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What Makes a Companion?

He’s clocked up a fair number of companions in the last thousand (or fifty, depends on your point of view really) years wandering around the universe. But just what makes someone a companion?

These days it seems to be merely having your name appear in the main credits. But that’s hardly a rule that we can apply to Classic Who, especially as it classifies Adelaide Brook, Grace and Astrid as companions when they’re clearly not. I’ve upset some of you now, haven’t I? Well I’m sorry, but those three are no different from any other local who has ever helped the Doctor in the past. Well maybe not Grace, but the point stands. Shall we include Pete Tyler and Cho-Je as companions in that case?

No? Right, moving on then…

Wikipedia defines a companion as “a character who travels with, and shares the adventures of the Doctor.” Well that especially blows the credited companion theory out of the water. Unless you think that a single trip from Mars to Earth, without shifting timelines, counts as traveling with the Doctor. I’ve heard companion defined as “someone who chooses to travel with the Doctor”, while that fits in nicely with most of his companions it isn’t the general definition you’d hope. After all, Ian and Barbara certainly didn’t choose to travel with the Doctor. Neither did Romana or Harry come to think of it and they’re certainly all characters that I would regard as companions.

If you narrow it down to someone who has traveled in the TARDIS that allows those three in, but it also allows in Astrid, Adelaide and the Master as well. Do we really want to classify the Master as a companion?

Also, hold on, where does that leave the Brigadier? The Brig never traveled in the TARDIS, nor did Benton, Yates or Liz Shaw. I’m not too upset about disregarding Benton or Yates, but I’m sure Liz and the Brig are deserving of companion status? Ok, so what if we broaden it out to having had more than one adventure with the Doctor? Well that lets us classify the Brig as a companion, but it also means including Winston Churchill. Ok then, what if we decide that loyalty to the Doctor is the key rather than multiple adventures? That gives us the Brig on two counts and just the one for Winston.

Captain Jack and Rose TylerRight, I think we need to admit that there isn’t going to be a catch-all statement that defines companionship. I’m sorry. I’m really, really, sorry. But I’m going to have to use a points system.

A. 1 point for traveling in space AND time with the Doctor in the TARDIS.

B. 1 point if you did it willingly. (Sorry Harry.)

C. 1 point for each year you were a series regular.

D. 2 points if you’re loyal to the Doctor

E. 1 Point for each version of the Doctor they’ve met

A score of 4 or more makes for a genuine companion.

Ok, this might work. Let’s give it a quick test drive:

The Brig gets a A0 B0 C5 D2 E8
Companion Score: 15
Yes I did include Big Finish and the books as canon. I make no apologies for it.

Rose A1 B1 C2 D2 E2
Companion Score: 8

Astrid A0 B0 C0 D2 E1
Companion Score: 3

River: A1 B1 C2 D2 E2
Companion Score: 8

This score is based on the presumption that River will travel with the Doctor at some point. The + is to allow for her meeting other Doctors.

Grace: A0 B0 C0 D2 E2
Companion Score: 4

Jamie: A1 B1 C3 D2 E2
Companion Score: 9

Adam A1 B0 C0 D0 E1
Companion Score: 2

Sarah Jane A1 B1 C4 D2 E4
Companion Score: 12

Rory A1 B0 C1.5 D0 E1
Companion Score: 3.5

Ah. Thanks Rory.

Anyway, try it in the comments section with your own companions of choice and see how well it holds up. We’ll not talk about Rory…..


Alasdair Shaw dabbled in Who throughout the 80s, but didn’t really get into it properly until 1989. His sense of timing has not improved over the years. He’s a third generation Who fan as well as a father of three. When not working as a lab technician or writing for Kasterborous Alasdair runs the Doctor Who Reprint Society for which he writes In Print and Dangling Threads. He’s a big fan of the Valeyard, but that’s neither here nor there. He has never worked for UNIT and is not related to Dr Liz Shaw.

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