The 9th & 10th Doctors lasted just 4 seasons, far less than many other Doctors did, but thanks to the excellent production they have been arguably the most memorable. The dramatic turn that the series took towards the end of Season 1 of the newest Doctors has been thanks to the incredible writing and character development, and key to that is the interaction between the Doctor and his companions.
In this first conversation we’ll take a look at the three major sidekicks that he’s had in those first seasons, and what they meant to him: Rose Tyler, Martha Jones, and Donna Noble.
It’s interesting to note that in all of the first four seasons of the revived series, the companions’ fathers have either passed away or are “out of the picture”, as with Martha’s time on the show. The Doctor plays a sort of father-figure to each of them.
Rose, played by Billie Piper, started her two years of the current series with Doctor #9, played by Christopher Eccleston, eventually transitioning to David Tennant. Rose is best described as young, rebellious, and willing to leave her somewhat-serious boyfriend to go on an adventure with the time-traveling alien. She is unsatisfied with her life, and looks to find a break from the monotony. Unhappy, no. Unsatisfied, bored, wide-eyed and bushy-tailed, yes.
Her role broke several traditional Doctor rules. She was added to the show to help introduce a new generation to Doctor Who, as the show hadn’t been in regular rotation since the 1980s. It was also the first time that we saw so much background on the companion, as we often met and interacted with her family, friends, and even love interest. Rose was as important of a character to the show as the Doctor, and her strong trust in him eventually developed into a love interest.
David Tennant’s Doctor was a tragic figure, starting off heroic but at times having his faith in the “rules of time” stressed and strained, to the point where (at the end of Season 4) he finds himself breaking down. Throughout his entire tenure of the series he continued to reference her, even after her character had left the show.
She was a difficult character to “enjoy”, and I say that with a specific reason. Her role was to lead the Doctor into adventures, often focusing around things that affect her or her family. She was a bit confining, as the Doc wasn’t allowed to develop into his own without having her as the Yang to his Yin. Her role did humanize the Doctor, though, and made him much more relatable.
Martha, played by Freema Agyeman, appeared during Season 3 of the latest series, and the second season for David Tennant’s Doctor. Following the pivotal Rose, her character is initially rejected by the Doctor, even though she develops a quick affection for him. She is strongly independent, a trained doctor herself, and comes from a strong, well-connected background. By the end of her stay — one season — she reverses her feelings, instead opting to leave the Doctor when he asks her to stay with him. She represents the “middle point” of Doctor #10’s life, with his transition from unrelenting hero to doubting pacifist.
The show now revolved less on the companion and more on the Doctor, with a story that focused on the revival of his arch-nemesis — and fellow Time Lord — The Master. It was perhaps this season that the Doctor first began to feel rejection, for his affection, actions, and his offer of help. Martha eventually showed that she was independent and didn’t need the Doctor’s help.
It was thanks to Jones that we began to see the tragedy behind the Doctor’s character. After decades of the show, this was the first time that the Doctor wasn’t the “savior” of humanity. In fact, Martha’s actions brought down The Master, and allowed the show to be more about time-traveling and world-saving (and fun) than it had been before. Martha was athletic and intelligent, independent and trustworthy, almost like a young Doctor Who herself.
Noble, played by Catherin Tate in Season 4 alongside David Tennant, iss an interesting character in the 10th Doctor’s life. She mixes several of the traits of Rose and Martha, questioning her place in the world and being strongly vocal about it. Donna knows that she needs rescuing, but would rather do it herself than have someone else try. She often questions the Doctor’s actions, forcing him to (on occasion) lose his temper and lash out. She never really “needs” the Doctor, just the adventure of going with him.
In several episodes of Season 4, Donna examines what her perfect life would be like. Would she get married? Have children? Find the perfect job? She rarely takes criticism, opting to prove why she is right rather than accept that things are out of her control. She’s possibly most like the the Doctor in that respect. Both are exposed to be vulnerable to isolation and aimlessness, and neither really end up happy knowing each other. Donna eventually marries, but only after having had her memory wiped of the Doctor’s influence. The Doctor regenerates, never having found happiness in having saved humanity how he wanted to. Both are victims of the rules that they set for themselves.
Donna isn’t a likable person. Should you meet her in real life, she would be the loud girl in the back of the bar, yelling at the wait staff to treat her and her friends right. She hides deep, emotional scars that are revealed in her time with the Doc. Initially I didn’t like Donna; she was too demanding and aggressive. Her story completes only after she herself has left the Doctor scarred. Her time on the show was more about her personal journey rather than being alongside the Doctor.
The three companions of the 9th/10th Doctors are pivotal to his development. They worked to reintroduce the Doc to the public, all while being strongly developed by themselves and even launching the respective actresses careers beyond the show.
Which companion of the Doctor’s was your favorite, and why?
Images courtesy BBC