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Crown Jewels: Doctor Who Companions

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With the show returning this weekend, I feel it’s time to pay some attention to Doctor Who.  What better way to do that than with the Crown Jewels of the people who made the Doctor the Time Lord he is today?

Keep in mind, this list is purely opinion-based.  I know I’m leaving some well-loved companions off this list; several of my friends will hate me for neglecting River Song, Rose Tyler, or Sarah Jane Smith.  But the people listed below are the companions who clicked with me the most.  This list could have been way more than ten spaces long, but I’ve always limited myself to ten, and I’m not going to stop now.  With that said, here are my top ten companions of the Doctor.

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This picture has never been so appropriate

10. Jo Grant (Katy Manning)

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This woman had everything going against her from the start.  Jon Pertwee wasn’t the most considerate or polite of Doctors, and to make matters worse, Jo found herself the unwelcome replacement of Liz Shaw, a scientist whom the Doctor assumed was more useful.  Jo wasn’t as knowledgeable, but she more than made up for it with her loyalty and ingenuity.  Her host of skeleton keys came in handy more than once, and no matter what terrible danger the Doctor was in, she refused to leave his side.  Perky, endearing, and more useful than anyone could have guessed, Jo definitely earned her place as the Doctor’s companion

9. Nyssa (Sarah Sutton)

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I’ll be honest; in her earlier episodes, Nyssa struck me as kind of bland and a little annoying.  But the more I watch of her and the later the episodes, the better she gets.  She’s brilliant, able to keep up with the Doctor intellectually, and she’s incredibly brave and loyal.  At one point, she even holds the President of the Time Lords at gunpoint in order to save the Doctor’s life.  And that, ladies and gentlemen, is enough to catapult a companion into the lower levels of my Crown Jewels.

8. Martha Jones (Freema Agyeman)

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Martha doesn’t get much love from the fan base, probably because she’s too often defined by her unrequited love for the Doctor.  Really, though, Martha was awesome.  In her first episode, she proved she could keep her head and think logically under pressure, leaving the Doctor visibly impressed.  She survived a Master-ruled Earth for a whole year, traveling around and working the Doctor’s clever plan.  She’s the only modern-day companion so far to leave the TARDIS on her own terms, and she went on to work for the United Nations Intelligence Taskforce (UNIT), fighting aliens on her own time.  Add to that her peacekeeping role in a rough family life and the fact that she’s one of the only companions of color in the show’s history, and it becomes clear that Martha deserves some respect.

7. Donna Noble (Catherine Tate)

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When I think about Donna, the first thing that comes to mind is her mouth.  Once she starts into a rant, not even the Doctor can out-talk her.  She’s blunt, brash, and often rude, possibly to cover up her low self-esteem.  On the other hand, she has flashes of brilliance and insight, she’s witty and always makes her episodes a lot of fun to watch, she has arguably the best repartee with David Tennant’s Doctor, and she’s saved his life and convinced him to save the lives of others.  So yeah, that mouth of hers comes in handy, and it makes her one of the most fun companions of the modern era.

6. Brigadier Alistair Gordon Lethbridge-Stewart (Nicholas Courtney)

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The head of UNIT takes no nonsense from anyone, least of all the Doctor.  That’s not to say his military mind is always able to grasp the details of the Doctor’s world; it takes him several seasons of the show to finally understand the nature of aliens and advanced science.  But whether or not he’s making the right decision, he sticks to his guns, both literally and figuratively.  He’s a natural leader, and no power-hungry tyrant or horrifying monster can bully him into submission.  In short, he’s the epitome of the British military; confident, fiercely independent, loyal, and good-hearted.  He and the Doctor may not have always gotten along, but the Doctor would have lost many battles without the Brigadier’s aid.

5. Romanadvoratrelundar (Mary Tamm/Lalla Ward)

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If there was ever an intellectual match for the Doctor, it’s Romana.  She’s a Time Lord herself, so she’s had hundreds of years to learn about the universe and about the creatures and technology that fill it and the science that keeps it running.  She’s intelligent, witty, confident, and authoritative, and she’s the only companion to make the Doctor seem truly out of his depth, outsmarting him on multiple occasions.  She’s also the only companion to be played by two actresses (explained away nicely thanks to the power of regeneration), and they both did a fantastic job.  Besides, there was something nice about seeing the Doctor interact with his own kind.  All in all, I’m surprised Romana didn’t get her own spin-off show; she was that good.

4. Leela (Louise Jameson)

 

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A member of a primitive race on a distant planet, Leela is a perfect foil for the Doctor.  Where he is scientific, she is superstitious.  Where he is childish, she is deadly serious.  Where he is peace-loving and non-violent, she’ll threaten to carve out your heart if you go against the Doctor’s orders.  After so many other companions who were loyal but not particularly intimidating, it was a nice change to see a companion who could take care of herself in a fight, and seeing her learn and grow over the course of the show was a joy to behold.  Old World meets New World as Leela experiences the wonders of the Universe with the Doctor, and that juxtaposition in so great a character is reason enough to list her among my Crown Jewels.

3. Sally Sparrow (Carey Mulligan)

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Okay, maybe she’s never actually traveled with the Doctor, but Sally still counts as a companion in my book.  She’s the heroine of the single greatest episode of modern-day Doctor Who, keeping levelheaded even when threatened by the Weeping Angels, some of the show’s scariest monsters.  She’s inquisitive, persistent, and clever, following the mystery of the Doctor and her missing friends no matter what gets thrown in her way.  Oh, and she did it all without the Doctor’s direct guidance.  If this girl doesn’t go on to adventures of her own after this, I’ll be highly surprised.  As is, she’s definitely the best companion who wasn’t.

2. Amy Pond & Rory Williams (Karen Gillan & Arthur Darvill)

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Yes, I’m cheating twice in a row, but how can you have one without the other?  The only married couple ever to travel with the Doctor, these two are the perfect pair.  Amy is feisty, imaginative, authoritative, and brave.  Sometimes she solves problems before the Doctor does, and if you back her into a corner or threaten the people she loves, she’ll fight you to the death, occasionally with a sword.  Rory is no weakling himself, growing into his role as companion and husband as the show goes along.  He’s not afraid to call the Doctor out when he’s putting others in danger, and he’ll do anything to keep his wife safe, even if it means standing guard outside a box for two thousand years.  In the end, these two were inseparable, and they prove that marriages have no excuse for becoming boring . . . especially when they have access to a time-traveling police box.

1. Dorothy “Ace” McShane (Sophie Aldred)

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Where do I even begin with Ace?  She’s famous for beating up a Dalek, one of the most feared aliens in the galaxy, with a baseball bat.  She mixes her own explosives that measure 9 on the Richter scale.  She’s a complex mixture of curiosity, cockiness, charm, cleverness, and courage with a pinch of angst thrown in to remind us she’s a teenager.  Best of all, though, was her relationship with Sylvester McCoy’s Doctor.  It was part father-daughter, part teacher-student, and part friend-friend, making it distinctly Doctor-companion.  Ace is also the only companion I know of who had a nickname for the Doctor.  She’s a large part of the reason my favorite seasons of Doctor Who are the last two before the show’s hiatus; she and the Doctor make it so much fun.

Who are some of your favorite companions, and what makes them special to you?  Let me know in the comments, and get ready for the start of what will hopefully be another fifty years of greatness from Doctor Who!

 

Doctor Who is owned by the BBC.

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1 Comment

  1. You’ve got two of my favorites up there already: Jo Grant and Romana I (not as big a fan of Romana II). Any episodes with those two companions are ones I’ll watch anytime! I would have to say that another of my favorite companions is Barbara Wright. I don’t know why, but I think she added something special to the First Doctor’s era, and I like the way she treats Susan as if she were her daughter. Thanks for posting!

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