Batman and Robin. Lewis and Clark. David Cameron and his hair.
Pop culture history is replete with tales of duos and teammates who are so closely aligned that neither can be spoken of without mention of the other.
And so it is with Doctor Who; the (until recently) Last of the Time Lord’s adventures wouldn’t be nearly as compelling without his trusted assortment of companions. Whether it was the
insufferable intellectual Nyssa, his faithful robot dog K-9 or his beloved Rose Tyler, the Doctor knows that all who wander into his TARDIS must one day depart.
Some of his “assistants” have had memorable exits from both the Classic show and NuWho (see: virtually everyone who travelled with the 10th Doctor)
…while others have simply vanished with little more than a few lines of dialogue to account for their departures.
As we adjust to NuWho life without Clara Oswald, and probably River Song, it seems a good moment to look back on the companions who have left The Doctor and single out the ones that got us in the gut. (Our definition of dramatic in this case is the emotional toll it caused, not necessarily how shocking or grandiose the departure was. Love to hear your comments on how we did!)
ADRIC – EARTHSHOCK
Whether you loved him or loathed him, there can be no debate as to how striking Adric’s final adventure with The Doctor proved to be. After the Cybermen take control of a space frigate and point in on a collision course with Earth, Adric foolishly abandons an escape pod and remains on board the doomed vessel to try and to alter it’s course. As The Doctor, Tegan and Nyssa watch helplessly, Adric perishes, and in a touching final moment he dies clutching the rope his brother gave him.
The finale to Adric’s story was the all more shocking due to it’s total unexpectedness; the BBC kept both the character’s departure and the return of the Cybermen a secret before airing.
Fun Fact! In this year’s Face The Raven (another episode featuring the death of a companion) The Doctor makes a reference to this adventure early in the episode. When he is counting steps on a London street he runs into a young boy, who he asks to “remember 82”, the same year Earthshock aired
ROSE – DOOMSDAY
NuWho’s first companion became an instant fan favourite when the series returned in 2005, so it was all the more disappointing for the Who masses that Billie Piper elected to leave the show after Series 2. But Rose’s final adventure was equal to the challenge, as RTD penned a touching story that stranded her in another dimension, never to see The Doctor again.
(Ok…we admit the power of those last scenes was somewhat negated when Rose returned to the show a few years later. But at the time it was as dramatic a departure as Who had ever depicted)
SARAH JANE – THE HAND OF FEAR
Liz Sladen’s spunky reporter Sarah Jane Smith routinely appears near the top of “Greatest Who Companions Ever” lists and was probably the best of the Classic Doctor’s supporting cast.
In addition to being one of the few companions who travelled with more than one Doctor, she proved to be such a strong counter for the Bohemian Fourth Doctor that she became the first to travel alone with him. And it was this new dynamic that set the stage for the likes of strong female co-leads like Romana, Rose, Donna and Ace for years to come.
There weren’t any grand stories or plot machinations that demanded the two part ways, just a very real sadness of two people who care deeply for each other coming to realize their time together was at an end. (In fact, such was the chemistry between her and Tom Baker that they improvised much of the dialogue in Sarah’s final scene, making it all the more touching) Until we meet again…
DONNA – JOURNEY’S END
Is it better to have loved and lost than never loved at all? Even if you can’t remember it? This was the painful dilemma the audience confronted when the Tenth Doctor’s BFF Donna Noble was lost to him in the final moments of Journey’s End.
Having taken the Doctor’s consciousness into her own mind and emerging as a Human/Time Lord hybrid while defeating Davros, it seemed as though the DoctorDonna would be the perfect companion for The Doctor forever. But it couldn’t be, and The Doctor was forced to wipe her mind of him and their adventures to save her life.
All the more distressing for us (and The Doctor) was that the terrific heights Donna had soared to since joining the TARDIS crew would be lost to her; she’d never know that for “one shining moment she was the most important woman in the universe”
SUSAN – DALEKS INVASION OF EARTH
Classic Who didn’t delve as deeply into the dynamics of relationships between The Doctor and his companions as the current series does, but the show displayed a great capacity for drama on many occasions. And it’s first foray was one of it’s best, when The Doctor elected to leave his granddaughter Susan behind on Earth so that she could begin her own life.
The final moments between the two as The Doctor explains his reasoning to Susan, reminded us that despite all his blustering and other-worldliness, he was first and foremost a parent willing to do what was best for his child regardless of the pain it caused him.
What do you think of our list? Did we miss any gripping companion departures? Let us know in the comments!