, Sarah-Jane). Then he moves on, and the moving on is what consummates the separation. Yet again, of course, this principle does not apply
to his earthbound period as part of UNIT, when Liz Shaw has to be re-assigned and replaced.
edit on 22-4-2017 by DISRAELI because: (no reason given)