Doctor Who: Looking Back at 47 Days #32 – Companion Departures

A few years ago, I did a series of 47 daily posts which all looked at different questions related to the revival series of Doctor Who, focusing on stuff I like about the show. I worked out a series of questions in advance and then picked one randomly for each day. I’ve decided to revisit the series to see how my opinions may or may not have changed, and to bring two of my daughters into the discussion, since they are both big fans and have recently finished watching the revival series.

Why 47?  It’s my favorite number.

Why Doctor Who?  It’s my favorite show.

Why the modern day Doctor Who only?  Simply because I remember it better.

Why are we looking back at this now? Because we’re on a 47 day countdown to November 23, the birthday of the show.

Check out Day #31 here.

When I first did this, it was September 2016, which means we were in between the Christmas episodes The Husbands of River Song and The Return of Dr. Mysterio, and were yet to debut Peter Capaldi’s last season on the show. Jodie Whittaker was even further away. How has the passage of time, evolution of opinions, and three further seasons of the program impacted my opinions?

Today is Day #32, and our theme is…

Best Companion Departure Scene

These moments where the show’s second lead is given a compelling reason to end their travels with the Doctor are often quite memorable, and significant in way that is second only to the Doctor’s regeneration scenes.

Now, last time, I picked Clara’s death in Face the Raven, but actually I’m going to discount that as a possibility, since it is not her actual departure from the series as regular character.

That’s part of the problem with looking at this question–in the modern series, the companions don’t tend to leave just once. Sometimes they leave one or times before they are done being regulars (like Amy & Rory in The God Complex or Clara in Face the Raven, as mentioned). Sometimes they come back later and then leave again (like Bill in Twice Upon a Time or a whole bunch of people in Journey’s End).

So, for clarity’s sake, we are going to limit the field of choices here to scenes where regular characters said goodbye to the Doctor (or he said goodbye to them) and then they stopped being regular characters anymore. With that in mind, the real contenders are:

• Rose weeps on a Norwegian beach in Doomsday
• Martha leaves the TARDIS in Last of the Time Lords
• Donna loses her memory of the Doctor and is dropped off at her mother’s house in Journey’s End
• Amy & Rory are sent back in time by Weeping Angels in The Angels Take Manhattan
• Clara is forgotten by the Doctor, but chats with him at a diner in Hell Bent
• Nardole is sent by the Doctor to lead the people to safety in The Doctor Falls
• Bill says goodbye to an unconscious Doctor before leaving with Heather in The Doctor Falls

There are some other companions who were more recurring than regular characters that one could argue had departure scenes as well:

• Adam Mitchell gets kicked off the TARDIS for unseemly behavior in The Long Game
• Captain Jack Harkness is killed by Daleks in The Parting of the Ways
• Mickey Smith opts to stay in a parallel dimension in The Age of Steel.

But none of those are interesting enough to me to be seriously considered.

One could argue that Bill’s real farewell comes in the following episode, Twice Upon a Time. It’s the episode that comes after The Doctor Falls and she’s still on the opening credits. The argument against this is that it is a Christmas Special rather than a regular episode of the season, and that Pearl Mackie is not actually playing Bill in this story, but rather a simulation of her based on her memories. But for the purposes of this post, it doesn’t matter–I won’t be picking either Bill scene. Her initial departure is actually the very worst of all of the modern series departures (really, if Bill was heterosexual, her running with a sentient oil love-interest that she barely knew would never fly.) The fact that she does it when the Doctor is unconscious just makes it even lazier, from a writing perspective (one of Steven Moffat’s biggest failures, in my view).

So what does that leave us with?

Amy & Rory? I love those characters, and their departure is emotional for sure. But it’s mitigated by the illogic of the fact that the Doctor makes such a deal out of not being able to see them again just because he can’t return to New York, when he could easily get to them in a hundred other ways.

Clara? I love this character to, so much so that I chose her death in Face the Raven last time. I find the scene with the Doctor losing his memory of her to be pretty heartfelt, but I think the bit with her and Lady Me flying off in a diner-TARDIS for a bunch of random adventures to be a bit silly.

Donna? That was certainly a sad one. Rose? I’m not a big fan of the character but it was all quite tragic. But no, today my pick is

Martha Jones gets on with her life, The Parting of the Ways

Martha was a nice character with a poor story arc, but it was satisfying see her realize that her relationship with the Doctor wasn’t really going anywhere. It was legitimate character growth well played by Freema Agyeman, and nicely written by Russell T. Davies.

Too bad it was thrown away in End of Time where we find out that she ended up marrying Mickey Smith and still going on alien-fighting adventures, but with guns.

What do my daughter’s think?

They both wrestled with it a bit, before making their choices.

Johanna (16) almost chose Clara in Hell Bent, but then changed her mind and picked Donna Noble losing her memory in Journey’s End. She really liked Donna and found it very sad to see her go.

Laurelle (14) picks Clara Oswald in Hell Bent. She also found it very sad, the way the Doctor had to forget about her, and she liked the way we didn’t know who had forgotten about who at first.

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