This Easter weekend saw the hour that Whovians around the country have been waiting for all year: the return of Doctor Who. It's now in its seventh series since the 2005 relaunch, with this also being it's 50th anniversary year. We restarted with episode six of the series and the arrival of a new companion. This is always a big deal in the Whovian world -- and I’d like to introduce Clara Oswald in the context of some favourite companion moments from recent years.
In the first half of series seven we had said goodbye to Amy and Rory, companions of the eleventh incarnation of the Doctor -- played by Matt Smith since series five. This was in The Angels of Manhattan, an episode where Amy and Rory are both displaced in time by one of the Doctor’s most terrifying opponents – a weeping angel.
Fans of the show went on quite a journey with Amy Pond, seeing her first as a little girl bewitched by ‘the man in the blue box’ right through to her reveal as the mother of the Doctor’s wife, River Song. Amy was a sassy, cheeky companion, and through her character we have seen the focus on the Doctor’s companion grow. This was apparent in many episodes revolving around Amy’s relationships with Rory, the Doctor, her daughter and her childhood fears. But the curious, mischievous Amy was finally forced to choose between her sweetheart Rory, who devotedly watched over her for almost over two millennia when Amy was trapped inside the Pandorica, and the Doctor -- whom she has idolized since she was a small child.
So, as with all the Doctor’s companions, Amy and Rory’s time came to an inevitable end. Cue the introduction of Clara Oswald, played by Jenna-Louise Coleman, who already seems to have blown fans away as the Doctor’s new companion. She was first introduced in the initial episode of series seven as Oswin Oswald, a woman who had unknowingly been turned into a Dalek cyborg. Jenna-Louise then featured in the 2012 Christmas special The Snowmen, as Clara Oswald. In Victorian England, Clara is seemingly a second incarnation of Oswin, a governess who is intrigued by the strange behaviour of the snow and from there is drawn into the Doctor’s adventure. Clara is a highly intelligent character who frequently seems to be one step ahead of the Doctor and – even more impressively – also seems to be able to talk at a faster rate than him too. Her reunion with the Doctor sees her meeting a second demise by the end of the festive episode.
The death of the companion has been a common fate of the Doctor’s trusted friends, including the deaths of Katarina, Adelaide Brooke, Astrid Peth, Adric and Kamelion. So the fact that the Doctor’s new companion has died twice, in as many times as she has been in contact with him, is an interesting comment on the traditional relationship between the Doctor and his companions. As with Donna Noble and Rose Tyler, even if the companions don’t meet an untimely end, there is always an element of sacrifice when the characters do have to part from their enigmatic Tardis-traveller.
In the most recent episode, The Bells of St John, we see the Doctor searching for 'The Woman Twice Dead’, trying to work out exactly who she is. He finds Clara again in the role of a governess, but this time in modern-day England. In this episode Wi-Fi is the enemy of the human race, as people’s souls are being uploaded to the Internet, where they then find themselves stuck in a state of confusion within a virtual hell. Throughout this episode, the Doctor is clearly enchanted by Clara and does his utmost to protect her. This is also symbolic of the relationship we have come to understand between the Doctor and his companions. He invests in them emotionally, and cares about their well-being -- often selecting companions who he knows has a thirst for travel, humans whose horizons he can help to expand. He is as protective of them individually as he is of the human race as a whole.
But Clara already seems destined to turn the Doctor-companion relationship on its head, as the Doctor is already as perplexed and fascinated by his new friend as she is with him. Clara certainly has the Doctor sussed out from the beginning, making comments such as ‘Do you just crook your finger and people jump in your snog box and fly away?’ and ‘You don’t have a plan?’ Questioning and challenging the Doctor in ways that previous companions haven’t.
So the 50th year of Doctor Who heralds a new companion and new adventures. And we have a particular fondness at Tor Towers for Doctor Who, given that our author Paul Cornell has written for the show! Rumour also has it that we will also be seeing the faces of some familiar friends reappearing in the special 3D 50th Anniversary episode...
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To find out more about the Doctor’s new companion here or read up on his previous companions here. You can also read about my own experience of The Doctor Who Experience exhibition last year here.