The Companions represent the audience. They show us what it might be like to travel with the Doctor. In the 50-plus years Doctor Who has been on the air, several companions have joined each Doctor on his adventures. I’ve ranked the Doctors. Now it’s time to rank the companions. This editorial will focus solely on the “classic” period, starting with William Hartnell and ending with Sylvester McCoy. Next month, I will talk about the modern Companions starting with Christopher Eccleston and ending with Peter Capaldi (I will be skipping Big Finish because I’ve only met three companions.)
10. Nyssa (Sarah Sutton) Sarah became my favorite Fifth Doctor Companion by default. Tegan did nothing but complain. Adric was often too smug and arrogant. Nyssa was the only one who had any endearing qualities. She was a kind woman who had lost everything–her father was possessed by the Master, who had then destroyed her homeworld of Trakken. And yet, it rarely seemed to bother her. She now had all of space and time. I still marvel that she had a positive attitude.
9. Jo Grant (Katy Manning) When I first saw Jo, I didn’t like her. She seemed somewhat clumsy and incompetent. Her predecessor seemed a good fit for the Doctor, as they seemed intellectually equal. However, Jo had the one thing Dr. Shaw didn’t–a sense of humor. She was great comedy relief, and even though she didn’t understand some things as good as Shaw often did, she was a fun character.
8. Leela (Louise Jameson) Leela at first seemed several steps backward from her predecessor Sarah Jane. Sarah Jane operated on with and pluck. Leela was a “noble savage”, more prone to violence than more rational decisions. But the Doctor needed someone like Leela, who would be more willing to do things he didn’t care to. The Fourth Doctor would rather outwit his opponents than resort to violence. He took pleasure in gleefully using his foe’s flaws to his advantage, but Leela could help in a pinch.
7. Peri Brown (Nicola Bryant) The Sixth Doctor was by far the most arrogant of the Doctors, someone who needed to be humbled. The person who did that was Peri Brown. She would not stand for the Doctor’s arrogance, turning them into a great comedy duo.
6. Jamie McCrimmon (Frazer Hines) I totally didn’t expect to like any of the Companions from the 60’s. So much of their adventures are missing. How can I like any of them based on what little is available? But what I saw was enough to convince me that Jamie is a great character. I liked Jamie’s brazen charging into battle with his clan’s battle cry. I laughed at how out of place he seemed with advanced technology. He was a loyal Companion and was undaunted. I call him the Don Quixote of Doctor Who.
5. Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart (Nicholas Courtney) The Brigadier holds the distinction of being the Companion who has allied with nearly every Classic Doctor (the only one he never met was Hartnell’s. Courtney did appear in “The Dalek Master Plan”, as a different character though). Regardless of which Doctor he allies with in any story, he is a great foil. The Doctor would prefer to use diplomacy but the Brigadier favors military might, even when that military might discovers the enemy is bulletproof.
4. K-9 (voice of John Leeson) K-9 as a prop wasn’t the most reliable thing. It often broke down or ran into sets. The signal it ran on often interfered with the cameras. But as a kid, I knew none of this. All I knew was K-9 was a robot dog that fired lasers.
3. Romana (Mary Tamm and Lalla Ward) The lovely Time Lady had an intellect that matched the Doctor’s, but lacked his experience. She had an arrogant naïveté when Mary Tamm that mellowed out after she regenerated into Lalla Ward. Whether it’s Mary or Lalla, they both had excellent chemistry with the Doctor.
2. Ace (Sophie Aldred)–Ace was a breath of fresh air after her predecessor Mel. We finally had a companion who wasn’t afraid to face down any enemy; whether she was armed with explosives, a bat, or a slingshot. Ace’s anarchist personality gelled with the Seventh Doctor’s stance against authority. Sure, she never stopped calling the Doctor “Professor”, but she was still, well, ace. (Get it?)
1. Sarah Jane Smith (Elizabeth Sladen) The intrepid journalist Sarah Jane had it all–good looks, a spunky attitude, and courage. She quickly became a companion, earning herself two spin-offs, making her the first companion with this honor.