In the long-running BBCtelevision science fiction programme Doctor Who and related works, the term "companion" refers to a character who travels with, or shares the adventures of the Doctor. In most Doctor Who stories, the primary companion acts as an audience surrogate. He or she provides the lens through which the viewer is introduced to the series. The companion character often furthers the story by asking questions and getting into trouble, or by helping, rescuing or challenging the Doctor. This designation is applied to a character by the show's producers, and appears in the BBC's promotional material and off-screen fictional terminology. Until the modern revival of the series in 2005, the term was rarely used on-screen. The Doctor also refers to the show's other leads as his "friends" or "assistants"; the British press have also used the latter term.
In the earliest episodes of Doctor Who, the dramatic structure of the programme's cast was rather different from the hero-and-sidekick pattern that emerged later. Initially, the character of the Doctor was unclear, with uncertain motives and abilities. The protagonists were schoolteachers Ian Chesterton and Barbara Wright, who provided the audience's point-of-view in stories set in Earth's history and on alien worlds. Ian in particular served the role of the action hero. The fourth character was the Doctor's granddaughter Susan, who (though initially presented as an "unearthly child") was intended as an identification figure for younger viewers.
Carole Ann Ford, who played Susan Foreman, became unhappy with the lack of development for her character, and chose to leave in its second series. The character of Susan was married off to a freedom fighter and left behind to rebuild a Dalek-ravaged Earth. Doctor Who's producers replaced Susan with another young female character, Vicki. Similarly, when Ian and Barbara left, the "action hero" position was filled by astronaut Steven Taylor. This grouping of the Doctor, a young heroic male and an attractive young female became the programme's pattern throughout the 1960s.
When the programme changed to colour in 1970, its format changed: the Doctor was now Earth-bound, and acquired a supporting cast by his affiliation with the paramilitary organisation United Nations Intelligence Taskforce (UNIT). The Third Doctor, more active and physical than his predecessors, made the role of the "action hero" male companion redundant. In the 1970 season the Doctor was assisted by scientist Liz Shaw and Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart, along with other UNIT personnel (such as Sergeant Benton). The intellectual Shaw was replaced by Jo Grant in the 1971 season, and as the programme returned to occasional adventures in outer space, the format shifted once more: while UNIT continued to provide a regular "home base" for Earth-bound stories, in stories on other planets the Doctor and Jo became a two-person team with a close, personal bond. This pattern, the Doctor with a single female companion, became a template from which subsequent episodes of Doctor Who rarely diverged. The "heroic male" type occasionally returned (for example, Harry Sullivan, Adric, Vislor Turlough, Jack Harkness and Rory Williams), but the single female companion was Doctor Who's staple.
The character of Harry Sullivan was created by the production team when it was expected that the Fourth Doctor would be played by an older actor who would have trouble with the activity expressed by his predecessor. In the event, the Fourth Doctor part went to 40-year-old Tom Baker and the part of Harry, no longer required for the action role, was reduced.
In the final season for the Fourth Doctor, he acquired three companions (Adric, Tegan and Nyssa) and this situation continued under the Fifth Doctor for a while. Adric was written out by the unusual method within the series of being "killed off". By the Sixth Doctor, the Doctor was down to a single companion again.
Although the term "companion" is designated to specific characters by the show's producers, and appears in the BBC's promotional material and off-screen fictional terminology, there is no formal definition that constitutes such a designation. Stephen Brook in The Guardian newspaper's Organgrinder blog discounted Michelle Ryan as a likely next companion but said that "what constitutes a Doctor Who companion is no longer clear" The definition of who is and is not a companion becomes less clear in the newer series. During the Doctor's three latest incarnations, his primary companions, such as Rose Tyler and Martha Jones, have fulfilled a distinct dramatic role, more significant than other, less-prominent TARDIS travellers such as Adam, Jack, and Mickey. The British press referred to Martha as the "first ethnic minority companion in the 43-year television history of Doctor Who" and the "first black assistant", despite the presence of Mickey Smith in the previous season—including several episodes in which he travelled in the TARDIS with the Doctor.
The opening credits do little to clarify the situation. In the first two series of the renewed programme, the only supporting actor to receive a title credit is Billie Piper. In subsequent series, Freema Agyeman and Catherine Tate are credited in all episodes in which they appear. In the third series John Barrowman receives a title credit for his return to the show. Series Four gave Agyeman, Piper, Barrowman, and Elisabeth Sladen title billing for each of their reappearances. Noel Clarke reprised his role in the Series Four finale; although listed as a companion alongside the other actors on the BBC Doctor Who website, Clarke is not credited in this way. In The End of TimeJohn Simm receives title billing for his antagonist role as the Master, ahead of Bernard Cribbins as companion Wilfred Mott.
Companions in the new series also have a more flexible tenure than their classical predecessors. Several companion characters have returned to the series after leaving the Doctor's company, most notably in the Series Four finale "The Stolen Earth" / "Journey's End", which features the return of Rose, Martha, Jack, Sarah Jane and Mickey. This tendency, plus the increase in "one-off" companions like Astrid Peth and Jackson Lake, has further obscured the matter of who is and is not a companion, and when.
The Doctor's companions have assumed a variety of roles—involuntary passengers, assistants (particularly Liz Shaw), friends, and fellow adventurers; and, of course, he regularly gains new companions and loses old ones. Sometimes they return home, and sometimes they find new causes—or loves—on worlds they have visited. A few companions have died during their travels with the Doctor.
Despite the fact that the majority of the Doctor's companions are young, attractive females, the production team for the 1963–89 series maintained a long-standing taboo against any overt romantic involvement in the TARDIS: for example, Peter Davison, as the Fifth Doctor, was not allowed to put his arm around either Sarah Sutton (Nyssa) or Janet Fielding (Tegan). However, that has not prevented fans from speculating about possible romantic involvements, most notably between the Fourth Doctor and the Time Lady Romana (whose actors, Tom Baker and Lalla Ward, shared a romance and brief marriage). The taboo was controversially broken in the 1996 television movie when the Eighth Doctor was shown kissing companion Grace Holloway. The 2005 series played with this idea by having various characters think that the Ninth Doctor and Rose Tyler were a couple, which they vehemently denied. Since the series revival, the Doctor has kissed many of his companions including Rose and Jack, although each instance was not necessarily in a romantic context (see also "The Doctor and romance"). Donna Noble vehemently denied a sexual interest in the Doctor when he invited her to join him and explained "I just want a mate," which she misheard as "I just want to mate." Rose and Martha each developed romantic feelings toward the Doctor. On the opposite side of the same coin, Amy reacted to the stress of her adventures by very aggressively trying to seduce the Doctor on the eve of her own wedding, despite being in love with her fiancé Rory; the Doctor forcibly pushed her off of himself, though she did not immediately cease her pursuit. The Eleventh Doctor romantically kissed Amy and Rory's daughter, sporadic companion River Song, jokingly proposed marriage to her, and soon married her.
Most reappearances of companions in the original series, however, were for anniversary specials, such as guest appearances of numerous companions in both "The Five Doctors", the non-canonical "Dimensions in Time", both of which also featured multiple Doctors. One former companion, Sarah Jane Smith, together with the robotic dog K-9, appeared in four and two episodes, respectively, of the revived series more than twenty years after their last appearances in the 20th anniversary story The Five Doctors (1983). The character of Sarah Jane also headed up a Doctor Who spin-off, The Sarah Jane Adventures, with K-9 until Sladen's death. Another companion, Captain Jack Harkness, is the lead character in the spin-off BBC science fiction programme Torchwood. Not only have these former companions continued to make appearances on Doctor Who, they have sometimes been accompanied by some of their own companions from the spin-offs when doing so, including Jack's colleagues Gwen Cooper and Ianto Jones, and Sarah Jane's 'family' Mr Smith, Luke Smith and K-9 Mark IV. Other former companions from both the classic era and revived series have also returned as guest stars in the spin-offs, including Martha Jones on Torchwood, and Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart and Jo Grant on The Sarah Jane Adventures. K-9 Mark I has also been spun off into its own series, albeit with an independent continuity.
When Doctor Whoreturned to television in 2005, the companion characters played a slightly different role, partly due to a strong focus on the character of Rose Tyler and characters connected to her. For example, although Adam Mitchell was a companion by the standard definition, he appeared in only two episodes and was arguably a less significant part of the 2005 series than Rose's sometime boyfriend Mickey Smith, who was not technically a companion but appeared in five episodes (or six, including a brief appearance as a child in "Father's Day"). Mickey later gained full-fledged companion status when he travelled in the TARDIS in the 2006 episode "School Reunion". In that episode, Sarah Jane Smith referred to Rose as the Doctor's "assistant", a term to which the latter took offence. This exchange might be regarded as indicating the new series' shift in approach to the companion role. Adam was also far less significant than Rose's mother, Jackie Tyler, who was a frequently recurring character who travelled in the TARDIS, yet is not considered a companion.
As of the end of the sixth series, Sarah Jane Smith is the only classic era companion to have travelled again with the Doctor in the revived series, and one of two to have done so in the revived era. She declined his invitation in "School Reunion", but subsequently met up with the Doctor aboard a Dalek ship in "Journey's End" and travelled with him, several other companions, and Rose's mother Jackie Tyler in the TARDIS as they towed the Earth back to the solar system. Sarah Jane, her predecessor Jo Jones (née Grant), and their own respective companions subsequently momentarily travelled in the TARDIS with the Eleventh Doctor in The Sarah Jane Adventures serial, Death of the Doctor. The Eleventh Doctor attempted to have Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart travel with him again in "The Wedding of River Song" only to learn of the Brigadier's death months earlier.
Conversely, families and friends of most companions in the revived era are extensively and continually depicted, and their adventures with the Doctor are generally not kept secret. The revived era has also featured a number of companions related to other companions by blood or marriage (Donna Noble's grandfather Wilfred Mott, Amy Pond's fiancé (later husband) Rory Williams, and the couple's daughter River Song; and former companions Mickey Smith and Martha Jones who married subsequent to their companionship). No such relationships occurred among companions in the classic era, although original companions Ian Chesterton and Barbara Wright are reported in the revived era to have married subsequent to their companionship, and Ben Jackson and Polly are likewise reported to be together. The families of some classic-era companions too have been depicted in the revived era, such as Jo Grant (n/k/a Jo Jones)'s grandson Santiago Jones; and Sarah Jane Smith's parents, adopted son Luke Smith, adopted daughter Sky Smith, and alternate timeline fiancé Peter Dalton; and Alistair Lethbridge-Stewart's daughter Kate Stewart.
Another change in the revived era is the depiction of many companions' pre-doctor lives, particularly their childhoods; no companion was so depicted in the classic era, aside from John Benton being temporarily 'de-aged' by The Master). Companions Rose Tyler,Mickey Smith, Adelaide Brooke,Amy Pond,Rory Williams, and River Song have all been portrayed in their youths by juvenile actors on Doctor Who; the pre-companionship lives of the Pond-Williams-Song family being particularly well-documented. Companions Jack Harkness and Sarah Jane Smith have also been depicted in their youths on their respective spin-off series. In addition to having been de-aged once in the classic era, John Benton was the first companion whose childhood was chronicled.
A recurring theme of the new series is the toll the loss of companions takes on the Doctor. While he would more or less easily deal with his companions' departures in the classic series, the new series show that the Doctor is having a harder time recovering when a companion leaves him, especially when they do so under tragic circumstances. After losing Donna Noble, the Tenth Doctor refused to travel with a companion until after his regeneration, unable to cope with them leaving anymore. Later, the loss of Amy and Rory Williams drives the Eleventh Doctor into a deep depression, with him retreating to Victorian London where he refuses to get involved in the world's affairs anymore. Additionally, "Let's Kill Hitler" shows the Doctor's continuing guilt in relation to several past companions.
^Not including The Wheel in Space, where Deborah Watling is credited for a brief reprisal from Fury from the Deep.
^First appears in The Web of Fear (as Colonel) and The Invasion alongside the Second Doctor, before appearing as a semi-regular character throughout the Third Doctor's era. He further appears in Robot and Terror of the Zygons alongside the Fourth Doctor, and Mawdryn Undead alongside the Fifth Doctor before serving as the Second Doctor's companion in The Five Doctors.
^Sarah continues to travel with the Doctor following his regeneration in Planet of the Spiders, and after her later departure from the series serves as the Third Doctor's companion once more in The Five Doctors.
The following three characters, all associated with UNIT during the Third Doctor's exile to Earth, are sometimes considered his companions despite appearing irregularly during his tenure.
^A further model of K-9, "Mark III", features in the pilot of K-9 and Company with Sarah Jane Smith, and Doctor Who episode "School Reunion" with the Tenth Doctor and Sarah Jane. Killed and replaced by K-9 Mark IV in the latter episode, he subsequently appears irregularly in The Sarah Jane Adventures, and also the Doctor Who episode "Journey's End".
^The series never establishes how Mel meets the Doctor, who first appears as part of the Doctor's future. Their first meeting is recounted in the Past Doctor Adventures novel Business Unusual. Note that the four adventures broadcast under the single title The Trial of a Time Lord are in this table each counted as separate appearances.
^Mel continues travelling with the Doctor following his regeneration in Time and the Rani.
^Rory is killed in "Cold Blood", but returns in "The Pandorica Opens" as an Auton duplicate before being restored to humanity and resuming his travels with the Doctor and Amy in "The Big Bang".
^Earlier incarnations of River Song (as Melody Pond) are played by infants Sydney Wade in "The Impossible Astronaut" / "Day of the Moon", and Maya Glace-Green & Nina Toussaint-White in "Let's Kill Hitler".
^River refuses the Doctor's offer to travel with her permanently in "Day of the Moon". She subsequently features as a companion in "A Good Man Goes to War", "Let's Kill Hitler" and "The Wedding of River Song", and also appears in "Closing Time". She later appears in "The Angels Take Manhattan" and "The Name of the Doctor".
^Coleman first appeared as Oswin Oswald in "Asylum of the Daleks", a character who shares several characteristics with Clara, and who is revealed in "The Name of the Doctor" to be an echo of Clara, created when Clara jumped into the Doctor's time-stream to defeat the Great Intelligence. Clara dies at the conclusion of "The Snowmen", before a third iteration of the character joins the Doctor permanently in "The Bells of Saint John". "The Name of the Doctor" sees Clara enter the Doctor's personal timeline, splintering herself across time and accounting for her earlier appearances.
^Clara continues traveling with the Doctor following his regeneration in "The Time of the Doctor".
List of spin-off companions
As well as the TV series, the Doctor has had various other companions in spin-off media, such as books and audios.
A few of the companions have died during the course of the series. Katarina sacrificed herself by opening her airlock in order to save the others from the mad fugitive Kirksen; she blew herself and Kirksen into the vacuum of space. In the same serial, Sara Kingdom was rapidly aged by a Time Destructor. She rapidly aged to dust. While Adric attempted to divert a spaceship from crashing into Earth, a Cyberman destroyed the controls, and they hurtled into the future site of Chicxulub on the Yucatán Peninsulacirca 66 million BCE, thereby creating the K-Pg extinction event, fulfilling the Silurians' prophesy, and facilitating the evolution of mammals, ultimately including humanity. The android Kamelion, after coming under the Master's control, convinced the Doctor to destroy him, which the Doctor did with the Master's tissue compression eliminator, suddenly shrinking him to a small, irreparably broken toy.Astrid Peth saved the passengers of the interstellar space liner RMS Titanic, and the residents of greater London, by driving a forklift into the villain Max Capricorn and into the ship's engines. Before River Song's formal companionship began, she sacrificed herself in order to save those trapped in the Library's computer servers' simulations. After the Tenth Doctor saved Adelaide Brooke and her crew from an intelligent virus, Adelaide killed herself with her service pistol in order to restore the timeline such that her granddaughter will explore the galaxy as originally destined.Rory Williams, having previously died and returned from the dead several times in various ways, is touched by a Weeping Angel in 2012 and sent back in time. With the encouragement of her then-living daughter, River Song, and against the Doctor's pleas, Amy Pond allows herself to be touched by a Weeping Angel in 2012 in the hope of being reunited with her husband Rory Williams in the past. In fighting the Ice Governess in the final hour of Christmas Eve 1892, a Victorian era incarnation of Clara Oswald fell off of the cloud on which the TARDIS was parked, plummeting to the ground.
Not all companion deaths have been permanent, in the conventional sense of death, however. K-9 Mark III essentially regenerated into K-9 Mark IV when the Doctor transferred the contents of his memory into the new hardware.Jack Harkness invariably resurrects after each death, having inadvertently been given immortality by Rose Tyler during her efforts to save the Ninth Doctor.Rory Williams, called "the man who dies and dies again" by the Silence, suffered several deaths, each of which was negated by alternate timelines, paradoxes, resurrection by advanced alien medicine, or the rebooting of the universe; as described above, he was ultimately sent into the past and immediately declared dead in the present, but lived a long life the interim.
Other companions also died in alternate timelines or alternate lives. Brigade LeaderAlistair Lethbridge-Stewart, Section LeaderLiz Shaw, and Platoon LeaderJohn Benton all died in the destruction of their universe's Earth.Sarah Jane Smith, her son Luke Smith, Maria Jackson, & Clyde Langer perished whilst trying to stop the Plasmavore and Judoon in Royal Hope Hospital on the Moon in "Turn Left"'s alternative timeline of the events of "Smith and Jones". In the same story, Martha Jones suffocated after giving up her oxygen to classmate/co-worker Oliver Morgenstern while on the Moon. Donna Noble killed herself in order to cause a traffic jam and thus divert her younger self into turning left; she thereby restored the timeline and negated the deaths of Sarah Jane, Martha, and the children. Teenaged Sarah Jane Smith also died after falling from a pier in place of her friend, Andrea Yates; but Maria Jackson convinced adult Yates to correct the timeline, thus restoring Sarah Jane to life. After surviving decades in an alien hospice that was deadly to humans, Amy Pond compelled husband Rory Williams to lock her out of the TARDIS in order to protect her younger self and allow the latter to have the life with Rory that the former missed. Amy and Rory jointly jumped off of a high-rise in New York on a hunch that doing so would create a paradox and deliver themselves from that timeline.
During the course of the show's history, there have been a few occasions when companions have died while on adventures with the Doctor.
Two companions are killed in the The Daleks' Master Plan. Katarina, who had been introduced at the end of the preceding story, was deemed by the production team to be an unsuitable character as a long-term companion, and so Katarina is killed when she opens the airlock of a spaceship after being taken hostage by a convict. Sara Kingdom, who takes over Katarina's companion role for the remainder of the story, is also killed when she undergoes extreme aging as a side-effect of the First Doctor's activation of a "Time Destructor" device.
Adric dies at the end of Episode 4 of Earthshock in the explosion of a bomb-laden space freighter in Earth's atmosphere c. 65.5 million years BC, which becomes the Cretaceous–Paleogene extinction event. He was unable to steer the ship away as a Cyberman destroyed the controls.
Kamelion, an android companion, is destroyed by the Fifth Doctor in Episode 4 of Planet of Fire as an act of mercy after Kamelion is taken over by the Master and asks the Doctor to destroy him.
K-9 Mark III sacrifices himself in "School Reunion" in order to save the Doctor and his friends from a group of aliens. The subsequent K-9 Mark IV that the Doctor leaves with Sarah Jane tells her that the Mark III's files have been transferred to the new machine.
Traitorous companion Elizabeth Klein is erased from history in The Architects of History in order to undo the damage she had caused to Time after stealing the TARDIS. However another version of her exists in the normal timeline.
C'rizz is killed in Absolution when he becomes the temporary vessel for a dying race, causing him to burn out.
Tamsin Drew died during To the Death, though by that time she was working with the Meddling Monk instead of the Doctor. She is killed by Daleks who determine she won't be useful.
Lucie Miller died in the events of To the Death where she flies a Dalek saucer into the core of the earth causing a timewarp killing her and the Daleks in the area.
Oliver Harper is killed by a Vardan in The First Wave. He goes on to exist as a noncorporeal entity in the Doctor's TARDIS for the duration of the First Doctor's tenure, reappearing to him during the events of The Tenth Planet.
Jack Harkness is killed by Daleks but is brought back to life and given immortality by Rose Tyler in "The Parting of the Ways". He has since died numerous times in both Doctor Who and Torchwood, always returning to life soon after.
River Song sacrifices herself in "Forest of the Dead" to save the Doctor's life, but he is able to upload a digital copy of her consciousness to the data core. River continues to appear in the series at earlier points in her life, and her post-death consciousness reappears in "The Name of the Doctor".
Rory Williams is killed by the Eknodine in one of the dream worlds of "Amy's Choice". Realising it is her only chance of seeing Rory again, Amy Pond subsequently kills both herself and the Doctor in the same reality.
Rory is also killed by the Silurian Restac at the conclusion of "Cold Blood", sacrificing himself to protect the Doctor. He is subsequently consumed by a crack in time, which wipes him from existence. He reappears in "The Pandorica Opens" as an Auton duplicate, created from Amy Pond's memories, and is restored to his old life along with the rest of the universe in "The Big Bang".
Rory is shown dying of old age in "The Angels Take Manhattan", in front of himself, Amy, the Eleventh Doctor and his daughter River Song. He and Amy negate the timeline by jumping off of roof, thereby preventing him from being sent further back in time to die of old age downstairs. This kills both him and Amy, but both are resurrected as the timeline where they died is negated.
An older version of Amy Pond is killed by a handbot in "The Girl Who Waited" as it gives her medicine it doesn't know will kill her, but her existence is erased when The Doctor, Amy, and Rory leave that timeline.
In "The Snowmen", Clara Oswald falls to her death with the Ice Governess, while earlier in "Asylum of the Daleks" she was turned into a Dalek and left in the Dalek Asylum as the Daleks destroy it - though at that point not as the Doctor's companion. A third version of the character continues to live in modern-day England.
^ abcBrook, Stephen (23 January 2009). "Michelle Ryan guest stars in Doctor Who. But would she make a good companion?". The Guardian (UK). Retrieved 1 June 2010. "A minor factor in the continual swirl around Doctor Who is that what constitutes a Doctor Who companion is no longer clear. Sure, Rose, Martha and Donna were all companions. So was Captain Jack. But what about Mickey and Jackie? How do you qualify? Name in the opening credits, regular trips in the Tardis? The doctor kisses you? I'm no longer sure. Modern TV drama is so difficult."
^"The Angels Take Manhattan". Rory is sent to presumably 1938 or shortly thereafter. He is almost immediately joined by his wife Amy, with whom he grows old in New York City, dies, and is buried in Queens on the spot from which he will later be sent back in time in 2012.
^"The Angels Take Manhattan". The plan worked and the two grew old together in New York City, dying in their 80s and being buried in Queens, on the spot from which both will later be sent back in time in 2012.
^"The Snowmen". Sontaran nurse Strax is able to partially stabilise Clara briefly, but she quickly succumbs to her injuries moments after midnight, Christmas Day.
^Vicki, a human teenager, left the First Doctor in order to marry the Greek warrior Troiluscirca 1250 BCE, in The Myth Makers]. In the more than three thousand years that have elapsed since then, Vicki passed into legend as Cressida. No on-screen "Whoniverse" story has taken place within Vicki's lifetime after The Myth Makers; as of 2013, the chronologically next depiction is nearly a thousand years later, in "Pond Life"'s momentary scene of the Eleventh Doctor "inventing" pasta, circa 300 BCE.