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Published on October 12th, 2011 | by Alasdair Shaw

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…..

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About the Author

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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 two. His wife has a bad feeling about those two facts. 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.




33 Responses to What Makes a Companion?

  1. avatar Bryan Simcott says:

    Grace and Change lee both Traveled in time and space within the TARDIS back to dec 30. So they should both get 1 point for poit A.

    Sorry but its your rules :)

  2. avatar Alasdair Shaw says:

    I’m not convinced that traveling about 24 hours and staying within the same city really counts.

    But given that Ed has a soft spot for Amazing Grace I’ll let that point stand…

  3. avatar Alasdair Shaw says:

    Ah.

    It would appear I gave my companion of choice an extra point.

    Oops.

  4. avatar Adam says:

    Oh, c’mon. Rory is clearly travelling willingly from the end of the Big Bang onwards, which gives him a “1″ on B. That’s 3.5 – clear companion.

    • avatar Alasdair Shaw says:

      They all travel willingly in the end.

      But the real point to make here is that Rory is Amy’s companion, not the Doctor’s.

  5. avatar Chris Becker says:

    I can see a simple fix. Change criterion A to read “One point for each unique storyline (two parters or classic sets of episodes count as one each) in which the character travels in the TARDIS. I can’t think of a situation where a character would be in the TARDIS in more than one story and not be considered a companion in some sense. And this would fix Rory… Also, this could work as a flow chart as well, where you answer questions and the combination of answers makes you arrive at yes or no to companion status.

    • avatar Alasdair Shaw says:

      A flow chart you say?

      Hmmmmm.

  6. avatar daniel says:

    Zips up anorak…

    ahem…In the three Doctors the Brigadier did travel in the TARDIS (as did Sergeant Benton),,and Mawdryn Undead…

    • avatar Andrew says:

      You just beat me to it. The Brig also traveled to another dimension in Battlefield, not in the TARDIS right enough but he did do it willingly.

      Benton must count on the basis of A0 B0 C5 D2 E3. He was a regular through the 5 Pertwee seasons, he was certainly loyal to the Doctor and encountered 3 incarnations (4 if you include seeing the 1st Doc in The Three Doctors).

      Also if you take the Virgin Missing Adventures into account, Yates did travel with the Doctor and Jo in at least one book IIRC.

    • avatar Alasdair Shaw says:

      I always forget about the 3 Doctors. I really should get round to watching Undead at some point as well.

      Very well then, the Brig gets one more point. Yay!

    • avatar Mugen Pharoah says:

      And in the TARDIS with Doctor Pat in the original version of the Five Doctors, at the end – another point for the Brig please!

  7. avatar Alex says:

    My opinion is that a companion is, at base, a character who shares one or more adventures with the Doctor in such a way that he or she is elevated beyond the level of being simply a “guest star”. If a character appears in more than one episode (or serial) and shares different adventures with the Doctor, he or she is a companion (so hello Benton and Yates, and Craig Owens). A companion is also a character who is explicitly invited to become one by the Doctor – whether they actually leave with the Doctor at the end of the episode is irrelevant.

    Maybe we need to borrow from the astronomical community and introduce different categories of companions, just as they have different categories of planets now. Sarah Jane would be like saying Jupiter, while Lady Christina might belong to a similar category to Pluto – still sort of a planet, but not considered one of the “main family”. The Brig can be considered a comet, reappearing periodically. Sara Kingdom can be like Ceres – considered a planet one moment, then not a planet, then a planet again, then not a planet…

    • avatar Alasdair Shaw says:

      You almost had me convinced.
      Then you went and suggested that Craig Owens was a companion.
      Sorry, I don’t see it myself.

    • avatar Jeffrey Miller says:

      With that criteria you open it up to Rita from “The God Complex” and Lynda with a “y” from “Bad Wolf” as they were both invited but died before they could.

      • avatar Alasdair Shaw says:

        An invitation to travel doesn’t count as travelling.
        At least as far as I’m concerned.

  8. avatar Bryan Simcott says:

    Having thought about this the rules might be flawed.

    Adam traveld in time and space, he also willing did so, and he wasnt against the doctor, just greedy for himself.So that would give him 4 points. not one.

    and I certainly do not count him as a companion in any form or skewing of the rules.

    and what about Kamelion. he did travel with the dr “willingly it woud seem from the outset) but was never really on the Doctors side or anyones for that matter of his own free will. and he did tralvel in space and time.

    and the Amazing Grace and Chang Lee are we now to chosse how long a trip consists of (if you dont like the fact its only 24 hrs. then there needs to be a caveat.

    its very complictaed and |I think most people have thier own ideas of who a companion is and isnt.

    • avatar Alasdair Shaw says:

      I don’t count Adam as willingly as he had no idea what he was stepping into when he entered the TARDIS. From his actions in Dalek and the Long Game it was clear his loyalty was to himself rather than the Doctor. In my opinion.

      I haven’t seen enough Kamelion to argue any of your points.

      As for TARDIS trips, it is indeed my own personal spin on it.

      We do indeed have our own opinions on companions. They’re very like canon in some respect. This article has been my take on the classification.

  9. avatar Brian Stultz says:

    The Brig traveled in the Tardis several times. Mawdren Undead, The 5 Doctors, and he was in the Tardis when it was whisked away to the Antimatter Dimension in The 3 Doctors.

  10. avatar Jon Preddle says:

    There are companions – those with whom the Doctor had some degree of emotional bond; and then there are “passengers”, those who may have travelled in the TARDIS once or twice, but with whom the Doctor never had any bond. That therefore rules out Katarina, Kamelion, Adam, and one-offs like Astrid, Grace.

  11. avatar K says:

    Um, everyone has known at least /one/ doctor.

    • avatar Alasdair Shaw says:

      Indeed.
      Any error in that score is due to me putting a last minute change through that messed with the Editorial staff.

      Sorry.

  12. avatar Hawkeye says:

    I don’t like how Sara Kingdom somehow got counted as a companion and agree that it would be near-impossible to come up with a logical system that everyone can agree with as to what counts as a companion.

    I’m VERY GLAD someone pointed out the Three Doctors which brought Benton up a bit higher and proved the Brig DID travel with the Doctor (like in Mawdryn Undead).

    But, in travelling with the Doctor in the TARDIS, what about Marcus Scarman in Pyramids of Mars? He travelled in time and came in willingly. Would any of the “TARDIS companions” in Invasion of Time count? Borusa and Rodan went in willingly and the TARDIS must’ve been in flight if it was being thrown into a black star.

    Cancelling out Rory for being Amy’s companion instead (take your word for it, ain’t done the Smiths yet myself), I say THANK YOU for that limitation as it means the Brit boy from “Dalek” who wandered in willingly and ended up screwing things up in “The Long Game” would technically be Rose’s guest…as would Mickey (School Reunion, Lady in the fireplace, Rise of the Cybermen) and Jackie Tyler (Army of Ghosts & “Journey’s End”). Although, Jackie was invited in by the Doctor at the end of “Journey’s End” but that’s a technicality.

  13. avatar Gruff says:

    Rory E=1, and very much a companion.

    How would Vislor Turlough, Ace, Romana and Leela score against this criteria?

    They’d better be companions as I thought of them as such for my whole childhood!

    • avatar Gruff says:

      Oops regarding VT, I meant to point out I would hope he was considered loyal in the end, as was River for that matter (i.e. why she has the 2 points for D).

      • avatar Alasdair Shaw says:

        Turlough’s loyalty was always to himself.
        As for River; well she was willing to destroy time and space to save his life. I’d call that loyal. Even if she tried to do a few more times than Turlough did.

        • avatar Corvus says:

          Turlough certainly started out looking out for himself exclusively, but risked his well-being for the Doctor (and Tegan, and Peri) on several occasions, thus proving himself a loyal companion in the end. As such, saying that his loyalty was “always” to himself is an oversimplification, and inaccurate.

  14. avatar david h says:

    This is always a tricky question. In most cases, I’d count someone who travelled in the TARDIS with the Doctor through at least two stories as a companion, although there are clearly a few exceptions to the rule on both sides of that line.

    I think that Katarina just barely makes it. She did travel with the Doctor, even if she didn’t really understand what it meant. She’d obviously hacve stayed on longer, if she hadn’t gotten killed!

    Sara Kingdom is a tricky subject. Based on just the television show, it’s still a tough call, because she’s only in one story. But in that story she clearly travels with the Doctor and Steven in the TARDIS for a while, with multiple stops. So, I think it would be fair to call her a companion, if one with a big asterisk. If you take the Big Finish stories into account, then I don’t think there’s any question at all, since they had a bunch of adventures in between episodes of The Dalek Masterplan.

    Liz really shouldn’t count as a companion. But since the Doctor was exciled to Earth and the TARDIS wasn’t working, there’s no way she could have been proper companion in the tradidional sense. But she was definitely his assistant (which is what the tabloids in the UK often call his companions anyways), and I don’t think there’s any doubt that he WOULD have taken her in the TARDIS, if he could have. (And, indeed, he later did in the book The Wages of Sin.) I’d count her as at least an honorary companion, and she probably deserves the full companion label without too much of an asterisk. She’s a fair exception to the rule.

    The Brigadier shouldn’t really count as a companion either, since he never travelled with the Doctor, and never really wanted to, either (unless you count in the parallel universe of the Big Finish Unbound audios.) But I think that he’s earned the title of honorary companion. And he does travel a bit in the TARDIS in the Big Finish audios.

    Benton was a series regular, and almost counts. But, again, he never travelled in the TARDIS, other than in short journeys home, so I’d lean against counting him.

    Yeates would fall under the same rules as Benton, if he hadn’t just appeared as a full-fledged companion helping the Fourth Doctor in the BBC audios. That’s enough to elevate him, in my mind. Sadly, this role was originally supposed to go to the Brigadier, but Nick Courtney was too sick to do it. If he had, that would have made him an official companion, too.

    Kamelion counts, since he was in the TARDIS some time. But only barely so. Kind of like Katarina.

    Grace gets special guest star status with an extra asterisk for becoming the Doctor’s brief love interest. If it had gone on to become a regular series at that point, it’s clear she would have been a companion. But it didn’t happen, so she’s not.

    The same could be said for Chang Lee, but there’s nothing in the story to even suggest he’d have stayed on, other than that we know behind the scenes that he would have likely been.

    Adam should count, since he did travel with the Doctor, and would have remained doing so, if he hadn’t shown his selfish side. I’d count him as a failed companion.

    Is there any question that Mickey was a companion, if only for a short time? Even if he mainly did it to get closer to Rose?

    Astrid and any of the other guest stars in the various new series specials are simply special guest stars. There are lots of other characters throughout Who’s history who have effectively played the exact same role. Astrid should probably get an asterisk as someone who was invited to be a complanion, but sacrificed herself for the Doctor before she got the chance to be one.

    Rory’s clearly a companion, even if it was mainly to stay close to Any. I think that he clearly develops a loyalty to the Doctor, even if it’s one tinged with some jealousy and bitterness. But it’s also clear that his primary loyalty will always be to Amy. But hers is to the Doctor, and he grows to accept that.

    River’s a tricky one, especially with the way her history is intertwined in mostly reverse order with the Doctor’s. But it’s clear that she DOES travel with the Doctor at night while she’s locked up, so that should let her count as a companion, even if it’s an off-screen companion. (Kind of like Samson and Gemma in the Big Finish Eighth Doctor audios.)

    Is that everyone? ;-)

  15. avatar Jon Preddle says:

    In Mawdryn Undead the Doctor refers to Liz Shaw as being his “assistant.”

    It’s important to take the Doctor’s point of view
    into account. Who would *he* consider a companion?

    In The Massacre, the first Doctor rattles off the names of his previous passengers, but Katarina and Sara are not mentioned.

    Other people to have travelled in the TARDIS several times beyond their first story include: the Earthling (Meglos and off-screen in Full Circle); Romulus and Remus (Twin Dilemma); the twelve genii (Time and the Rani), the last of which must have made 11 trips in the TARDIS; Scott and his troopers (Earthshock and off-screen in Time-Flight).

    The Doctor probably conversed with these people more than he did with Katarina!

    Personally, I think “companion” is a clunky term, and the criteria should be split in half into “Series Regular” and “Guest Passenger”.

  16. avatar Greg says:

    The “E” score for Sarah Jane should be “7″. She has met Doctor’s 1-thru-5 (The Five Doctors), plus Dr#10 and Dr#11. This would make her Companion Score “15″.

    I would argue that the Brig is not a “Companion” because he is not an “Assistant” to the Dr. Sarah Jane is definitely the Dr’s “Assistant”, as the Dr plainly stated so for the first time in “Invasion of the Dinosaurs”.

    If anything, the Dr assisted UNIT and the Brig. Yates, Benton and Harry Sullivan also are not “companions” for the same reason as the Brig. In “Ark In Space” Harry tells the Dr that he was ordered to look after him by the Brig and “orders is orders”.

    This does not diminish the UNIT characters’ WHO contributions at all. It simply clarifies the actual working and personal relationships!

    • avatar Russell Gillenwater says:

      Acutely Sarah Jane’s E score should be 9. Like was said 7, but since books and audios are also included Sarah met the 7th Doctor in Bullet Time and the 8th Doctor in Interference.

  17. avatar Cosmic Hobo says:

    The Brigadier was not only a companion,he was a legend!As for Harry Jo Grant was ordered to be the Doctors”New assistant” by the Brigadier.

  18. avatar Mr. Brum says:

    What about Amy’s companion points? Do ‘Ganger’ trips count as her own, or not? I think they do, just asking…


  19. River is not a companion as she only travels briefly with the Doctor. The Doctor should have higher standards as to who he allows aboard the Tardis.
    Astrid is also not a companion. One story does NOT a companion make so Sara Kingdom is NOT a companion. She may have been in several episodes but it was STILL only one story.
    Katarina on the other hand was in TWO STORIES as well as traveled in the Tardis
    Liz Shaw WAS A COMPANION. The Doctor COULDN’T travel so that’s hardly fair to her. She worked with him, traveled via land, and assisted him on numerous stories. COMPANION!
    Oh and WRONG! The Brigadier AND Benton DID TRAVEL ONCE IN THE TARDIS! Across Space IF NOT time. Hello? ‘The Three Doctors’?! They traveled from normal universe into the world of anti-matter? I call that “Traveling”.
    Mike Yates didn’t appear in all of the stories BUT he did appear in many. There needs to be a new term for those who help the Doctor a lot but aren’t a companion. The Doctor DID call Sarah Jane in her second story ‘Invasion of the Dinosaur’ “His Assistant”. Mike was a friend. The FIRST FRIEND to ever betray the Doctor IN the ‘Invasion of the Dinosaur’.
    Turlough is also a tough one at first. HE DID become a companion after ‘Enlightenment’ but before that it was OBVIOUS that the ONLY reason that the 5th Doctor allowed him to travel with him was so that HE (THE 5TH DR) could keep a close eye on him. The 5th Dr never trusted Turlough before ‘The Kings Demons’.
    Of course Mickey was a companion. He was in several stories and traveled several times inside of the Tardis.
    I count Grace and Lee as the 8th Dr’s companions BECAUSE THAT’S ALL HE’S GOT! The novels ARE NOT CANON, except to super nerdy (need to get a life) fans. So while Benny sounds interesting, she is not. Period.
    If you call Sara Kingdom a “Companion” then you also have to call that group in ‘Earthshock’ who traveled with the Doctor during the ONE STORY, And they went aboard willingly.

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