To look to the future, Dr. Moo looks to the past.
It’s official: We have a new companion! Pearl Mackie will be playing someone called…
Really? Bill was the best name you could come up with?
Okay then Moffat, if you say so! I’ll trust that the Moff knows what he’s doing. He’s not let me down yet (The Doctor, the Widow and the Wardrobe notwithstanding) so I’m sure we can expect good things. So let’s look to her predecessors shall we? Just what I’m calling the six “Major Companions” here – Rose, Martha, Donna, Amy, Rory, and Clara – before moving on to what we know about the seventh: Pearl Mackie’s Bill.
Rose is a girl from modern London who stumbles upon the Doctor by accident when he saves her life. She comes from fairly ordinary circumstances but manages to become someone quite extraordinary through meeting the Ninth Doctor. She’s the person who almost single-handedly helps him recover from the Time War and his perceived double-genocide that ended it. She’s also prepared to question him for his actions, something that had only occasionally been seen in the classic era. She’s in it for the adventure but also, unlike any of the classic companions, has herself some responsibilities. She doesn’t want to stay away from her mother for too long, she worries and genuinely cares for her. When it looks like she has the chance to save her dad from dying young she takes it and her eventual failure to save him for more than an afternoon hits home hard.
It’s when the Doctor regenerates in her presence that things change. She fancies the new Tenth Doctor and his feelings are mutual, so the two embark upon an unspoken romance and become, in the eyes of some, insufferably smug because of it. When she’s separated from him and stranded in a parallel world she spends the next few years trying to find a way back, and eventually gets one when the Daleks and Davros return. After witnessing the Doctor’s meta-crisis regeneration and seeing the SecondTenth Doctor (as I like to call him) commit genocide she is returned to the parallel world and left with him. He, like the Ninth Doctor, has committed an atrocity for the greater good and since Rose helped the Ninth Doctor recover she is tasked with doing the same for the SecondTenth Doctor.
With that her story comes full circle, but that’s not the last we see of her. We see her again when the Tenth Doctor regenerates, again, and she becomes the last person he sees before the end, paying her a visit as 2005 is beginning before she met him. Then when the Eleventh Doctor was briefly dying and the TARDIS generated an image of her he demanded it show him someone else because of his guilt. That, I think, is telling.
Medical student Martha Jones first meets the Doctor after he stakes out her hospital in an investigation of alien activity only to find the entire place moved to the Moon. The Doctor is first drawn to Martha by her scientific expertise and it’s with her help that he finds out where the Plasmavore is hiding to stop her escaping Judoon judgement. When he visits her that evening and invites her aboard the TARDIS it comes as little surprise to anyone that she accepts.
Martha had a tough time on the TARDIS to an extent that very few companions ever had. She was there when the TARDIS got taken by Weeping Angels, she was there for an ungrateful Doctor when he posed as schoolmaster John Smith, she spent a whole year on the run as a wanted criminal with her family being tortured by the Master… she had it tougher than any companion before her, with the possible exceptions of Steven and Tegan.
Martha had feelings for the Doctor (that’s original RTD, change it up a bit next time) but unlike with Rose they were not reciprocated. When she finally left his company it was because she realised he didn’t feel the same way despite how much he’d been leading her on (a big snog, suggesting they share a bed, and that’s after just two stories). This wasn’t the last we saw of her though; she had grown from her experiences and started to lend her medical experience to both UNIT and Torchwood fighting the good fight for the protection of Earth. She fancied the Doctor but unlike Rose she could live without him. When she finally settled down with someone it was Mickey Smith, another person whose love life had been interrupted by the romance of Ten and Rose. Draw whatever conclusion from that “coincidence” that you like.
Donna Noble was a refreshing breath of fresh air; after two love interests in a row she was there as a friend and nothing more. She was in the TARDIS entirely with the purpose to see the universe, having turned the Doctor’s offer down once, she was never letting that happen to her again. She and the Doctor had a great relationship of being just two best mates having fun and occasionally saving the universe.
Donna’s story is ultimately a tragic one though, as when she gets left behind in the TARDIS after the meta-crisis regeneration she effectively becomes a whole new incarnation of the Doctor, but her human brain is not permitted to keep the memory of this fact or it will burn. With that the Doctor is forced to wipe her mind of him so that she can never remember him.
This tragedy is one of the hardest to watch as a viewer because of all the character development that gets thrown out the window. Donna starts off as the stereotypical gossiping, celeb scandal, soap viewing type – we all know someone like her – but with the Doctor she grows. She learns about the complexities of the universe and how much more there is to life than celebrities and instant dinners and becomes the hero more than even the Doctor does to so many. To Caecillius, to the Ood, to the greatest crime writer of all time, to Miss Evangelista, and when the Daleks show up to destroy reality it’s she who stops them most effectively. All of this is gone in an instant and Donna is back to her closed-bubble of a worldview as if it never happened.
Go grab your tissues now. I’ll wait.
Even after all this she still continues to help the Doctor on a subconscious level. She’s the one who points him, via Wilfred, to the Naismiths where he will find the Master and Rassilon. It’s once again Donna who saves the universe from the Time War restarting. When the dying Doctor gives her a winning lottery ticket on her wedding day there isn’t a dry eye in the house. The tragedy of Donna Noble is seeing her true potential lost but we got to see it for what little time it lasted and will never forget it.
Amy Pond and Rory Williams
Karen Gillan and Arthur Darvill
Two for the price of one now! Amy Pond is the first person the Eleventh Doctor met and became something of a defining figure in his life. When she comes aboard the TARDIS she too fancies him, but he puts a stop to it by getting her fiancee Rory to join them. The three of them were one of the most fun TARDIS teams ever in the history of the show, just three friends having adventures in time and space.
Amy and Rory are very much in love with each other, and when Rory spends the best part of 2000 years protecting her you see just how seriously he takes the duties of the husband. The two of them make a love story for the ages, The Girl Who Waited and The Last Centurion, and when the Doctor sees them slow dancing at their wedding his happiness at their happiness is our happiness too.
Amy and Rory are both total badasses. Mess with Amy and she’ll let you know it, mess with Rory and you’ll never see the light of day again. Amy has been known to survive on her own for 40 years against a load of killer robots and even made her own sonic screwdriver while she was at it. Rory once infiltrated a Cybermen Legion and blew them all up. He then proceeded to knock out Hitler.
When they are taken from the Doctor by the touch of a Weeping Angel the effect it has on him is devastating, and after everything he’s been through with them it’s hardly a shock that he calls off his life of adventuring to go into mourning over them. Even after Clara helps him recover from this he still feels sad about how Amy left him, so when he hallucinates her in his death it hardly should come as a surprise that it was Amy he thought of over everyone else.
The circumstances in which the Doctor met Clara were very strange and made her unique from the start. First he met Oswin Oswald and she died in the Dalek Asylum. Then in Victorian London he met Clara Oswin Oswald, and offered her to come with him, but she died too. Then in 2013 he met a nanny named Clara Oswald (no Oswin this time), after saving her from the Great Intelligence she became his companion and helped him out of his dark place of mourning. The Doctor and Clara clearly fancied each other but had an unspoken agreement not to act upon it.
With Clara he saves submarines and amusement parks, fights ghosts and gods, enters the centre of the TARDIS, saves some children and then, just for good measure, saves Gallifrey itself from the Time War. It is in fact only by Clara’s appeals that the Doctor decides to find another way to end the war. When he reaches old age on Trenzalore it is Clara who demands the Time Lords give him a new set of regenerations.
And then the Eleventh Doctor is gone and the much older Twelfth Doctor is born. With the new incarnation she has to deal with his very different behaviour. Twelve is less “user friendly” on first appearances, so Clara has to help him. He’s unsure of himself and Clara has to be the one to prove to him that he’s still a good man.
Clara develops as a character with this Doctor and becomes more and more like him. She’s learning to lie, keeping secrets and living a double life with both the Doctor and her boyfriend Danny Pink. She even initially pretends he’s still alive after he dies! Once he’s gone she grows increasingly reckless and tries harder and harder to be like the Doctor, but when she goes too far and takes Rigsy’s chronolock the consequences finally catch up with her and she’s forced to face the raven.
Her influence on helping the Doctor is enough for him to manipulate his way into the Presidency of Gallifrey just to get her back, not unlike a toddler having a temper tantrum, and when it goes wrong and his memories of her are wiped it’s his own fault. Then Clara goes back to Gallifrey to accept her death once again – but she decides to go there the long way round in a stolen TARDIS. Even in death she couldn’t stop being the Doctor. It was like an addiction and the way it ultimately cost her her life says it all. It made her a fascinating character.
Did you feel that? Ooh, that’s exciting! A companion after Clara Oswald – that’s new and I like it!
From the short scene we got – nice, in your face, here’s the new companion, BOOM! – it looks like Bill is going to be one of the greats. There was fast dialogue, funny but not forced or awkward, and good chemistry with Peter Capaldi’s Doctor. Bill asks questions, she presses for information from the Doctor. She ticks boxes for both increased diversity and great personality but without making either feel forced.
She’s even got eyebrows to rival Capaldi!!!
More “attitude” in the TARDIS is a good thing. Clara knew all the Doctors and so we didn’t really get anything questioning whether he could be trusted. Bill doesn’t have that background so it will be good to see a new side to Twelve because of it. She reminds me a bit of Ace, and people have already noted she looks like she may be from the past, possibly the eighties going by her fashion choices and the Doctor’s comment on going back to the future meaning 2017. The change to a companion from an era other than the present – the companion taken out of time – would make for a nice change (we haven’t had one from the past in a very long time now).
So what do we know about Bill? Not a lot but Pearl seems lovely, good-natured, with a sense of humour and just the right amount of nervousness. Despite a conspicuous lack of TV credits she has done lots of acclaimed theatre work (which due to performing live with a total lack of editing could be suggested requires more acting ability than TV or film) so we’re definitely in safe hands.
Clara left a big impression but if anyone can fill the Jenna Coleman shaped hole in the show then Pearl Mackie is that person. I for one look forward to seeing her in action and welcome a new addition to the show. I can’t wait to meet Bill properly; whether that’s at Christmas or in the season premiere remains to be seen, but I say the sooner the better!
Bring me the Bill please. (I’m not even slightly sorry for that one.)
When he's not obsessing about Doctor Who whilst having I Am The
Doctor play in his head, Dr. Moo can usually be found reading up on the
latest in Quantum Physics. As you do when you're a physicist.