Sunday, December 22, 2013

Doctor Who: 2012

Episode 790: The Snowmen
First broadcast at 5.15 pm, Tuesday 25 December 2012
<< back to 2011

Clara snogs the Doctor
The Snowmen (2012)
On 3 September 2012, Caitlin Moran asked Twitter:
"I know I'm going to regret this, but: what is the OFFICIAL number of companions the Doctor has had?"
It's a question that doesn't have an answer, for reasons I'm about to explain. But I did try to puzzle it out once for a work thing - and, at least for the series post-1989, I've a modest proposal...

Generally, it's quite easy to define a companion. There's three of them in the first episode: Susan, Barbara and Ian. When they leave, a new companion takes their place. Susan, leaves in Flashpoint (the final episode of The Dalek Invasion of Earth), and a week later the Doctor meets Vicki. Ian and Barbara leave the TARDIS in The Planet of Decision (the final episode of The Chase), not knowing that Steven is already on board.

That's generally the rule: a companion leaves and a new one is introduced, usually in the same story or one story apart. Most companions last about a year in the series.

But there are plenty of exceptions to this general rule. In The Horse of Destruction (the final episode of The Myth Makers), Vicki leaves and is replaced by Katarina – who is then killed off four weeks later in The Traitors. That episode introduces Sara Kingdom, who travels with the Doctor and Steven for the next eight weeks before also being killed.

Do Katarina and Sara count as companions? Neither are listed in the Characters from Season 3 page on the BBC's own Doctor Who website - if that means anything. But other lists say one or both of them do.

I once asked the actress Jean Marsh if she considered Sara to be a companion. She told me, firmly, no: it was made clear to her at the time that companions got a better rate of pay than she was on. But does what the production team decide have any bearing?

There's also an argument that Katarina counts because, although she's in just five episodes, they're spread across two separate stories – The Myth Makers and The Daleks' Master Plan. Sara's nine episodes are all part of that latter story, so she doesn't count.

(Jean Marsh has since appeared in lots more episodes as Sara for Big Finish - most of them written by me. I think if she wasn't a bona fide companion before, she is now because of those adventures. You are welcome.)

But if companions need to be in more than story, that would rule out Grace Holloway, who only appears in the TV movie (1996). And if she counts as a companion, does Chang Lee? He appears in the same story, travels in the TARDIS and is on good terms with the Doctor at the end.

Does a companion need to travel in the TARDIS? Liz Shaw never did. The Brigadier travelled by TARDIS in The Three Doctors (1972-3), and appeared in numerous stories - but does he count as a companion? If he does, what about other regulars from UNIT - Benton and Yates in the old days, or Kate Lethbridge-Stewart today?

Doctor Who Magazine
#367 (March 2006)
Mickey wasn't a companion when we first met him in Rose (2005), but became one when he joined the TARDIS in School Reunion (2006), though he left again after three episodes. Publicity referred to him as the TV show's first black companion - but that's also what was said about Martha Jones when she joined the TARDIS a year later.

In fact, since the series came back in 2005, it's been tricky working out who counts as a companion. There are the main ones: Rose, Captain Jack, Donna, Martha, Amy and Rory, and Clara. But what about everyone else?

Does Adam count as a companion? He travelled in the TARDIS in two separate stories - Dalek and The Long Game (2005), but the point in the second story is that he's not a suitable candidate, so the Doctor drops hims home.

Perhaps how the production team viewed Adam and Mickey's status can be gauged from the fact that, when they joined the TARDIS, the actors playing them weren't credited in the opening titles. When Mickey returned in Journey's End (2008), actor Noel Clarke was credited after the opening titles. We might use those titles as an indicator of who counts:

  • Credited in the titles of Journey's End, therefore a companion:
    • Catherine Tate (Donna), Freema Agyeman (Martha), John Barrowman (Captain Jack), with Elisabeth Sladen (Sarah) and Billie Piper (Rose).
  • Credited after the titles of Journey's End, so not a companion:
    • Noel Clarke (Mickey), Camille Coduri (Jackie), Adjoa Andoh (Francine), Eve Myles (Gwen), Gareth David-Lloyd (Ianto).

That feels sort of right, but then the opening titles for the episodes following Journey's End credit people we might not think of as companions: David Morrisey (Jackson) in The Next Doctor (2008), Michelle Ryan (Christina) in Planet of the Dead (2009), Lindsay Duncan (Adelaide) in The Waters of Mars (2009) and Bernard Cribbins (Wilf) in The End of Time (2009-10).

Except for Wilf, these characters only appear in one episode and I don't think really count as companions - but then who am I to decide?

Well, entirely ignoring what I've said before about none of us getting to say what counts and what doesn't, I've a modest proposal. It goes like this:

Snog = companion

Yes, if we see the Doctor kiss someone, then they're a companion. It only counts for companions post-1989 but then, when companions have returned to the series - so far, only Jo and Sarah Jane - they've got a big hug from the Doctor.

Anyway, the list excludes Adam, Mickey and Wilf, but I think it works pretty well. And I'm delighted by the last one:
  • Grace (the TV movie, 1996)
  • Captain Jack (The Parting of the Ways, 2005)
  • Rose (The Parting of the Ways)
  • Madame de Pompadour (The Girl in the Fireplace, 2006)
  • Jackie (in Army of Ghosts (2006) when she also travels in the TARDIS)
  • Martha (Smith and Jones, 2007)
  • Joan (Human Nature, 2007)
  • Astrid (Voyage of the Damned, 2007)
  • Donna (The Unicorn and the Wasp, 2008)
  • Christina (Planet of the Dead, 2009)
  • Amy (The Time of Angels, 2010)
  • River (The Day of the Moon, 2011)
  • The TARDIS (The Doctor's Wife, 2011)
  • Rory (Dinosaurs on a Spaceship (2012)
  • Kate Lethrbridge-Stewart (The Power of Three, 2012 - though it's only a peck on the cheek)
  • Clara (The Snowmen, 2012)
  • Elizabeth I (The Day of the Doctor, 2013)
Next episode: 2013

No comments: