We’ve speculated already that with the pile up of companions set to appear at the end of Doctor Who’s fourth season – Martha, Rose, Jack and Catherine Tate are all in there, with rumours of Sarah-Jane too – that it may be time to bump one of them off. If you put a vote to the fans as to which they’ll want to see the back of, Ladbrokes would close the book before it even opened it, but with the rumoured face off with Davros on the horizon, it would add a real threat to any potential scrap.
The last Doctor Who assistant to die on screen was, of course, Adric. His demise came at the end of the terrific Peter Davison Cybermen adventure Earthshock, when he sacrificed himself to try and stop a ship crashing into Earth (which subsequently wiped out the dinosaurs). He fails, and the end credits play, superimposed over his badge. It was moving stuff.
Truth be told, Adric was never the most popular of companions, but I do remember the feeling of shock watching his death, which in the pre-Internet days you simply never saw coming. In fact, that was the same story where the appearance of the Cybermen at the end of the first episode was kept as a surprise, not even being listed in that week’s Radio Times.
Surprise is a commodity that’s hard to trade in on modern day television, but there was back then a feeling of unease and surprise that a supposed family show would directly address the danger and vulnerability associated with the Doctor’s life. It’s a chance the show may have again, to an extent, later in the year.
For Doctor Who in a way always had a cop out, in that it could kill the Doctor every few years and see him regenerate. But there was a finality to the death of Adric that you don’t get with a regeneration, and that’s fresh meat (ahem) that Who scriptwriters simply don’t get to play around with very often.
Adric himself did, of course, pop up in the adventure after, in Time Flight. This was the piss-poor story set around Concorde (although it does have guilty pleasure qualities), and my problem with it was that it blew the chance to deal with the aftermath of losing a companion. Adric appears as an illusion as part of a plot device, but it would have been great to see a story that dealt directly with the loss of a companion. Some lip service was paid to it, but it was soon business as usual, which was a shame. For all the criticism Russell T Davies’ era sometimes gets, you wouldn’t see him passing up a chance like that.
Adric, played by Matthew Waterhouse, was the first companion to be cast by John Nathan Turner, and travelled with both Tom Baker and Peter Davison. He never really fitted into the world of the Tardis, but has his place in classic Who folklore, and does enjoy a spirited fanbase.
But given the world in which Doctor Who operates, the real surprise is that nobody since has followed him since to the ultimate end credits. Time will tell whether that remains the case for long…