Saturday, October 18, 2014

Doctor Who Weekend: The Elusive Male Companion

Hello, Whovians and welcome to another Doctor Who Weekend.
Later tonight we have another ALL NEW episode of Doctor Who as we watch the TARDIS get small in Flatline. Can the writer who wrote last week’s extraordinarily good Mummy on the Orient Express do it again? The El family will find out in the company of fellow Whovians at Geeksboro Coffeehouse and Cinema this evening.
Looking back to last week’s episode, the Doctor found himself working with the very talented chief engineer of the Orient Express, a man named Perkins. The Doctor was so impressed by his skill and intelligence that he extended an offer for Perkins to travel in the TARDIS with him. Perkins declined, citing that travelling in something like the TARDIS “could change a man”. I hope we see Perkins again; there was something that was at once likeable and a bit sinister about him.
But the larger issue that the Doctor’s offer to Perkins sparked in my mind is the subject of male companions. When we think of the Doctor’s companion, we generally think female, young most likely, definitely pretty. Since the series’ in 2005, the companion has held close to those characteristics. With the exception of Donna Noble*, every female companion has been in her 20’s. Rose Tyler was established as 19 years old when she began travelling with the Doctor.
*Catherine Tate who portrayed Donna was older than David Tennant which I think is the first time the actress playing the companion was older than the actor playing the Doctor.
But with all these gals hanging out in the TARDIS, how have the men fared?
The idea of a male companion was right there from the very first episode with Ian Chesterton travelling with fellow teacher Barbara Wright and the Doctor’s granddaughter, Susan. The idea was that the Doctor being an older fellow might need someone younger and stronger to punch people for him. 

Eventually Ian gave way to Steven Taylor who in turn was replaced by Ben Jackson but the purpose of the male companion to punch people was still the same, perhaps even more so given William Hartnell’s failing health.

Patrick Troughton as the 2nd Doctor was a bit younger than Hartnell and was able to do more physical acting, mostly involving running. Still, the male companion was there to take on the brunt of any required action.  When Ben left, his replacement was the full embodiment of a take action kind of guy, a Scottish Highlander from the 16th Century named Jamie McCrimmon

Because Jamie was not from the present or future but from the past, he had more to learn than most companions. In addition to getting the hang of travelling in time and space, Jamie has to learn about electricity and indoor plumbing as well. Jamie was no dummy; he was a quick learner and possessed his own inherent wisdom. But mostly, Jamie was the one who took action while the Doctor was busy thinking about things.
With the advent of Jon Pertwee as the 3rd Doctor, there was for the first time only 1 companion, a female. (Although with an entire UNIT army in the background, who needs a male companion?) In fact the first male companion in 5 years was Dr. Harry Sullivan as played by Ian Marter for the 4th Doctor’s 1st season. 

Ian had been cast to play Harry before Tom Baker was cast to play the Doctor. At the time, there  was some consideration with going back to the paradigm of the older looking Doctor a la William Hartnell. If the producers did go in that direction, they were going to need somebody to punch people. But Tom Baker, then the youngest man ever cast to play the Doctor, clearly and quickly established that he could punch people his own darn self, thank you much. So Harry was written out after Tom’s first season.

This time it would take about six years before another male companion made it on board; unfortunately that companion was Adric. Not a lot of people liked Adric which is why he is also on the short list of companions actually killed. Adric was scary good at math; he was also good at saying stupid things, believing in stupid things and overall just being stupid. But Adric has the distinction of being the only male companion who was the ONLY companion in an episode, in this case The Keeper of Traken*.

*Yes, Nyssa was in that episode but she wasn't intended at that time to be a companion and wouldn't come along as one until Logopolis. So us Adric haters have another reason to be annoyed by the little...urgh!) 

The last male companion in the classic era was Turlough, a rule breaking prep school student (who looked way too old for prep school) who was really an alien from another world. Turlough came on board with a secret mission to kill the Doctor. He eventually does not, possibly because he was moved by the Doctor's goodness or he just sucked at killing people. But even after the secret assassin thing came to an end, Turlough always had a bit of a creepy vibe about him. 

And yes, Turlough was the only companion going into Planet of Fire but Peri was present in the episode for the purpose of becoming a companion unlike Nyssa in Traken so...sorry. Don't blame me! I really don't want to give this to Adric!

OK, this is a LOT of words on this subject and we haven't gotten to the series relaunch in 2005. So join me here next week for part 2 of our search for...The Elusive Male Companion.


Tomorrow: more Doctor Who stuff as I review yesterday's episode, Flatline. Until then, remember to be good to one another.

I'm So Glad My Suffering Amuses You

Carl Kasell

I was saddened to hear of the death of Carl Kasell, a distinctive voice on NPR’s "Morning Edition" and "Wait, Wait ... Don...