10 Classic Doctor Who Companions Who Were Not Hot Chicks
?Anyone who’s seen even half of one episode of Doctor Who usually picks up on the fact that the Doctor travels with companions, and he seems to have a penchant for picking up the younger women. While it’s true that the females he’s traveled with aren’t always just a pretty face, it’s hard to argue that their appearance doesn’t have something to do with demographics. But the Doctor hasn’t always gone for a comely lady to scream at the monsters, and despite the demands of frothing TV execs there have been quite a few companions over the years from far outside this type, some more than others. I’m not trying to knock new Who, because they’ve gone outside the box on this at least a couple of times, but there are far more examples in the classic series so I’m sticking with that (besides, Rory and Captain Jack obviously aren’t hurting for Who-ligan attention nowadays). I’m afraid I am, alas, unqualified to judge the sexual attractiveness of any of these manly specimens but if you, dear readers, want to help out, you know where the comments section is…
10) Ian Chesterton
Fun fact: Doctor Who was originally conceived as an educational family show that would use time-travel to help illustrate real concepts. To this end the 1963 pilot introduced the two first human companions as teachers from Coal Hill School, the idea being that they would be on hand to help explain important concepts to the viewers. This was abandoned almost immediately, but can still be seen in some of the tone of the earlier stories. I will admit that for those of us who favor the more mature women, there is a hint of allure about the strong-willed, raven-tressed history teacher Barbara Wright. But she and her science teacher colleague Ian Chesterton (played by William Russell) were there at the very beginning with inquisitive minds, not inquisitive breasts, and though there was more than a spark between them, they mainly provided stable parental figures to act as midway points between the flightiness of Susan and the unpredictable mystery of the First Doctor (There was also an amusing running gag where the Doctor couldn’t quite remember Ian’s last name, calling him “Chatterton”, which was probably a product of actor William Hartnell’s own genuine flubs). Their eventual departure was superficially lighthearted but subtly emotional, and it was obvious the Doctor felt for them too. Ian and Barbara haven’t been seen in-series since but a throwaway line in a recent Sarah Jane Adventures episode suggests they are still around and haven’t aged since 1965, for some reason.
9) Steven Taylor
The First Doctor has arguably seen the most companions of all the incarnations, so it’s no surprise that things got the most sausage-y during his era. We had Ian before and Ben after, but Steven (Peter Purves) was probably the most dynamic of the male companions introduced in the show’s early year, a stranded young astronaut who was strong and adventurous but also na?ve and idealistic and matured during his travels. His finest moments are unfortunately lost to history, such as this from the classic story “The Massacre of St. Bartholemew’s Eve,” in which Steven angrily confronts the Doctor for failing to save innocent souls from the carnage of 16th century France (followed by this sad and beautiful monologue by William Hartnell). Fortunately he did not ditch the Doctor here and stuck with him until the later story “The Savages,” where he finally accepted the mantle of responsibility. In a commentary track, the 70+ Purves semi-jokingly said that he always wanted to see a follow-up story where the Doctor reunited with Steven and found that he had turned into a despotic old tyrant. I’m game if he is.
8) Ben Jackson
Don’t remember him? I bet he doesn’t either. Though he carries the distinction (along with his swinging girlfriend Polly) of witnessing the Doctor’s first regeneration, Ben (Michael Craze) unfortunately has not proven especially loved or memorable among fandom, through no fault of actor Michael Craze. He was a sailor, he was reliable and spunky and said stuff like “what’s that, Doctor?” (or “wossat, Doctor?”) exactly like a good companion should. Beyond that it’s hard to dredge up more information about him from the deep well of memory and it doesn’t help that a good deal of his stories were lost in the infamous BBC archives purges. Poor guy. At least he and Polly had a relatively happy ending, returning back to London none the worse for wear with the Second Doctor and Jamie.
7) Harry Sullivan
Oh, Harry. The template for the “idiot boyfriend” character that was to become a staple in New Who with Mickey and Rory (only better), old-fashioned Harry Sullivan (Ian Marter) was a bumbling but likeable and knowledgeable medical officer who traveled alongside fan favorite Sarah Jane for the Fourth Doctor’s first season. He was originally written to be on-hand for action scenes but soon proved to be a more fallible and human sort of guy, and was quite likable despite his faults. As with Mickey later, one of the biggest sources of amusement was how much unnecessary grief the Doctor gave him, as in this scene when he acts as if he has some form of insult-Tourettes. And even though he was present in one of the classic series’ most remembered stories, “Genesis of the Daleks,” being loudly slammed by Tom Baker is probably Harry Sullivan’s most famous moment. That’s got to hurt.
He may not have combed his hair over his eyes but uncomfortable ginger Turlough (Mark Strickson) is the closest we’ve ever had to a Goth companion. His full name is Vislor Turlough and he’s actually an alien exile from the planet Trion, a rebel leader, which is very at odds with his appearance as a snaky 80’s schoolboy. He was interesting, if underutilized, and is yet another example of the sort of complex character the new series hasn’t even tried to do. His initial appearance was as an unwilling pawn of the Black Guardian, an evil semi-omnipotent being who unfortunately wore a bird on his head and lived in an early screensaver, commanding Turlough to kill the Doctor. Turlough resisted but even afterwards there was always a stream of unreliability and suspicion in his character. You could never be sure if you could fully trust him. Eventually Turlough put his New Order records away and returned to his people, who were not, sadly revealed to be freckle-harvesters from the sunless planet Gingeros.
Spoiler alerts don’t count after 30 years, right? In that case, let me say that dying was maybe the best thing that happened to Adric (Matthew Waterhouse), the math whiz from another universe who for a long time bore the much sought-after title of most annoying companion. I don’t mean to be cruel. His epic death (crashing to pre-historic Earth in a spaceship and causing the explosion that destroyed the dinosaurs) gave a note of poignancy to a character who had largely been very one-note, despite having untested depths (his brother died in his first story, and this was never mentioned again, to the best of my knowledge). After stowing away on Tom Baker’s TARDIS and witnessing his regeneration, Adric spent much of his time on Doctor Who struggling to keep up with his flightmates Tegan and Nyssa and complaining about stuff. But it’s his softspoken final moments that keep him from being the Jake Lloyd of Who-dom. It was a crucial point for the series and for Peter Davison’s Fifth Doctor, who would become defined by the many losses and failures he had to endure before sacrificing his life in his final story. All the same, I don’t know if that awkward silent credits scroll was entirely necessary…
Talk about a missed opportunity. The writers came up with one of the coolest ideas for a companion ever, a shape-shifting alien robot, but instead of giving him a cool visual design (I would have been just fine with an actor in weird makeup a la Data) they went with a costly, complicated and stupid-looking contraption that axed any story possibilities. His robot form would have been the least important, anyway, as when he changed his appearance he was simply played by another actor. As a result we have one of the most useless companions in the show’s history, appearing in only two stories even though he technically was with the Doctor for a full season. Because of this, Kamelion (who was voiced by Gerald Flood) never got a chance to develop his character beyond being a helpless tool for the Master and we only got a taste of his full potential. Now that it seems the New Series is intent on only featuring boring Earthlings in the TARDIS, it appears we’ll never get another supporting character as novel as this. Which may not be an entirely bad thing, but still… shape-shifting robot!
Voiced by the inimitable John Leeson, K-9 is an iconic character who needs little introduction/explanation, even to a newer fan. Dog robot. Lasers. Cute little radar ears. Encyclopedic knowledge. Incongruous yet weirdly appropriate high-pitched old man voice. The recipe to success. But no matter how much you love him, no one should ever have to endure the ill-fated attempt to get a front-row seat in spinoff hell that is K-9 and Company. Hell, no one should even have to endure the opening credits…
2) Jamie McCrimmon
Ach! Perhaps part of the reason production decided against David Tennant using his natural accent were that it would link him to closely to the most blatantly Scottish companion, James McCrimmon (Frazer Hines). Yes, he wore a kilt and sporran, but he was a piper from the 18th century highlands. He may not have been smart but he was fiercely loyal and his banter with Patrick Troughton’s Second Doctor made them one of the show’s best double-acts. He was quick to draw a knife and like many companions before and after played the part of the Doctor’s “muscle” surprisingly well while also occasionally functioning as comic relief. The friendship on the show between Hines and Troughton extended into real life and was surely behind their return in the heartbreaking cesspool that was “The Two Doctors” in the ’80s. Incidentally, Hines is one of several Who celebrities known to appear on the Sci-Fi Sea Cruise and Creative Workshop at Sea. If you go be sure to ask him about the Yeti.
1) Brigadier Alistair Gordon Lethbridge-Stewart
I still miss him. Even though it’s been decades since his last appearance on the show, and years since his final adventure with Sarah Jane, and there had been no real plans or hope for him to make a proper re-appearance on New Who, Nicholas Courtney’s recent passing was a huge loss to Who-ligans of all ages. Typically my fan criteria for what makes a character a companion is that they begin at least one story in the TARDIS, but I’ll make an exception for the Brig as he was such a huge fixture in the show’s history, stemming all the way back to the Second Doctor but really establishing himself as a regular during the Pertwee era, 1970-1974. He was phased out in Tom Baker’s second season but returned a couple of times afterwards, perhaps to best effect in the Fifth Doctor story “Mawdryn Undead” as a retired, eerily mustache-less schoolteacher He was a no-nonsense military man, the Scully to the Doctor’s Mulder, a source of earthiness and occasional dry humor in the face of the impossible (one of his most famous lines, when commanding forces against a demon-like creature: “Chap with wings, there. Five rounds, rapid.”). As problematic as the recent Series Six finale was, one of the things it did right was its brief but touching tip of the hat to the Brigadier, even if it seemed to come out of nowhere. If you aren’t familiar, check out some of his episodes and pay tribute to a fallen soldier.