And the countdown to my favorite fictional hero continues. In today’s episode, we have four characters from Doctor Who, two superheros, one short semi-humanoid who becomes central to an epic fantasy adventure (and he’s not a Hobbit!), one police officer, one smuggler and one English gentleman.
Read previous posts here:
• Part 1 (102-91) and rationale for the lists
• Part 2 (90-81)
• Part 3 (80-71)
• Part 4 (70-61)
• Part 5 (60-51)
50. Rory Williams
Considering how much of a fan of Doctor Who that I am, it’s a bit surprising that we haven’t had any characters from this series at all so far. So Rory, as played by Arthur Darvill, gets to be the first. When Rory was introduced, it was hard not to compare him to Mickey Smith. Both characters were the mouse-ish and somewhat disposable boyfriends for the more vibrant and overtly brave new main companions for the Doctor (Amy Pond and Rose Tyler, respectively). Both showed up once at the beginning of a series, and turned out to be recurring characters, who later morphed into temporary companions themselves. The difference is that where Mickey eventually faded from Rose’s life, Rory became more and more important to Amy and the series. Amy came to see that Rory’s loyalty and faithfulness was what she needed more than anything else, and Rory proved himself worthy of that trust. This is seen the most clearly when Rory becomes the Lonely Centurion, an immortal protector who guards the mysterious box known as the Pandorica and the treasure that is within…which just so happens to be Amy herself. But his crowning moment of awesome comes when Amy is kidnapped by the Silence, and we get a brief glimpse of an enraged Rory taking down a whole fleet of Cybermen in order to find out what has happened to his wife.
49. Fone Bone
Fone Bone is the central protagonist of Bone, a 55 issue (56 now, really) all-ages fantasy adventure story by cartoonist Jeff Smith. He and his cousins are essentially living cartoons—strange semi-humanoid creatures known as Bones—who get lost and befriend a community of humans in a valley, and get wrapped up in an epic and ancient struggle between good and evil. In the tradition of characters like Frodo Baggins and Luke Skywalker, Fone Bone is the unlikely hero who seems like he’d have no contribution to make in an epic struggle between good and evil, but winds up being essential. Fone is whimsical and romantic, but also grounded, sensible, and the steadiest of his cousins. He plays a critical role in helping Thorn, the village girl who turns out to be a lost princess, defeat her enemies and restore her kingdom.
48. Phantom Girl / Apparition / Phase (Tinya Wazzo)
Legion of Super-Heroes
Tinya Wazzo is one of the earliest and longest serving members of the Legion of Super-Heroes, both in terms of her real-world creation and internal continuity. Her powers are quite simple—she can become intangible—but over the years she’s been shown to demonstrate great intelligence and experience in the way she uses her abilities. Tinya got a weird boost in prominence in the late 80’s / early 90’s when she apparently died in the primary Legion of Super-Heroes book, but turned out to have been displaced in time (and rendered an amnesiac), joining the modern day L.E.G.I.O.N. team of for-hire peacekeepers as “Phase”. After her predecessor was killed off, she became the deputy commander of the team, responsible for its day-to-day operations. Here, she was able to recognize L.E.G.I.O.N.’s potential and continue to channel its resources for good, and to keep in check the ambitions of the organizations scruple-less founder, Vril Dox. Thanks to a bunch of DC Comic’s continuithy altering events of the time, Phase was briefly revealed to not be Tinya Wazzo at all, but rather her never-before-mentioned cousin Enza, but thankfully this was a brief divergence from what everyone had always assumed.
47. Ian Chesterton
Ian was one of the original companions on Doctor Who, before that term was actually used. Back then, there was just the TARDIS crew—the Doctor, his granddaughter, and her two intrusive school teachers. Ian was a science teacher at a British public school whose curiosity and concern for one of his students got the better of him, resulting in he and his fellow teacher Barbara, beginning on a series of adventures with the Doctor through time and space. The Doctor was a lot different back in those days, being both a somewhat-feeble old man and also something of an anti-hero. In this dynamic, Ian, played by William Russell, was thus the more classical hero—conservative and stodgy, but intelligent, infallibly brave, and capable of kicking an amazing amount of butt considering he’s a public school science teacher. If it didn’t break my own rules, I’d list Ian and Barbara together. They were a partnership all along the way, complementing each other’s strengths and supplementing their weaknesses. They were never portrayed as a romantic couple of the show itself, but every single “expanded universe” depiction of them ever has assumed they got married shortly after their time with the Doctor finished.
46. Clara Oswald
From one of the original companions to one of the most recent, Clara Oswald started her time on Doctor Who as a mystery that the 11th Doctor was desperate to solve, and ended it as someone who had become so close to the 12th Doctor that they had to definitively sever their relationship for fear of it destroying the universe. In between, Clara was someone who faced horrifying monsters and endured personal tragedy, doing so with gusto and tenacity. She sacrificed herself to save the Doctor from an attack that came after him at every point in his timeline at once; she pleaded with the implacable Time Lords to save the Doctor in his last stand against the Daleks; she stared down the Master and her devastating machinations on multiple occasions; and she told off the Doctor himself she felt like it was necessary. And perhaps most movingly, she talked the Doctor down from doing something he’d regret when her arrogance led to her own downfall. Clara was played by Jenna Coleman, and for some reason a lot of people didn’t like her. It seems like she was sometimes considered to be too much of a focus on the show, like she was too capable. I disagree–I thought that although she started off as simply “all right,” by the time she finished her run on the show she had become on the series’ great companions.
45. Christopher Foyle
Michael Kitchen stars in Foyle’s War as Detective-Inspector Foyle, the first of several English detective characters who appear on this list. Folye is a London homocide detective during World War II, whose cases often touch upon the larger reality of the war that rages around him. Foyle solves his cases quietly and without fanfare, not revealing to even the viewer that he has the answer until it’s too late for the murderer to make an escape. In addition to the criminals, Foyle must also contend with his superiors, for whom is a rebellious nuisance—but only because he has that unerring commitment to the truth that’s typical of English fictional detectives.
44. Booster Gold
Michael Jon Carter, aka Booster Gold, is the first of two characters that I added to this last after I originally made it. He’s a particular kind of character that I quite like—a selfish jerk who is driven to genuine heroism by the circumstances he is in. Michael Carter was a football player in the future, who was disgraced when his abuse of performance enhancing drugs was discovered. Taking a job as a janitor in a museum full of heroic artifacts gathered across time and space, Carter decided to steal a bunch of paraphernalia and travel to the past to find fame and fortune as the superhero, Booster Gold. With his reprogrammed security drone, Skeets, in tow, Booster Gold does genuinely heroic deeds all while attempting to enhance his own fame and prestige. But of course his story is ultimately redemptive, with Booster discovering in a more genuine way both the triumphs and the tragedies of being a hero…without every fully losing his comedic edge. However, even though he was created by Dan Jurgens, it was under the pen of Geoff Johns that I thought Booster reached his heights of heroism. In Johns’ run, Booster’s focus was stopping evil attempts to corrupt time. To do this, he had to sacrifice his reputation as a hero…lest an enemy try to kill him as a child. This included even purposely acting like a selfish jerk with Superman and the Justice League, in order to keep himself off the radar of any villain looking to destroy history. For Michael Jon Carter, this represented a huge sacrifice.
43. Amy Pond
Amy Pond is one of my favorite Doctor Who companions. She’s the second to last to appear on this countdown (with the only one still coming being quite a bit higher than her). Played by Karen Gillian, Amy was the original co-star of one of my favorite eras on the show, which started in Season 5 of the revival series with the coming of Steven Moffat as showrunner and Matt Smith as the Doctor. She was a young woman who had met the Doctor as a child and had waited a lifetime for him to return and fulfill his promise to her. When the opportunity to travel finally came, she embraced the role with gusto. In her time on the TARDIS, Amy faced a whole variety of monsters and villains who threatened the universe, and was often critical in helping to save the world, as well as to help keep the Doctor himself grounded. Amy endured unimaginable misery during her time as a companion, having been replaced by a “flesh duplicate” and held captive while giving birth to her baby, only to later discover that her baby had been replaced as well so that it could be raised without her and shaped into a weapon to kill the Doctor. But she had her crowning moment of awesome when she remembered the Doctor back into existence after he’d allowed himself to be eliminated from reality to stop the Silence. Amy came to be settled in her love for Rory Williams during her time with the Doctor, ultimately sacrificing herself in order to be with him to her old age.
42. Han Solo
Star Wars franchise
A scoundrel, a rogue, a smuggler, a guy who shoots first…and yet still a hero. Like Booster Gold a few steps up, Han Solo is one of those primarily selfish characters who ultimately is pushed, even in spite of themselves, to noble actions. There is nothing especially original about Han Solo’s character or story arc, but he is still iconic thanks to shear charisma of Harrison Ford and his performance. Han Solo is recklessly fearless in battle, desperately cunning in retreat, and incredibly calm in the face of defeat. We see this last quality twice—in The Empire Strikes Back, when he is about to be frozen in carbonite, and in The Force Awakens, when he faces off against his own son in an attempt to save him from the darkness. Both times, Han Solo spends his last moments attempting to give other’s courage. He is an amazing character.
Of course, Han Solo was also recently played by Alden Ehrenheich, but that proved to be less successful overall.
41. Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy
Pride and Prejudice
Mr. Darcy has been played by all sorts of actors over the years, including Colin Firth, Laurence Olivier, Matthew Macfadyen and even Wishbone the dog in his eponymous series. But I’m thinking specifically of Mr. Darcy the literary character from the original classic romance novel by Jane Austen. Mr. Darcy is proud and dignified, and has no question of his own position and station in life, but at the same time is a man of integrity and deeply-held principles. He demonstrates genuine sacrifice when he goes out of his way to rescue Elizabeth Bennett and her family from social ruin at the hands of the very man who disgraced his own sister—in other words, the man with whom to cut a deal would be the most humiliating for him. And yet he does this out of his love for Elizabeth, which he has no reason to think is requited at that point. I appreciate in the novel how this comes as a surprise, with the reader finding at the same time as Elizabeth, unlike in the popular TV series where the viewer watches his actions linearly. Darcy is a classic romantic archetype—the apparently unsuitable love-interest who turns out to be the right person—but Jane Austen is able to portray this contrast so strongly that the character is a classic for the ages.