Throughout the years, the Doctor has traveled with dozens upon dozens of companions. Whether humans, aliens, or friendly robot dogs, they have become an integral part of the show; the companion allows the audience a door into the Doctor’s world, and acts as an anchor to sanity for the Doctor that prevents them losing their sense of grounding and morality.
But the Doctor’s lifestyle isn’t exactly what you’d call safe, and although some companions leave the TARDIS relatively unscathed, others are not so lucky. It’s a big, dangerous universe out there, and losing companions in violent, frightening, or upsetting ways does seem to be something of an occupational hazard.
When Mickey (Noel Clarke) and the Doctor first met, they didn’t get along too well – the Doctor thought he was cowardly and annoying, and Mickey thought that he had stolen his girlfriend Rose (Billie Piper) away from him. Which, strictly speaking, he did, when the TARDIS’ attempts to take Rose and the Doctor 12 hours into the future accidentally popped them forward 12 months instead. Plus, Rose’s abrupt disappearance got Mickey labeled as a murder suspect. To be honest, it’s not too hard to see where he was coming from.
Two-and-a-half seasons later, though, Mickey managed to grow far more confident and eventually left the TARDIS on his own terms – joining a team to hunt down Cybermen on a parallel version of Earth. So, whilst it was sad to see him go, it was nice to know that he was leaving for better things and finally stepping out of the Doctor’s shadow.
Poor old Martha (Freema Agyeman) was very much the rebound companion; smart, driven, compassionate, and almost completely ignored by the Doctor, who was still head over heels in love with Rose, and was spending approximately half his screen-time in any given episode reminiscing about how great she was.
Martha’s departure from the show was bittersweet. On the one hand, she deserved a lot better from the Doctor, but on the other, the audience was proud to watch her realize her worth. In later seasons, Martha found herself working for the United Nations Intelligence Taskforce (UNIT), a sure sign that her commendable skills were finally being put to better use than babysitting a 900-year-old extra-terrestrial with a crush on a 19-year-old blonde.
Grace O’Brien (Sharon D. Clarke) had all the makings of a perfect companion. She was funny, kind, and clever, always eager to lend a hand, and sporting a healthy distrust of authority.
When she fell off a crane to her death while helping the Doctor defeat alien hunter T’zim-Sha, and it was a tragedy to witness the loss of a character who had managed to become so likable in the space of only an hour-long episode.
Amy (Karen Gillan) and Rory (Arthur Darvill) – referred to collectively as ‘The Ponds’ by the Doctor – were a time-traveling power-couple who spent years adventuring in the TARDIS, although tension started to grow as it became harder and harder to strike a balance between the two very different halves of their lives
Eventually, the tensions came to a head, and the Doctor’s fear that he wouldn’t be able to protect them was realized as Rory was sent back in time by a Weeping Angel. Rather than be separated, Amy opted to let the Angel get her as well, despite knowing it meant the Doctor could never see them again. The Doctor permanently losing two of his strongest, liveliest companions was pretty heart-breaking for audiences to watch.
The episode in which Clara (Jenna Coleman) last appeared (“Hell Bent”) was generally not well received by fans. It was derided as messy and incoherent, with the Doctor making nonsensical choices at odds with his characterization, and with the presence of the Time Lords squandered as they acted too timid or boring to be effective antagonists.
Well, all that might be true. But despite this, it’s hard to argue that the charismatic relationship between the Doctor and Clara doesn’t manage to shine through it all. The theme of her becoming more and more Doctor-like – and the Doctor, with his icy pragmatism chipped away to expose reckless compassion, becoming more like Clara – is managed superbly. The episode ends with the gloomy conclusion the Doctor and Clara are simply too dangerous to be allowed to continue traveling together. Clara does end up leaving with her own TARDIS, though, which seems a fitting reward for helping the Doctor’s twelfth incarnation to grow from a cold Machiavellian misanthrope into a kindly space grandad. That the resolution of such a great arc is flanked on all sides by such fatuous waffle really just adds to the tragedy.
When Rose first met the Doctor, he was dark, bitter, and angry, wracked with survivor’s guilt at having been the sole individual to walk away from the wreckage of the Time War. As she traveled with him, he learned to start enjoying life again, the full expression of this being his regeneration into his tenth incarnation – a witty, fun-loving joker whose cavalier attitude made him a fan-favorite Doctor for many viewers even today.
It’s this lively, ebullient relationship between the two characters that made Rose’s departure so terribly sad. In saving the planet from an army of Daleks, Rose ends up falling into a portal to the empty void between universes. She is saved at the last minute by her sort-of Dad from a parallel reality (it’s complicated), but this means she’s trapped in a parallel universe and the Doctor can never see her again. They have a tearful farewell on a beach, where the Doctor uses a supernova as fuel to transmit a hologram of himself through a crack in reality (again, complicated). It’s the last time they’ll ever see each other. Until Rose uses a dimensional cannon to return in series 4, that is. That’s complicated as well. But then, it’s a 60-year show about a time-traveling shape-shifter. What did you expect?
Captain Adelaide Brooke (Lindsay Duncan), to give her full title, led the crew on Bowie Base One, the first human colony on Mars. The Doctor knew that the base was fated to explode and kill all its inhabitants, and did his best to remain uninvolved in events to avoid changing history. Unfortunately, if staying uninvolved in history is far from the Doctor’s strong suit.
As the story culminates, the Doctor starts to lose it a little; frustrated at being unable to save people because he’s unable to prevent ‘fixed points’ in time, he summarily christens himself Time Lord Victorious and declares that the laws of time had better start obeying him instead. He saves Adelaide and brings her back to Earth, directly violating of the flow of history. Recognizing that it’s too dangerous to allow the Doctor to wield this kind of power, Adelaide kills herself in her own home. The Doctor is thus brought back to reality, thoroughly traumatized and terrified at his loss of control.
You’d have to be pretty outstanding to end up killing the Doctor and still go down as one of the most beloved companions in Doctor Who history. But Wilfred “Wilf” Mott (Bernard Cribbins) was a pretty outstanding kind of man.
Cheerful, earnest, and endlessly loyal, Wilf sent shivers down audience’s collective spines when he knocked on the door of a glass tank about to be flooded with a fatal dose of radiation, asking for the Doctor to release him. At that moment, he was fulfilling a prophecy that the man who was going to kill the Doctor would make themselves known because “he will knock four times.” After an intense and emotional monologue, the Doctor frees Wilf – quite possibly the loveliest man to hop aboard the TARDIS – and exposes himself to the radiation, forcing the regeneration into his eleventh incarnation.
Getting shot, most people would agree, is already bad enough. For Bill (Pearl Mackie), though, it was only the beginning. After having a huge chunk of her torso blown to pieces (just after the Doctor delivered a sterling speech promising to save everyone’s lives, no less), Bill is taken away by mysterious masked figures and spends years in her prison waiting for the Doctor to rescue her. Moments before the Doctor eventually arrives, she ends up getting transformed into a Cyberman. Talk about bad luck.
Despite traveling with the Doctor for just one series, Bill was one of the Doctor’s best companions, loved by audiences for her compassion and enthusiasm. To see her trust in the Doctor earn her one of the most gruesome and unsettling fates ever seen on the show is nothing short of harrowing, and though she eventually gets a happy ending courtesy of her time-traveling space puddle girlfriend (it makes sense in context, I promise), Bill’s departure from the show was nonetheless deeply upsetting.
Travels aboard the TARDIS allow you to live the life of your wildest dreams, and it’s hard to think of anyone who deserved it more than Donna Noble (Catherine Tate). Feeling as though her life was going nowhere, and constantly beleaguered by her domineering mother, traveling with the Doctor allowed Donna to prove to both the universe and herself how smart, kind, and brave she really could be.
In the season 4 finale, Donna finds herself absorbing all the Doctor’s knowledge into her brain. This little boost allows her to defeat the baddies and save the day, but unfortunately, the Time Lord smarts are a little too much even for her. The Doctor ends up with no choice but to wipe her memory. He saves her life, but also ensures she will forget their time together completely, making for the cruelest, most gut-punching, unfair departure a companion has ever been subjected to.
Next: 5 Moments That Prove Christopher Eccleston’s Doctor Was the Best
Sandra Bullock and Daniel Radcliffe on ‘The Lost City’ and Why Bullock Changed the Ending of the Film
About The Author