One constant of Doctor Who is the companion. Designed as the audience surrogate, the companion has evolved into one of the essentials of the show. With a character as large and cosmic as the Doctor, a more grounded and relatable figure is vital to keep the show alive. Whether they’re savages, Time Lords, robots, from present day Earth, Time Agents or Highlanders, the Doctor Who companion is always a big deal. We’re getting three with the Thirteenth Doctor, so let’s look back at 54 years of companions and count down my absolute favourites. Let’s start with the ever loyal Last Centurion-
10. Rory Williams
Rory is the straight man to Matt Smith’s insane child and the loving and loyal husband to Amy Pond. This character is amazing and has so much character growth- he starts off as a good natured but bumbling boyfriend who is a fish out of water in the insane world of the TARDIS. Becoming an Auton Roman changes everything though, and he stays by the Pandorica for over 2,000 years to guard Amy. In Series 6 he becomes the team’s moral compass, frequently questioning the Doctor’s methods. He stares down a legion of Cybermen and argues with the Doctor head on over the two Amys. His final stories expose his home life and his desire for normality, which he gets despite being unable to travel the universe and being stuck in the past. I adore the growth and change Rory goes through, and it’s one of Moffat’s best character arcs.
Best stories: The Hungry Earth, A Good Man Goes to War, The Angels Take Manhattan
9. Zoe Heriot
The bookworm brainchild that gives Patrick Troughton’s final season some dynamite. After defeating the Cybermen in the Wheel, Zoe joins the Doctor and Jamie and is able to hold her own against the mighty brain of the Time Lord. Whether she’s figuring out the Land of Fiction, turning a computer against itself or flying a rocket, Zoe proves to be the brains to Troughton’s logic. She’s from the future but is still relatable due to her desire to learn and see the universe. Her dynamic with Jamie is hilarious and I love the father/daughter dynamic she has with the Second Doctor. Zoe is never patronised or weakened, and she is always thinking of a way out of any predicament, outsmarting Cybermen, Ice Warriors and the War Lord. The Doctor obviously cares for her deeply, which makes the events of The War Games that much more tragic.
Best stories: The Mind Robber, The Invasion, The War Games
8. Steven Taylor
Steven is the glue that holds the final stretch of Hartnell’s time as the Doctor together. With the departure of Ian and Barbara, Steven steps up to the podium and becomes the Doctor’s moral compass during some of the darkest stories of the show’s history. Steven can adapt to any role and is always willing to speak out against the Doctor. He grows tired of seeing death and destruction, spurred on by the deaths of Katarina, Bret Vyon, Sara Kingdom and Anne Chaplet. Increasingly frustrated at the Doctor’s lack of care, he storms out only to return, ready to give the Doctor another chance. He finally gets his chance to help people in need and becomes more than just the survivor of a Dalek attack, becoming an equal of the Doctor and helping the Doctor through the final stages of his first life. It’s a shame most of his stories are lost because Steven is a personal favourite of mine.
Best stories: The Dalek’s Master Plan, The Massacre, The Savages
7. Martha Jones
Underrated, underused but always resourceful. Martha Jones goes from medical student to the woman who walked the Earth, never losing faith in the Doctor. She knows the Doctor has lost someone and never tries to be better than Rose, only to be the best she can. Martha is incredibly intelligent, being able to trick the Macra, figure out how to save the Doctor from Toraji and is able to use the Master’s weaponry against him to save the universe. She decides that family is most important and leaves the TARDIS on her own terms, joining UNIT, teaming up with Torchwood and being able to eventually help save reality with the help of the Doctor and the Children of Time. Martha Jones is one of my favourite companions purely because she is utterly loyal and good hearted, never giving up on the Doctor even when he abandons her.
Best stories: 42, Human Nature, Last of the Time Lords
6. Jo Grant
My favourite Classic Who Doctor gets three amazing companions, and for the majority of his run he was blessed with Jo Grant. A rather dimwitted and naive UNIT employee, Jo eventually becomes a valuable and trusted friend to the Doctor over three seasons. From falling for the Master’s hypnotism in her first episode to withstanding his mind control, Jo evolves into a more mature and experienced individual who is always optimistic and upbeat. She brings out the best in the Third Doctor and he brings out the best in her, with a truly touching and heartwarming father/daughter dynamic that comes to an end when she chooses to get married and move on from adventures in time and space. The Doctor willingly acknowledges this, and leaves quietly, respecting the deep friendship and affection he has built for Jo Grant. She came back in The Sarah Jane Adventures and was as brilliant as ever.
Best stories: The Daemons, The Curse of Peladon, The Green Death
5. Romana I and II
Oh, I can’t choose which Romana I prefer! A snarky, well mannered Time Lady who is sent by the White Guardian to help the Doctor gather the Key to Time, Romana becomes a valuable friend and ally to the Doctor. She is very much his equal and they work together to prevent the Black Guardian from gaining the Key. In her second incarnation, Romana loosens up and becomes closer and more jovial with the Doctor, running around Paris with huge grins on their faces. When the TARDIS is trapped in E-Space and Adric (uh) joins the TARDIS, Romana serves as the one sane person on the TARDIS, battling vampires and Marshmen before finally choosing to return to Gallifrey. Regardless of incarnation, Romana is always two steps ahead of the Doctor and is always fun and endearing to watch. Here’s hoping she returns in Chibnall’s era.
Best stories: Stones of Blood and Androids of Tara for I, City of Death and State of Decay for II.
4. Jamie McCrimmon
The greatest male companion in the show. Jamie McCrimmon is the loyal, brave and awesome Highlander companion to the Second Doctor. Whilst at first he is a fish out of water and cannot understand time travel, Jamie eventually becomes the Doctor’s best friend, helping him fight off Cybermen, Daleks, Yetis, Ice Warriors and more. What I love about Jamie is how he isn’t the smartest or the most intelligent but he still does all he can to help the Doctor. The Doctor mocks him constantly but he does it in a way friends do, and it’s clear the Time Lord respects the Highlander deeply. Always entertaining to watch and always hilarious, Jamie leaves the Doctor through no choice of his own, with the Doctor forced to watch as his friend has his memory wiped of their adventures. The standard to which all male companions are held, Jamie is the best companion to come out of the black and white era.
Best stories- The Evil of the Daleks, Enemy of the World, The Mind Robber
3. Ace McShane
Classic Who’s final companion is one of the best. The prototype for the new series companions, Ace is the exact counterpoint to the cold, manipulative Seventh Doctor. She is optimistic and brash yet also hides lots of demons concerning her mysterious and fractured past. As the chessmaster incarnation attempts to unravel his companion’s true nature, Ace begins to question the Doctor and come to terms with the harsh realities of traveling with him. After defeating Fenric and being free of her past, Ace returns to Perivale and leads her friends to safety out of the Cheetah World, having grown through her experiences with the Doctor. Ace also happens to have some of the greatest moments in the show’s history, like destroying a Dalek with a baseball bat. From her introduction to the final scene of Classic Who, Ace is never boring and always a fascinating companion to watch.
Best stories- Remembrance of the Daleks, The Curse of Fenric, Survival
2. Donna Noble
Everybody’s favourite temp from Chiswick. At first a loud, obnoxious bride-to-be teleported from her wedding to serve a nefarious purpose, Donna becomes determined to find the Doctor after their first adventure. She finds him and is ready to travel the universe with him as a friend, never being afraid to call him out or reign him in. Donna is hilarious yet she is also one of the most humble and caring companions, standing up for the Ood and Miss Evangelista when no one else would. She grows and changes so much in her travels, and she eventually becomes the Doctor, saving reality from Davros, becoming the most important woman in the universe. This leads to her tragic memory wipe, but her experiences and lessons learnt are still there. Donna is the finest companion the new series has ever done, and probably ever will do. She’s no one special, but that won’t stop her from trying.
Best stories: The Fires of Pompeii, Planet of the Ood, Turn Left
You probably all know who number one is, but before I reveal who it is, let’s have some honourable mentions. The show has so many good companions that it is impossible to mention just ten-
Ian and Barbara
1. Sarah Jane Smith
Who else? Across five Doctors, four seasons as a companion and five seasons of her own show, Sarah Jane is one of the greatest characters in the show. An investigative journalist posing as her Aunt Lavina, Sarah Jane soon ends up in medieval England battling a mad Sontaran and robot knights with the Doctor. From there starts a deep friendship and undying trust in each other that is retained through to the Fourth Doctor, who uses Sarah Jane as his anchor to reality. She is independent and headstrong, fun yet level headed and retains a strong sense of morality and justice that is retained through The Sarah Jane Adventures, an important part of my childhood. She has battled Daleks, Cybermen, Zygons, mummies, dinosaurs, Sontarans, Wirrn and more, yet it is upon returning home and finding her own adventures where she is happiest. The companion that defines Doctor Who in both the original run and the revival.
Best stories: The Time Warrior, Genesis of the Daleks, The Seeds of Doom plus School Reunion. The best SJA stories focused on her are The Temptation of Sarah Jane Smith, The Nightmare Man and Death of the Doctor.
So, will Ryan, Yasmine and Graham join the list? Three companions is something only really done with the First and Fifth Doctors, and whilst it worked brilliantly for Hartnell it worked… less so for Davison. Having a good companion is incredibly important as if a companion is bad, the audience won’t care. It’s why I enjoyed Capaldi’s final season much more than his first two. Let’s all wait and see.