Many versions of Clara have existed in the Doctor’s timeline. The first incarnation that we meet is Oswin Oswald (“The Asylum of the Daleks”), the Junior Entertainment Manager of a spaceship that crashed onto the Asylum of the Daleks who has been turned into a Dalek herself, but has created a fantasy/coping mechanism that she is hidden in her ship making souffles. Next is Clara Oswin Oswald (“The Snowmen”), a governess in nineteenth century London who moonlights as a barmaid. The final version we meet is Clara Oswald (“The Bells of Saint John” onward), the original and a babysitter in 21st century London. All three have had adventures with the Doctor, during which the first two both died. The Doctor brings Clara with him onto the TARDIS in the 21st century in the hopes of discovering more about who she is and how and why she keeps showing up in other times.
Jo is a young woman brought in by the Brigadier to replace Liz Shaw as the Doctor’s assistant. Her uncle, who has ties to UNIT through the United Nations, is also partially responsible for her assignment. Initially the Doctor is displeased with her appointment and skeptical of her abilities, but eventually her skill set proves to be incredibly valuable, despite being decidedly different from her predecessor’s.
We meet Polly when she’s out at the Inferno nightclub, where she meets Ben, a sailor who’s shipping out the next day. They become embroiled in the Doctor’s battle against WOTAN when he comes looking for Dodo at Inferno and at the end of the story, they end up entering the TARDIS just before it takes off, becoming Companions. Polly is a contemporary young woman who is very fashionable and, for the time, independent.
There have been several versions of K-9 (Mark I, Mark II, Mark III, Mark IV, as well as another version on K9, an Australian spinoff series). When Leela decided to stay behind on Gallifrey rather than continue traveling with the Doctor, Mark I stayed with her. Mark II stayed with Romana when she left the TARDIS to stay in E-Space rather than return to N-Space and become President of the Time Lords. The Doctor sent Mark III to Sarah Jane, care of her aunt, and it’s this version we meet in “School Reunion”. After K-9 Mark III sacrifices himself to allow the Doctor, Sarah Jane, Rose, and Mickey to escape, the Doctor leaves K-9 Mark IV with Sarah Jane when he leaves in the TARDIS.
Nyssa is the princess of Traken, a planet that comes under the attack of the Master and is eventually completely destroyed, making her the sole Trakenite in the universe. In her first two stories, first her stepmother and then her father are killed, and finally her planet is eaten by a wave of entropy that threatens the entire universe. Consequentially, the Fifth Doctor takes her in, determined to protect and guide her.
Regular followers are probably aware that we here are at Sound on Sight are more than a little fond of an obscure British science fiction program that celebrated an anniversary of some kind last weekend. Anniversaries are always an excellent time to reflect upon and celebrate a show’s history and the lead up to last Saturday’s “The Day of the Doctor” saw the entire Whoniverse coming together to share their thoughts on everything from their favourite episodes, most beloved eras, and of course, “their” Doctor. I just love that a top ten list can be the beginning of a good conversation or a great fight, and I find that the most heat, and some of the best light, is generated when Whovians start talking about their favourite Companions. A Companion is more than just our surrogate, they’re a gateway and guide to the series who helps us find our own way through the barking mad universe that is Doctor Who. It’s no wonder then that our attachments to them are passionate, personal, and gloriously partisan, especially when we try to educate normally well-informed Whovians who disagree with us on just how wrong they are.
River Song is an archaeologist, time traveler, and adventurer whose connection to the Doctor is only revealed slowly over time. When we first meet her in “Silence in the Library”, she has known the Doctor for a long time, and though that adventure ends up being their last together from her perspective, it is only the beginning for the Doctor.
It is implied, over the course of her tenure, that River is the Doctor’s lover (and, if you count an alternate timeline ceremony, his wife) as well as the daughter of his longtime companions Amy Pond and Rory Williams. River and the Doctor, both being time travelers, never meet in the right order, so they rely on River’s TARDIS-blue diary to calibrate themselves and avoid “spoilers”.
Vislor Turlough is from the planet of Trion but, after a civil war there, he becomes a political exile. Stuck on the frustratingly primitive (to him) Earth of the 20th century (at the school where the currently retired Brigadier is working), he takes up the Black Guardian on his offer to take Turlough home if he’ll kill the Doctor. More about Turlough’s past is revealed throughout his run, before he leaves in Planet of Fire to return to his family and home world.
We first encounter Vicki as a survivor of a spaceship crash on the planet Dido. The Doctor, still reeling from the departure of his granddaughter Susan, rescues Vicki and invites her to travel with him. Vicki becomes like a new granddaughter to The Doctor and the two develop a very close relationship. Coming from the future, Vicki eventually falls in love on Earth in the past and decides to remain there.
Romana is a Time Lady first assigned to travel with the Doctor by the White Guardian* (*Spoilers!). After traveling with him for the Key to Time season, she chooses to regenerate, with fans distinguishing between these incarnations by calling her Romana I or Romana II. Just like the Doctor, she has a distinctly different personality in her new regeneration and she and the Doctor have a distinctly different rapport.
Ben is a Cockney sailor set to ship out with the Royal Navy when he meets Polly and, later that night, the Doctor at a club. Ben is a contemporary young man, designed to pair with Polly and follow on from Ian and Steven as the Male Action Hero of the series, given the First Doctor’s advanced age and failing health.
Perpugilliam Brown is an American college student on holiday with her stepfather when she nearly drowns and is saved by Turlough. Having been rescued and taken into the TARDIS to recover, Peri is aboard when it takes off, whisking her away with the Doctor, Turlough, and Kamelion to face off with the Master. Peri is studying botany in school, which comes in handy during her travels with the Doctor, and her parents are archeologists, giving her a solid background in that subject as well.
The TARDIS (so named by Susan as an anagram of Time And Relative Dimensions In Space) is a Type 40 time travel capsule stolen from Gallifrey by the First Doctor when he decided to head out with Susan to explore the universe (or ran away, depending on who you ask and when). Though magnificent to the audience’s eyes, and the Doctor’s, most Time Lords consider Type 40s to be rather ramshackle, far from the most advanced or desirable model. It has a history of breaking down to varying degrees. Its chameleon circuit for example, which instantly disguises it to match its surroundings, has been set on ‘60s London for most of the show’s run, though it’s implied both the Doctor and the TARDIS itself are rather fond of this setting and would choose it regardless. Much like the Doctor, the TARDIS seems to regenerate at various points, taking on new control room designs, both based on the Doctor’s preferences and perhaps its own as well.
Katarina is a servant girl from Troy who is tasked with spying on Vicki when the Doctor and his Companions wind up there during the Trojan War. She befriends Vicki and ends up caring for the injured Steven, helping the Doctor carry him into the TARDIS, which convinces her the Doctor is Zeus. At the end of her first story, Katarina joins the Doctor and Steven aboard the TARDIS, though it will not be for long.
Dr. Harry Sullivan is a surgeon working for UNIT when he’s called in to check on the Third Doctor after his fatal dose of radiation at the end of Planet of the Spiders. He arrives just after the Doctor regenerates and is tasked by the Brig to give the Fourth Doctor a physical, leading to one of the most entertaining opening scenes with a new Doctor in the series’ run. Afterward the events of Robot, Harry is swept away in the TARDIS for the Doctor’s next adventure, one TARDIS trip that lasts the next five stories.
Victoria is a teenager living with her father in England when she becomes embroiled in his dealings with the Daleks and, later, the Doctor. After her father’s death, she joins the Doctor and Jamie on the TARDIS, having nowhere else to go. She is a girl of her time, making her at times rather unsuited to life on the TARDIS.
Tegan is an Australian on her way to Heathrow to start her job as a stewardess for Air Australia when her aunt’s car gets a flat tire and she enters the TARDIS thinking it’s a police box, intending to call for help. While she’s wandering through the TARDIS, the Master kills her aunt, causing her to be swept into the Doctor’s struggle against him.