Build-A-Companion (Taken from Issue 17)
With the new Doctor Who Companion set to revealed today (23rd April) here is an article from our latest Issue, looking at what sort of companion the show may go for...
(You can download our latest Issue for free here)
As we know by now Jenna Coleman has made her exit from Doctor Who, so we’re on the lookout for a new companion for the upcoming series. So who is next? Which sort of companion (or companions) should The Doctor travel around with? Should he even have a companion? Well yes, otherwise this entire article would be utterly pointless.
So unlike those build-a-bear shops you see littered around the large, uninspiring, zombie-filled shopping centres in major cities around the world - let’s build an uplifting and inspiring companion!
There’s been a rumbling underground campaign amongst forum-dwellers for a while about this issue. I suppose that Rory has arguably been the only (regular) male companion since the series came back in 2005. Even then, he seemed to play second fiddle to Amy and was only really brought on board after Amy tried to jump The Doctor at the end of Flesh and Stone. Would a male companion work? I’m not sure how I feel about this; if you look through the history of the show, it has generally balanced having The (male) Doctor with having at the very least, one female companion. Unless they were to introduce a female Doctor to compliment our man, it would be ‘unbalanced’ if balancing genders is indeed important to us viewers (imagine the criticism a male-only Doctor Who, or even, a female-only Doctor Who would receive) If we do indeed have to have a ‘balanced’ Doctor Who with at least one member of each sex, then why not introduce a secondary companion? Somebody who isn’t related to the current companion, someone who they just happen to pick up? Someone who would ironically unbalance the genders, despite what I said earlier? Rigsy would have been ideal, I personally would have loved to learn more about him, but he has a family now and is seemingly settled down and him abandoning all of that would just seem tactless on his part.
Alien or non-contemporary?
I don’t know about you, but I’m constantly growing tired of re-visiting the modern-day with our modern-day companion. Russell T Davies once tackled this issue by making a comment of something along the lines of ‘we need a modern-day companion for the viewers to be able to relate to them’. That’s a fair point – but is it something that needs to happen every single time a new companion is cast? I feel that if you treat viewers like they won’t understand a character, if you don’t think they won’t relate to them, then you run the risk of growing complacent by constantly treading the same old ground – which will only seep into the story. Using an alien, who is very unfamiliar with Earth customs, has been done before – but barely in the modern-day series. I’m thinking of a Leela, but not a direct copy of Leela. I’m not sure they’ll be able to get away with the skimpy outfits. Similarly, a non-contemporary companion would offer a balance between being familiar with Earth, but unfamiliar with other elements, which can only make stories set in the modern-day, that more interesting to viewers and perhaps help us to learn things about our modern life that we tend to neglect.
Not happy to be there?
Yeah, we had a Turlough who wasn’t necessarily happy to be around and more recently, Donna who appeared on board just as she was about to get married, before returning of her own volition. What would be interesting, is having our character who is simply not happy to be aboard the TARDIS – not necessarily trying to sabotage The Doctor, but someone who is desperate to get home but is constantly messed about with. Why are they desperate to get home? Who (if not The Doctor) is messing about with them? Like a Big Finish Lucie Miller, but not exactly a Big Finish Lucie Miller. You can already see how story branches can grow from this narrative tree.
One aspect of the RTD era I didn’t like was the drafting in of these ‘in the moment celebrities who play themselves’ just to gain an extra few thousand viewers – will kids in 50 years time know (or care) who McFly are? No, in all likelihood they won’t, but I’m all for the casting of a long-deceased celebrity in Doctor Who. It would be interesting to see a character with an established history experience something that didn’t happen in reality and it can only bring out the creative best in writers, as they try to interweave established fact around their stories. It will only work with a deceased Celebrity, as aside from the murky rights issues, the fact that we know who these long-dead people are today, just shows that people will always remember them in the future, which obviously isn’t the case with modern-day or relatively-recent-living celebrities.
Within Doctor Who, we’ve had celebrity historicals that perhaps take a liberty or two with established fact, so having one travel with The Doctor for a bit probably won’t do any harm. Maybe it can be someone who has a history that isn’t laid-down, perhaps someone from The Dark Ages, where historical fact is very vague. I feel an opportunity was perhaps missed when Agatha Christie’s ‘missing years’ were solved in The Unicorn and The Wasp – missing years that could have been spent on board the TARDIS! A celebrity travelling with The Doctor isn’t anything new mind, more recently it was done in Big Finish, as the 8th Doctor travelled around with Mary Shelley (played on audio by Julie Cox) and saw us delve into her story, whilst another fictional story was going on around her. You can see how that might be interesting.
Hey – just had a thought - what about our celebrity companion travelling in time to meet another historical celebrity! Margaret of Anjou slays McFly to death in their prime for making lewd comments. The universe might explode, but at least we were entertained for 45 minutes, which is all that matters in the end.
We’ve had this idea before, as John Nathan-Turner hit on the belief that casting an American companion could potentially be an hit with the burgeoning waves that Doctor Who was making on public television in the US and Canada in the 1980’s. After reportedly seeing many US and Canadian actresses, JNT went for 23 year-old Surrey girl Nicola Bryant and the rest they say is low-cut-outfits-for-the-lads-before-coming-to-their-senses-when-it-was-too-late history. With Doctor Who’s viewership growing more around the world with each series now, why not pander to what some newspapers call ‘foreigners’? We could go down the ‘traditional’ Doctor Who foreigner heartlands; Americans, Canadians, Australians, New Zealanders – or for a completely different type of foreigner. We seem to be laying out the red (no pun intended) carpet to the Chinese government and its businesses in the UK at the moment, so why not a Chinese companion? They have seemingly buried their hatchet with Hollywood recently, as many a new film is apparently doing well over there, so we’ll be fools to not get stuck into the rapidly-expanding Chinese entertainment market. Hopefully the companion will played by someone native this time - imagine the letters the BBC would get if they didn’t.
All joking inside (I was joking by the way) it’ll be intriguing to see a ‘foreigner’ aboard the TARDIS. From a purely believability point of view, it IS rather odd that most of The Doctor’s companions are British and live in London!
Okay, that title is partly misleading, as we all should know - there is no ‘normal’, we’re all different, all of us brilliant. Apart from Donald Trump. No, what I mean is that why does The Doctor’s companion NEED to be the ‘key to the universe’ or someone who isn’t like anyone The Doctor has never met before or is embedded in The Doctor’s entire timeline. Why can’t they just be a ‘normal’ person, maybe they’re a bit fed up of their current life and want to go travelling? From here, writers can GROW the companion, as they experience new things, instead of just hitting points A, B and C on their way to being revealed as the saviour of The Doctor and entire time itself, or whatever. I feel that a ‘normal’ companion will be able to connect with the viewers more – and from this connection, we too can learn to go out and experience new things like said companion, not by travelling the universe, just by stepping out of our front doors and carrying on experiencing, even if we are too fed up. That’s more inspiring to me than shooting Daleks.
By Arthur Orse
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