Companions past and present

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    Craig @craig

    Here you can discuss your most, and least, favourite Doctor Who companions. Any Adric fans out there? 😀

    Juniperfish @juniperfish

    Yay – thanks for setting this one up @craig.

    As we are in the 50th Anniversary year I thought it might be fun to talk about companions past and present. This could be favourites, wishes for the future, pet hates even…

    There is a fun “extra” on the DVDs in Moffat’s first season where the TARDIS shows Amy images of past companions and she ribs the Doctor about how many of them happen to be young attractive Earth females. One of the reasons I like the Dreamlord episode so much it that it addresses this proclivity of the Doctor’s (that he “likes them young” – legally young, I should hasten to add, whatever that might mean to a TimeLord, of course) because he is looking to re-experience a sense of wonderment at the many mysteries of the universe through their innocent eyes.

    The Doctor, funnily enough, has become progressively younger (in terms of appearance and the age of the actors playing him) as he has aged on our screens. Although Matt Smith has been, and is, absolutely wonderful, I think his ability to play “old” in his twenties is a rather rare actor’s gift and I must say that if some sort of  misguided “audience demographic” calculation insists that the next regeneration also be in his/ her twenties when they commence, I will be disappointed.

    Companion-wise, I have favourites past and present, as we all do I’m sure. I’m a River fan, as those of you who know me from the Guardian blog will appreciate. However, I’m particularly delighted by Jenny and Vastra as occasional travelling companions. Not only do the two actresses have great chemistry, but it is a pleasure to see a non-homo-sapiens companion in the person of Madame V.

    Nu Who received a fair amount of idle online flak initially (although surprisingly not as much as I thought it might) for being quotes “PC” in its inclusion of LGBT characters, but now it has become something of a tradition. The fact that Jenny and Vastra are in a female-female inter-species overt relationship warms the cockles of my heart. Obviously (as the Beeb is not HBO) their private life is going to remain private (or rather, exhaustively confined to fan-fiction) but the gentle expansion of world-view this affords to children makes me happy.

    Wishes for future companions? I’m getting a teensy bit tired of “the Doctor has to snog all of his companions at least once” trope. I might quite enjoy seeing a future Doctor briefly travelling with some haughty and gorgeous alien (any gender) on whom he has a hopeless and unrequited crush!

    Juniperfish @juniperfish

    Oops same post appeared twice – edit function allows me to add this instead:

    What about the return of more past companions – we’ve re-met Sarah Jane and Jo Grant. Anyone want to see the older versions of others?

    Craig @craig

    I wonder what Moffat thinks of Jamie? He’s Scottish and Moffat does have a fondness for his Scottish characters and jokes.

    I met Moffat just after The Eleventh Hour aired and mentioned the Scottish jokes and he said “Oh, there’s a lot more of them coming” What fun he could have.

    Jamie’s also had his memory of the Doctor wiped, a theme of this season I think. As a fellow Scot I think it would be fun to have Jamie back for an episode. He’s also an historical companion and there’s only been a few of them. God knows what his legs would look like in a kilt now though.

    Rob @rob

    Harry for some strange reason has stayed with me, I don’t think he was a companion for long or if he even travelled off world, an ex sailor and doctor. He just resonated.

    My first Dr was JP and I became casual with Peter Davison and Colin Baker, missed virtually all of Sylvester McCoy (sport then becoming technically a grown-up). Then we got the special with Paul McGann …. so dragging myself back to the thread…

    Jo Garnt

    The Brig

    Srgt Benton

    Sarah Jane




    Juniperfish @juniperfish

    @craig and @rob

    Yes I’d be up for an older Jamie (legs and all) and an older Leela (always loved Leela and her Janus thorns)

    Leela presumably got Tme Locked on Gallifrey, so if the lock breaks it would be a timely potential opportunity to revisit Louise Jameson

    Romana, being a Time Lord, could of course have regenerated and appear in the body of anyone…

    Craig @craig

    Romana… ah… Mary Tamm did all sorts of strange things to me that I didn’t really understand when I was 8 😀

    Such a shame she’s another one lost to us.

    PhaseShift @phaseshift
    Time Lord

    I’ll have to put my thinking cap on for this, but I did have a lot of time for Leela (and it was nothing to do with shamy leathers 😉 honest).

    I said on the anniversary thread Jamie would be a great one to bring back, just because of the memory link. And of course Fraser has form with anniversaries after his cameo in “The Five Doctors”.


    Harry Sullivan did travel with the Doctor – he was with the Doctor for Ark in Space, The Sontaran Experiment, Genesis of the Daleks and Revenge of the Cybermen, before returning to Earth in Terror of the Zygons.

    Ian Marter, who played him, went on to write a number of the Target Novelisations, including Ark and Sontaran Experiment. Another sad loss.

    Anonymous @

    Interesting thread. I think the only old-Who companion that I’d really like to see again is Romana 2. Always a favourite of mine. I often used to see Lalla Ward gadding about Oxford and seeing her still makes my heart flutter slightly….

    Aside from that, Amy, Amy, Amy…..

    Bluesqueakpip @bluesqueakpip

    Talking about the Doctor’s most constant companion (aka Sexy); I’ve often wondered (usually whenever listening to the song) whether they played  the Muse song ‘Supermassive Black Hole’ instead of ‘Starlight’ because ‘Starlight’ gives away far too much.

    Far away

    This ship is taking me far away

    Far away from the memories

    Of the people who care if I live or die


    I will be chasing the starlight

    Until the end of my life

    I don’t know if it’s worth it anymore

    Hold you in my arms

    I just wanted to hold

    You in my arms

    My life

    You electrify my life

    Let’s conspire to ignite

    All the souls that would die just to feel alive

    But I’ll never let you go

    If you promised not to fade away

    Never fade away

    Our hopes and expectations

    Black holes and revelations

    Our hopes and expectations

    Black holes and revelations

    Hold you in my arms

    I just wanted to hold

    You in my arms


    The Doctor and the TARDIS? Or the Doctor and his companions? Discuss.

    wolfweed @wolfweed

    K-9 was on Stargazing tonight. He’ll also be on tomorrow & Thursday after 9pm on BBC 2.

    I’d like to see K-9 mk 1 meet K-9 mk 2. I bet they would bicker like an old married couple…

    (K-9 mk ‘4’ is obviously too busy keeping Luke Smith company when not saving the Earth with Sarah Jane & the gang).

    Bluesqueakpip @bluesqueakpip

    Given Luke’s ability to walk straight into any weirdness going, I suspect K-9 mk 4 is kept very busy indeed.

    wolfweed @wolfweed

    Perhaps Ace should return as a Time Lady. She was due to return in SJA of course.

    Romana 2 too. And Jamie (& Victoria & Zoe). Perhaps Tegan should meet William Wallace so that they can do that Braveheart joke…


    Benton & Yates?

    Tom Baker’s talking Cabbage? (Sorry – that’s not canon).

    ScaryB @scaryb


    Whisht @whisht

    bit before my time but…

    Victoria Waterfield?

    just because of “water” connections and such.



    janetteB @janetteb

    If I had to identify a favourite it would have to be Romana II. I was very disapointed that she did not accompany her husband to Australia last year. While everyone else was lining up to get books signed by him I would have been lining up with an armfull of Dr Who books for her to sign. I liked Romana because she could hold her own against the Dr. Other favourites, (I have quite a lot of them) include Barbara and Ian. There was a good dynamic between them. When critics remark upon the earlier “feeble woman” type assistant I get rather annoyed. Barbara was no feeble woman. Leela was good because she was tough and even developed a little as a character. A pity she and Tom Baker did not get along. Sarah Jane was special of course. When she died it felt like loosing a friend.  I did not like any of the post Romana II assistants until Ace.

    Nu Who assisants have been far more developed as individuals and brought more to the story. I like this however at times it has been over done. Love-lorn Rose became tiresome. I don’t think RTD knew how to make Martha inteseting. Donna was excellent and Wilf was an added bonus. Turn Left is one of my favourite Nu Who episodes. I found Amy annoying at first but the Amy/Rory combination worked very well. So not so keen on Amy as assistant but loved Amy/Rory as assistant. Clara has potential to be good but I really really don’t want more shoehorned in romance on the Tardis. The Doctor is a 900 year old alien, not a love object.




    janetteB @janetteb

    Also, though not Dr Who but as SJA has been referred to Clive Langer deserves an honourable mention. Oh and I should definitely have included K.9 in my list of Who favourites.

    blenkinsopthebrave @blenkinsopthebrave

    I think we all have a very personal perspective on the question of favourite companions and favourite Doctors, depending quite often on when we started watching it (and how old we were at the time).

    I am very much a child of Hartnell Who. I vividly remember watching “An Unearthly Child” on our black-and-white television set when it was first screened. I was 11 years old, and whenever I re-watch Hartnell’s Doctor, Ian, Barbara and Susan, I am 11 years old again.

    So, for me, no-one can compare to Ian and Barbara. As an 11 year-old and then as a 12 year-old, they were the adults I wanted to grow up to be. And looking back on it, “The Dalek Invasion of Earth” a year later had an enormous impact on me. All the things it dealt with: a dystopian future, the need to fight against a tryanny, self-sacrifice, Susan falling in love and leaving her grandfather. This was heady stuff for a 12 year-old.

    So, while Doctor Who has been lots of fun over the last 50 years, it was the relationship between Ian, Barbara, Susan and the Doctor that existed between “An Unearthly Child” and Susan’s departure at the end of “The Dalek Invasion of Earth” that will always be MY Doctor Who.

    janetteB @janetteb

    Tom Baker was “my Doctor Who”, with Sarah Jane in tow. The first episode I watched was The Android Invasion. I was 15 at the time. I then watched every episode and repeat until I left home three years later.

    In the 90s my partner and I borrowed and bought videos of the early episodes and I really enjoyed the combination of Doctor, Ian, Barbara and Susan. Hence I keep hoping that Susan’s character will reappear. It would not be too difficult to explain the back story to a new audience.

    Our children were brought up on a solid diet of Dr Who. When the eldest was in day care he used to play at being a Dalek. None of the other children understood. They were delighted when Nu Who started and their school friends finally cottoned on.

    PhaseShift @phaseshift
    Time Lord

    Looking back to the RTD era – I think my favourite companion had to be Donna. Which really surprised me, as I was a bit wary about the announcement based on her performance in Runaway Bride.

    I actually loved what they did with the character. The bolshy bravado we’d seen previously was a mask for a troubled woman who genuinely thought she was worthless. Having that mother couldn’t of helped. The fact she just thought the Doctor was brilliant, but wasn’t attracted to him in any way just set the scene for a marvellous friendship, crashing about through space and time. The dialogue helped with a level of piss-taking that I could only remember being matched by Romana II.

    Her tears at the fate of the Ood, her appeal for the Doctor just to save someone from Pompeii, and her palpable joy in her adventures with the Doctor just made me love her. Her hug of the Doctor at the end of “Midnight” just encapsulated their friendship for me.

    To be backed up by the mighty Bernard Cribbins as Wilf was just the icing on the cake. I still think that “Turn Left” is a gem of an episode. After all we went through in series 4 – her fate at the end left me in tears. It actually seemed worse than physical death.

    It didn’t surprise me that Catherine Tate and David Tennant became such good friends – later to appear in theatre together.

    There was a series called “Chain Reaction” on Radio Four. The idea was simple – it was a chat show. The previous week’s interviewee became the following week’s interviewer. One marvellous week saw Catherine Tate interview David Tennant. It’s genuinely hilarious in parts. This is a link to it on YouTube (Part 1 of 3, but you can link to the rest from it).

    Whisht @whisht

    good call @Pahseshift – whether the writers wrote for her abilities or not, she definitely was able to be a ‘moral’ balance to that Dr. And I was just as dubious about an actress I’d always thought of as shouty rather than intelligent (and I was happy to be proven wrong).

    thanks for the link – will watch with interest!

    ScaryB @scaryb


    her fate at the end left me in tears. It actually seemed worse than physical death.

    Completely agree. I felt the same about Jamie and Zoe when they had memories wiped – so cruel. Donna had so much unrealised potential that she doesn’t even know she’s capable of.   She has huge respect for him but isn’t afraid to call him out on moral issues – which is lovely as she seems a complete airhead when we first meet her.  The Doctor-Donna scenes could have been excruciating, but were heartbreaking instead.

    Having said all that – it’s great dramatically when the writers do things like that!

    ScaryB @scaryb

    As a girl growing up in the 60s there weren’t a huge no of role models on TV or film who weren’t complete airheads!  Susan, Barbara, Zoe, Jo, Sarah-Jane, Leela are the ones that really stand out for me, who got under my skin and who I identified with.  (Also liked Ian, Stephen and Jamie)

    Craig @craig

    Was just listening to Muse, having rewatched The Doctor’s Wife yesterday, and @bluesqueakpip I think your (very) early comment above is spot on re the song being very close to a Doctor and TARDIS love story.

    I did a search but couldn’t find any references to Who by Matt Bellamy. However, it’s not just the words, once I got thinking about it, it starts with a low, droneing base line, then the high notes come in.

    It’s not the Who theme tune, but sounds to me like a simple riff on it. Maybe someone with a knowledge of music can clarify, or slap me down 😀

    Craig @craig

    Then of course there’s this. This man does have a working knowledge of Doctor Who.

    Wibbly @wibbly

    Ok not sure if I am in the right thread but here I go….

    Last night whilst on my mission to catch up with the Doctors adventures I was watching series 4 (new) with the tenth doctor – the episode The Fires of Pompeii.  Who should turn up in it – Karen Gillan playing a soothsayer. Made me wonder if this is where our lovely Amy Pond got her love of Romans.

    All you Who experts probably know this anyway, but for me it was a funny moment. I was practically having a freak out lol.  I even had to pause the credits to look for her name to make sure I was right.

    Amy Pond is the companion I started with and I am slowly working my way backwards – then forwards again through the others.  My husband and I wait until the kids are in bed then we feed our Doctor addiction.  Hurry up Saturday!!!

    HTPBDET @htpbdet

    Favourite companion? Such a tough question.

    So, I will go about it a different way (how odd for me!)

    In Hartnell’s time, the most important companions were Ian and Barbara. But my favourite companion was Vicki – mostly because of the change she wrought in Hartnell. She made him happier, lighter, and friendlier – and I loved her for that.

    In Troughton’s time, the most important companion was Jamie. But Zoe was my favourite companion of the Troughton era. She sparked so well with both Jamie and Troughton  that she brought the absolute best out of them both.

    In Pertwee’s time, the most important companion was Jo Grant. But Sarah-Jane Smith was my favourite companion of the Pertwee era. Pertwee’s dynamic with Jo was very different to his dynamic with Sarah – and she never let him get away with bad conduct. I thought she made Pertwee’s Doctor work harder and at a more sophisticated level and I never thought Pertwee was better than in his final year.

    In Baker’s time, both Sarah-Jane Smith and Romana (both of them) were the most important, but Leela was my favourite. I don’t think Tom Baker was ever better than in Robots of Death and Talons of Weng-Chiang and the wonderful Higgins/Eliza relationship between the two of them was original and alarmingly good.

    In Davison’s time, Tegan was the most important , but Nyssa was my favourite. There was something ineffable about Sarah Sutton, something graceful, vulnerable and worthwhile and she worked easily and smoothly with Davison. Her character had suffered more than any other companion, before or since, and yet she was always cheerful, positive and smart.

    In Colin Baker’s time, Peri was the most important companion but my favourite was Mel. And only because she was fresh and Terror of the Vervoids the best Colin Baker story by a county mile.

    In Sylvester McCoy’s time, Ace was both the most important companion and my favourite. She had no competition because Mel was not good with McCoy. But, in her own right, Ace was a new take on a travelling companion – she had her own mystery and she was cheeky, irreverent and she worked well with her Professor, even in the ghastliest of stories.

    Mc Gann only had one outing so there is no contest there.

    For Ecclestone, Rose was the most important character but my favourite was Captain Jack. Jack was so off-the-scale, so unexpected, so disturbing and likeable at once – he shook up the status quo in the TARDIS beautifully – and he made Rose work harder and better.

    For Tennant, Rose and Donna were equally important, but Donna was my favourite. Her season with Tennant is, for me, the high-point of the rebooted series. Everything Donna did was wonderful and her journey so beautifully plotted and so achingly ended. Both Rose and Donna were taken from the Doctor, but it was Donna’s loss, I think, that affected him more.

    For Smith, Amy has, so far, been the most important companion, but Rory is my favourite. Rory made the dynamic between Smith and Amy work, he provided the heart which was otherwise sorely lacking and he was a complete and questioning character in his own right. He never point a foot wrong in my view – and he brought better work out of both Smith and Gillan.

    But – ask me, overall, on an entire run of series basis, who the five “best” companions were and I would say:

    Sarah-Jane Smith
    Jamie McCrimmon
    Donna Noble
    Ian Chesterton and Barbara Wright (they were an inseparable Double Act)

    Each of those helped “make” their Doctors who they were in distinctive and diverse ways. And I love them all for that.

    Sarah did it twice. And she certainly made an impact on Tennant’s Dr too.

    Of course, there are two other characters who should be mentioned honourably, neither of who are “companions”: Alistair Gordon Lethbridge-Stewart and the TARDIS. Without them, honestly, where would we be?

    trudawg @trudawg

    Favorite-Rose because she was funny and had the Doctor’s sarcasm.
    Don’t really have a least favorite.

    overunder @jamesunderscore

    I’ll limit my thoughts to companions 2005 onward, as my classic who experience is pretty limited.

    Rose – At the time, I wasn’t massively keen on Rose. On re-watching, I think it’s just that she’s very young, and that she reacts to things in such a different way to me that I find it hard to relate to her. I much prefer her interactions with Nine to Ten, and wasn’t too sorry when she left. I was also a little disappointed to see her brought back through series 4.

    Martha – She didn’t make much of an impact on me first time, but have grown to like her very much. Freema’s performance is good, and I really believed in her crush on The Doctor. I think her decision to leave The Doctor at the end of LotTL was admirable

    Donna – Definitely my favourite companion from the RTD era – her “best mates” relationship with The Doctor and the way she mellows him out are wonderful, and the heartbreaking way they are ripped asunder was really moving. I also think she had the best “domestics” of Ten’s companions – I’ve loved Cribbens since he was reading me stories on Jackanory as a kid.

    Amy – I find I have no strong feelings about Amy. Karen Gillan played the part well, but I found Amy to be an odd combination of bolshy and passive, and for all the growing she did as a person, her personality never felt fully formed. I’m not really sure why The Doctor was so potty about her, to be honest!

    Rory – Now, Rory I did like. Self deprecating, slightly insecure, but faithful, brave and kind. And funny too. Arthur Darvill’s performance is great (he was good in Broadchurch, too), and I look forward to seeing him in a lot more stuff in the future.

    Clara – She’s a bit new still, but I like her so far. I’ve seen people say she’s too similar to Amy, but I think she’s quite different actually. Although they share a sarcastic streak where Amy was flaky, Clara actually seems pretty solid and where Amy had built her life around the Doctor, Clara seems to have overcome her past and be comfortable with who she is now.

    BadWulf @badwulf

    My favourite companion would probably be Amy, as I felt that she seemed to be the most fleshed-out (but not necessarily well-rounded) character to accompany the Doctor.

    As my first memory of the show is the Keeper of Traken, Nyssa and Adric were the companions who introduced me to Who. I never really liked Adric (although he really seems to have made a strong impact on fandom 😉 ), but I always enjoyed Nyssa, and I feel that her story could have an interesting continuation.

    Turlough was the first *complex* companion I encountered – it was weird having an untrustworthy character aboard the TARDIS. It would be interesting to see how his story has developed.

    However, one thing that I would really like to see would be Melanie Bush return as a villain. Bonnie Langford was not given much good material to work with, and her character is quite reviled by fans. It would be interesting to see her control-freak bossiness shown to develop into despotism with the power of a vast and potent spacecraft at her disposal.

    TheSenileTARDIS @theseniletardis

    I liked Clara, actually.

    Whisht @whisht

    Hi @theseniletardis – I liked Clara too.

    I like the fact she’s smart and the actress playing her is capable of portraying that (probably because she is smart herself). Her smartness means she’ll do the unexpected (ie actually doing what the person who’s been through this before counsels her to do, such as “stay here”).

    What did you like about her?

    curvedspace @curvedspace

    I haven’t seen all of Classic Who (I’m watching from the beginning, and due to the aforementioned toddler I’m only up to Pertwee. But oh, what fun I’m having!) so I can’t weigh in on everyone, alas. I have to second a deep love for Ian and Barbara. I feel as though I should love Jamie, but the Troughton eps are a bit of a late-pregnancy blur for me and I don’t think he made the impression he could have. I do like Jo Grant, but I’m looking forward to finally meeting Sarah Jane properly.

    As far as AG Who, I like all of the RTD companions for different reasons. Rose is important and wonderful, but I liked Martha better than Rose and Donna best of all. (And I must agree with @htpbdet about Captain Jack. He’s delightful on Doctor Who.)

    I’m sorry to say that I don’t think much of Matt’s Smith’s crew. I appreciate the work that went into making Amy’s damaged, flawed character, but her character development took too long to pay off: I only liked her in the beginning of series 7! (I disliked the Amy/Rory soap opera, too.) Clara showed flashes of being a fantastic companion, but sometimes she was brilliant, and sometimes she seemed to be there only to showcase the Doctor. So Rory wins from the Matt Smith lot. I love his honorable, loyal, funny character.

    Tennantmarsters2013 @tennantmarsters2013

    I can’t pick between two because they are both amazing. Donna noble absolutely hilarious and just what the doctor needed a best friend and not a girl falling for him.

    I liked the ponds and was sad to see them go but I love clara so much more! Maybe it’s because she is the most exciting enigma that I have seen on dr who as there has been loads of theories on who she is (and still is) she matches the doctor perfectly.

    I am struggling with the fact and will be disappointed if the name of the doctor was the end of her mystery because I personally don’t think it ends there I think the events at revealed how Clara became e impossible girl was only the tip of the iceberg with Clara. There also seems to be some sort of romantic thing going on between them aswell even if one or neither of them are aware of this.

    I disliked rose and Martha for this fact but I don’t know why I don’t dislike Clara perhaps it’s because she is Moreno the doctor’s level?

    What are people’s thoughts on that?

    curvedspace @curvedspace

    This just came across my radar:

    Call for Papers — Companions in Doctor Who: Roles, Characters and Themes.

    “This volume of collected essays will examine the Doctor’s companions both as individuals and as a whole. The editors welcome chapter proposals which deal with the companions as individuals, thematic groupings of companions by era/Doctor, gender and sexuality, feminism and its many permutations, or other related treatments dealing with the Companions’ roles in the series.”

    More details here. I don’t know anything about this beyond what’s in the link, but it might be a fun opportunity for those of you with a deep knowledge of Who and some talent at the keyboard.

    Anonymous @

    Hiya @curvedspace – do you know Gillian at all?  Can you vouch for her or her site?

    curvedspace @curvedspace

    @shazzbot, I don’t. This just popped up on another Who site I follow.

    Noodles @noodles

    Favorite companion? Have to say Leela played by Louise Jameson or Romana played by Mary Tamm are top of the list, although Sarah Jane is amazing as well. Three way tie? Jaime was fantastic also. Ultimately, I have to go with Turlough…sneaky little bugger, never knew if he was evil or not. Just loved the dynamic his character added to the TARDIS.

    Least favorite? Rose, Mel, & Adric…Rose being the worst of them. I’d rather see Adric again then have to endure another dose of Billie Piper as Rose. Unfortunately, she’s going to be part of the 50th anniversary episode. Yuck.


    HTPBDET @htpbdet


    Have to disagree with @htpbdet re. episode three. It was very much padding. Quality padding that brought much richness and texture to the secondary characters — which helps greatly in feeling trepidation for Litefoot and pathos for Casey in this episode, but padding nonetheless. But narratively speaking absolutely sod-all of any importance happens whatsoever. The only thing that really advances is that we learn what Weng-Chiang wanted the girls for and in terms of sheer story that could have been dealt with in a single scene. (Which is what Nu-Who would almost certainly have done.)

    Okay, fair enough. I guess it depends on what you describe padding as?

    It seems on your definition, and I may have misunderstood, that if it does not really advance the action, its padding.

    On that basis, then, episode three is entirely padding because this exchange occurs in episode two:

    WENG: I am dying, Chang. You must bring another linnet to my cage.
    CHANG: But only yesterday…
    WENG: The disease grows worse. Each distillation lasts less than the time before.
    CHANG: And with every girl reported missing, panic increases. I fear one of them will be traced here.

    Distillation makes it pretty clear what is happening to the girls I think?

    I guess I have a narrower definition of what constitutes padding. There is a lot of corridor running in Seeds of Death, for instance, which is padding; the multi-vehicle chase of Lupton in Planet of the Spiders; quite a lot of Android Invasion and Time Flight…too name just a few. These are the examples I think of as padding, together with, say, the manufactured quark cliff-hangers in Dominators.

    For me, padding is material which does not add anything to the narrative.

    Perhaps the greatest example of padding in Doctor Who is episode one of The Mind Robber – nothing that happens there really needs to happen for the adventure in the Land of Fiction to begin. And yet…I don’t think anyone would characterize that episode as padding in the sense that “we would have a better story without it” or am I wrong about that?

    To me, that initial episode sets up what is to come. It is an integral part of what makes Mind Robber unique and disturbing and exciting.

    In the same way, it seems to me anyway, the detailed character work that is the backbone of episode three of Talons of Weng-Chiang sets up what follows and builds on what has happened, heightening the drama, upping the suspense and adding texture and depth to the proceedings, while allowing Leela, in particular, and the Doctor to take their central roles.

    I don’t think Talons of Weng-Chiang would be nearly as enjoyable or nearly as highly-regarded if it did not have all of the material in episode three.

    I am curious: do you think there is padding in AG Doctor Who?

    For instance, is this padding?

    DARLA: First, there were the Daleks. And then, there was a man who fought them. And then, in time, he died. There are a few, of course, who believe this man somehow survived, and that one day he will return. For both our sakes, dearest Hannah, we must hope these stories are true.
    DOCTOR: I got your message. Not many people can do that. Send me messages.
    DARLA: I have a daughter, Hannah. She’s in a Dalek prison camp. They say you can help.
    DOCTOR: Do they? I wish they’d stop. I love your choice of meeting place.
    DARLA: They said I’d have to intrigue you.
    DOCTOR: Skaro. The original planet of the Daleks. Look at the state of it. Who told you about me?
    DARLA: Does it matter?
    DOCTOR: Maybe not, but you’re very well informed. If Hannah’s in a Dalek prison camp, tell me, why aren’t you?
    DARLA: I escaped.
    DOCTOR: No. Nobody escapes the Dalek camps. You’re very cold.
    DARLA: What’s wrong?
    DOCTOR: It’s a trap.
    DARLA: What is?
    DOCTOR: You are, and you don’t even know it.

    Or this?

    AMY: I’ll just be a minute.
    PA: Your husband is here.
    AMY: Hmm. I don’t have a husband.
    PA: Oh, well, apparently you still do.
    RORY: You have to sign these.
    AMY: And then we’re not married?
    RORY: Just like magic.
    AMY: Can’t chat. Working.
    RORY: Really? Thought you were just pouting at a camera.
    AMY: Rory?
    CASSANDRA: Sorry, love. Was I interrupting?
    AMY: No.
    CASSANDRA: Gosh, look at you. You’ve gone so pale. Come on, take a seat. We’ll soon sort that out.

    I ask only because I would like to understand what the consensus is about what “padding” is. I think I might not have it right in my mind.


    Nick @nick

    @htpbdet @jimthefish

    my two cents (for what its worth) is that padding should be defined along the lines of anything that is of no intrinsic value to the story or the characters and is really dull to watch.

    I’m sure Robert Holmes could have written this story which is around 2 hours long (cutting out the titles and the repeat of the cliff hanger) to fit 4 four parts (80 minutes) or even the current series format (45 minutes) IF he’d been required too. I guess he would have cut-out some of the music hall scenes, eliminated one of Lightfood or Jago (combining the two roles perhaps) shortened other scenes etc. I’m absolutely sure the end result would still have been one of the best stories ever made in either BG or AG Who.

    I guess which format you prefer to see (6, 4 or 1 part) is a matter of personal choice. I, along with HTPBDET I guess ?, prefer the 6 part format for this story and don’t see much if any padding in the writing or execution here. Other though wouldn’t survive the padding test.

    One problem I have with some of the AG stories is the lack of padding if you like. In the recent Rings of Akhaten for example, the whole sacrifice/singing stuff I found a bit confusing and hence had little empathy for the main character (the little girl). More character and story development here would have improved the overall end result. That I found the end rather contrived and silly is purely down to my preferences regarding how a story should end.

    In AG we now have a different sort of padding now as well surely ?

    Taking HTBPDET’s Amy/Rory dialogue as an example, did we really need the arc of their relationship embedded into the series ? I loved the duo because of what the actors and writers managed to do with their characters and the inter-play with each other and the Doctor. The ups and downs in their relationship didn’t add anything much for me.


    ScaryB @scaryb

    @jimthefish @htpbdet @nick

    One person’s padding can be another person’s texture!

    JtF, I suspect you’re using “padding” in Talons context slightly mischievously, to provoke some discussion! (You say as much in your post). The chase round the backstage in Talons2 could be counted as padding I think, in classic Who running-about-corridors tradition. But the scenes with Jago, Casey, Litefoot add to the plot, drive up the tension and add a bit of well placed comic relief as well as building their own characters and giving a strong sense of setting and period context to the story. Yes you could amalgamate eg Jago and Litefoot into one character and lose Casey, but the story would be much less rich as a result.

    Many people in this story wear masks/disguise. Jago is outwardly confident, swaggering and convivial yet he’s also insecure, aware that his persona is a bluff; his closest human contact seems to be his employee Casey – they have an easy tolerance of each others faults which suggests a long term acquaintance. Litefoot is ostensibly a well to do professional man, the epitome of a succesful Victorian. Yet he too comes across as a solitary figure, slightly out of sync with his place and time. Chang too is not what he first appears, he is far more than the caricature of a mysterious oriental of his stage persona.

    Both the real bad guys in Talons wear actual masks, which we have yet to see under, tho the glimpses so far are not promising!

    Nick re Amy/Rory – you say you loved them because of their characters and the interplay between them, but could have done without their relationship ups and downs. Yet you wouldn’t know the characters so well if you hadn’t seen those moments. Eg in The Girl Who Waited, their relationship drives the plot – Amy’s anger at having been “abandoned”, her will to survive driven by her memory of Rory, Rory’s devotion regardless of how old she is – is made even more poignant by our previous knowledge of their ups and downs and their own insecurities about how the other one feels.

    Nick @nick


    I don’t necessarily disagree with your view although I would argue that this was really a choice made by the writing team. Would that story need to be done slightly differently if they didn’t show some background to their relationship woes ? (which by the way I don’t recall being explained in the story at all although I could easily have missed that).

    I could argue that even if the writers had chosen to completely omit the Amy/Rory relationship background completely, that particularly story could still have worked really well. Amy’s anger and resentment at being abandoned would still be a valid character motivation and you don’t absolutely need the memory of Rory being the primary motivation for her survival surely ? It would have become a different story for sure (probably darker and more emotionally complex), but would it have been worse ? Reflecting on this perhaps the difference between family and adult orientated drama ?

    I’m not sure this is the right forum to discuss this particular topic though ?



    Bluesqueakpip @bluesqueakpip

    Anything that doesn’t progress the narrative and, in effect, leaves it treading water is pretty much story padding.

    @jimthefish – no, that’s unnecessarily strict. The normal rule is that any line that doesn’t EITHER

    • Progress the narrative OR
    • Progress the characterisation OR
    • make the audience laugh

    should be cut. The ideal line, of course, is one that does all three.

    From the rest of your post, I’d say that you know perfectly well that ‘progressing the characterisation’ isn’t padding 😉

    Would stories work as well without character progression? Nope – unless you’re writing an action-adventure. @nick – yes, you certainly could have had ‘The Girl Who Waited’ with a different set of characters. But it would’ve been a different story. And Amy would be a different person if you omitted the memory of Rory as her primary motivation. With Rory and Amy, Rory is the more obviously loving in relationship terms (which fits their respective personalities: Amy is assertive, easily angered and adventurous; Rory calm, caring, and domestic).

    So it’s important to have stories where the audience is reminded that while Amy isn’t as demonstrative, her love for/need for Rory is as deep as his love for/need for her. Otherwise we won’t believe it when the time comes for them to leave: and they leave because Rory’s stuck and Amy – given the option – refuses to live without him.

    In Pre-Gap Who, we wouldn’t have needed all this story arc for Amy and Rory, giving them a believable reason to leave the TARDIS. That’s not necessarily good – at the end of Leela’s story, for example, she leaves because she’s fallen in love with an entirely characterless Gallifreyan. In one scene, it appears, because both actors concerned were rather desperately searching through the scripts of that story to find anything, anything at all that would suggest that they had the slightest attraction to one another.

    In After-Gap Who it’s admitted that travelling in the TARDIS is something so spectacular that Companions need a really good reason to leave. It’s either part of their arc (Amy won’t live without Rory, Martha’s family may be irritating, but she loves them more than she does the Doctor) or forced upon them by a catastrophic event (Rose, Donna).

    Anyway, going back to Weng-Chiang – they definitely don’t need this episode to progress the narrative. At all. Because Holmes is a superb writer, he’s gone for ‘progressing characterisation’ – we find out a lot about Chang, Jago, Litefoot and Casey. It’s really the difference between a short story and a novella; he’s got more room to progress the characters, and he’s taken it.

    HTPBDET @htpbdet


    I did not mean to suggest that those AG excerpts were padding – I was just trying to see what you thought about them viv-a-vis the Talons stuff.

    To me the terms “padding” and “filler” are inherently derogatory, at least in a way. And while I do not mean you, I think a lot of people use them without really knowing what they are discussing.

    I totally agree with you about horizontal and vertical writing – and vertical writing always is the most satisfying in Television terms. Holmes was a master of it, but there were others too: David Whittaker, Brian Hayles, Chris Boucher – even Uncle Terrence clearly gets it.

    For me, the Mrs Samuelson discussions have a clear purpose – they show that Jago is on the ropes and that he is not paying money where it is needed – which means that there is no security at the theatre and much more chance for Weng-Chiang to come and go. And the speech sets up the kind of relationship Jago has with Casey and reveals one of the many masks (spot on @scaryb) that he wears. That simple exchange tells us volumes about Jago and his assumed air of bombastic indifference and control – and that lets what happens later to Jago and Litefoot make a definite kind of sense.

    So, while, strictly speaking they are not necessary for the tale being told, they have a real purpose – one that works and helps make the story the classic it is.

    Perhaps an alternative definition of padding would be writing that sponges off the main narrative but in a way that ultimately harbours resentment in the viewer.

    I like that definition and I think I agree with it entirely.

    A vertical story takes as long as it takes. Sometimes, especially in Pertwee’s time, the stories were really three episode stories or two episode stories, but budgets made them into four; or they were four or five episode stories made into six.

    And another time, it would be good to chew over War Games, a story with ten episodes about which I harbour no resentment of any scene (although I resent the ending entirely!!) I also found Dalek Masterplan quite remarkable – much much better than The Chase, for instance, which was half its length.

    And I think it is largely for that reason that I think the second excerpt from Asylum constitutes padding in my mind – or perhaps something worse: contrary narrative.

    After The Girl Who Waited why would there be a divorce? Why would Amy act so appallingly towards Rory? I never thought it was explained satisfactorily, or in a way that was coherent with what had gone before, and I thought it got entirely in the way of the drama of the actual story being told.

    I think this is what @nick is saying – but also wonder if this is the right place to have this discussion. I don’t want to incur @bluesqueakpip‘s rage…


    On a slightly different topic, I sometimes wish in AG Doctor Who that they would tell the story for as long as it takes – this might mean 1 and 1/2 episodes, so a story starts, has its 45 minutes and then finishes twenty minutes into the next episode, when the following story could begin. That simple formula could have made a big difference in, say, Bells of St John and Rings of Akhaten. Bells could have been told in shorter time than it was and the extra time would have assisted Rings.

    Bluesqueakpip @bluesqueakpip

    After The Girl Who Waited why would there be a divorce? Why would Amy act so appallingly towards Rory?

    @htpbdet – I have no idea whether it was from family experience or simply good writerly observation; but one of my friends described the ‘losing Melody’ arc (including the subsequent near-divorce) as being about a miscarriage. The whole thing – including the subsequent infertility nearly destroying the marriage – was utterly familiar to her.

    So I suspect the problem was that it was so obvious to Moffat that he forgot to explain it enough. That is an area where After Gap Who suffers – but it’s also an area where we really see how we look to the Doctor. The view we get of Amy and Rory is pretty much the view he gets – a series of short stories, the exciting bits, with huge chunks of their life happening when he’s not around.

    We will now return you to your normal discussion of Weng Chiang by asking whether Pre Gap Doctors had much more experience of normal human life. Discuss. 😀

    Nick @nick

    @bluesqueakpip        (tempting rage here. This really isn’t the right place, but still..)

    yes, you certainly could have had ‘The Girl Who Waited’ with a different set of characters. But it would’ve been a different story. And Amy would be a different person if you omitted the memory of Rory as her primary motivation. With Rory and Amy, Rory is the more obviously loving in relationship terms (which fits their respective personalities: Amy is assertive, easily angered and adventurous; Rory calm, caring, and domestic).

    Absolutely, the story would have been different and would have felt differently, but I don’t know that I completely agree with you that Amy would be a different character. As @HTBPDET comments above, the Amy/Rory separation was for me shoe horned in as it suited a particular angle that Mr Moffat wanted to highlight without any (apparent) real thought given to the reasons why it happened.  In retrospect your explanation makes a lot of sense when we see how they departed together looking back across their story line, but did the elements really get us their.

    There’s lots of different perspectives which is why I enjoy reading what is written here. Again, not the place, but I found that the mechanism Mr Moffat used to write the Amy/Rory characters out unsatisfactory on an emotional and intellectual level, but that’s me.

    If you think about it

    Travelling in the TARDIS is something so spectacular that Companions need a really good reason to leave

    is just a writers conceit, even if its one we choose to believe and share. No sane Human Being I’ve met really wants to “suffer” multiple near death experiences, even if there are interludes (which we don’t see on screen too often) which are the complete opposite.

    I absolutely agree that the treatment of companions departures in Old Who was, most of the time, awful at the best.



    HTPBDET @htpbdet


    The loss of a child and enduring a miscarriage are both matters with which, unhappily, I am personally familiar, although obviously not from the role of the mother.

    But I did closely observe and care for McLeela during both times. And I watched my parents deal with their own issues and their own marriage.

    Its the timing of the breakdown of their relationship that I find most surprising about the segments in Asylum. That and the fact that Amy takes out her issues on Rory rather than the Doctor.

    But I have serious issues with the way the whole “loss of Melody” arc was dealt with and, like @nick, did not find the Angels Take Manhattan resolution of Pond Time satisfying on any level. Well, except that Amy was finally gone.

    We will now return you to your normal discussion of Weng Chiang by asking whether Pre Gap Doctors had much more experience of normal human life. Discuss

    I think they had plenty of experience of human life but they had almost no contact with the dynamic of specific personal relationships. But when they did, they usually acted as a healer or a catalyst for healing – I guess Victoria provides the best example: the Doctor takes her with him because she has no one and needs time to heal after the Daleks’ destruction of her father and then he leaves her with the Harris family because she needs a family and they need a daughter.

    But the whole point of BG Doctor Who was that the companions did not lead normal lives when they traveled with the Doctor: they were always out of their place and time (with the odd hiccup for the Pertwee exile years).

    As we know, AG Doctor Who deals with companions in a very different way. It will be interesting to see what now happens with Clara…

    janetteB @janetteb

    I agree with @htpbdet that the Pond split as depicted in Pond Life was inconsistent with the character development to that point. (I am writing from memory however as I found this morning that we don’t have Pond Life “on file”.) The inference, as I recall, is that their relationship becomes acrimonious for no obvious reason, as some relationships do. However in AofD Amy reveals that she left Rory because she was unable to give him children and he wanted children. It might have been a poor decision but it is understandable and becomes for her proof of her love for him. The testing of her love for Rory was crucial to the story, it saved her from becoming a Dalek, at least until we discover that the Doctor has given her his wrist bracelet.

    As to whether it is padding or not, I guess that depends upon whether one views the entire Amy/Rory relationship as padding or not. The problem with using a relationship to give a story emotional depth is that after a time it can get repetitive and the drama begins to feel contrived because ongoing conflict is necessary to generate tension. I think this was becoming the problem with the Amy/Rory thread. There was only so much tension that could be milked from their characters before the puppetier pulling the strings becomes too obvious. (The same problem weakened the final series of Fringe.)

    Hope this makes sense. AS usual I my thoughts are rather muddled, ending up with a different argument to the one I started with.



    Anonymous @

    @janetteb“The problem with using a relationship to give a story emotional depth is that after a time it can get repetitive and the drama begins to feel contrived because ongoing conflict is necessary to generate tension.” **

    I was reading this whole conversation yesterday, trying to distil my many conflicting feelings about the Amy/Rory relationship, and what you said here is very close to my problem (I’d only change it to say ‘using a relationship to create plot points’).  Yes, it was repetitive in that way of ‘once again, Amy’s being condescendingly dismissive of Rory’ and ‘yes again, Rory’s dying (or living for 2000 years) because of the puppy-dog pureness of his flame for Amy’.  To me, the disintegration of their marriage as a plot point felt like it was only there because even the writers were growing bored, too.

    @htpbdet – “the fact that Amy takes out her issues on Rory rather than the Doctor.”

    Yes, that’s my other problem.  I could understand a bit of reluctance for her Raggedy Man to have any responsibility for how her life was going (well, not ‘understand’ but have empathy that that is how Amy might view it).  But by this time in their marriage the Doctor was showing up more  intermittently and having less lasting impact; the ratio of ‘real life’ to ‘Doctor life’ was getting larger, and that should have made it easier for Amy to offload her issues on the absent person and not the real live one in front of her – and we as observers could see it was the Doctor’s fault, not Rory’s.

    ** It is also, of course, what soap operas are all about, solely using relationships to create plots and ‘dramatic tension’.  Which is why even though they are drearily repetitive (who’s having whose baby this time? {sigh}), they also start branching out into the seriously weird (X suddenly becomes a crack addict?!) and the frankly disturbing (teenaged girls being trafficked for sex) in an attempt to ramp up the ongoing conflict – until the whole thing explodes unedifyingly.

    Anonymous @

    @bluesqueakpip (and @htpbdet @jimthefish ) – “In After-Gap Who it’s admitted that travelling in the TARDIS is something so spectacular that Companions need a really good reason to leave.”

    This is a really good conversation point for this topic – how and why the companions stop travelling with the Doctor.  You’re well aware of the woeful amount I know of BG Who so I’m relying on your perceptions and thoughts to flesh this out.

    Wouldn’t Sarah Jane Smith fall into your AG category, too, though?  She was one of the unceremoniously dumped BG companions, and apparently found Tardis life so thrilling that she ended up devoting her life to similar (albeit Earth-bound) adventures.

    Other BG-ers were rudely memory-wiped (with none of Donna’s later ability to wake up and help save the world), or were lumbered with unconvincing new relationships which made them (metaphorically speaking) say ‘toodle-pip Doctor, off I go’, etc.

    I’d say that Martha doesn’t quite fit your AG companion category, either.  After a year of tramping around the planet to help save the Doctor from the Master’s clutches (and birdcage), it’s safe to say she viewed her Tardis life increasingly more jadedly.  Her reason for leaving, to me, was simply that she yearned for a normal life again.

    It’s been said before, but is pertinent to this conversation to repeat, that the main difference between BG and AG companions is that the latter have real life / families to experience in between travelling and having adventures with the Doctor.  Is this the crux, then, of the difference in how BG / AG companions leave their Tardis life?

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