Thursday, August 15, 2013

THE DOCTOR WHO COMPANION TOP 20

AFTER RANKING MY FAVOURITE DOCTORS A COUPLE WEEKS AGO, I FINALLY BRING YOU THE PROMISED RANKING OF MY TOP 20 FAVOURITE COMPANIONS.  But, in order to keep you in suspenders, I'll be presenting the companions in reverse order starting with number 20. 

20.  LIZ SHAW  -  The brilliant Liz Shaw was scientific advisor to U.N.I.T. when the Doctor was unceremoniously exiled to Earth by the Time Lords.  At the start, she was slightly bemused by this strange Doctor person who was assigned to her but she soon learned to appreciate his talents.  However, the Doctor soon took center stage and Liz would depart after only a short time because she was a little too talented herself to be the Doctor's "test-tube passer".  Caroline John played Liz Shaw from the 3rd Doctor's first story "SPEARHEAD FROM SPACE" in January 1970 until to the epic "INFERNO" in June 1970.  She returned for the 20th anniversary extravaganza "THE FIVE DOCTORS" in November 1983 and for the 30th anniversary fiasco "DIMENSIONS IN TIME" in November 1993.  Caroline John died in 2012.

19.  HARRY SULLIVAN  -  Another U.N.I.T. member, Harry gave the Tardis an actual, proper medical doctor.  Harry's old-fashioned demeanor, Royal Navy background and insistence on calling Sarah Jane Smith "old girl" made for a charming if slightly bumbling companion who was always good for lifting spirits when they were low and thumping monsters when the need arose.  Ian Marter played Harry from the 4th Doctor's first story "ROBOT" in December 1974 through to "TERROR OF THE ZYGONS" in September 1975.  Marter briefly returned for December 1975's "THE ANDROID INVASION".  And to show you in what high regard Harry was held by the Doctor . . . Harry, to my knowledge, is the ONLY person who was ever allowed to wear the Doctor's scarf; Harry can be seen wearing the famous Tom Baker scarf as he, Sarah Jane and the Doctor trudge through the cold and damp Scottish underbrush in "TERROR OF THE ZYGONS".  Ian Marter died in 1986.

18.  ZOE HERIOT  -  21st century astrophysicist Zoe Heriot always claimed to be smarter than the Doctor and who's to argue?  Except the Doctor, of course, who always refuted it.  However, her exceptional braininess did not mean she couldn't handle herself; Zoe was a master at hand-to-hand combat and often tossed muscle-bound villains around like dolls.  Wendy Padbury played Zoe from the Cybermen invasion of her space station in "THE WHEEL IN SPACE" of April 1968 until the Time Lords dumped her back in her own time without the memory of her time spent with the 2nd Doctor (in his final story) at the end of "THE WAR GAMES" in June 1969.  Zoe sort-of returned in "THE FIVE DOCTORS" in November 1983 but only as a naughty illusion created by the villain.

17.  RORY WILLIAMS  -  Someone we expected to be a sideline character in the 11th Doctor's first story "THE ELEVENTH HOUR" would quickly become a regular companion.  And, as often happened in "New Who", a character who at first seemed rather inconsequential would grow to become a formidable, heroic companion in his own right time and time again.  With a heart as big as the inside of the Tardis and the lovability of a puppy dog, Rory the Roman proved himself to be a stand-up guy.  Arthur Darvill played Rory from "THE ELEVENTH HOUR" in April 2010, off and on until "THE ANGELS TAKE MANHATTAN" in September 2012.

16a.  ROMANA I  -  Sweet sixteen on my list of companions, of necessity, must be shared between two actresses as Time Lady Romanadvoratrelundar would regenerate her appearance during her time in the Tardis.  When the 4th Doctor was charged with his quest to recover the Key to Time, the White Guardian assigned Romana to help him out.  Another companion who regularly referred to herself as smarter than the Doctor (with the Gallifreyan test scores to back up her claims), Romana brought unheard-of glamour to the old Blue Police Box.  Mary Tamm played Romana I from "THE RIBOS OPERATION" in September 1978 until "THE ARMAGEDDON FACTOR" in February 1979.  Mary Tamm died in 2012.

16b.  ROMANA II  -  When she got bored of her appearance, Romana regenerated into a new, gamin-like form.  While her earlier incarnation was smooth-spoken, elegant and regal, Romana's newest regeneration was playful and silly enough to match the 4th Doctor's eccentricities while still maintaining her air of Time Lord authority which would one day land her in the post of President of Gallifrey (in the Big Finish audio series).  Lalla Ward played Romana (after taking the likeness of another character she played in "THE ARMAGEDDON FACTOR") in "DESTINY OF THE DALEKS in September 1979 until sauntering off into misty E-Space in WARRIOR'S GATE" in January 1981.  She returned for "DIMENSIONS IN TIME" in November 1993.

15.  JAMIE MCCRIMMON  -  What gams!  The 2nd Doctor met the young Scottish piper during the 1746 Highland uprising and rather unexpectedly ended up as a member of Team Tardis without even trying.  Always up for a good thumping, Jamie provided the muscle when the Doctor got into some scrapes; he also became half of a comedy team with the Doctor as the two sometimes behaved like naughty, giggly schoolboys.  Former child actor Fraser Hines played James from "THE HIGHLANDERS" in December 1966 until he was also mind-wiped and dumped back in his timeline by the Time Lords in "THE WAR GAMES" of June 1969.  He would also (sort-of) return in November 1983 for "THE FIVE DOCTORS" and actually return in "THE TWO DOCTORS" in February 1985 when he and the 2nd Doctor teamed-up with the 6th Doctor.

14.  NYSSA  -  Yet another brilliant companion -- who said all the Doctor's female companions were only there to scream -- Nyssa was one of the more tragic members of the Tardis team.  A young scientific genius on the planet Traken, Nyssa's father was murdered by the Master (who piggily took his form) and he planet was destroyed just to tie a bow on the whole mess.  Wedged in between the arrogant and snotty Adric and the "mouth on legs", complaining Tegan, Nyssa might be thought to fade somewhat into the background; however she was the companion (in the overcrowded Tardis) the Doctor relied upon constantly and was Peter Davison's idea of "the perfect companion".  Sarah Sutton played Nyssa from "THE KEEPER OF TRAKEN" in January 1981 until her rather abrupt and unforeshadowed departure in "TERMINUS" in February 1983.  She would also participate in that dog's breakfast called "DIMENSIONS IN TIME" in November 1993.

13.  RIVER SONG  -  No spoilers here, sweetie.  Suffice it to say that Dr. River Song was an enigmatic archaeologist who periodically encountered the Doctor going in opposite directions of their respective timelines; when the 10th Doctor first encountered River he had no idea who she was while she was meeting him for the final time and evidently had quite a history with him.  Spending equal time adventuring and cooling her (high) heels in prison, River Song was a pip.  Alex Kingston played River Song from "SILENCE IN THE LIBRARY" in May 2008 until her (presumably) final appearance in "THE NAME OF THE DOCTOR" in May 2013.

12.  K-9  -  The tin dog!  Created by Professor Marius, K-9 tagged along in the Tardis for quite a stint.  Still another companion who was constantly claiming intellectual superiority to the Doctor (I'm beginning to think the Doctor is a dope), K-9 was intensely loyal as well as enjoyably snarky towards his Time Lord master with a "talk back chip" apparently on 11.  John Leeson voiced K-9 in almost all the stories beginning with "THE INVISIBLE ENEMY" in October 1977 through WARRIORS' GATE in January 1981 (except in the stories between "THE CREATURE FROM THE PIT" and "SHADA" when K-9 was voiced by David Brierley).  The tin dog would return in "DIMENSIONS IN TIME" in November 1993, "SCHOOL REUNION" in April 2006 and "JOURNEY'S END" in July 2008.  K-9 would also appear in the spin-offs "K-9 AND COMPANY", "THE SARAH JANE ADVENTURES" and "K-9".

11.  IAN CHESTERTON  -  The programme's first "action hero", Ian was a science teacher from 1963 London who is kidnapped by the grouchy 1st Doctor into a series of adventures in space and time.  The elderly Time Lord wasn't capable of fisticuffs so Ian filled that role admirably; he also became something of a moral compass in the Tardis as the 1st Doctor wasn't always heroic or benign.  William Russell played Ian from the very first episode "AN UNEARTHLY CHILD" in November 1963 until the Dalek fun fair "THE CHASE" in June 1965.

10.  BARBARA WRIGHT  -  Really inseparable from Ian Chesterton, Barbara was the other half of the rock solid original Tardis Team of kidnapped 1963 London school teachers of the Doctor's granddaughter Susan.  Extremely knowledgable in history, Barbara was a great source of information for viewers of this new and strange TV programme.  She also provided some of the most interesting questions in the series i.e. whether or not one can change the pages of history.  "Not one single line!"  While initially rather timid, Barbara grew into a capable and sometimes brave companion much like the "New Who" group who would come after her.  Jacqueline Hill played Barbara from the first episode of the series "AN UNEARTHLY CHILD" in November 1963 until "THE CHASE" in June 1965 when she and Ian happily bounded through the streets of 60's London together.  The actress would return (as a different character) in "MEGLOS" in September 1980.  Jacqueline Hill died in 1993.

9.  LEELA  -  The noble savage and the Doctor's very own Eliza Doolittle, Leela was a member of the Sevateen:  a far-future aboriginal culture devolved from a crashed spaceship crew.  Adept with a knife and her lethal Janus thorns, Leela was constantly being reigned in by the Doctor from her violent tendencies as he attempted to "civilise" her.  A fearless warrior who seldom looked before she leapt; especially when she suddenly and unexpected stayed behind on Gallifrey after falling in love with a Gallifreyan guard (apparently off screen as there was bugger all plot motivation for it).  Louise Jameson played Leela from "THE FACE OF EVIL" in January 1977 until "THE INVASION OF TIME" in March 1978.  She also returned for "DIMENSIONS IN TIME" in November 1993.

8.  DR. MARTHA JONES  -  When her hospital was transported to the surface of the moon, medical student Martha Jones aided the 10th Doctor in his tiff with the Judoon.  After that, Martha joined him on his adventures as well as harbouring an unrequited love for the Time Lord.  Extremely capable first as a doctor and then as an in-demand freedom fighter whose services were sought by U.N.I.T. and Torchwood, Martha Jones is one of the most formidable companions the Tardis has ever seen.  Freema Agyeman played Martha Jones from "SMITH AND JONES" in March 2007 until "LAST OF THE TIME LORDS" in June 2007, then from "THE SONTARAN STRATAGEM" in April 2008 to "THE DOCTOR'S DAUGHTER" in May 2008 as well as subsequent appearances in "THE STOLEN EARTH/JOURNEY'S END" in June/July 2008 and "THE END OF TIME" in January 2010.

7.  BRIGADIER ALISTAIR GORDON LETHBRIDGE-STEWART  -  Lucky number seven spanned almost the entire series as the leader of U.N.I.T.  While only occasionally travelling in the Tardis, the Brigadier was one of the Doctor's most long-serving and valuable companions.  Starting first as a colonel, Lethbridge-Stewart was soon promoted to Brigadier in order to head the United Nations Intelligence Task Force in their fight against alien intervention on the planet Earth.  Nicholas Courtney played the Brig first in "THE WEB OF FEAR" in February 1968) and then in "THE INVASION" in November 1968 during the 2nd Doctor's tenure.  He then appeared in the 3rd Doctor's storylines beginning in "SPEARHEAD FROM SPACE" in January 1970 until the 4th Doctor's story "TERROR OF THE ZYGONS" in September 1975), and then again in "MAWDRYN UNDEAD" (with the 5th Doctor) in February 1983, "THE FIVE DOCTORS" in November 1983, "BATTLEFIELD" (with the 7th Doctor) in September 1989 and finally in "DIMENSIONS IN TIME" in November 1993.  He also appeared in THE SARAH JANE ADVENTURES story "ENEMY OF THE BANE".  Nicholas Courtney died in 2011.

6.  JO GRANT  -  Upon the departure of the brainy Liz Shaw, U.N.I.T. assigned daffy Jo Grant as the 3rd Doctor's assistant during his enforced exile on Earth.  Flighty, silly and seemingly rather dim, Jo could also be resourceful, knowledgeable when the occasion called for it and fiercely loyal and brave.  Street smarts rather than book smarts for Ms. Grant.  Jo was also the victim of the hurriedly-arranged romantic encounter which scriptwriters often used to retire a companion.  Katy Manning played Jo Grant from "TERROR OF THE AUTONS" in January 1971 until "THE GREEN DEATH" in June 1973.  She would return in THE SARAH JANE ADVENTURES story "THE DEATH OF THE DOCTOR".

5.  ACE  -  Accidentally teleported to Iceworld from her hometown of Perivale, troubled teenager Ace would team up with the 7th Doctor and become his quintessential companion.  Ace put paid to the misconception of female companions who tripped over things and screamed; she filled her back pack with Nitro-9 and famously beat the snot out of a Dalek with a baseball bat.  The ultimate action hero, Ace was perfectly capable of hurling herself through windows or dodging machine gun fire.  Ace was the first companion who had her own story arc throughout her tenure which would become de rigeur during the "New Who" years.  Sophie Aldred portrayed Ace from "DRAGONFIRE" in November 1987 until the final episode of the classic series "SURVIVAL" in December 1989.  She would also return for "DIMENSIONS IN TIME" in November 1993 and is the one companion of all the rest I most wish would return for "New Who".

4.  ROSE TYLER  -  The first companion of "New Who", Rose was the one to beat.  Working in a department store during the invasion of the Nestene, Rose would become the template for the "New Who" tactic of placing the companions center stage with equal importance to the stories as the Doctor himself.  Billie Piper played Rose from the first "New Who" story "ROSE" in March 2005 through "DOOMSDAY" in July 2006.  She would then return in "PARTNERS IN CRIME" in April 2008 and "THE POISON SKY" in May 2008" and then from "MIDNIGHT" in June 2008 through "JOURNEY'S END" in July 2008 and finally in "THE END OF TIME" in January 2010. 

3.  DONNA NOBLE  -  The most important temp in the universe.  Famously snuck onto the set with a paper bag over her head in a successful attempt to spoil the spoilers, British comedian Catherine Tate shocked the socks offa me by becoming one of my favourite companions and managing to top Rose Tyler on my list!  Cheeky, bossy and loud, Donna also had a huge heart and a rich emotional core which made her eventual departure from the Tardis one of the most heartbreaking ever seen.  Catherine Tate portrayed Donna from "DOOMSDAY" in June 2006 to "THE RUNAWAY BRIDE" in December 2006; then from "PARTNERS IN CRIME" in April 2008 through "JOURNEY'S END" in July 2008 and finally in "THE END OF TIME" in June/July 2010.

2.  AMY POND  -  How the mighty Rose has fallen; before Donna and Amy, Rose ranked number two.  But the mad ginger one has a power that cannot be denied.  From the absolute best regeneration episode ever, we immediately loved little Amelia and then fell in love with older Amy.  Her Scots fire ensured she took no guff and her thirst for adventure ensured she would be an exceptional companion.  With or without Rory, her bigger than life presence threatened to eclipse even the 11th Doctor!  Simply one of the most watchable companions ever.  Karen Gillan played Amy from "THE ELEVENTH HOUR" in April 2010 until "THE ANGELS TAKE MANHATTAN" in September 2012.

1.  SARAH JANE SMITH  -  The winner and still champion!  Undoubtedly the most-beloved companion in DOCTOR WHO history, she was my most beloved companion long before any else told me they felt the same way.  First stowing away on the Tardis during the 3rd Doctor's final series, proto-feminist reporter Sarah Jane Smith was determined as well as beautiful.  During her golden era teamed with Tom Baker's 4th Doctor, Sarah Jane was the Doctor's best friend and intensely loyal.  While initially screaming at a slimy monster, she would then immediately fight it and, if captured, never rest in her attempts to escape and help the Doctor.  Sarah Jane Smith as played so beautifully by Elisabeth Sladen is nothing less than the heart of the 50 year old science fiction series.  Elisabeth Sladen portrayed Sarah Jane from "THE TIME WARRIOR" in December 1973 until "THE HAND OF FEAR" in October 1976.  She returned for "THE FIVE DOCTORS" in November 1983, "DIMENSIONS IN TIME" in November 1993, "SCHOOL REUNION" in April 2006, "THE STOLEN EARTH/JOURNEY'S END" in June/July 2008 and "THE END OF TIME" in January 2010.  She also starred in the spinoff series "K-9 & COMPANY" and "THE SARAH JANE ADVENTURES".  Elisabeth Sladen died in 2011.

And there you have it:  my favourite 20 companions.  However, allow me to take a minute to list a few honourable mentions -- three excellent companions who only appeared in the Big Finish audio adventures but are no less cherished companions in my heart:

ERIMEM  -  Erimemushinteperem is an Egyptian warrior princess and the daughter of Pharoah Amenhotep II who joined the 5th Doctor and Peri on the Tardis when it was feared that, since historically she was not destined to succeed her father to the throne, she may be killed during a revolution designed to prevent a woman from becoming pharaoh of Egypt.  A leader of armies, Erimem was eminently capable of taking care of herself and has been known to break the arm of a man who pinched her bum!  She and Nicola Bryant's Peri (pictured above with their Doctor) made a terrific team (shame Peri was utilized to much better effect in the audios than on the TV series).  Caroline Morris first played Erimem in the Big Finish DOCTOR WHO audio "THE EYE OF THE SCORPION" in 2001.

CHARLEY POLLARD  -  Charlotte Elspeth Pollard was born the day the Titanic sank into a well-to-do English family.  While attempting to get to a meeting with a man in Singapore in 1930, Charley stows away on the Airship R-101 disguised as a male member of the crew when the 8th Doctor turns up in time for the craft's imminent destruction.  Against every law of time, the Doctor prevents Charley from dying in the crash by whisking her away in the Tardis.  Naturally, there are consequences.  Charley fancies herself as something of an Edwardian adventuress and, after a while, admits to fancying the Doctor as well.  Many instances of time problems will become evident over the years of audio adventures due to Charley's having cheated death.  India Fisher first played Charley in the Big Finish DOCTOR WHO audio adventure "STORM WARNING" in 2001.

DR. EVELYN SMYTHE  -  And I've saved the best for last.  The very first original companion created by the Big Finish DOCTOR WHO audio line, Evelyn remains the most beloved.  She's literally the opposite of everything we've come to expect in a companion; she's getting on towards becoming elderly with the infirmities that come with age, she has a tendency to argue most charmingly with the 6th Doctor (to his chagrin) and she is very VERY fond of cake and hot cocoa.  Nevertheless, she is strong in her convictions and brave when the situation arises.  A university history professor, she first encounters the Doctor when he crashes her lecture and interrupts it with an incessant electronic beeping.  Soon the Doctor is back at her digs being dished up a nice slice of cake when they realize she and all her ancestors are slowly being erased from history.  Heading back in time to see what's going on, the Doctor aims for Elizabethan England but instead ends up a little earlier during the reign of Bloody Queen Mary.  By the end of the adventure, Evelyn invites herself onto the Tardis to continue adventuring . . . whether the Doctor likes it or not!  Their friendly arguments and bickering back and forth are so delightfully written and beautifully acted at to be the highlights of every story.  A truly lovable companion! 

4 comments:

jennypower said...

New-who watcher only here, FWIW. I would argue that Rory outranks Martha any day of the week. At first I bristled at River's ranking, but while she is an excellent character she's not the best companion. Maybe that is what makes her wife material?

Cerpts said...

True, I love River but some people would argue that she shouldn't be counted as a companion at all. I suppose her "companionship" being more of an intermittent nature rather than a full-time companion like most of the others on this list necessitated her moving a little further down the list. But that's surely the only reason. I, for one, would've liked to see her starring in her own show!

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