Doctor Who: Saying Goodbye to the Companions

In just a short while, I’ll be checking out the latest episode of Doctor Who.  I could have already, but I wanted to preserve the quantum uncertainty of the story a little bit longer.  Because the rumor is that Jenna Coleman’s Clara will Face the Ravens in this story, maybe as a result of getting into that sleep chamber for a couple of seconds in the last story.  Maybe not.  It was sort of confusing. (Of course, she’s also slated to appear in the season finale in a couple of weeks, but with Doctor Who, that could mean anything).

Face the Raven

BBC/Simon Ridgway

It’s hard to imagine that it’s been almost two years since The Day of the Doctor, the 50th anniversary special.  At the time, if you’d told me I’d eventually be anticipating Clara’s departure with a certain amount of dread, I would not have believed you.  Back then, she’d just come off her “impossible girl” story arc, which had left her as only an “okay but not great” companion.  Since then, we had all of Season Eight – her first with Peter Capaldi.  Some fans have complained that that season had made too much of Clara, elevating even beyond the Doctor.  I disagree–the show did a lot with her and made her a pretty amazing counterpoint for the Doctor, but not at the expense of our main character.

Anyway, all this has me thinking about companion departures over the many years of Doctor Who.  For any long-term viewer, we know this is a mainstay of the series.  For even longer than changing the Doctor himself, the TARDIS’ rotating series of companions has been a defining feature of the Doctor’s adventures.  Some of those characters have been great, some have not.  But in the end, they all left the show.  And when we meet a new companion, we know that she (or he?) will eventually leave.  It’s the way of things.  As the 10th Doctor once said, “I suppose, in the end, they break my heart.”

But some of them have had great departure scenes.  Some have had terrible departure scenes.  A few have had no departure scene (or only a departure scene that they were not in.  What were the best, and what were the worst?

Well, first we have to define who we are talking about.  There’s actually a lot of uncertainty involved in creating a definitive list.  When I say “companion” (in the context of Doctor Who) I am referring to a finite list of characters:  ongoing co-stars of the series who regularly worked alongside (often traveling alongside) the Doctor, whom the viewers were led to see as a regular co-star of the series, and whom the Doctor had in some way welcomed into his world and often treated as a confidante.

With that in mind, I’ve made a list that I will comment on.  But there are some controversies:

• I’ve omitted the Brigadier, Sgt. Benton and Captain Yates, because during their years on the show they were treated as work colleagues and even friends of the Doctor’s, but not as his confidantes in the way that Liz or Jo were.  So they’re recurring characters, but not companions.

• I’ve included both K9’s, even though one came right on the heels of the other and the viewer could have been forgiven for forgetting that they were in fact two distinct characters.

• Similarly, I’ve included both Romana’s, even though they were in fact the same character, since this is Doctor Who and we often treat different incarnations of the same Time Lord as different characters.

• I’ve omitted Kamilion, the shape-shifting robot, who never worked with any regularity with the Doctor.  He was introduced with the idea that he might be a regular fixture of the show, but only appeared one more time before being destroyed.  Thus he really is more of a recurring guest star than a companion.  (Note to self:  maybe this needs to be reconsidered because of his inclusion in the 5th Doctor’s litany of hallucinatory companions just prior to his regeneration?)

• I haven’t included either Captain Jack or Mickey Smith.  Yes, it’s true that they both were treated as companions by the show’s internal continuity:  they were welcomed by the Doctor to travel with him, and they both spent one episode of the show adventuring before being written out in the subsequent two-parter.  But in the format of the revival series, I never felt like either character was expected to be “permanent” (even as permanent as a companion ever is).  Instead, they felt like recurring guest stars.  Rory felt that way too during his first season.  It’s only because of his “starring” status in Season Six & Seven that I include him here.

• Similarly, I’m not including Jackie Tyler, Wilfrid Mott, River Song, or Madame Vastra and her friends, who were definitely treated as a recurring guest characters.  And I’m not including Adam Mitchell, who we never expected to be a permanent member of the cast and who in fact was kicked out of the TARDIS one story after he joined.  And I’m definitely not including Grace Holloway, Adelaide Brooke, Jackson Lake, Astrid Peth, Lady Christine de Souza or anyone of their ilk because they weren’t even recurring:  they were simply guest stars.

• I’m omitting the 5 companions whose departure episodes sadly no longer exist (as far as we kn0w):  Vicki, Steven Taylor, Katarina, Sara Kingdom (if you include her), and Victoria Waterfield.  So I haven’t seen any of those so I’m not commenting on them.

• Ace isn’t included because we never saw her leave or heard anything about her leaving – since it happened sometime after the original series was cancelled.  And of course, Clara isn’t included because she hasn’t left yet (quantum uncertainty).

• Four sets of companions left in pairs, so they are being considered together.

So that makes 24 existing companion departure scenes.

I rated these scenes according to how “good” I thought their departure was.  This was factoring in things like how true to the character their reason for leaving the Doctor is, how impacting their departure is, and how well-written and directed the scene actually is.  Fairly arbitrarily, I’ve divided them up into five categories:  the top 3, the high 5, the middle 8, the low 5, and the bottom 3.  I’m going to comment on them all here.  And randomly, I’m going to start from the middle, and work outward from there (sort of the opposite of Memento), talking about each departure in the real life order it happened, within each category.

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The Middle 8
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Ian Chesterton & Barbara Wright

The Planet of Decision (aka Episode 6 of The Chase)

Ian & Barbara were part of the original crew of the TARDIS, as far as television viewers were concerned, back when the Doctor’s friends were not “companions” but rather simply part of the cast of the show.  Though they became friends with the Doctor their time on the show was always clouded by the fact that their travels began against their will, and that the Doctor’s difficulty steering the TARDIS meant that they were unable to get back home when they wanted to. Their departure at the end of The Chase came when the travelers took possession of a Dalek time-ship which was more easily controlled.  It was a scene that was completely in tune with the characters and the series at the time, and included a nice coda where we see flashes of their joyful return to London (in the form of a montage of photographs), as well as a cute scene of them not knowing how bus fares work anymore.  The scene only loses points because it comes fairly abruptly at the end of a not-great serial, with no real build up or foreshadowing of what is coming, but it still works well, and the series would never be the same again.

“I shall miss them.  Yes, I shall miss them, silly old fusspots.”

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Jamie McCrimmon & Zoe Heriot

The War Games, part 10

Another double-departure, Jamie and Zoe said their goodbyes to the 2nd Doctor at the end of The War Games, another story that changed the series forever.  For the first time, viewers went to the Doctor’s home planet (even if it wasn’t named yet) and met, en masse, the Time Lords.  We discovered that the Doctor had run away from his people and was constantly breaking their laws as he traveled through time and space fighting monsters and righting wrongs.  As a result, he was punished by being exiled to earth, compelled to regenerate, and forced to give up his friends.  Jamie and Zoe were returned to their home times with their memories of traveling in the TARDIS erased.  It was sad because it was what neither character wanted, and it represented a huge shift in the format of the show.

“I won’t forget you.  Don’t go blundering into too much trouble, will you?”

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Nyssa

Terminus, part 4

Nyssa leaves in the middle of the series’ 20th season, after contracting a sort of space-leprosy.  She is basically cured, but opts in the end to stay behind in the leper colony to help the other victims, who are not only sick but also at the mercy of an unscrupulous corporation.  Her departure from the 5th Doctor is true to her background and character–the series only occasionally remembered that Nyssa was meant to be an expert in bioelectronics, and as she goes she says it will be a chance to use the skills she learned growing up.  And as someone who had suffered a lot of tragedy in the series (basically losing her family and whole civilization to the Master), it was a nice bookend for her to to dedicate herself to helping relieve the suffering of others. The scene is pretty emotional–Peter Davison has often described Nyssa as his favorite of his companions, and his sadness is evident as she kisses him farewell, and gives Tegan a tearful hug.  “She’ll die here,” says Tegan sadly.  “Not easily,” Nyssa replies, “like you, I’m indestructible.”

“Then you’re a very brave person.  I wish you every luck.”

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Tegan Jovanka

Resurrection of the Daleks, part 2

A year or so after tearfully saying goodbye to Nyssa, Tegan herself parted ways with the 5th Doctor in a much less friendly manner.  She came to end of the violent trauma that is seen in Resurrection of the Daleks (one Youtube video counts 59 deaths!) and simply decided she’d had enough.  It’s a bit abrupt, and of course it’s emotionally unsatisfying, as saying goodbye to any good friend without warning would be.  But it was a brave and cool and even sensible choice by the production team to have at least one companion leave that way, considering the sort of misery these characters are always seeing.

“No, no, don’t leave, not like this.”

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Turlough

Planet of Fire, part 4

As the 5th Doctor’s tenure on the series wound down, Turlough also left, only one story after Tegan.  Turlough’s departure wasn’t as emotional as Tegan’s (the two were never as close), but what made it memorable was that the show actually built a whole story around revealing Turlough’s back story and what he was doing in 1980’s earth in the first place (he was a political exile from another planet).  As a result, his departure was completely natural didn’t come as the abrupt swerve that some of the others that we’re talking about did.

“Better to go back while you’re a bit of a hero, eh?”

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Peri Brown

The Trial of a Time-Lord, part 8, and then again in Part 14

Peri is a bit of an odd one because actress Nicola Bryant actually left the show with episode 8 of the season-long story, The Trial of a Time Lord, and what a departure it was!  Captured by enemies, she had her brain removed and replaced by that of the villainous Kiv, only to then have her subsequent death arranged by the Time Lords. It was brutal and terrible for the 6th Doctor, and not someone we really wanted even if a lot of people were not fans of the character.  To many’s relief, these events are revealed to be a fabrication six episodes later, where we learn that abruptly that Peri decided to marry a barbarian King.  This turned a memorable but unhappy conclusion to a happy but senseless one.  The final result all falls here in this Middle 8 section, but if there was ever a character who could have benefited from an extra scene or two in their exiting from the series, it was Peri.

“You killed Peri?”

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Melanie Bush

Dragonfire, part 4.

Melanie was Peri’s follow-up in the TARDIS, and no doubt has helped people to remember Peri more fondly.  Really, back at the time, Peri had a lot of detractors, but you didn’t really hear from them so much once Mel came along.  Unfortunately, her action reasons for leaving are complete nonsense, and almost non-existent.  She leaves, apparently because she just decides she’d rather shack up with space scoundrel Sabalom Glitz rather than stay with the 7th Doctor.   However, Mel’s actual departure scene is well-written, not so much from the perspective of Mel but for the Doctor himself.  If the story is true, the scene was actually an audition scene for new Doctor, but actor Sylvester McCoy liked it so much he pushed for its inclusion in the series.  This perhaps explains why Mel’s part in it is as generic as it is.  So, Mel leaves with little fanfare but no small amount of relief, and the Doctor gets some good dialogue, so in the end it’s not too bad a trade-off.

“That’s right, yes, you’re going.  Been gone for ages.  Already gone, still here, just arrived, haven’t even met you yet.  It all depends on who you are and how you look at it.  Strange business, time.”

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Martha Jones

Last of the Time Lords

Like all of the companions in Russell T. Davies’ tenure on the show, Martha returns to the series so many times after she leaves that it’s almost difficult to consider her walking out of the Tardis in Last of the Time Lords as “official”.  But we will, nonetheless.  After a year of pining away for the Doctor, she finally comes to realization that she is forever going to be his “rebound girl” after losing Rose, and simply decides to leave.  And that’s it.  It’s unspectacular, and felt like it came simply because the season had ended, but it represented a significant “growing up” for the character, which the show sadly felt the need to repeat the following year in The Doctor’s Daughter, and then to basically undo when she is strangely married off to Mickey Smith in End of Time Part Two.

“Thank you.  Martha Jones, you saved the world.”

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The Lower 5
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Ben Jackson & Polly

The Faceless Ones, part 6

Ben (a sailor) and Polly (a waitress) had joined the 1st Doctor in his travels together, and they left the 2nd Doctor same way.  The addition of Jamie to the cast had shifted the intended dynamic, and so it wasn’t too long before they were phased out.  The Faceless Ones involved the Doctor and his companions returning to 20th century England, by convenient coincidence to the very day that Ben & Polly had originally left.  The two disappear during Part 2 of the story and don’t reappear until Part 6, where they abruptly dash in, realize the date, and decide to leave.  The Doctor and Jamie spend a few seconds lamenting their departure, and then get on to more exciting things.

“All right, then.  Off you go.  Now go on, Ben can catch his ship and become an Admiral, and you Polly, you can look after Ben.”

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Harry Sullivan

Terror of the Zygons, part 4

Harry’s departure is also a bit of a non-event.  His adventures with the 4th Doctor have brought him back to 20th century England, and when the drama is all over, he simply decides to not go with the Doctor again.  Harry makes a recurring appearance a couple of stories later, but that’s it.  The Doctor doesn’t even have an instant to reflect on this goodbye, like he usually takes.  Harry’s best epitaph is instead saved for a later episode of The Sarah Jane Adventures where Sarah Jane Smith reflects on her old friend.

“Oh, I loved Harry.  He was a doctor.  He did such good work with vaccines.  He saved thousands of lives.”

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Leela

The Invasion of Time, part 6

Leela’s departure from the 4th Doctor is not the worst departure of a companion, but it is one of the most disappointing, certainly amongst all of those in which the performer actually had a major role in their final story.  Leela, warrior of the Sevateem, goes out not in a noble or heroic sacrifice, but rather by simply deciding to marry some guy she had barely interacted with.  She was a great character who got a completely dud departure in what feels like a fit of lazy writing.  The only thing that elevates this from an even lower ranking is Tom Baker’s brief but intensely pained performance as he quietly says goodbye once the TARDIS doors have shut.

“I’ll miss you too, savage.”

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K9, Marks I & II

The Invasion of Time, part 6 & Warrior’s Gate, part 4

We’ll do this one two-for-one, since even though they are different characters departing at different times, both K9’s leave in almost exactly the same manner.  Mark I abruptly elects to stay with Leela on Gallifrey, and Mark II abruptly elects to stay with Romana in E-Space.  Either the K9’s are more prone to forming attachments with women, or they are both taking advantage of their situations to increase their knowledge and understanding of the universe.  In either case, their departures are logical but neither nor particularly memorable, particularly since both times Tom Baker’s Doctor doesn’t seem phased to say goodbye to him at all. It’s not until the 10th Doctor’s School Reunion that the Doctor expresses any sadness about saying goodbye to K9 (and in that case, it was Mark III).

“Listen, in the year 5000, this was cutting edge.”

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The Upper 5
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Susan Foreman

Flashpoint (aka Episode 6 of The Dalek Invasion of the Earth)

Flashpoint is of course the story in which Barry Allen unknowingly saves his mother’s life, leading to the creation of an alternate time-line in which Thomas Wayne is Batman, which eventually led to a line-wide reboot of DC Comics…

OK, ok, just kidding.  Susan Foreman, the Doctor’s granddaughter, was the first regular character on Doctor Who to leave.  It is a memorable moment, which is very well foreshadowed throughout the serial.  It begins with Susan lamenting over the possibility of Ian and Babara leaving, but then meeting the attractive and dedicated resistance fighter David Campbell and gradually falling in love with him.  By the time we get to the end of the story she has admitted her love but is unable to consider leaving her grandfather, so the Doctor takes it on himself to force the issue.  It’s a scene which doesn’t necessarily hold up under a lot of logical scrutiny (what kind of man kicks his granddaughter out of her home to live with a guy he barely knows?) but in the context of the early days of the series, it is meaningful and emotional and powerful, buoyed up by strong performances and good direction.

“Just go forward in all your beliefs, and prove to me that I am not mistaken in mine.  Goodbye, Susan, goodbye my dear.”

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Sarah Jane Smith

The Hand of Fear, part 4

Just outside of the top tier is Sarah Jane Smith, one of the series’ most popular companions and one of the most unusual departures.  If not described properly, it sounds like a weak piece of drama:  the4th  Doctor gets summoned home and decides he can’t take Sarah Jane with him, so he drops her off.  But it’s a great answer to one of the challenges the show always has:  audience’s tend to love companions who really love the Doctor and whom the Doctor loves in return, so how do you dramatically justify the fact that that character eventually chooses to leave?  The standard go-to answer used to be to marry that character off, but often that felt shallow and forced.  The other answer is to kill the character off, but that will be hard for audiences to take too many times.  Here, the answer is simply to create a dramatic reason why the Doctor does not feel he can continue to bring the character along any further.  And it works because of the chemistry between Tom Baker and Elisabeth Sladen, and the strength of their performances.  Another era is ending, we all know it, even if it’s happening quietly without a lot of fanfare.  Of course, Sarah Jane will return multiple times, eventually in her own series, but older Sarah Jane never felt like quite the same character to me, so this is still a meaningful scene.

“Oh Sarah.  Don’t you forget me.”

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Romana II

Warrior’s Gate, part 4

Generally speaking, Warrior’s Gate remains one of the most confusing episodes of Doctor Who, about which many viewers have no idea what is going on.  What people do understand, however, is that this is the story where Romana leaves the show.  A companion like no other in that she was also a Time Lord (Susan had come and gone long before such concepts were established), she had great chemistry with the 4th Doctor which probably reflected the behind-the-scenes connection between Tom Baker and Lalla Ward.  During a mini-arc where the Doctor and Romana are about to escape from  a pocket dimension of sorts called E-Space, Romana elects to remain behind to help a race they’ve befriended be freed from slavery.  Similarly to Nyssa’s departure, Romana’s is laced with lofty ideals that elevate the character.

“All right?  She’ll be superb.”

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Donna Noble

Journey’s End

All through Season Four of the revival series, Donna Noble comments to those around her that she’ll never leave the Doctor, that she’ll always travel with him, that she’ll never go back to her old life.  Throughout the season, where we knew she’d eventually be leaving, the viewers were dreading what was coming:  there seemed no way that Donna was leaving without it being under tragic, horrible circumstances. And so it was: in a huge epic battle with the Daleks and Davros, Donna experiences some science fiction gobbledy-gook in which she receives a dose of the Doctor’s intelligence and understanding of the universe.  After saving creation, this proves to be overwhelming for her human mind, and in order to save her the 10th Doctor must remove all traces of his presence from her memory, essentially reverting her to the Donna that existed before she was changed by meeting the Doctor and impacted by all the wonders she’s seen in the universe.  It’s a heartbreaking scene.

Donna reappeared later on in End of Time Part 1 & 2, where amazingly the show did not undo the tragedy she had experienced, but also gave her a happy ending with very normal marriage with a guy named Shaun (and a winning lottery ticket, to boot!)

“I just want you to know there are worlds out there, safe in the sky because of her. That there are people living in the light, and singing songs of Donna Noble, a thousand million light years away.  They will never forget her, while she can never remember.  And for one moment, one shining moment, she was the most important woman in the whole wide universe.

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Amy Pond & Rory Williams

The Angels Take Manhattan

This is another funny one since both Amy & Rory had left numerous times before.  Rory died back in Cold Blood, and both he and Amy had been sent home, sort of, back in The God Complex.  It was during their time on the show that the series began it’s concept of having companions be people who don’t live in the TARDIS full time, but just stay at home in their normal lives, and just go on adventures with the Doctor periodically–an idea that has been the standard for Clara Osward all the way along.  But the final, definitive departure of Amy and Rory from the 11th Doctor comes in The Angels Take Manhattan.  In it, the characters spend the episode fighting against the Weeping Angels trying to avoid what appears to be a temporally predestined death.  To break a cycle and defeat the Angels, the two actually choose to sacrifice themselves, throwing themselves off a building.  Paradoxically, this results in their victory and survival.  But then a last Angel grabs Rory and sends him back in time to live out his life.  Unable to be sure of any other way of being reunited with him, Amy chooses to allow the same Angel to take her.  Again, the series finds a way to make the companion’s departure sad and yet not depressing for fans as we learn that Amy and Rory live out the rest of their long lives together, albeit forever cut off from the Doctor.  This departure isn’t as good as some of the others in this “Upper 5” section, but it works thanks to how strongly it impacts this incarnation of the Doctor, who has been connected to Amy since his beginning, and how it represents a culmination and completion in Amy’s own story:  picking Rory over the Doctor.  The last scene, where the Doctor reads her final letter to him, is quite moving.

“You are creating fixed time.  I will never be able to see you again.”

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The Bottom 3
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Liz Shaw

Terror of the Autons, part 1

Liz was new idea for the series:  a companion (even though she never traveled in the TARDIS–the Doctor didn’t either during this portion of the show) who was a competent scientist as well.  Of course, that didn’t prevent her from wearing mini-skirts and leather boots. But in the end, after one year of stories, the production team apparently didn’t like the way the character was working out, and felt that the Doctor needed someone more prone to confusion and plot-explaining questions.  So Liz was removed off-screen, with only a quick explanatory note that she had returned to Cambridge because she wasn’t living up to her potential as the 3rd Doctor’s assistant, or in her own words (as quoted by the Brigadier) “someone to pass you your test tubes and tell you how brilliant you are.”   It was a pretty poor departure scene that is only kept from being the very bottom by the fact that her actual reasons for leaving attempt to elevate and not diminish the character (though it can be argued that Liz is crazy if she thinks she’ll have more scientific opportunity anywhere else but with the Doctor).  Liz’s departure would have been a lot better if the production team had brought her back for a guest appearance a bit later in the season, maybe in The Claws of Axos?  That would have been a perfect way to give the character some closure.  (Although it should be pointed out that the Doctor did have a farewell scene with Liz of sorts, since he thought he was saying goodbye to her in her last story, Inferno–it just turned out that the Doctor wasn’t leaving as he thought he was).

“Goodbye, Liz, I shall miss you, my dear.”

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Romana I

Destiny of the Daleks, part 1

If the stories are to be believed, Mary Tamm, the actress to originate the role of Romana in Season 16 of the original series, made it clear all the way along that she only wanted to stay with Doctor Who for one year, but the production team refused to “write her out” of the show because they hoped to convince her to stay on.  They failed, and so Season 17 had to begin with an explanation of what had happened to her.  Out of all the explanations that could have been chosen, they went with the idea that she had apparently decided to regenerate on a lark, and treated the sequence as a joke with none of the emotional impact that regeneration usually came with.  The scene is a miserable failure:  it’s not funny, it’s not dramatic, and it flies in the face with everything we knew about the series up to that point, as Romana first turns herself into a copy of Princess Astra, a guest character from the previous story played by Lalla Ward (whom the producers were obviously impressed by).  The Doctor chides her for this, so she goes out to try on several other bodies:  a short alien, a really tall woman, and a some sort of space-belly dancer.  Finally she returns as Lalla Ward again, and the whole business is quickly forgotten about with the story (and the season) finally getting underway.  It is miserably bad, and a strong contender for the series all time worst, but is a bit higher than that because it shows that the producers were at least trying, even if their efforts fell flat.

“It’s just that, oh well, all right, have it your own way.  But get rid of those silly clothes, eh?”

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and now, my pick for the bottom of the Bottom 3…

The worst companion departure of all time:

 

Dodo Chaplet

The War Machines, part 4

Dodo has a good argument for the worst departure of a companion ever.  She and the 1st Doctor return to modern day earth (almost for the first time in the Doctor’s televised adventures), where she gets mind-controlled by an evil computer.  In Part 2, the Doctor helps her out and she sits down to rest…and never appears again.  After everything is over, the Doctor is seen standing around waiting for her to turn up, only to have Ben & Polly arrive instead with the message:  Dodo wants to stay in London and sends her love.  And that’s it.  It’s hard to not see her departure as anything but the series turning over the old-fashioned Dodo in favor of the more attractive and stylish Ben & Polly.  But don’t get too cocky, Ben & Polly, it won’t be too long before the same thing happens to you!  Dodo’s ignominious departure from the series has not led to very respectable appearances in the show’s spin-off media.  In one book, it is revealed that she had a nervous breakdown after leaving the Doctor, and was murdered by a pawn of the Master. In another, she lived a longer life, but mostly regretted her decision to not return to the Doctor.  Either way, she is my pick for the companion with the Worst Departure Scene ever.

“Her love?  Oh there’s gratitude for you.  Take her all the way around the world, through space and time, and then–“

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The Top 3
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Jo Grant

The Green Death, part 6

Jo Grant fell in love with an environmentally active scientist and decided to get married to him and move to the Amazon to look for mushrooms.

It sounds ridiculous, doesn’t it?  It sounds like the sort of thing that doesn’t deserve to be in anyone’s Top 3 of anything.  But it does.  Because it’s great.  Out of all of the departures in this list, Jo’s is the best “growing up” story:  the scatterbrained, clumsy lab assistant has matured and taken on her own causes, just like the Doctor, all while remaining scatterbrained and clumsy.  She grows up without changing her personality, just like people in real life do.  Her relationship with Professor Jones develops naturally through the adventure, even if parts of it feel dated now.  And the affection between Jo and the 3rd Doctor reflected the oft-spoken affection between the performers (Katy Manning and Jon Pertwee) and so when she says tells him her plans, the pain he feels is something we experience with him, right through the TV screen.  The final moments, where the Doctor drives away from the celebrations over the engagement, are beautiful.

Katy Manning returned to the franchise on television many years later, in a two part story of The Sarah Jane Adventures, alongside Matt Smith and Elisabeth Sladen.  It’s a great coda for the character, and one of the most enjoyable Doctor Who stories that I’ve seen to come from the pen of Russell T. Davies.

“Mind?  He might even be able to turn you into a scientist.”

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Rose Tyler

Doomsday

Rose is not my favorite new-series companion.  In fact, she competes with Martha for my least favorite of the ones on this list.  But she is an important character to the series and has a devastatingly emotional farewell.  Season Two of the revival series had introduced the idea of a parallel universe very similar to our own, travel to and from was limited and difficult.  In the aftermath of a big battle with both the Daleks and the Cybermen, Rose found herself trapped in that reality, along her mother and parallel universe father, but separated from the Doctor.  Now, for better or for worse, Rose had been increasingly been portrayed as sort of a “one true love” for the Doctor – sort of the ultimate “I will never leave him” character.  So with farewell, there was really no choice but to play it as devastating to both parties (though with the Doctor himself, we knew then and now that his life will go on without her, by dramatic necessity of nothing else).  But for Rose, it’s like the end of her life, and Billie Piper does sell the scene to us: the Doctor and Rose, saying goodbye via holographic projection, with her standing on a very cinematic beach, telling him that she loves him and never being able to hear those words in return.

Of course, Rose does return later on for six episodes of Season Four (three cameos, three full appearances) in which she gets married off with a human clone of the Doctor, so things do sort of work out for her.

“Here you are, living a life day after day.  The one adventure I can never have.

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and now, my pick for the Top of the Top 3…

The best companion departure of all time:

Adric

Earthshock, part 4

The thing about Adric is that he was annoying.  He was a whiny teenager who was portrayed as simultaneously smarter and stupider than everyone around him.  Fans, for the most part, didn’t like him, and even my brother, only a casual watcher of the series, was annoyed at the number of times Adric sided with the villains of the stories (even if it was often a feint).  Many agree that the dynamic between the characters was better with him gone.  And yet with all of that, the production team managed to pull a bit off a bit of coup with his departure.

After a battle with the Cybermen, Adric is on a space liner that is hurtling toward earth.  He could escape, but at the last second he stays behind to try to stop the ship from exploding, using his advanced skills in mathematics.  But because of one last Cyberman shooting at the control panel, he fails, and he dies as the ship strikes our planet (becoming, apparently, the “asteroid” that leads to the extinction of the dinosaurs).  It is a bitter moment, as Adric stands there, accepting his fate.  “Now I’ll never know if I was right.”

The reason this is so successful is of course the shock and devastation of having a companion die, something that had never been seen by most of Doctor Who‘s audience at the time (indeed it hadn’t happened since Katarina and Sara Kingdom in the mostly missing story The Daleks’ Masterplan, over 16 years earlier).  But what makes it work was the fact that Adric was not a popular character.  We never expected to be sad to see him leave, yet the episode manages to strike a deep emotional chord when the moment comes.  Playing the ending credits of Earthshock part 4 silently over an image of Adric’s broken gold star badge with no music was the icing on the cake.

But it’s also a moment we can move on from.  If it had been Tegan or Nyssa dying, it would have been a lot more upsetting.  So, Earthshock manages to deliver a punch that was highly emotional, yet that we were also able to move on from when we needed to (which was about five minutes into the following episode).

“His life wasn’t wasted.  He died trying to save others, just like his brother, Varsh.  You know, Adric had a choice.  This is the way he wanted it.”

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And that’s it!  Now, surely anyone who has managed to read the ridiculous number of words in this post will have differing opinions, and I’d love to hear what they are.  In the meantime, my day has almost escaped me, and I still haven’t watched Face the Raven.  If this is Clara’s ending, where will it fall in this list?  Will she topple Adric from the Number 1 spot?  Or will she be consigned to ignominy of Dodo or the first Romana?  Either way, I guess I have to wait for the season to be completely over before I can make that assessment.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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2 thoughts on “Doctor Who: Saying Goodbye to the Companions

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