Who’s Who in Who: The First Doctor’s Major Companions
With the 50th Anniversary of Doctor Who upon us, we though it was the perfect big ball of wibbly-wobbly timey-wimey stuff to look back at the Doctor's first set of companions.
Barbara Wright and Ian Chesterton
Traveled with: The First Doctor
Played by: Jacqueline Hill and William Russell
We lump Barbara and Ian together, not because they lack individual importance, but because their stories are so intertwined with one another. Barbara and Ian are the Doctor’s first human companions. Like many of the Doctor’s companions, Barbara and Ian lead ordinary lives before encountering the Doctor.
Life With The Doctor: Barbara and Ian are both schoolteachers that have one strange young woman in common. They meet after school to discuss exactly how odd this particular Susan can be. They come to the conclusion that she is both brilliant and lacking in common sense. So, when they go off to investigate her home life, hoping to find some answers, they get more than they bargained for.
After discovering the TARDIS, they are both involuntary swept away into time and space to keep them from revealing Time Lord secrets. And it is here where their ordinary lives take some extraordinary turns.
Barbara is the first character on Doctor Who to encounter the menacing Daleks while her teachers escape being murdered by both cavemen and French revolutionaries. Throughout all of their adventures, they grow close to one another. After two years of travelling with the Doctor, they find their way home. And Sarah Jane Smith (one of the Doctor’s later companions) tells the Doctor that Barbara and Ian are married….but that they haven’t aged since the 1960s.
Personality: Barbara and Ian have very distinct personalities. Barbara is much more classically feminine than later companions would be. She is somewhat demure and often ends up being a damsel in distress. However, she is also compassionate, intelligent and empathetic. In many ways, it is Susan and Barbara that teach the Doctor how to interact with humans.
Ian compliments Barbara well. He is strong, brave and inventive. He is the one often rescuing the group from danger. He is also, in many ways, their hero, in no smart because he is the only person who will stand up against the Doctor. Especially when the Doctor is throwing his nasty remarks towards Barbara.
Continuity: Though Barbara and Ian serve the important role as the Doctor’s first human companions, they don’t make return appearances in Doctor Who. Once they return to Earth, we don’t see them again. However, to deny their impact on the Doctor would be foolish. They are ambassadors for humanity who help the Doctor to eventually fall in love with their species and this planet. If it weren’t for these two totally ordinary teachers with extraordinary courage, the Doctor wouldn’t be so fond of saving humanity.
Traveld with: The First Doctor
Played by: Carol Ann Ford
For many of us, spending time with our grandfather means fishing, watching game shows and avoiding conversations about politics. For Susan Foreman, spending time with her grandfather meant helping to steal a TARDIS and traveling around time and space. Talk about the ultimate homeschooling experience.
One of the things that truly makes Susan stand out is that she is the very first companion. In many ways, she helps define what it means to be a good companion. She humanizes her grandfather and brings out his compassionate side. And that is really what the companions have always done in Doctor Who. They bring out the best traits that the Doctor has to offer, reminding him of the preciousness of life.
Life With the Doctor: We know very little about Susan’s history before running away in the TARDIS with her grandfather. We can imagine her, as a typical Time Lord teenager, being terribly bored with her life on Gallifrey. In the beginning of the series, she attempts to fit in with human teens to very little success. She is incredibly gifted in math and science, yet isn’t really sure what monetary system Britain uses. In fact, this disconnect leads her teachers to follow her into an abandoned building and discover that she isn’t quite human.
While traveling with her grandfather, she eventually grows up. She parts ways with her grandfather after falling in love with a man named David. Her grandfather locks the TARDIS, insisting that she has the right to her own life and doesn’t need to stick around to take care of him. Hence, the Doctor gives her up to the 22nd century to be with David.
Personality: The First Doctor is incredibly grumpy and, at some moments, very nasty. Susan, in contrast, is a sincerely kind young lady. She’s plucky, intelligent and open minded. Often the buffer between the First Doctor’s mood swings and his companions, she is the ambassador of the ambassadors of humanity.
Her relationship with these early companions demonstrates a faith in humanity that her grandfather has yet to learn. Thus, it is through her that he takes a liking for the human species.
For a girl with two hearts, she acts like a very mid-20th century teenager with one (at least according to television stereotypes). She wants to fit in, be liked while learning for herself a true identity. And the fact that she helped her grandfather steal the TARDIS also shows a bit of a bad girl streak.
Continuity: As mentioned earlier, Susan is the very first companion. Her relationship with the Doctor is the gold standard for all his relationships thereafter. She teaches the Doctor about the good of human beings and holds a special place in his heart. His role as a father and grandfathet is mentioned. Susan always serves as a reminder of the Doctor’s past, which is what ties him to Gallifrey and the Time Lords. Her existence helps him to understand the importance of family.
However, in the Doctor Who universe, only one thing is certain: Change is ever present. Ergo, Susan is the first major companion the Doctor ever had to say goodbye to. We only see Susan again in the episode “The Five Doctors.” But she is mentioned several times by different Doctors. . He has promised to visit Susan though we have yet to see him fulfill this promise. It will be interesting to see if the Eleventh Doctor visits Susan before regenerating. Consider, he did mention her existence to Clara in “The Rings of Akhaten.” It would be nice to see if he is a great-grandfather.