This is going to be fun! But before we start, a note on pedantry. We’re counting as a companion somebody who travelled full-time with the Doctor over multiple stories. Which rules out Sara Kingdom, Katarina, the UNIT boys and Astrid Peth. River Song and the Paternoster Crew therefore count as recurring characters. And yes, we realise that that should also disqualify Liz Shaw and Grace Holloway, but they were the female leads in their stories. And anyway, we are Doctor Who fans so THERE IS NOW WAY WE WILL EVER ALL BE HAPPY.
Nobody likes a boy genius at the best of times. But Matthew Waterhouse’s brattish boffin from E-Space, who travelled with the Fourth and Fifth Doctors, was so hateful that producers broke one of the show’s cardinal rules and killed him off, in Earthshock.
How an advanced, sentient shape-changing android could turn out to be such a sap is beyond us, frankly.
A somewhat generic young girl replacement when the original companion Susan left, Vicki was still fun. The absolute best thing about her was when she left, she married Troilus, taking the name Cressida.
31. Ben Jackson.
A solid and dependable seaman from Earth 1966, but Ben was probably the most generic of the early era action hunks.
30. Zoe Heriot.
Zoe had pluck and an excellent line in sparkly catsuits, but she was all a bit “But Doctor, I don’t understand” for a supposedly gifted computer scientist from the far future.
29. Dodo Chaplet.
Before we had the term manic pixie dream girl, Doctor Who had Dodo in the Swinging 60s. But they were trying too hard with the 60s, and she didn’t last long.
28. Melanie Bush.
Mel was a fitness fanatic whose main character trait was that kept trying to get the Doctor on an exercise bike. Apparently a computer programmer, she was never seen anywhere near a computer. Fans had a hard time with her being played by Bonnie Langford and all, but she was alright really.
27. Clara Oswald.
No disrespect to Jenna Coleman who’s doing a fine job with that she’s given. But current companion Clara just hasn’t worked so far. The big mystery about her turned out not to be a mystery at all, just withheld information, and while we know who she is now, we still don’t really know who she is. Let’s hope she gets a better run opposite Capaldi.
26. Liz Shaw.
The UNIT scientist only lasted one series, working alongside an Earth-based Third Doctor. Not unreasonably, she told the Brigadier that all the Doctor really needed was someone to pass him his test tubes and tell him how brilliant he was. So off she popped.
25. Mickey Smith.
Mickey was the put-upon boyfriend of Rose Tyler, but the writing was on the wall as soon as the strange man in the box turned up in their lives. Mickey nevertheless grew into a brave hero, and ended up married to Martha Jones, the other person frozen out by the Doctor-Rose love-in.
24. Harry Sullivan.
The military Surgeon General for UNIT was the first male companion alongside the Fourth Doctor. A stoic and buttoned-up Englishman, Harry was accident-prone, but trusty and heroic when he needed to be alongside Sarah-Jane.
23. Steven Taylor.
Steven was a swashbuckling space pilot from the future, brought in after Ian and Barbara left. So he was pretty cool really.
22. Martha Jones.
Medical student Martha didn’t make much of a dent. But actress Freema Agyeman was served badly by writers seemingly as much in mourning for Rose Tyler as the Doctor was, and lumbered her with an uninspiring unrequited love story. In the end, Martha put herself first and moved on, but she always stayed in touch.
21. Ian Chesterton.
The show’s first-ever action hero, Ian was a schoolteacher who got caught up in the Doctor’s world while investigating the strange behaviour of his pupil, Susan. Though his early adventures amounted to a kidnapping by the grumpy Timelord, he soon became a trusted friend.
20. Nyssa of Traken.
Nyssa was genteel aristocrat from the planet of Traken, a place where everybody was interminably nice to each other. When the Master ruined everything at home and stole her father’s body, she travelled with the Fourth and then Fifth Doctors. But next to the iconic Tegan Jovanka, Nyssa was always the wallflower.
Polly was a 1960s hipster who found herself mixed up in some unfortunate business when her boss developed a malevolent artificial intelligence. She and Ben were the first to witness a regeneration when the First became the Second.
18. Grace Holloway.
In the 1996 TV Movie, fans were aghast at the sight of the Doctor kissing his one-time companion, Doctor Grace Holloway. And the American audience might have been confused as to which of them was supposed to be the Doctor. But Grace was exquisite; her first scene sees her running down a hospital corridor in a billowing blue ballgown.
17. Romana I.
Romanadvoratrelundar was something new; a Timelady assigned to the Fourth Doctor by the White Guardian to find the pieces of the Key To Time. At first, they were resentful of each other, and her first incarnation, seeing herself as his intellectual superior, was an icy and acerbic piece of work.
16. Vislor Turlough.
Turlough was exciting because he couldn’t always be trusted. For a large part of his tenure he was willfully under the influence of the Black Guardian, at one point trying to kill the Doctor. Which makes things awfully complicated, but doesn’t half mix things up a bit.
15. Barbara Wright.
Barbara was the colleague and sort-of girlfriend of Ian Chesterton, and Susan’s history teacher, who grew concerned when her pupil questioned history’s account of the French Revolution. She and Ian travelled with the Doctor for two years, during which time she had a habit of making despotic warriors want to marry her with a single glance.
14. Romana II.
The second version of Romana was an altogether fruitier proposition, and it was looked like they were at least having some fun together. That chemistry seeped behind the scenes as well - actress Lalla Ward and Tom Baker were briefly married.
13. Perpugilliam “Peri” Brown.
Peri was a companion from a completely alien race - she was an American! But the plucky and adventurous botany student proved a spirited and loyal friend to the Doctor. Which is quite something considering that he once, in a post-regenerative fit of mania, almost strangled her. At one point feared dead, it was eventually revealed that she was living as a Warrior Queen and married to Brian Blessed.
12. Victoria Waterfield.
Victoria was appropriately enough a girl from Victorian times, who went travelling with the second Doctor after she was orphaned by Daleks. She had Princessy tendencies, but became sassier and more confident out of her adventures. And sorry, but this sequence from The Tomb Of The Cybermen gets us weeping as much as anything the current series has to offer.
11. Tegan Jovanka.
Tegan was brilliant, a mouthy air hostess who went on the most round-the-houses journey back to Heathrow Airport in history of the world. And then when she did get back, she was back on board the Tardis the following season anyway. While most of the time outright argumentative, she landed up as one of the longest-serving of all.
10. Jamie McCrimmon.
Jamie was a Highland Scot from the mid-18th century, leading to all manner of amusement when he missed cultural references. He travelled for most of the Second Doctor’s era, and yet most of his heroism is still overshadowed by this immortal exchange:
“Will you look at the size of that thing, Doctor?”
“Yes, it is a big one isn’t it Jamie?”
9. Leela of the Sevateem.
Leela was a warrior in a tribe of savages from the far future. For a savage, she had impeccable vowels. While primitive and violent, she was also fiercely intelligent, and her adventures with the Fourth Doctor had flavours of Eliza Doolittle. Eventually, she fell in love and stayed on Gallifrey, the planet of the Timelords. She was also basically naked for most of the time.
8. Rory Williams.
When your fiance runs off to go time-travelling on the night before you’re wedding, that’s never going to be a great day. But Rory took it rather well, and eventually became a full-time member of the Tardis team. Despite a knack for dying rather a lot, good-hearted Rory became the most beloved male comapanion ever.
7. Dorothy Gale “Ace” McShane.
Ace might have started out as a Wizard Of Oz gag in the shape of a girl (she was blown to Iceworld in a freak timestorm, you see) but she ended up as the definitive companion of the whole 80s. This baseball bat-wielding tomboy who would brew homemade explosives in her bedroom (good luck getting that through these days) went on the most complete journey of anyone, confronting her childhood demons and laying down the template for Rose Tyler in the process.
6. Jo Grant.
Jo was a civilian UNIT operative who worked faithfully with the Third Doctor and put up with a lot, particularly the amount of times he would just send her off to make cups and tea and sandwiches. But she was fiercely loyal and would save him from himself. When she left in The Green Death, he was clearly and famously heartbroken.
5. Rose Tyler.
Not just because she was the first of the revived series is Rose considered the definitive modern companion. She redefined what the “Doctor Who girl” could be, this brave retail assistant who learned as much about herself as she did about the wonders of the universe. And who knew that Billie Piper would be so good at the acting?
4. Susan Foreman.
The very first companion, the Unearthly Child followed home by her concerned teachers Ian Chesterton and Barbara Wright. Susan was apparently the Doctor’s granddaughter, and we’ve got no reason not to believe that, so she has an edge over so may other companions. Her exit is still one of the most moving sequences from the show’s entire history.
Amy was a piece of work when she first turned up, running away with her imaginary friend on the night before her wedding. But the tough-talking kiss-o-gram had a bigger heart behind the flighty barbs, and as we saw her entire life play out, she grew up into a thoughtful woman. She’d be interminable in real life though - she became a travel writer, of all things.
2. Donna Noble.
The only thing bigger than Donna’a gob was her heart. But in this temp from Chiswick, the Doctor found a true best friend, and in her travels with him, she realised her true potential. Which left her eventual fate, her memories of their time together wiped, all the more tragic.
“There are worlds out there, safe in the sky because of her,” as he told her grandfather Wilf. “There are people living in the light, and singing songs of Donna Noble, a thousand, million light years away. They will never forget her, while she can never remember. And for one moment… one shining moment… she was the most important woman in the whole wide universe.”
1. Sarah-Jane Smith.
What to say about Sarah-Jane, the Doctor Who companion against which all shall be measured forever? The investigative journalist who travelled with the Third and Fourth Doctors is rightly beloved among all fandom. We may have our own personal favourites, but everyone agrees that nobody was better than Sarah-Jane; smart, brave, but also human and vulnerable. She was so popular that she earned two spin-off shows, and returned to the Doctor Who world and family when the show was revived. When Elisabeth Sladen died in 2011, she was mourned like the national treasure that she was.