March 20, 2015

The Companion Departures - #27 & #26 - Ben and Polly

Previously we mentioned that Dodo’s departure was so unsatisfying that it was actually done as a passing reference by other characters at the end of a story that Dodo disappears from halfway through. Those other characters were Ben and Polly, who communicated the news to the Doctor (and the audience) at the end of The War Machines.

It is somewhat ironic then that the same thing nearly happens to Ben and Polly. They disappear in the middle of (or rather, a third of the way through) The Faceless Ones, which is their final story. However, they fare better than Dodo in the departure sweepstakes because they do return at the end of the story to get a proper farewell scene. The farewell scene itself is actually fantastic - Ben and Polly realize that they have returned to Earth in the same day and in the same city that they accidentally stowed away in the TARDIS. Ben has a chance to catch ship to set sail (and one wonders if he’d try to see if he could stow Polly away on that ship as well!).

The only shame is that this scene is tacked on to the end of a story where the characters had disappeared for the previous four episodes (five in Polly’s case since Anneke Wills plays a doppleganger in episode 2). It is certainly not a story that is about their departure or their characters in any way. Their re-appearance at the end of the story which provides the wonderful final scene for the character feels like a cameo appearance by the time we get to it. As such, while it is a vast improvement over the likes of what happened to Dodo, it still isn’t one of the most satisfying companion departures.

March 19, 2015

The Companion Departures - #28 - Liz Shaw

Liz inevitably must come in towards the bottom of the list because she also didn’t get a proper depature scene. Unlike Ace, however, we at least know the fate of the character, having returned to Cambridge University to resume her research programme. And this is a very logical and understandable departure for her character, given that she never asked to join UNIT in the first place and given that when she was virtually conscripted into UNIT, it was because, initially, they needed a scientific advisor because they didn’t know that the Doctor was going to show up on their doorstep exiled to Earth. Once the Doctor arrived, Liz’s role with unit changed from Scientific Advisor to Assistant to the Scientific Advisor, which wasn’t even what she was drafted in for. It also made her position in UNIT to be somewhat redundant since the Doctor could also handle everything (and more) that Liz could scientifically-speaking. The fact that the Doctor didn’t need a scientist to be his assistant at UNIT is commented upon in Terror of the Autons episode one, the first story following Liz’s depature from the series, as the Brigadier repeats to the Doctor what Liz apparently remarked upon a number of times. It would make sense that after a year, Liz would be allowed to return to Cambridge to resume the career she actually wanted.

The only disappointment, and the reason this comes in so low, is the aforementioned lack of a farewell scene. Some have argued that there is one in Inferno part seven because the Doctor says “Goodbye Liz - I shall miss you” before going on to insult the Brigadier. But given that the Doctor’s back about 35 seconds later and he’s the one who stays (it’s him saying goodbye to her, not the other way round) it’s tough to take that as a proper farewell scene. The fact is the audience only discovers that Liz has left when Jo shows up in the next story and tells the Doctor “I’m your new assistant”. Liz’s departure works for her character and we do get a final image of her laughing, but her depature being announced by Jo the following year means that her departure can only be so high on this list.

March 18, 2015

The Companion Departures - #29 - Leela

While Mel’s departure may have been the most nonsensical and unmotivated departure in the series history, Leela’s must go down as the most out-of-character. The character never showed a hint of being interested in romance or showing any romantic feelings - not just throughout her one and a half seasons, but even during her final story, The Invasion of Time. They had 6 episodes in that story to build up a rapport between Leela and the character of Andred but failed to do so - mainly because producer Graham Williams (also the co-writer of this story) was so convinced that Louise Jameson would stay that he didn’t bother to properly write her out until the last minute when he realized that Jameson wasn’t bluffing and/or wasn’t going to changer her mind about leaving. After the two characters barely shared any screen time during the first five epsiodes, there are one or two scenes of Leela and Andred showing concern for each other in episode 6 during the course of the action and the next thing you know Leela is suddenly in love with Andred and has decided to leave the TARDIS.

Louise Jameson claims at the time asked for her character to be killed off rather than married off in such an unconvincing fashion. But even if marrying her off was the way to go (for the sake of a happier ending), they could at least have her fall in love with one of the Shebogans, as that might not have been so bad. The Shebogans, moreso than the Time Lord Guards in the Citadel, were clearly more Leela’s “type” of people and Leela sharing a romantic bond with one of them would have been more plausible. What we were left with was, sadly, not remotely convincing to anyone and a poor out-of-character departure for such a great character.

March 17, 2015

The Companion Departures - #30 - Dodo Chaplet

Dodo’s departure so ineffective that it occurs when being referenced in dialogue spoken by other characters, at which point we realize that she actually left two episodes ago.

And yet it still is not as bad as Mel’s departure (which shows you how bad I think Mel’s is). At the very least, we can understand why she decides to leave the TARDIS (because she has the chance to stay in her own time) which puts it above Mel’s departure at the very least. And in this case, it is the very least.

March 16, 2015

The Companion Departures - #31 - Melanie Bush

Melanie - known as Mel - wasn’t the most popular of companions, though her appearances in the audios proved to many that she could be a good companion.

But her unpopularity is not why she comes in last place for those companions who actually had a departure on screen. It’s simply because the departure itself is very poor - it feels tacked on to the end of a story, it doesn’t work dramatically and makes absolutely no sense with respect to the character. We aren’t given any idea as to what Mel’s motivation is at the end of Dragonfire to leave. The story is all about introducing Ace and not at all about Mel. As such there is no build-up for the departure at all, even though there is plenty of opportunity over three episodes to build up some sort of rapport between Mel and Glitz or at least provide something in the narrative to make Mel want to leave with Glitz when she does or at least decided to leave the Doctor when she does. Instead Mel bizarrely decides to leave the TARDIS on the spur of the moment for no readily apparent reason - and her choice is to leave the Doctor for another space traveler, albeit one she doesn’t like anywhere near as much, who’s morals often disgust her, and who’s ability to travel is very limited in comparison to the Doctor since Glitz can’t travel in time (suggesting she’ll never get back to her own time).  Script editor Andrew Cartmel never liked the character (one that he inherited) and that is obvious, but hardly an excuse to present such a unconvincing departure for one of the series regulars. The show as a whole (the one he was script editing) suffers in the credibility department as a result of this disinterest in, and dislike for, the character.

Basically, it is the most nonsensical of any on-screen departure for any companion, and that is why it comes in last place for companions that actually had an on-screen departure.

March 15, 2015

The Companion Departures - #32 Ace

As we wait for the next season to begin, we hope you will enjoy this countdown of the most effective departures of companions from Doctor Who. The plan is to run down from least satisfying to most satisfying exits that companions made from the show. For the purposes of this countdown, I am only including television companions (apologies to the audio’s, books and comic strips, but the list is long enough as it is). I am also not including the Brigadier,  Sgt. Benton, Captain Yates, River Song, Jackie, Grace, Kamelion or Adam - these characters didn’t really serve the traditional companion/assistant role and/or they weren’t regulars in the series. Basically I am using the traditional classic series companion list and updating it with the companions from the new series. Also the point is to try to look at each exit from a dramatic/narrative and characterization point of view - ie. was the departure effective dramatically and did it make sense for the character to leave in the way that they did? This not going to be an exercise in “I hated Mickey therefore his departure was the most effective because I was so glad to see him go”-type comments.

In last place, with the all-time least effective departure from the show is Ace, and that’s purely by default. She unfortunately never got a proper departure in the classic series - and not only was she deprived of a departure scene (as some of the others were) she didn’t get a proper ending in the series in terms of the audience knowing what her fate was or why she left the TARDIS. Her original departure in Set Piece (the New Adventures novel) was pretty effective and satisfying. If that story had been filmed for the tv series she would be much higher up on this list. But as I alluded to earlier, for the purposes of this series of posts, the spin-off’s don’t count. If they did, we’d be in a right conundrum with Ace because the various spin-off’s have each gone their own separate ways in explaining what happened to Ace. She leaves in the New Adventures with her health intact. The DWM comic strip, despite earlier featuring New Adventures continuity in its pages, went its own way and killed Ace off. The audios had Ace leave in the “Season 27” missing episode season (made to reflect what was going to happen if the classic series hasn’t ended with Season 26) but then brought her back later in the season. A spin-off tv series (The Sarah Jane Adventures) does suggest a possible fate for Ace in returning to Earth and running a charity (“A Charitable Earth”), although its explicitly stated that this is based unverifiable research on the internet, so that even then the viewer of the spin-off is not obliged to take that seriously if the viewer doesn’t want to. The overall point is, Ace’s departure has never been definitely told or even agreed upon in Doctor Who. That’s a shame for the character, and something that I think only the modern-day tv series proper can really address (but I’m not holding my breath waiting for that to happen). As such, Ace, through no fault of her own, takes up last place by default.

In our next installment though, we’ll find out who has the least satisfying on-screen exit.

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February 22, 2015

This is not a photo from the filming of the new season

Which is a shame, as doesn’t Jenna look lovely? She almost looks like a Magician’s Apprentice.

Possibly that or a Witch’s Familiar.

We’ll find out, though probably not until late August.

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February 01, 2015

Desert Island Hartnell

Another treat from the archives has been found. William Hartnell’s interview on Desert Island Discs, a famous BBC radio programme where celebrities were interviewed and indicated what records and other luxury items they would choose to have with them if they were stuck on a desert island, has been partially found. You can listen to 16 minutes of the interview here. The interview starts with music chosen by Hartnell and then the interview proceeds from there, with Doctor Who beginning to be discussed towards the end of the extract. It was recorded in 1965, at a time when Hartnell was playing the Doctor on television.

Hartnell’s appearance on Desert Island Discs has been known about for a long time, but no trace of it was found until now. There has been no word on the circumstances of its recovery. This is the second interview with Hartnell from the mid 1960’s to be found and released in the last few years - a filmed interview with Hartnell from 1966 (just after he finished playing the Doctor) was discovered by research Richard Bignell and included as an extra on The Tenth Planet DVD which came out late in 2013.

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January 24, 2015

Record-Breaking Year for Jenna Coleman?

The BBC announced after Last Christmas aired that Jenna Coleman will be back for the whole of the 2015 season. While we have to see if that will be true (at least in terms of the whole season), assuming it is Jenna might possibly be breaking a record for longest run as the “current” companion in the new series both in terms of the number of episodes and calendar years. Jenna has been the new companion since December 2012 (for the moment I am leaving aside the guest appearance in Asylum of the Daleks in August of that year since she wasn’t considered “the” companion at time). She did 11 new series episodes from December 2012 through December 2013, and followed that up with 13 more in 2014.  If she stays for the whole season (let’s say either 12 or 13 episodes, depending on whether they do another double-length episode as with Day of the Doctor & Deep Breath), that will put her at at least 36, possibly 37 new series episodes (and that’s with counting the double-length episodes as one). Billie Piper’s run as the current companion was 27 episodes. Karen Gillan as Amy did 33 (I am including Closing Time and The Doctor, the Widow and the Wardrobe in this run, since they are in the middle of her “era” and she does feature, albeit briefly as both). Neither Freema Agyeman nor Catherine Tate came close close to this, and of course Arthur Darvill’s duration as a companion was shorter than Karen Gillan. Assuming the season ends in November once again, she will also have been the current companion for at least 36 months (December 2012 through to November 2015). As such, if the BBC is true in their word, Jenna will break a couple of records.

When Moffat is involved though, it is always a big “if”.....

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December 26, 2014

Dreaming of a White Christmas

The 2014 Doctor Who Christmas special has aired. What did you all think of Last Christmas? So good that you must be dreaming? A horrible nightmare? A story worthy of a soundtrack by Tangerine Dream? Please let us know what you thought in the comments section, whether you had a white Christmas or not.

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