RATING THE DOCTORS: The Best & Worst Doctor Who Companions Pt. 2 of 2!

While picking the companions I disliked was easy. Narrowing down my five favorite companions is a LOT more difficult, because in 30+ years there have been some great companions. On the whole the good companions far outweighing the ones I dislike.

So narrowing down all those great companions to my five favorite, very difficult, and very subjective. But as stated, having recently watched all 30+ seasons of the show, you can call my choices informed subjectivity.

So without further ado:

I have some issues with Russell T. Davies as discussed in my worst companions posting, but one thing you can’t fault him with is in building up the dynamic/relationship between the Doctor and his female Companion, and doing a great job of casting that companion role… well, and writing it… well.

I think one of the common complaints many actresses who played a companion to the Doctor had, was in the writing of their roles. Davies with the characters of Rose and Martha created companions who had it all, beauty, brains, guts, and adventuresome spirit, and a personality, an aura… magnetic. And roles that complemented the Doctor.

So while I really love a lot of the companions that have been in and out of the ship of time, the two I come back to the most, which is a way of saying the two who are great characters, brought to life by great actresses, and they have great stories under their belt, and a great complement to the doctor… in other words they have it all…

Martha Jones played by the stunning Freema Agyeman and Rose Tyler played by the effervescent Billie Piper. They get the one, two spot.

Sarah Jane- I don’t think any list of best companions would be complete without Sarah Jane, played by the fantastic Elisabeth Sladen, who brought such a caring, and humanity, and belief to her role, and whose tenure bridged both Jon Pertwee and Tom Baker.

Liz Shaw, played by Caroline John, acted opposite Jon Pertwee’s Doctor. And she brought beauty, brains, wit, sophistication to the role, and at the time they thought that was too much. She was too capable, and she was replaced in a single season, with a dumbed down companion Jo Grant(that’s not a kick against Kathy Manning, who played Jo Grant, she quite made that role her own, and made that dynamic work, and became a great, woman of action companion for the bulk of Pertwee’s run). However, it was still an unfortunate replacement because she was a fantastic companion. And you look back at the handful of stories she did and they all stand out as fantastic Doctor Who episodes.

The last spot is a tie between Leela and Ace.

Leela- I really liked the character of Leela, playing opposite Tom Baker’s Dr. Who. Played wonderfully by the beautiful Louise Jameson, I thought she was a very interesting character, but her relationship with Tom Baker’s Doctor, and seemingly Tom Baker himself, was seemingly frictious and dismissive. Possibly because she was such a strong and striking character, and a strong and striking actress, and Tom Baker at the time wanted no competition for the spotlight. But despite the less than stellar dynamic between them, they still were in 2 or 3 of the best story-lines in the history of the series.

And tying her for fifth place was Ace played by Sophie Aldred. Ace was just a fantastic companion, and had a great relationship/chemistry with Sylvester McCoy’s Doctor. And they were in some amazing stories together. Their REMEMBRANCE OF THE DALEKS being easily in the top ten of any list of best Doctor Who stories.

Honorable mentions are:

Ian Chesterton – played by William Russell from 1963 to 1965 with William Hartnell
Barbara Wright – played by Jacqueline Hill from 1963 to 1965 with William Hartnell
Susan – played by Carole Ann Ford from 1963 to 1964 with William Hartnell
The first companions, if they had failed, if their chemistry had failed, we wouldn’t still be talking about the show.

Jamie – played by Frazer Hines from 1966 to 1969 with Patrick Troughton
His chemistry with Patrick Troughton, was a great, almost vaudevillian dynamic.

Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart – played by Nicholas Courtney from 1968 to 1989 with all the “old” Doctors apart from Colin Baker.
While not a companion, Nicholas Courtney’s reoccurring role as Brigadier Stewart, head of the UNIT, was a great addition to the Who mythology, particularly during the earthbound Pertwee era. He’s just a fantastic straight man for the Doctor’s craziness.

Jo Grant – played by Katy Manning from 1971 to 1973 with Jon Pertwee. She took the ditzy role she was given, and made it into a courageous character who would risk anything for the Doctor.

Peri – played by Nicola Bryant from 1984 to 1986 with Peter Davison and Colin Baker.

Let’s be honest, Nicola Bryant was brought in, by hit-and-miss producer Nathan Turner, for T&A… to sex up the show in hopes of salvaging the lackluster Peter Davison years. She was brought in for her huge breasts, and they were paraded prominently.

(Oh come’on don’t get offended, we’re all adults here, and that’s absolutely the truth. They were real, and they were fabulous. :). Oh, I’m joking! )

With the exception of Davison’s last episode, the only thing that was watchable about his tenure, was Nicola Bryant. But surprisingly enough, she was more than just a pretty face and a stunning body, she was a solid actress, and she was exceptionally likable, and this became very obvious during the Colin Baker Doctor years.

Colin Baker off-putting pompous portrayal of the Doctor, only made somewhat palatable because of Nicola Bryant’s Peri. I quite liked her, and unfortunately she was saddled with questionable characterization by the writers of her and her Doctors. But despite that she does manage to be part of 2 or 3 stories that transcended those issues, to be quite entertaining.

So that’s it for this installment. Five favorite companions and the honorable mentions! Feel free to mention your favorite companions.

RATING THE DOCTORS: The Best & Worst Doctor Who Companions Pt. 1 of 2!

Update:

Okay waiting for my trusty photographer to send me the pictures from Wizard World Philly, and then the 2nd and final part of that convention coverage will go up. Part II of the Pulp article, and the Charles Saunders MONARCH OF MAYHEM are both being worked on.

And working on WEDNESDAYS WORDS for tomorrow, Have not missed a Wednesday yet! (Knock on pixels)

So in the interim of all that heavy lifting I’m doing, here’s an easy, breezy post…

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THE BEST AND WORST DOCTOR WHO COMPANIONS

This year I made it through watching all 30+ seasons of Doctor Who, counting the old (with the exception of lost episodes) and the new.

I first ran across Doctor Who as a kid watching the Tom Baker episodes on PBS. Incredibly low budget even by my childish standards of the time, it was okay. Quirky, not something I really made a point of following, but would watch if nothing else was on.

Re-watching the entire 30+ year series in a matter of months, I have a far better appreciation and understanding of the series as an adult.

There were some really smartly written and exciting and imaginative episodes in the show’s 30+ year history, and we’ll get into those. But in this post I wanted to discuss the barometer for what is best and worst in Doctor Who… namely the companions.

If you dislike the companion, or find them annoying, or their dynamic with the Doctor just doesn’t work, the show seldom rises above your assessment of them. ie bad Companions translating to bad and annoying episodes. This is very subjective of course, but informed by the context of watching 30+ seasons of Dr. Who. So informed subjectivity if you will. :)

So without further ado the five best and worst Dr. Who companions:

We’ll start with the negative in this post, and do the best next time at bat.

WORST

Adric – played by Matthew Waterhouse from 1980 to 1982 with Tom Baker and Peter Davison – The character of Adric was an annoying whining and joy eroding albatross stuck on the end of Tom Baker’s tenure and throughout Peter Davison’s tenure by the long running and both creative and stifling producer, John Nathan Turner. John Nathan Turner was a hit and miss producer, responsible for an equal share of Doctor Who successes as he was missteps and failures. His choice of companions being one of his most obvious. Adric being the worst of Nathan Turner’s lot of disagreeable companions. “Wow we are getting to travel in space and time, so instead of being thankful or awed let’s just bitch and be upset all the time, and wear the same stinking clothes for no apparent reason”. The reason for wearing the same clothes, was another Nathan Turner misstep, wanting the companions to wear a consistent uniform, which just came off as stupid, and eschewed the fun brilliance of the first companions who every episode carried over pieces of clothing and garb from their adventures through time and space. Quite a fun idea if you think about it. So the character of Adric, was the most egregious of Nathan Turner’s bad decisions, but not, unfortunately, the only flawed bit of casting and character.

Turlough – played by Mark Strickson from 1983 to 1984 with Peter Davison, along with the characters of Nyssa and Tegan and Adric, he was part of Nathan Turner’s whiny, unlikeable companions. Which is a dig against the producer and writers rather than the actors. Despite Tegan being written unnecessarily combative and whining, and the character of Nyssa being completely underwritten, I didn’t find them too grating, or ‘turn off the show to avoid’ bad. However I did feel that way to a great degree by the character of Adric, and to a lesser, but still unsatisfying, degree, Turlough. So hence him making my worst list.

Mel – played by Bonnie Langford from 1986 to 1987 with Colin Baker and Sylvester McCoy- In her defense she’s bubbly. But beyond that she just seems an odd choice that never quite works for me. She is not as bad as the others listed, I don’t dislike the character, I just don’t care for the character.

Amy Pond & Rory- I found her from the first incredibly annoying and uninteresting. Her whole pouty thing, and the Rory/Amy show… not remotely interested. Stopped watching after the first season with them.

Mickey Smith- Ugghhh. A Shakespearean trained actor and you have him doing a bitchy step&fetchit neutered character. Just annoying from the first episode of the revived Doctor Who series. I disliked the character so much, that it would not be until many years later, when given the chance to view the whole series cheap, that I would go back to Doctor Who. A character that defines the negative connotations of the term ‘Black faces, White messages’. Russell T. Davies who is to be applauded for reviving Doctor Who and making it a world-wide phenomenon had some very negative uses of male characters of color in his first few seasons, and Mickey Smith was that dynamic at its worst. Ironically with the character of Martha Jones, he would introduce a fantastic female companion, and a fantastic character of color; Davies issues relegated seemingly only to the male. Whatever the reason Mickey Smith was an awful character, redeemed only marginally in his last few appearances.

Those are the five worst companions in no specific order, though I think you can tell by my descriptions, my personal ranking of them. See my rating for the five best companions here!

RATING THE DOCTORS! The best and worst of Doctor Who: The Most Annoying Dr?!!

Who…. is The Most annoying Doctor Who?

Hands down it goes to Colin Baker.

Wait, I do like Colin Baker, I thought he had promise; however his take, the take that was forced on him of that character… playing the role of Doctor Who, like a pompous, prissy, screeching banshee, for most of his run, tends to grate rather than be great.

And how he could act like that while zooming around with one of the most attractive companions, the lovely Nicola Bryant as Peri, is beyond anyone’s understanding. :).

But really it’s no mystery, he was obeying the increasingly more erratic directives of producer John-Nathan Turner, to include the producer’s insistence on that abomination of a costume he wore.

John Nathan for my money, while he had some good decisions, his bad decisions outweighed the good… by far. And he made bad decisions with three ‘Doctor Who’ actors back to back, Tom Baker (Poor scripts, unbearable later companion in Adric, courtesy of John Nathan Turner), Peter Davidson (saddled with that unbearable companion, and just seasons full of pouty, frowning, unlikeable people… courtesy of John-Nathan and the writers) and finally Colin Baker (who had some intriguing episodes, but he was just such an annoying, bitchy harpie, that his performance soured even well written episodes).

So definitely Colin Baker was led down the wrong road in his directive on how to play the character, but I think after those initial episodes it’s very much for the actor to fight for the direction of the character and have a voice in how he wants the writers to portray his character. However, Colin Baker (seemingly) blithely followed orders, bad orders, and like anyone who does that, you end up holding the bag.

Hence he, arguably the actor most willing to please the producer, ended up being the first and only actor to be fired from the role of Doctor Who.

And what we are left with is less than two seasons of pretty annoying and frustrating ‘Doctor Who’. Which is too bad because Colin Baker’s introduction to the show at the end of THE CAVES OF ANDROZONI (which is really one of the best episodes of DOCTOR WHO, easily the best Peter Davidson episode, who unfortunately, like Colin Baker, was saddled with some awful episodes/writing) is fantastic. And I initially was willing to overlook Baker’s crazy outfit and had hopes for his Doctor, unfortunately Colin Baker’s Doctor never grew beyond that annoying, foolish affectation, and indeed it got worse with time.

But there are gems in these season’s despite Colin Baker’s tantrum tossing Doctor. They are:

ATTACK OF THE CYBERMEN by Paula Moore, directed by Matthew Robinson- It’s a surprisingly dark episode, and quite epic, and has enough going on to keep the Doctor’s Annoying factor from going too high. In-fact it’s the coolest and most menacing/vicious the Cybermen have ever been.

THE TWO DOCTORS by Robert Holmes, directed by Peter Moffat- Robert Holmes was a writing God, and even lesser Robert Holmes writing, which this is, is more exciting and intriguing than just about anything else being written for the show. Yet another extremely mature, and slightly disturbing episode. Well performed, and impressive throughout.

And even the last two story arcs of that season, while flawed, are quite compelling and watchable,

TIMELASH by Glen McCoy, directed by Pennant Roberts

REVELATION OF THE DALEKS by Eric Saward, directed by Graeme Harper

I mean honestly, season 22, Colin Baker’s only full season as the Doctor (a truncated season, but he did all the shows) is the most well written the show had been in years, with the glaring (and unforgivable) exception… of the Doctor himself.

The show, responded to dire warnings, unfortunately with a whole season called THE TRIAL OF THE TIME LORD. Everything that was already bad about this new Doctor, this overlong story arc magnified a 1000 times. The single worst season in the 30+ year history of Doctor Who.

I think if Colin Baker had been allowed to play the Doctor, charming rather than churlish, it would have made all the difference.

However he was fired and that opened the door to Sylvester McCoy who is #1 on my next RATING THE DOCTORS post! How’s that for a tease?! :)

Doctor Who: Attack of the Cybermen (Story 138) (See all Sci-Fi & Fantasy Cult Movies)

Doctor Who: The Two Doctors (Story 141) (See all Sci-Fi & Fantasy Cult Movies)

RATING THE SEASON! Review of DOCTOR WHO (2005) Season 5

Review of DOCTOR WHO Season 5 (that’s New Series numbering, it’s actually Season 31 overall).

I re-watched this season, the first with Matt Smith as the eponymous Doctor and Steven Moffat as show runner to see if my opinion of it changed any.

And I have to say it didn’t.

Overall, outside of the quite compelling scoring, I still find the season dreadfully flawed, for two main reasons. The first is the companions.

Doctor Who is only as good as the companions/writing, and just as Ecleston’s years were hurt by the character of Mickey, and the Baker and Davidson years hurt by the character of Adric, the Matt Baker Doctor is hurt by the Dawson’s Creek/Smallville annoying soap opera antics of the companions Amy Pond and Rory.

I know some people are found of the Amy Pond character, but having watched all of season 5, she is, to me, like fingernails on a chalk board.

Largely it’s a combination of the pouty, annoying way she is written and the pouty annoying way she plays the character. More the latter than the former. As even in scenes where she is saying nothing, just supposed to be looking meaningfully, I find her among the most annoying things I’ve ever seen. Give me back Martha Jones or Rose Tyler any-day.

That said there were moments where she didn’t annoy me in season 5 (or more precisely, gave a performance that did something other than annoy me), most notably the 2nd episode of the season ,THE BEAST BELOW, where the Amy character saves the day in a way. A nice bit of storytelling, and cutting down on the annoying poutiness Karen Gillan tends to do, rather than act.

But largely I found her annoying, and add the Cory character, played by Arthur Darvill, to that already uninteresting dynamic, and the show becomes exponentially annoying.

Which leads me to the 2nd flaw of the season. Steven Moffat’s writing. Steven Moffat is a great writer when on his game, episodes like BLINK and THE GIRL IN THE FIREPLACE showing the writing chops that got him the job of Show Runner, replacing Doctor Who Resurrectionist Russell T. Davies. However this season he gets away from what are his strengths, and tries to beat Russell T. Davies at his game; of large universe ending threats.

Which tends to get old, after a while. Russell T. Davies himself playing that card one time too many, till by his last story, THE END OF TIME , it just came off as tired, and forced, and a chore.

So Moffat trying for that epic overarching universe ending scope in season 5, just did not work for me.

The small intimate stories in season 5 were fine, but those were few and far between, and most of the season was given over to this crack of time Storyline, that I thought was largely rubbish through most of season 5.

Exceptions being:

BEAST BELOW Grade B+

THE TIME OF ANGELS Grade B. A really strong first half, with a great cliffhanger. But the 2nd part is a letdown, exhibiting the diminishing returns of more is less. One weeping angel in the Season 3 episode BLINK, brilliantly directed by Hettie MacDonald, was scary, but here an army of Weeping Angels are just… boring and a disappointment. And the director fails to use the conventions that Hettie MacDonald devised to make this conceit… scary. It shows Directors are not interchangeable, and when you get a great one like Hettie MacDonald you should keep using her. Particularly on as iconic and fragile an idea as Weeping Angels.

VINCENT AND THE DOCTOR- Grade B. An intimate, standalone episode.

THE LODGER- Grade B-.

Those 4, standalones primarily, are the highlights of season 5. The remaining episodes I would chuck with the bath water. Your mileage may vary.

Moffat when on his game is great at small intimate tales, that have less to do with saving worlds then saving one person. His stories more fable than scifi, tales as much of sleeping beauties and spells and ogres and handsome knights, as anything to do with space faring threats.

There’s an immediacy, a personalization to Moffat’s writing that comes through in places, However the season finale fails to be one of those places. The finale stumbles over its own, “let me outdo the last universe ending threat” pattern.

And did I mention I really can’t stand the companions?

So the whole season hinges on you caring for Amy Pond, and accepting the “tell don’t show” greatness of the Doctor, that he does nothing this season to earn.

Matt Smith is an okay Doctor, Moffat has written some great dialog for him, but as stated he’s encumbered by the writing of the companions. I’d like to see a season with him, with non-annoying companions ( I overall like River Song– though the ‘spoilers’ mantra, gets a bit old), and more intimate, less hyperbole ridden universe saving episodes.

Overall a season worth viewing free or if you can rent it cheap, but not one I would suggest buying. Here’s hoping Season 6 when finally available in box set rental, is an improvement. Final grade for DOCTOR WHO: SEASON 5 is C-.

Doctor Who: The Complete Fifth Series (See all Sci-Fi & Fantasy Cult Movies)

Doctor Who: Series Six, Part 1