Anyone with access to a TV or the internet no doubt knows something about the 50-plus year phenomenon that is Doctor Who. Fans, of course, call him simply The Doctor. Referring to the character as “Doctor Who” will earn you an eye roll from fans. It’s sort of like saying James T. Kirk was the commander of the “USS Star Trek.” Just plain embarrassing. As we all wait (and wait) for the Christmas episode, we thought we’d show some love to the unsung heroes of the series: all those lovable companions.
When we made our list of best companions, we used a few different criteria. First, we considered their impact to the series as a whole. Next, we looked at fan favorites; after all, fans make the show the dynamo it is. Finally, we attempted to calculate each character’s relationship with The Doctor and the influence they had on him and his long term arc. That means there are major spoilers throughout this list. You’ll no doubt notice that most of these companions are from Doctors nine and on. That’s mostly due to the enormous numbers of reboot fans, and the sweeping writing of the later seasons. Oh, and apologies in advance for not having room on this list for Astrid Peth. Sorry, Kylie!
Here's Screen Rant's take on the 15 Best Doctor Who Companions Of All Time.
Let’s begin by stating the obvious: Adric was a smug little jerk sometimes. He was also so brilliant that he was once kidnapped by The Master for his super-slick math skills. Adric gained access to the TARDIS by stowing away as a refugee. He was a guy who thought he had all the answers and couldn’t wait to tell you how dumb you were. But when he felt slighted or wronged, he retreated into a whiny “poor me” stance that annoyed fans for many of his 40 episode appearances. We can’t blame him too much though, as he’s also the series' youngest companion to date by a long shot.
But then…Adric died. He was the first long-time companion (spanning Doctors Four and Five) to do so. It spawned huge, sad reactions from the other companions, The Doctor, and the viewers. That’s why this episode was the first to run with no music over the closing credits (like the “Red Wedding” episode of Game of Thrones). Adric’s death was stunning, brave, and mainly the fault of those damn Cybermen. It caused The Doctor to make changes in the way his companions were put at risk, and his choice of companions in general. RIP, Adric.
Louise Jameson’s turn as Leela was one of several TV roles she became known for in her long career. Leela was a warrior from the Sevateem tribe on a planet we never learn the name of. Much to fans' delight, she usually dressed like a stereotypical caveman, draped in animal pelts and carrying various forms of weaponry. Some fans assert that Leela’s impressive warrior skills are somewhat undercut tonally by the amount of skin she’s showing. We say that clothes can be confining, and a warrior woman ain’t got time for that.
One of the most interesting aspects of Leela is that she is an enormous contrast to Tom Baker’s Doctor, who was the most whimsical Doctor to date at the time. He was fanciful, quick to laugh, and respectful to traditions of other cultures. Leela, meanwhile, did what she wanted, even skinning and eating animals at the table. Quite unexpectedly, Leela left the show upon falling in love with a Gallifreyan and staying behind on Gallifrey with K-9. We didn’t see that one coming!
13 Susan Foreman
The importance of Susan Foreman to the narrative depends on which version of Doctor Who canon you accept. The main narrative states that she is the traveling companion and biological granddaughter of The Doctor. Wait, what? Does that mean her mother was River Song, AKA Melodie Pond? It couldn’t, because that would mess up several timelines. Seven and Nine have both said that his entire family died on Gallifrey during the great Schism, though Eleven later said that he once brought his granddaughter to see the “Rings of Akhaten.” Which is the truth? We don’t know. Remember, Ten also has a child floating around somewhere. It's all a bit murky.
Susan, played by Carole Ann Ford, traveled with the first Doctor (William Hartnell) for all of season one, plus a few eps in season two. She later returned for the 20th anniversary special. While she, along with most other Gallifreyans, was believed to have been killed in the Dalek battle, it’s possible that she lived along with the others when Gallifrey was put into that pocket as revealed in “Time of the Doctor.” She’s also the only companion with two hearts.
12 Wilfred Mott
Wilfred (Bernard Cribbins) is the maternal grandfather of companion Donna Noble, and a fan fave character we saw far too little of. We first meet him in “Voyage of the Damned,” then again when Donna returns home from traveling with Ten. Donna trusts Wilfred more than she does her mother—at least as far as telling him the truth about the danger she’s been in. Wilfred loves space, mysteries, and is highly moral. So it makes sense that he would also love The Doctor like he was his own son.
Wilfred is instrumental in several big storylines, including those involving The Master. He also got to meet or see several companions, including Martha Jones and Sarah Jane Smith. The events in “The End of Time” could drive a stone statue to tears, so we won’t recount it here. Horribly, the alternate timeline of this event, found in the graphic novel, shows Ten allowing Wilfred to die in the reactor. For reasons we think are obvious, no one should ever read it.
11 Mickey Smith
Arguably, Mickey Smith has the most interesting and dramatic character arc of any companion—certainly of any secondary companion. When we meet Mickey (Noel Clarke) in “Rose," he’s the average-Joe boyfriend to average-cashier Rose Tyler. He’s a good boyfriend; a little clingy and boring, but a nice guy who is way supportive of Rose’s habit of leaving town with The Doctor, and not telling anyone where she is or when she’ll be back. Eventually, Mickey and Rose break up as it becomes abundantly clear that she’s in love with Ten. Who could blame her?
Mickey goes from regular guy to helper to fellow traveler in the time he spends with Ten (David Tennant). What’s really incredible, though, is the stuff we don’t see. When Ten revisits former companions in “The End of Time,” we see that Mickey has joined UNIT, and has chosen to fight the alien menace for a living. Better still, he’s married to…Martha Jones. While this was shocking for fans, it also makes a great kind of sense. We love Mickey, even when he’s the human version of a “tin dog.”
What’s there to say about K-9? Plenty. He was built by Dr Marius during the reign of the fourth Doctor, used by Five and Ten, and a version of him traveled with a handful of companions like Leela and Sarah Jane Smith. He probably seemed more amazing in the days when everyone didn’t carry a combination phone, computer, camera, and the entire internet in our pockets. But hey, K-9 also had a laser, some kind of sonic gadgetry, sonar dealies for ears, and was as adorable and loyal as any other dog. That’s probably why he got to spin off with Sarah Jane.
While K-9’s many deeds seem amazing, and they are, we should note that there were many models of this mechanical dog. There was Mark I, Mark II, Mark III (who gave his life to save Sarah Jane, Rose, and Ten), and Mark IV. Ten’s version of K-9 was a little different, and didn’t have its own name or number. There was also the BBV K-9, BBV K-9 Mark 2, and if you count evil dogs meant to discredit the REAL K-9, there’s Orthrus. Oh, and K-9 could talk. That’s not so special for a computer, but amazing for a dog.
9 Amy Pond
When Ten went away and Eleven showed up looking like someone you’d card for a cigarette purchase, fans were a little wary. Meeting a tiny sad girl named Amelia didn’t exactly fill fans with confidence. But sure enough, after an episode or two, we all came to love “The Girl Who Waited,” though she seemed to throw her fiancé over for The Doctor without fully appreciating what she could be giving up. After all, she had literally the best boyfriend in all of history. Also, Vincent Van Gogh loved Amy—which is a beautiful thing.
Amy’s most notable contribution to The Doctor’s story is that she gave birth to his future wife, River Song. But she, along with her husband, also gave us the most weep-worthy episode ever. I mean, there were actual deaths that didn’t make fans openly sob the way “The Angels Take Manhattan” did. That emphasizes a key element of Doctor Who. When you tune in, you might get something fluffy and silly; “Dinosaurs on a Spaceship,” perhaps. Or you might get something that rips your heart out as you wail to the heavens in anguish.
8 Rory Williams
Seeing this may lead you list readers to ask, "Rory ahead of Amy? Really? Isn’t he more of a secondary companion?" It’s a fair point. But Rory (Arthur Darville), along with his Auton duplicate, is one of the greatest heroes in the Doctor Who universe. First, he’s surprisingly cool about competing with The Doctor for his fiancé/wife’s affection. He’s jealous and a touch insecure, but not really a jerk about it. Second, he’s The Doctor’s father-in-law. Finally, depending on how you count them, Rory also died between 6-11 times. Most of these were directly from Amy-related shenanigans. He’s also the Boy Who Waited, or simply: The Last Centurion. Why? Well…
When his beloved was trapped in the Pandorica, he stood outside guarding her for almost 2,000 years—1,894 to be exact. In that time, he fought off invaders, dragged her through a massive fire, and saw the fall of Rome. Rory has only loved Amy his entire life—well, and his family. If you’ve never seen the unproduced scene where Rory and Amy’s other child visits Rory’s Dad (Mark Williams), you ought to. Bring a hankie.
7 Captain Jack Harkness
There is some disagreement among fans about whether Captain Jack is a legitimate Doctor Who companion. We’re not sure why, since the BBC and Doctor Who wikia both agree that he is. Harkness hung out with Doctor’s Nine (Chris Eccleston) and Ten, and was friendly with Rose, Martha, Martha’s sister, Martha’s mother, and pretty much any other attractive person he came in contact with. Jack was flamboyant, adventurous, deliciously bisexual, and later, immortal. In fact, Jack Harkness is so immortal that we later learn he’s one of the last beings left alive on Earth as it snuffs out—The Face of Boe. That alone is amazing.
Jack is the 3rd Doctor Who character to be spun off (the first two being Sarah Jane Smith and K-9). Torchwood is a lot of fun, a show for grown-ups that takes place firmly in the Doctor Who universe. That being said, Harkness is much more enjoyable to watch when he’s hanging out with Nine and Ten than when he’s heading Torchwood. That show, season three in particular, will ruin your life.
6 Dr. Martha (Smith-)Jones
If there’s an award for hardest working companion, it would have to go to Martha Jones (Freema Agyeman). She gets shade thrown on her by fans, basically because she isn’t Rose, which of course isn't a fair deal. Martha has a ton in common with Rose: both have annoying moms, mad crushes on The Doctor, and a spirit for adventure. But Martha is also a doctor, and has been with Ten through some of his most memorable, tragic, and vital encounters. She’s also spent time in UNIT and has even appeared on Torchwood.
Martha was with The Doctor when he discovered another hidden Time Lord, Dr. Lazarus. The less said about that guy, the better. Martha was with him during the years Ten spent as a teacher at an exclusive boy’s school, and watched as he fell in love with a Nurse in a relationship that could never be. She got to experience WWI-era racism, which was not very nice at all. And of course, Martha Jones spent a year traveling the world telling tales of The Doctor—which eventually saved several whole planets—and no one remembers.
5 Sarah Jane Smith
As friend to Doctor’s Three (Jon Pertwee, father of Sean Pertwee, who plays Alfred Pennyworth on Gotham), Four, Five, and Ten, Sarah Jane Smith (Elizabeth Sladen) would have been legendary even if she hadn’t gotten her own spinoffs. But she did, and she took the K-9 Mark I with her. Many fans argue that Sarah Jane is the companion by which we should judge all others, while more modern fans think that honor goes to Rose.
We think Sarah Jane has a more impressive resume, and as far as we know, she did plenty with her life after leaving The Doctor’s company. This is especially impressive because Five left her with the impression that he’d come back soon. But Sarah Jane was at least 30 years older when she came upon Ten…and even that was accidental.
Fans love Sarah Jane because she’s smart and had great chemistry with every Doctor with whom she interacted—and there were a lot of them. Elizabeth Sladen is no longer with us, but continued acting and being awesome right until her death in 2011.
4 River Song / Melodie Pond
Anytime the words “Hello Sweetie” turn up anywhere near The Doctor, we can presume that River Song is close by. Played by the great Alex Kingston (who most Americans met during her stint on ER), River Song eventually became Mrs. The Doctor. But that’s not even the most amazing thing about her. She had adventures with Ten, Eleven, and Twelve, and it wouldn’t surprise us to learn that they’ll reveal an interaction with the War Doctor at some point. River has been imprisoned, pursued, and threatened during her travels. For a while, she was on a reverse timeline with The Doctor, knowing more about his own history than he did, and she had the badass notebook to prove it.
Arguably the wildest thing about River is that she appears to be in her mid-to-late 30s, yet she’s the child of Amy and Rory Williams-Pond—people we rarely see any older than, say, late 20s. Her given name, Melodie Pond, was translated into an alien language and then back to English, which is how she got the name River Song. Fans love her for lots of reasons, including her aversion to spoilers.
3 Dame Rose Tyler
When Doctor Who was rebooted, it had a similar inexpensive look and the sparkling writing fans expected. The first companion was clearly chosen carefully, a girl next door type who was as pretty as Sarah Jane, as capable as Leela, and as useful to The Doctor as K-9. Add a bubbly personality, a crap job, and a heaping spoonful of sass, and that’s Rose Tyler (Billie Piper-, who you should also watch on Penny Dreadful). She’s got a boyfriend who’d have been a better friend, and a mom who is perpetually looking for love. It doesn’t take long for Rose to fall in love with The Doctor, though her love is returned in a way known to no other companion before or sense.
Rose’s most amazing feat was probably staring into the heart of the TARDIS and becoming Bad Wolf. She also gave Jack Harkness immortality and saved innumerable lives. Cassandra and Jack Harkness both agree that Rose Tyler has a cute butt. Fangirl swoons were heard ‘round the world when the parallel Doctor ran off to live with Rose on parallel Earth (or was it this Earth?).
2 Donna Noble / TheDoctorDonna
The TARDIS gets very few uninvited visitors, Adric, Donna…um, we can’t think of any others who were on it at the same time as The Doctor that he didn’t invite. Donna didn’t mean to get in the TARDIS. She was trying to get married. Good thing she didn’t go through with it though, because her fiancé was actually under the control of an evil spider woman. Oops. In her time with Ten, Donna rescued a whole family from a volcano, had something on her back, met Agatha Christie, and saved the Ood from slavery.
Her most noteworthy accomplishment though, is taking in all of The Doctor’s existing knowledge, and then using it to destroy the Daleks. Because screw those Daleks! It was horribly sad to see her memory wiped, knowing how dreary her life was before. Eventually, Donna and Wilfred help bring down The Master. When Ten makes his rounds at the end of his life, he gives Donna a wedding gift of a winning lottery ticket—purchased with money from her late Father from years earlier. We like to think Donna has a happy life.
1 Clara Oswin Oswald
The many companions of The Doctor have all influenced his life, his travels, and the people he saves. It cannot be argued, though, that any companion is more vital in this regard than Clara. We met Oswin Oswald in the harrowing “Asylum of the Daleks.” Most of us thought, wow, she’s great, too bad we won’t see her again. Turns out, she's had some impact on every Doctor since the very beginning, which some beautifully clever editing showed us in “Time of the Doctor.” Yes, that includes The War Doctor. It should be noted that she has died in at least two timelines, so she might also be called Schrodinger’s companion as well.
Clara met Queen Elizabeth I in addition to hanging out with all the Doctors. She was inside a Dalek, foiled The Mistress, and suffered through the death of her boyfriend Danny Pink—twice! Clara is a vivacious and adorable companion that doesn’t take any crap and may have saved as many lives as The Doctor himself.
Where did your favorite companion fall on our list? Disagree with our reasoning? We’d love to hear about it in the comments.