Doctor Who: Series 9 - The Time Of The Penguin

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Wil is never giving up on the dream...


Who's the best companion the Doctor has ever had? Sarah Jane perhaps? Jamie? Maybe Amy and Rory? Clara? Adric? (I'm kidding, I'm kidding). What about further afield, Lucie Miller? Evelyn Smythe? Nope, none of them. There is another who, in my mind, is superior, and he is long overdue a renaissance.

From the moment I first discovered Doctor Who, at the tender age of 5ish, I was hooked. By the time I was old enough to grasp most of what was going on, and not just be content with running around shouting "Exterminate" or strapping on a cardboard box and pretending to be K9 (there are pictures), Tom Baker was in his final stretch. Soon he had a tower to fall from, and was rewarded with one heck of a face lift.

There was my Doctor. The Vet in Space, as the paper's called him. From that moment I lived and breathed the series. Everything revolved around Doctor Who! They moved the show to weekdays, I said I couldn't go to Cubs on a Monday anymore as I simply couldn't miss the series. Mum and I had words. I cried. I won. Sorry Mum.

If I didn't get the Doctor Who Annual at Christmas my parent's knew there would be hell to pay - I did, so it was OK (thinking back I must've been a real handful. Sorry again Mum). My brother and I would squabble over the household copy of Doctor Who Weekly/Monthly/Magazine - actually fights would take place if there was a freebie attached to the issue. In short, Doctor Who played a huge part in my young life.

When the Fifth Doctor's innings were over, and he traded in his cricket attire for Joseph's technicoloured dreamcoat I embraced the change. Eager and excited for more new adventures in time and space. It was soon after that I realised not everyone felt the same way about Doctor Who as I did, and worse than that, the people who were broadcasting the series seemed to dislike it so much that they wanted to take it away from me.

As the show was 'rested' I went out to buy the Doctor In Distress single. My local record shop didn't have it, much to the delight of my family, no doubt. So with no new television adventures to discover, and years before Big Finish audio stories, I turned to the pages of the Target novelisations and the comic strips featured in Doctor Who Magazine. That was when my mind was blown wide open...


Frobisher, a shape changing Whifferdill, companion to the Sixth and Seventh Doctor is amongst the greatest things to happen to Doctor Who. We first meet him as a short pale yellow humanoid, with a round featureless head and wearing spectacles. However, he preferred to spend most of his free time in the form of a penguin.


There's a story behind the penguin look. It's not just a random choice. Frobisher was a private investigator calling himself "Avan Tarklu" (a play on the phrase "Haven't a clue" - he took the name Frobisher as he thought it sounded British, and figured the Doctor would like it). He was once married to Francine, another Whifferdill, who left him because she was a better detective than he was. Frobisher was very fond of her in penguin form, and so adopted it to remind himself of her. How sweet is that? Best backstory ever!
 
Frobisher did something very special for me. He opened up the realm of Doctor Who possibility that had never properly occurred in my head beforehand. Sure, on TV the Doctor would travel to some weird and wonderful places and meet equally weird and wonderful nemesis', but Frobisher was unique. A shape changing companion, a talking penguin with a killer personality, well that's a concept that just couldn't ever work on television... well not 1980s television. Suddenly, the world of Doctor Who had infinite possibility.

The comic strip became my favourite part of the magazine, and from The Shape Shifter thru A Cold Day In Hell, Frobisher was what I looked forward to the most. He very quickly became, and has always remained my favourite ever Doctor Who companion. And then, after reading the pages of Doctor Who Magazine #133, privately I had a little cry...


Yeah, I'm man enough to admit to that now.

Frobisher appeared again in various graphic novels, specials, stories and audio adventures, but he's still never had the proper recognition he deserves. He's never joined the Doctor on screen. And it really is time. It is 2015 and we have the technology.

Just imagine the possibility of Frobisher joining the TARDIS crew. To start with he would not have to be a CGI penguin the entire time, he's a shape-shifter so let him take a semi-regular humanoid form, let him be a chair or a hatstand. From a production point of view, the show seems to like to cast famous guest stars for nearly every episode, but sometimes it's hard to know what to do with these so called 'stunt-castings'. Well hello Frobisher! Have him take on the appearance of this weeks celeb, for whatever reason Moffat might dream up. However they chose to make use of him, in whatever way, as long as the penguin is there at some times I'd be happy.

Frobisher is a detective, pair him up with this sleuthing deducing Twelfth Doctor and we have the potential for an almost 'buddy cop' relationship between them. It would be like a science fiction Holmes/Watson match-up, just with one of them occasionally turning into Peter Dinklage, or Aiden Turner, or Jim Broadbent, or Elton John (!) or ...or...or taking the form of a previous Doctor to fool that weeks villain! Genius. At last, a way to get Paul McGann back for a cameo without having to explain any continuity issues.

The mere thought of Peter Capaldi and Frobisher together has me giddy with delight. In fact, when Capaldi appeared as John Frobisher in Torchwood: Children Of Earth I was longing for him to morph into the penguin each and every night. Alas, it was not to happen.

So now, as the Twelfth Doctor and Clara get ready to set off on a new series of adventures, and the speculation echoes around the internet that another companion will join them on board, surely we have finally reached the time of the penguin?


Geek. Lover. Fighter. Dwarf. Follow Wil on Twitter.
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