Following Jenna Coleman’s much-publicised wobble over whether or not to leave Doctor Who in 2014, we’ve had confirmation that Clara Oswald will be around for this year’s series after all. This will make Clara the Doctor’s longest-serving companion since the new series began and, indeed, since Janet Fielding’s similarly on-off Tegan, back when Peter Davison was the Doctor.
Like Tegan, Clara’s had a couple of near-miss exits during her travels already – first, the bittersweet ending of Death In Heaven and the fake-out at the end of Last Christmas. In both cases, she and the Doctor got a reprieve from Nick Frost’s Santa, in such a way that when she does eventually leave, we’ll all be looking for him to pop out and shepherd her back in again.
At the same time, it’s been a while since the Doctor took on a new companion. It seems like we had a couple of near-misses last series, with the Doctor taking a shine to Frank Skinner’s engineer, Perkins in Mummy On The Orient Express, and Ingrid Oliver’s Osgood being cruelly taken out of the picture by Missy in Death In Heaven. Is there an itch to bring a third member into the current TARDIS team and either way, is it about time that they did?
It’s a small universe
It’s not uncommon for the Doctor to travel with more than one friend at a time, in any era of the show and that has carried on in the new series. When it was first announced that Samuel Anderson would be joining the cast as a regular, many of us expected that Danny Pink would be a second companion.
As it turned out, Danny was less impressed with the Doctor than many and wasn’t for turning to his way of life. Cameos and flashbacks aside, his death in the finale (a rare “No, for real” death of a Moffat-era regular, thus far) seems to have ruled out any change of heart.
While the Doctor has picked up extra passengers in addition to the top-billed companion since 2005, they don’t tend to last long and they could usually be drawn from said companion’s existing list of Facebook friends. Rory and Mickey both started out as terrific 21st century inversions of the usual gender stereotypes of a competent companion before growing up in the pursuit of adventure, but both were already love interests of Amy and Rose, respectively.
The two exceptions both rock up in the very first series of the revival and within a few episodes of each other. There’s Adam Mitchell, the secret alien museum researcher in Dalek who’s unceremoniously dumped an episode later as an example of how not everyone is cut out for travelling with the Doctor. Then there’s Captain Jack Harkness, who also served as an update to the idea of the capable masculine assistant, but only came back for guest appearances after the first series was over.
The Eleventh Doctor, Amy and Rory would be the longest-serving TARDIS trio of the new run and after seeing their dynamic work so well, we miss it. An extra character makes it a little easier to give the Doctor by some mystery, allowing for scenes in which he doesn’t necessarily need to be one of two parties. After a quickly dispelled love triangle at first, the 11-Amy-Rory trio works because all three of them all generally like each other.
Over time, even Amy and Rory turned out to be his mother and father-in law. River Song’s dalliances into their path cements the feeling of an unusual family unit, but it starts to feel like a slightly smaller universe, the longer an incumbent companion stays with the series without anyone else changing things up.
What’s wrong with Clara then?
Nothing, in our book. We think the Capaldi-Coleman chemistry can only propel their characters’ dynamic to new heights, now that they’re getting to know one another properly. And there’s certainly some dramatic tension to be worked out between Clara and Missy, which we’d expect to be addressed next time they meet.
Certainly, the ever-imaginative eighth series presented no fear of constriction in the format, but whether the fans like it or lump it, Doctor Who thrives on change. Many will speculate that the upcoming ninth series will definitely be Coleman’s last, but it would be nice to have an overlap of companions travelling together, rather than the one-in-one-out approach.
We’ve already seen the Doctor lose people, get sad (or even decide to travel alone from there on out) between episodes, and then make a new friend. In fact, that covers just about every female lead’s departure in the last decade. Having already had two sad departures reversed, we’d hope that when Coleman does move on from Who, Clara will get to leave the TARDIS with her head held high, rather than irrevocably separated or bereft of her mind.
It feels like you can take about half of the oomph out of the usual sad departures if the Doctor isn’t left entirely on his own if she does eventually get a happy ending to her time with him. Certainly with this particular pairing, they’re so close that it’s hard to imagine him happily watching her go in any other way.
But equally, he’s now known her for over a thousand years of his life and thanks to some Great Intelligence-foolery, Clara’s met him right back at the start of his journey and seen pretty much everything in-between. On the premise that any episode of Doctor Who could be someone’s first episode, it feels like the right time to add in a third regular to bring some of the wide-eyed wonder back for the newbies.
It’s a little early to speculate, but try and stop us, once we get going! Maisie Williams has been confirmed as a guest star in two episodes of the next run- The Girl Who Died and The Woman Who Lived. Either of those titles could fit into the catalogue of portentous nicknames afforded to Moffat-era companions.
The episodes are speculated to be a two-parter, but they’re also written by different writers. Are the seeds being sown for Williams’ character to join the TARDIS and succeed Clara somewhere down the line, or would Game Of Thrones claim too much of her schedule?
Looking back at Last Christmas, Shona McCullough struck us as a character being set up for a return somewhere down the line. First seen staving off monsters by dancing and playing her leg like a guitar, actress Faye Marsay stole most of the scenes she was in and takes the unusual step of asking the Doctor out for a curry before she’s sent back to reality. Full disclosure – I’m a Teessider like Marsay, so I might be a bit biased there. (#UpTheBoro!)
Of course, we know that Michelle Gomez is pencilled in for a return as Missy next series. We can’t imagine a point where Clara would forgive her enough to even grudgingly travel in the TARDIS with her, but we can dream of the odd couple sitcom that would ensue with Capaldi and Gomez travelling together, right?
Or a bloke?
Going outside of rampant speculation and looking back to the kind of companions we’ve had before, maybe it’s time for another male companion. James Corden’s off doing The Late Late Show and his character really seems like the Eleventh Doctor’s BFF rather than someone the Twelfth might cherish as a pal. But an everyman character (like Craig, if not Craig) could bring a different dynamic. It’d be interesting to see the Doctor as a big brother type – again, we haven’t seen that sort of dynamic since the Fifth Doctor, who was more fraternal with Turlough or Adric.
Before we start praising the 5-Tegan-Turlough triad too much, it’s worth pointing out that a second companion could break the chain of present-day companion characters, uninterrupted since Captain Jack (unless you count River.)
All of time and space…
Robots like K9 and (to a much lesser extent) Kamelion are examples of additional companions alongside the audience viewpoint character in the classic series, (Tegan was the only human aboard the TARDIS for a while there) but even someone from the past or the future – a Jamie McCrimmon, a Leela, or some brilliant mix of alien Scottish girl from the future who alternately sword fights and poisons people without asking – could shake things up nicely.
If nothing else, we’re guaranteed at least another 12 episodes of Peter Capaldi and Jenna Coleman as the Doctor and Clara. While there’s always a danger of messing up the dynamic by introducing new characters, Doctor Who thrives on changing without ever completely forsaking its past, and a new companion alongside Clara could be a great way to insure that dynamic.
Follow our Twitter feed for faster news and bad jokes right here. And be our Facebook chum here.