Doctor Who Blog

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.

3 Comments...

Huh.  I don’t particularly like Mel’s departure for the reasons similar to those you mention, but it’s a pretty standard companion write-out.  They have this episode and she stays behind for no good reason, similar to Nyssa or Romana or Leela or Victoria or Vicki or Susan.  It’s dumb, but it’s no Dodo.

Posted by Darcy Casselman  on  03/16  at  01:55 PM

Without wishing to spoil the future entries that are coming(many of which have already been written), I agree that a couple of the other companions you mention did have flimsy reasons for leaving - which specific ones will be covered in the next few entries, but even then I would rank “flimsy reason” as better than “no reason whatsoever”, which is the case with Mel. I’m not quite sure how Nyssa’s decision to stay on Terminus to help cure millions from a deadly disease or Romana deciding to stay in E-space to help free Tharils from slavery (and avoid being sent back to Gallifrey in the process) can be labelled as leaving for “no good reason”. As for Susan, it has to be pointed out that she doesn’t so much leave as the Doctor forces her to stay behind, which is a huge difference.

Posted by Luca  on  03/16  at  07:12 PM

To be fair, the Doctor did give her a nice farewell speech, which Steven Moffat has praised.

(As I’m sure many of you know, the speech was originally written for use in Sylvester McCoy’s audition and he liked it enough to request its use in the actual show.)

Posted by Curt  on  03/17  at  09:29 PM

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