Doctor Who Assistants Throughout Time

The new season of Doctor Who may not start until next year but Sunday's upcoming special already has us giddy with excitement -- for him and his assistant.

Though this weekend's show, The Waters of Mars, will be one of David Tennant's last we're not feeling too down-hearted just yet -- mainly thanks to his latest companion Adelaide Brooke (played by Lindsay Duncan) who is set to be his most strong-minded yet. We've loved the years The Doctor has given us but equally we've enjoyed watching his assistants grow under his watchful -- and sometimes roused -- eyes. In fact, it's got us wondering what's in store for the soon-to-arrive eleventh Doctor and his new, young assistant. Join us as we celebrate by taking a look back at companions past…

Much as you forget five minutes into the Indiana Jones' films exactly how the aged adventurer picked up his female companions, we never question why attractive young women would choose to abandon their comfortable lives to camp in an (albeit spacious) police box with a 900-year-old time-traveller. Rose Tyler's motives were simple -- she wanted adventure. Martha Jones nursed an unrequited love for The Doctor. Several assistants have been journalists -- stumbling on the Tardis, then staying for the story. Let us not also forget the botanist and Victorian orphan.

Once the assistants were dollybirds in high-waisted trousers, now they are sarcastic, Estuary-chatting rebels -- who are often the focus of episodes. (With the exception of Lady Catherine de Souza -- surely the poshest person ever to have existed!) The Doctors, too, have changed. Once, Doctors were bumbling old English gentlemen who'd never even heard of a Wilkinson Sword Quattro Titanium. They wore hand-knitted scarves and suits that were too tight. But The Doctor has got progressively younger as TV viewers have started demanding more attractive actors. (British dentistry is no longer acceptable when American fans are tuning in too.)

The relationship between The Doctor and his assistants has evolved; The fifth doctor, Peter Davison, was banned from putting his arm around assistants Nyssa and Tegan by the strict 80s censors. Touching was considered too exciting for a teatime children's serial. But in the Russell T. Davies era, The Doctor and his assistant hug in every episode and kiss every series. The sexual tension between The Doctor and his assistant has become such a staple that it seems impossible to believe that the first Doctor had a male assistant with equal billing to the female one. When the series began in 1963, women couldn't be trusted to look after the Tardis' keys but now, the female characters are so important that even loyal dogbot K-9 has been booted off to The Sarah Jane Adventures.

Martha Jones was heralded as the 'first black assistant' in 2006 -- and was part of the first Doctor Who inter-racial kiss with David Tennant. Come on, Brits -- Captain Kirk got his groove on with Uhura in 1968! We're soon to have an assistant and a Doctor for an austere economic climate. Both young unknowns, Matt Smith and Karen Gillan won't dent the BBC Christmas party budget. But even though we need some youthful enthusiasm in this miserable recession, a friendly Doctor would never do -- he has to find our human ways contemptible and our authority figures ludicrous. That's why the assistants -- and the rest of us -- love him!

1963 - 1965 - Barbara Wright
1971-1973 - Jo Grant

1973-1980 - Sarah Jane Smith

1980-1984 - Nyssa and Adric

2005-2006 - Rose Tyler

2006-2008 - Martha Jones

Comments (2)
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Nov 14, 2009
People always seem to forget about poor Captain Jack. He's a real assistant, in my book anyway.
Nov 14, 2009
i like rose but martha is great as well. can't wait to see what the new one is like