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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“The Dalek Invasion of Earth”

first-dw_dalek-invasion-of-earthLast night’s classic episode was “The Dalek Invasion of Earth,” a First Doctor episode from his second season in 1964. If you couldn’t tell, it has Daleks and it’s set on Earth. It’s the second First Doctor episode I’ve seen, so even though I have a good idea of what he’s like from my reading, I’m really only getting to know him.

Spoilers below, of course, starting with a very short synopsis.

The Doctor, Ian, Barbara, and Susan land near the river in London in the latter half of the 22nd century, to find that the city is devastated: the Daleks have invaded the Earth and taken over. Rather than killing everyone, the Daleks have conscripted humans as slaves and put them to work in a mine in Bedfordshire, and it’s up to our protagonists to find out why and do something about it.

From that description, it doesn’t sound like anything exciting, other than having Daleks to fight against, but I found this episode to be very engaging, and that surprised me. I have to admit that it’s difficult to watch the old episodes without being biased against its slow pacing and terrible special effects, and that bias grows the older the episode is. This episode has its moments of long, tedious shots of lack-of-action and people starting to die long before the Dalek-shooting effect is played, but otherwise, the story moves along very well and it didn’t feel like a six-part episode.

Very early on, the TARDIS crew gets separated. Ian ends up stowed away on a Dalek ship that takes him to the mine, while the human resistance group stages an attack on the Daleks and gets decimated, with Barbara fleeing with a woman named Jenny and the Doctor and Susan fleeing with David Campbell and Carl Tyler. Eventually, the separate groups determine that they need to get to the mine to stop what the Daleks are doing and begin their journeys in that direction, but the real story is what happens along the way. Ian and his traveling companion (I don’t remember his name) have a straightforward story, in which they infiltrate the mine, but Ian gets to display his cunning and resourcefulness. Barbara also takes charge of her situation, taking Jenny, who has lost all hope by this time, under her wing and counseling her, as well as figuring out how to get past the Daleks in a variety of different ways (including stealing a large truck and running over Daleks). The Doctor’s and Susan’s adventures are more interesting, as the Doctor, the expert on the Daleks, clashes over authority with David Campbell, who knows the local situation: the Doctor is the only one equipped to figure out what the Daleks are actually doing, but David knows the lay of the land and how the Daleks are operating. At the same time, Susan and David are falling in love. The Doctor begins to realize this, and it’s touching how he reacts. Thus, all three storylines are interesting, and since the show cuts back and forth between them, you’re kept invested in the story to find out how they all turn out.

This is Susan’s final episode, and it is famous for its final scene, in which the Doctor bids farewell to her. It’s a beautiful scene and worth watching, even if you don’t watch the episode in its entirety.

In short, this was a wonderful episode, with a good story, character development for all of the principal characters, and a heart-rending finale (and Daleks whizzing down ramps – looked like so much fun for the operators). I’d definitely recommend this episode for anyone who wants a good example of the First Doctor, or for any classic Doctor.