The Eleventh Doctor is whimsical and energetic, but also brooding and manipulative. His number one rule for his Companions is that the Doctor always lies, which takes the sneakiness and deceitfulness the Seventh Doctor to another level. Though he initially feels out of place with humans, not understanding basic elements of social interactions, the Eleventh Doctor eventually becomes downright domestic (in his way) with River and, after his relationship with her progresses and she heads to the Library, he becomes quite leery in his interactions with his female allies and Companions. He’s impatient and easily bored, struggling to sit still at any given moment while valuing stability for his Companions in a way he hasn’t previously and traveling with Companions who have (comparatively) normal home lives separate from their multiple-story adventures with him.
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.
Francine and Clive Jones are the bitterly divorced parents of Martha, Tish, and Leo. Almost nothing is known of their married life or really anything before Martha met the Doctor, other than that Clive has a much younger girlfriend named Annalise. Tish is the head of PR for an experimental scientist who creates a de-aging machine that winds up turning him into a horrific monster, which she helps Martha and the Doctor defeat. Leo has a far more adventure-adjacent life, managing to avoid both the more traumatic events of “The Lazarus Experiment” and the activities aboard the Valient in “The Sound of Drums”/“Last of the Time Lords”. Tish, Francine, and Clive, however, are taken as hostages by the Master and forced to serve him aboard the Valient, where they manage to eventually assist Captain Jack, the Doctor, and Martha in defeating him. They function very much as a unit, hence their singular profile.
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.
The War Doctor is cagey and a little cranky. He is tired after what appears to have been a long, long life of trying to resolve the Time War. Though he is battle-scarred, he still feels very young when compared to his successors, the Ninth, Tenth, and Eleventh Doctors. When he meets them, he finds the Tenth and Eleventh to be annoyingly immature and mannered. He also has a strong sense of duty and feels an obligation to end the Time War, no matter the cost to himself.
Craig is an everyman from the small town of Colchester. When we meet him, he is stuck in a rut, constantly just on the verge of confessing his love for his close friend Sophie (Daisy Haggard), but always afraid of rejection. Looking to rent out an extra room in his apartment, he is surprised to hear a knock at the door before he has even advertised the room. And on the other side of that door is his new roommate: The Doctor.
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.
Kazran Sardick was raised by an abusive father, Elliot, who was absolutely focused on profit. Kazran, like his father before him, controls the airspace of Sardicktown and has grown into a very Ebenezer Scrooge-like character when he first meets the Doctor, who needs his permission so the crashing ship Amy and Rory are on can safely land. The Doctor, presumably inspired by A Christmas Carol (he is a Dickens fanboy, after all), decides to give Kazran the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present, and Future treatment, rewriting much of his childhood, to turn him into the kind of man who will allow the ship to land.
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.
The Eighth Doctor is romantic and easy going, one of the most human of his incarnations and certainly an ardent admirer and appreciator of humanity. He finds wonder and joy in the smallest of things and has an undeniable enthusiasm for life, though he’s far more relaxed than his more frenetic and bouncy Tenth and Eleventh counterparts. He has a pleasant demeanor and friendly wit and, despite the horrors he’s seen in the Time War, he tries his best to keep a twinkle in his eye and smile on his face. He’s also tends towards being formal and dignified in his interactions with his Companions and seems very much a proper British gentleman, though without the restraint or detachment that might accompany this.
Jackie is the single mother of the teenaged Rose when her life is turned upside down by Rose joining the Doctor in the TARDIS. She ends up embroiled in several of the Doctor’s adventures. Despite her (comparatively) lengthy association with the series, we know very little about her outside of her relationship with her daughter.
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.
The Fifth Doctor is the first Doctor to feel every bit his age, which is of course contrasted by his physical appearance (Peter Davison was 29 when he took on the role, making him the youngest actor to play the Doctor until Matt Smith, who was 26 when he was cast). He’s thoughtful and still, far less wordy than his predecessor, and perhaps partially due to the youth of his Companions, the Fifth Doctor is the most paternal since the First Doctor. He can be stern, one of the earliest to show the Fury of a Time Lord so common to the modern series, but he also has a sense of fun, taking time off here and there to catch a game of cricket and relax. He’s also the most approachable of the Classic Doctors, with a breezy demeanor that contrasts the Fourth Doctor’s manic energy.
Doctor Who may be an international phenomenon, but when it comes to specials, particularly multi-Doctor specials, it doesn’t have the best track record. The Three Doctors (1972-73) , which kicked off the 10th season of the show, is fun, but lacks any significant emotional punch. The Five Doctors (1983), the 20th anniversary special, is a bit of a lark but it not only fails to live up to its title (the Fourth Doctor only barely appears, in one looped clip), it wastes most of its special guest stars. Then there’s The Two Doctors (1985), which doesn’t carry the extra burden of being an anniversary special but still fails to leave much of an impression, despite being an entertaining outing. Throw in the modern series’ spotty history with Christmas and Gap Year specials and current showrunner Steven Moffat’s season seven struggles with pacing, payoffs, and character and “The Day of the Doctor” looked to have a lot riding against it, despite the much-touted return of Tenth Doctor David Tennant and Billie Piper, who played fan-favorite Companion Rose Tyler. Fortunately with “The Day of the Doctor”, all of these fears are proven to be unfounded, as Moffat and director Nick Hurran deliver an exciting, emotional special.