As the hands tick closer towards the 50th anniversary celebrations what better time to look back at the trials and tribulations that faced the women behind the show’s most integral part; the companions.
Using their most recognisable traits, The Sydney Morning Herald has gathered the recollections, regrets and the occasional frustrations of the companions that were more than just his gal Friday.
Original companion Carole Ann Ford knew that they were onto something special; which was tempered somewhat by her frustrations at Susan’s lack of development during her time on the show:
“I wasn’t allowed to make her as mysterious as I wanted to. When we first discussed my playing her, she was so much more interesting than what she was finally allowed to be. They wanted her to be there for the teenagers to connect with. If they made me too weird, it wouldn’t have been as easy for them to imagine themselves in my situation. So they turned me more into a sort of girl-next-door character.”
Even as the roles became less contentious, some of the companions still saw very little of themselves in their character, take Katy Manning, who despite assertions still maintains that Jo Grant was nothing like her real life self:
“She only cried when somebody died. She screamed when there was a goddamned monster! Jo screamed less than anybody else, in actual fact. She was ditsy, too, which made her funny, but she wasn’t stupid…she was feisty.
She laid down her life for the Doctor more than any girl ever has, before or since. She was also wonderfully disobedient”
Disobedience was something of speciality for Sophie Aldred, a tomboy who took a baseball bat to convention with Ace; a different type of companion who was an equal combatant; working with and at times against the Doctor:
“I used to get a lot of fan mail from girls, which was unusual for the time because Doctor Who was a boys’ thing. These girls still say to me now, ‘She was my role model.’ She was a strong character, [but] she was flawed. She shot her mouth off and was very emotional. Over-emotional, actually.”
This transition wasn’t a smooth one; along the way there were misguided attempts to darken the world of the Doctor culminating in the violent death of popular companion Peri. To this day it’s something that Nicola Bryant regrets:
“We were thinking selfishly, from an artistic point of view. But we hadn’t realised how much people had grown to love Peri.”
One companion whose popularity was evident from the start was Leela – a cavewoman, descended from survivors of a spaceship crash, with an athletic figure and a penchant for violent survival methods – Louise Jameson brought sex appeal to Doctor Who:
“That was by accident. We wanted to make her feisty and intelligent, to send a message that women weren’t just there to be protected. It was at the beginning of the feminist movement, [so] the Doctor’s companion had to be strong and independent. Then we heard about the ratings [in Britain] shooting up to 12 million. We’d never had an audience of football dads before.”
And now with Jenna-Louise Coleman playing Clara – a girl wrapped in a mystery, covered by an enigma – fans won’t have to wait too long to see just what the next generation of companion adds to the show’s legacy.