Doctor Who Companion Profile: Susan Foreman

Carole Ann Ford as Doctor Who Companion Susan

Carole Ann Ford as Doctor Who Companion SusanSusan Foreman

Portrayed by: Carole Ann Ford

Doctor(s): First Doctor

Tenure: 10 stories (51 episodes) from An Unearthly Child (Nov, 1963) to The Dalek Invasion of Earth (Dec, 1964)

Background: Susan is introduced as a British teenager who doesn’t particularly fit in with her peers at Cole Hill School. We discover in the pilot that she’s actually an alien (the Time Lords aren’t named until the end of the Second Doctor’s run) who lives with her grandfather in a dump, in what looks to be a police box but is actually the TARDIS, a space-time ship. She loves England of the ‘60s and wants to stay for a while, but when her teachers Ian Chesterton and Barbara Wright follow her to the TARDIS and discover who she and The Doctor really are, the Doctor takes off in the TARDIS, kidnapping Ian and Barbara and kicking off the series.

Family/Friends: The Doctor is presented as Susan’s grandfather, though some have tried to retcon this relationship. She becomes good friends with Ian and Barbara and eventually is left behind by the Doctor on Earth after she shows significant interest in a man they meet while battling the Daleks, David. They presumably start their life together while helping to rebuild the Earth.

Personality: Susan is a fairly typical teenaged girl. She’s a dutiful granddaughter, but occasionally strives for more independence and displays a minor rebellious streak. Though she ends up in the victim or hostage role disappointingly frequently, she’s also intelligent, curious, and friendly.

Special Skills: At various points during her run, Susan displays limited telepathic abilities, presumably a result of maturing into her Time Lord abilities.

Best Story: The Aztecs is one of the most interesting of the early run of Doctor Who. Susan doesn’t have much to do in the story, but it’s an interesting examination of the morality of time travel.

Worst Story: Planet of the Giants. Everyone in the TARDIS is miniaturized, sending our heroes off on an adventure with giant props everywhere. It’s an admirable effort, but in the end it’s rather silly.

Highlights of tenure: Getting her psychic on in The Sensorites. The story has problems, but it gives Susan a bit more to do than most of her other stories. It’s also fun watching Susan mature over the course of The Dalek Invasion of Earth.

Lowlights of tenure: Dimensions in Time. The less said about this 30th anniversary special the better.

Memorable quotes:

– “I made up the name TARDIS from the initials: Time And Relative Dimension In Space.” An Unearthly Child

– “One day, we’ll know all the mysteries of the skies… and we’ll stop our wandering.” An Unearthly Child

Other notes: Susan is one of only two Companions to refer to the Doctor by a different name. She of course calls him “Grandfather”, while Ace calls him “Professor”. Susan may have been a rather limited character, but this was the doing of the writers and production team, not the actress. Though originally conceived as an Avengers-style action heroine with psychic powers, Susan was rewritten to be an audience surrogate, much to Ford’s disappointment. Susan’s exact relationship with the Doctor has yet to be fully explored, as has the rest of the Doctor’s family, and while the Doctor’s family has been mentioned peripherally here and there, no direct relations have been seen since Dimensions in Time. However, one fan theory (which is different than writer Russell T. Davies’ stated intent) states that the unnamed older woman who voted against Rassilon in support of the Doctor in “The End of Time” is actually Susan, paralleling Wilf’s relationship with Donna.

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