“Other planets. Wanna check some out?”
5. Sarah Jane Smith in ‘The Time Warrior’ (1973)
Feminist icon, intrepid reporter, wearer of a supremely ‘70s hairstyle, Sarah Jane Smith sneaks her way onto a secret military base, into the Doctor’s TARDIS, and consequently our hearts.
She certainly wouldn’t be the last stowaway but she’s certainly the most beloved (after all, there’s no ‘The Adric Adventures’ on CBBC), and simply the fact that she left such an impact on Who lore is enough to pay a nod of approval to the episode that introduced her.
4. Amy Pond in ‘The Eleventh Hour’ (2010)
Much like her daughter River’s first/last adventure, Amy’s debut is as novel as it is heartbreaking. She’s a little girl when she first encounters the Time Lord, and then has to wait 14 years for him to fulfil his promise of a trip to the stars.
What makes Amy’s introduction so important is that it influences her entire relationship with the Doctor. To him she is still that little girl praying to Santa for help, to her he is the “Mad Man in a Box”, chasing the nightmares away with a sonic screwdriver. And when we see that illusion break – as it does in both ‘The Girl Who Waited’ and ‘The God Complex’ – it causes their entire relationship to change forever.
3. River Song in ‘Silence in the Library’ / ‘Forest of the Dead’ (2008)
Time tends to be on the Doctor’s side. For 45 years he’d cherry-picked attractive folk from the late 20th century and shown them a future of reel-to-reel tapes and spandex, and a past filled with spaghetti-faced alien art forgers and gas aliens.
And then he meets River, a woman who’s years ahead of him. A woman who would have fans scratching their heads in frustration and asking ‘Who is she?’ for 3 years.
It’s an intriguing reversal of the usual Doctor/companion dynamic, our hero meeting a companion who knows more about him than he about her. Though she was initially created purely to be featured in this two-parter, the mystery of River was so compelling that she returned to dominate the overall story arc for the first two years of the Moffat era.
2. Rose Tyler in ‘Rose‘ (2005)
New Doctor, new companion, and for an entire generation of young telly watchers, essentially a brand new show. ‘Rose’ had plenty to cram in but in just 45 minutes we get everything; especially a clear definition of what it means to be a companion to the Time Lord in the 21st century.
Rose’s introduction as a companion represents the viewer’s introduction to the Doctor and to the entire premise of show, so it was vital to get it right. And from the perspective of introducing a strong character to hold the new and old viewer’s hands in this ‘New Who‘ it does. By the end of the episode there’s no doubt she’s of the calibre to go cruising around the cosmos, and we’re just as excited to start the journey as she is.
1. Ian Chesterton and Barbara Wright in ‘An Unearthly Child’ (1963)
It’s the first, and it’s still the best. Unassuming teachers Ian and Barbara are curious about their strange pupil Susan, so they do the (un)natural thing and follow her home. Turns out she lives in a junkyard, where it appears an old man has her locked in a police box. Eager to rescue her, they barge in… and well, you know the rest. Next stop everywhere.
Although technically they’re kidnapped by the Doctor, it’s a classic companion introduction and one which would set the template for every one which would follow: ordinary people who wander into a world that’s bigger than it looks on the outside.
The look of fear, surprise, and wonder on Barbara’s face as she enters the TARDIS is one of the show’s iconic moments; an expression that would echo through the decades on the face of everyone to step through its doors.
Which companion’s introduction is your favourite? Let us know below…