Playing favorites

doctor-who-companions-63-13My husband asked me today to list my three favorite companions. Now, number one should come as no surprise to anyone who’s read what I’ve written before: Donna Noble is definitely the best. No question. No hesitation. Just the best. But the top three? That took a bit more thought, and I realized that I could probably name my top five, but I had a lot of problems with top three. So, here are my top five companions, not listed in order, except of course with Donna at the top. (I’m counting only traveling companions, not one-shots and few-shots like Jackson Lake, Wilfred Mott, and Craig Owens. Also please note that I’m not very familiar with the companions of the first three Doctors and a few of the other classic companions.)

Five Favorite Companions

Donna Noble: Donna was the perfect support for the Tenth Doctor. She acted as his conscience, and was the friend that he needed. She was always willing to defend her beliefs and was strong enough to stand up for herself, even against the Doctor. Both she and the Doctor grew while they were together.

Sarah Jane Smith: A strong, confident, fearless  woman, she was always willing to get right into the heart of the problem. She also worked well with all of the Doctors she met. I think a lot of Sarah Jane’s appeal had to do with her actress, Elisabeth Sladen, a woman who just sparkled on screen.

Vislor Turlough: One of the things I really like about Turlough is that he had secrets. His introductory stories were about his deal with the Black Guardian, which bound him to trying to kill the Doctor. The only other episode of his I have seen so far is “Planet of Fire,” and again, in that, we find out about his history on Trion, which he has guarded up until this time. He’s a survivalist, which makes him look a bit cowardly, but this makes him more realistic, as well as rounds out his character.

Ace McShane: Ace was a rough-and-ready street urchin, a great complement for the educated, sophisticated, and cunning Seventh Doctor. She was straightforward and unapologetic, and sometimes her decisions would cause more trouble than they would solve, but that’s how she was.

Rory Williams: Rory was loyal to the Eleventh Doctor without being obsessed with him, an important contrast to Amy. Thus, his motivations were far more complex, and it also allowed him to be a less than perfect companion: he was fearful of danger, worried for Amy, and distrusting of the Doctor.

Honorable Mentions

Tegan Jovanka: I haven’t seen enough Tegan, I think. She’s brash, blunt, and obnoxious – in short, a lot of fun.

Barbara Wright: I’ve only seen two First Doctor episodes, but I really loved Barbara in both of them. She’s not a sympathetic character, but she’s confident and takes charge when she needs to.

Companions I Don’t Like

Rose Tyler: Not a popular opinion, I know. I liked her a lot more in series 1, but in series 2, during the show’s “let’s see how silly the Doctor can be when he’s in love” stage, she’s insufferable. She’s whiny and selfish, manipulates the Doctor when she can, and treats everyone else like crap (especially Mickey, but also Jackie). Her writing was also erratic, portrayed as a strong, take-charge person in one episode and a cringing coward in the next. During the Darlig Ulv Stranden scene, I cried for the Doctor, but was glad to see Rose go.

Melanie Bush: I’ve only seen her in “Time and the Rani,” which was a terrible episode, but Mel made it so much worse. I am hoping she turns out to be better when she’s in a non-terrible episode.

Clara Oswald: The “Impossible Girl” arc was interesting, but Clara herself has no character. She simply seems to exist as a deus ex machina for stories in which the Doctor doesn’t win. And then suddenly we find out that she fancies him, with no previous, in-character clues. I’m hoping she’s treated better in the new series.

 

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“Remembrance of the Daleks”

Gah, real life. I hate it when you want to take a few days for yourself, but outside pressures force you to do stuff. Ah well, such is life. I have been having more time to watch classic Doctor Who, so today’s thoughts are about “Remembrance of the Daleks.”

Spoilers, of course.

If you were wondering, there are Daleks in this episode.

If you were wondering, there are Daleks in this episode.

“Remembrance of the Daleks” was the first episode of the 25th season, which was the second to the last season of the classic show and the second season of the Seventh Doctor. Now, I haven’t seen previous Seventh Doctor episodes (except the regeneration episode “Time and the Rani,” which was terrible), so this was my first real introduction to the Seventh Doctor. I had some idea what to expect, since I’ve read a lot about all of the Doctors, and I also knew that this episode is very highly regarded and very important to the overall history of the show.

I was not expecting it to be as mind-blowing as it was.

First, you have to realize that I watched it soon after seeing “Horror of Fang Rock,” and the show jumped decades ahead production-wise. Very few scenes (if any) were filmed in a studio, and the on-location scenes were crisp and clear, unlike the blurry outdoor photography that plagued the older seasons. Because they were filming in real locations, the actors were much more dynamic, probably because they weren’t afraid of knocking over the set, and the action sequences felt far more real. However, I think that just in general, the camerawork, direction, and choreography was just far more modern, since I was jumping a full ten years from the Fourth Doctor to the Seventh Doctor.

The main thing about the episode, though, was the characterization of the Seventh Doctor and the story. In November, 1963 (yes, the same day that the first Doctor Who episode was broadcast), the Doctor returns to Totter’s Lane and Coal Hill School with Ace. He discovers that the Daleks are invading, searching for an artifact called the Hand of Omega that he hid nearby (when he was the Harnell Doctor). He spends the first half of the episode trying to prevent the humans from getting killed and finding out about the Daleks plans. He then starts putting his own plans into motion, and this is the catch: he’s not trying to stop the Daleks, and in fact lets the Daleks take the Hand. His plan is to let the Daleks use the Hand and, as they don’t know as much about it as he does, when they activate it, it destroys their home planet of Skaro.

If I understand correctly, this is the first glimpse we see of the Seventh Doctor’s scheming, manipulative nature, and it’s jarring. Up until now, the Doctor has always met his enemies head-on, looking to stop their plans directly. This Doctor is different, and you can see that the rest of his run is going to be far different – and possibly far more interesting – than anything we’ve seen before.

We also have the benefit of hindsight here. First, the complexity added here affects his later incarnations: as the Tenth Doctor said to Wilf, “It’s not like I’m an innocent. I’ve taken lives. I got worse. I got clever. Manipulated people into taking their own.” He’s not talking about this particular incident, but we can see that it started here. Second, the destruction of Skaro sets in motion the series of events that starts the Last Great Time War, and we all know how that turned out. It’s chilling to think that all of the horrible events of the war and the scars it left on the Doctor were caused by the Doctor himself.

This was a fantastic episode, with heartwrenching twists as we watched the Doctor scheme, despair as his plans had unforeseen consequences, and ultimately attempt to genocide the Daleks (something he didn’t regret). It’s made us really want to see the rest of the Seventh Doctor episodes right now, which is very exciting. You know, I really love this show.