Jenna Coleman.jpg
Tag: opinion

Companion(s) Guide: How to cast the next Doctor Who assistant post-Jenna Coleman

Contributed by
Sep 18, 2015, 7:50 PM EDT (Updated)

If the reports are true, another companion is soon disembarking from the TARDIS. Though it hasn't been confirmed by the BBC or BBC America, the news division of the BBC is running with a story from the Mirror that Jenna Coleman is leaving Doctor Who this season for a role as Queen Victoria in an ITV series.

And so it goes. Companions, even our favorite ones, come and go, and the adventures in time and space go on. Such is the nature of the nearly 52-year-old series; periodic change is how it continues to survive. The best hope for the fans is that a companion’s tenure ends on a satisfying note and, perhaps more importantly, that they will be replaced by someone worthy of the role. 

To say Coleman’s turn as Clara Oswald was divisive is accurate, but reductive. In my estimation, Clara has caused no more or less fan debate than Amy Pond, Donna, Martha or Adric (OK, maybe Adric caused less debate, since everyone hated him). 

But whether you’re happy or sad to see her go, Coleman’s potential exit provides the show’s producers and writers the opportunity to do something exciting. They get to learn from the past triumphs (and failures) of the series and create a new partner to bounce around the universe with our favorite Time Lord.

So, instead of celebrating/mourning Clara's departure, let’s look ahead at future companions. Moreover, join me as I entirely overstep my boundaries as a fan and play producer with some notes as to what should be done with the Doctor’s next companion. 

Recruit Off-World 

Viewers are often used to the Doctor being the smartest life form in the room because he’s ancient and has traversed the universe. But he isn’t the only one who can claim that. In the rebooted series, he prefers to hang out with 21st-century human women, but it would be interesting to see how the Time Lord would do if he were traveling with someone from another world that was his intellectual equal – or, at least, close. This dynamic would allow for someone else to point out exactly how wrong the Doctor might be at certain times. It might humble him slightly, which would contribute to the evolution of Peter Capaldi’s Number Twelve. The Fourth and Fifth Doctor companion, Nyssa, came close to fitting this bill, and Adric might have if everyone hadn't hated him so much. And since we’re swinging for the fences here, what if this companion didn’t look like us? At least for a little while, it might be fun to see the protagonist working with an alien humanoid (or a non-humanoid, even) that wasn’t Vastra or Strax. Of course, that’s a tough sell, since the companion is supposed to be the audience surrogate.


Call on Old Friends …

Some of my favorite companions in Doctor Who are the ones who never stuck around for more than an episode or two. So it might be a case of “careful what you wish for,” but there are a few I’d like to see return for an extended period.

First up, I really dig Duggan from “City of Death.” The detective hung around with the Fourth Doctor for an episode that began with him in the Louvre in 1979 and ended with him punching out the evil Scaroth 400 million years in the past. Duggan is a man of action, and one who could bring his 20th-century machismo to other time periods and learn a little along the way. He should keep the P.I. raincoat, though.

Another character I never got enough of was Jackson Lake from “The Next Doctor” Christmas special. Played by David Morrissey (the future Governor of Woodbury), the character is infused with knowledge of the Doctor and is so convincing that the Tenth Doctor initially thinks Lake is a future incarnation of him. The Victorian Age man was an excellent partner to David Tennant’s Number 10 and could bring a sensitivity to Capaldi’s TARDIS -- a sensitivity by which Number 12 would undoubtedly be annoyed.

And whatever happened to Stormageddon, Dark Lord of All from “Closing Time?” Also known by his human name, Alfie Owens, the infant Stormy is the son of Craig (“Not Mum,” and actor James Corden) and friend to the Eleventh Doctor (“Also Not Mum”). Stormageddon is out there, somewhere, being raised on stories of the Time Lord. In fact, the baby’s first word was “Doctor.” It would be cool is Alfie/Stormy ended up investigating the Doctor – not unlike other humans whose lives have been touched by the protector of Earth – and eventually ended up a companion on the TARDIS.


… But not Captain Jack (or River Song)

For the record, I don’t think Captain Jack Harkness should return as a companion. I would be interested in seeing a slightly older Jack (we’ll figure out the immortality problem later), rebuilding Torchwood in the shadows when he eventually crosses paths with the Doctor again in a guest spot. But John Barrowman’s character is too established to play a supporting role to the Doctor. Hell, maybe he could show up and introduce the Time Lord to his best Torchwood agent, Stormageddon.

While we’re on it, River Song should never be a full-time companion. River is fun in small doses, and Alex Kingston does a great job with the character, but the show would veer too deep into The Doctor and River Romance Hour if she moved into the TARDIS. The weekly banter between these two big personalities would get old fast (how many “sweeties” and “spoilers” could you take?). Plus, the appeal of River is that she only pops into the Doctor’s life periodically, and they have to play a game of catch-up when she does. 


Make mine Missy

I am such a sucker for stories that force arch-nemeses to work together for a shared goal. There is something so uncomfortable and satisfying in watching Lex Luthor and Superman begrudgingly team up to stop a mutual adversary or prevent mutually assured destruction. And so it would be fun, for just one season, to see the Doctor and Missy/The Master travel together in the TARDIS fighting a common foe. Played with relish by Michelle Gomez, Missy is a great foil to Capaldi’s Doctor, and she has the chops to hang with him through multiple episodes. The Time Lord would be reluctant to let the mass murderer join him, and she would do it just to save her own skin or exact vengeance on someone else (hello, Daleks). But along the way, the yin and yang of Gallifrey would actually learn from one another. While I wouldn’t want Missy to entirely break good, the team-up would allow her to develop more nuance in her villainy beyond being a mad rogue Time Lord who wants to destroy everything or just hurt the Doctor. She could additionally be shown doing something incredibly altruistic, luring the audience into thinking she’d changed, only to reveal later her own ulterior motives. Executed properly, this would make the viewer care more about her fate down the line. But again, Missy-as-companion should be a short-term storyline before it becomes a bore.


The return of Romana

Romana is still out there! This female Time Lord, who traveled with the Fourth Doctor, was last seen in “Warrior’s Gate,” setting off on her own adventures with K-9 (I'm not including the novelizations, the weird appearance in “The Five Doctors” or the “Dimensions in Time” charity special here). Last we saw her, she ignored orders to return to Gallifrey and instead chooses to hang with the Tharil race in the alternate universe known as Exo-Space (E-Space). Regardless of whether Gallifrey is out there again – maybe relocated to E-Space -- or remains obliterated from the Time War, Romana could be bouncing around and poised to re-team with the Doctor. Her presence on the TARDIS would provide an entirely different perspective about Time Lords, and she could be the equal to the Doctor without having as much of his darkness. She would have her own set of life experiences to draw from, and her own allies and enemies to tap into. Romana would allow the writers to craft a revamped female character from canon who needn’t be romantically involved with the Doctor, and one who would be on the same level as him. Also, the show could maintain its pattern of casting a younger female co-star, since Romana can regenerate. Not to mention that Romana is spinoff-ready should the BBC ever want to pursue that.

Since we’re on the topic of former companions returning, I would not be opposed to Jamie McCrimmon reuniting with the Doctor. The Scotsman is smart enough to grasp futuristic concepts despite being from the 18th century, and it would be a kick watching a bromance between him and the Twelfth Doctor (currently played by a Scotsman). But give Jamie his memories back, and make him at least a little peeved that the Second Doctor wiped them away. And if any casting directors are reading, I nominate Rupert Grint for the role; surely he can play Scottish.


Get Sherlocked

No, not really. But you know everyone wants it to happen (even though it probably never will, at least, not with Benedict Cumberbatch in the role). Still, it might be fun just to watch Tumblr explode. And if Doctor Who really wants to break the Internet, throw Tom Hiddleston in the TARDIS with Holmes and the Doctor.

What would you like to see out of the Doctor's next companion? Should the show find a new face, or plumb the mythology for a familiar name? Let us know in the comments!