Doctor Who: The Top Five Ben & Polly Adventures - Warped Factor - Words in the Key of Geek.

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Doctor Who: The Top Five Ben & Polly Adventures

Moo revisits an underrated pair of wonderful companions.

It’s going to be exciting this Christmas when the First Doctor returns to match wits with the Twelfth as they both share one last adventure together. A full-length multi-Doctor crossover with the classic era for the first time ever, how much more exciting can you get than that! Not to mention the impending debut of Jodie Whittaker’s incarnation making history and the emotional tour de force that Peter Capaldi is sure to offer as he hands the proverbial torch to her. And there’s also the small matter of Bill Potts returning to get some much-needed closure. Oh, and it’s also the end of the run for Steven Moffat as showrunner, someone whose writing it’s no secret that I will miss seeing.

Perhaps because of all these milestones happening at once it’s got lost in the mix somewhere that the First Doctor’s final companions Ben Jackson and Polly Wright (played by Michael Craze and Anneke Wills respectively, as well as by Elliot Chapman on audio) are coming back with him, and I’m looking forward to seeing them again. It’s unclear how big a role they’ll have but it’s good to have them there all the same, now played by Jared Garfield and Lily Travers.

So with their impending return on the horizon, join me as I take a look back at five of the best stories to feature these two companions! For sake of argument, I’ve put them in chronological order.

1. The War Machines
By Ian Stuart Black and Kit Pedler

Ben & Polly get an excellent debut story to close William Hartnell’s final full season. Polly is introduced first and given more prominence and, with her being a woman and this the 1960s, that’s fairly progressive for the era. She marks herself out as new companion material from the start, making a gurning face at the camera in mockery at her sexist boss before turning to face him with a faux smile. Ben shows up later on as the show’s first steps into having working class characters get properly involved with the stories. The rest of this serial is pretty poor but these two new companions work really well and establish what would later become normal: For the first time ever, the companions are young and contemporary.

2. The Plague Of Dreams
By Guy Adams

Even as recent as 2017 these two have been getting new stories in the audio medium through Big Finish. This one concludes the Companion Chronicles boxset dedicated to Doctor Number One and does so in style. It’s an experimental story, which plays up to the tropes of the medium. Polly is made to perform the story by a man of the Doctor's race for an unseen audience (that’s us) and they each keep reminding the other one to do the different voices and spice up the cliffhanger. It’s so delightfully meta and such an experimental look at how the audio medium can be used to tell stories. I don’t feel like I can really do justice to how clever The Plague Of Dreams is without spoiling it, such as a genius use of the revived series to influence the classics, so what I’ll say is that you should just get hold of a copy of this story and listen to it right away. (The other three stories in this boxset aren’t nearly as good, just so you know.)

3. The Power of the Daleks
By David Whitaker

If you didn’t expect to see The Power of the Daleks here from the moment you saw this article's title then I don’t really know what to say to you. While this serial is missing completely we do at least have last years animated release allowing us to see it properly. For the first time ever there was a new Doctor! Patrick Troughton makes his mark instantly and has Daleks on hand to help audiences accept that he’s still the same Doctor that William Hartnell played. But part of why this first regeneration works so well is because of Ben & Polly. They’re only three TV serials in by now, but that’s 12 episodes of material. They’ve become well established to the audiences watching at home by this point and so they help to usher in a major change by being a constant that remains in place. Their initial skepticism of Troughton reminds you that you can be too, and once they accept the Second Doctor it means we can and should as well. How well did it work? It was more than five decades ago, that’s how well. In short, the show is still going because Ben & Polly were in it.

4. The Yes Men
By Simon Guerrier

Another Big Finish outing, this time with a full cast as part of their Early Adventures series. The plot sees the Doctor, Jamie, Ben, and Polly arrive on a world that the Doctor remembers visiting in his first incarnation but that has now lost its way since he left. Jamie and Ben are kidnapped by robots that enslave then in retaliation for human treatment of their kind, while the Doctor and Polly reunite with the person he helped out before. It’s a rare example of a story where the Doctor’s previous actions come back to get him, and his three companions, all relatively new, are confronted with the fact that he doesn’t always get it right. The Yes Men is a really fun story that I recommend to everyone.

5. The Faceless Ones
By David Ellis and Malcolm Hulke

Unfortunately for their final story Ben & Polly get a bit sidelined (which is an ironic ‘punishment’ for them considering how Dodo was treated in their debut). Luckily their final scene with the Doctor works really well. They realise that they’re back in London on the exact same day they left in the TARDIS in the first place, meaning they can go back to their lives from before as though they’d never left. But not exactly the same, because they have each other now and all their shared adventures. As they bid goodbye to the Doctor and Jamie (who go off into another Dalek adventure with lots of death, so they timed their exit well) it’s not with sadness but with a new understated optimism for a shared future together, a future which The Sarah Jane Adventures would establish is still ongoing to this day. If that doesn’t capture what being the Doctor’s companion is all about then I don’t know what does!

BONUS: Twice Upon A Time
By Steven Moffat

I know it hasn’t aired yet, but it’s worth mentioning to finish. Ben & Polly are back at Christmas. We live in a world where I can write that sentence not as a joke or as wild speculation but as definitive proven truth. We probably won’t see them outside of the recreations of scenes from “The Tenth Planet”. But I hope we do get some new material with them. We know from interviews with David Bradley that the First Doctor will interact with the Twelfth Doctor’s companion Bill. Why not the other way round? As long as Twelve keeps his true identity hidden from them then the timeline remains intact and we get some more amazing fan-service in an episode already filled to bursting with it. But whatever happens, seeing these two companions from the 1960s return is an exciting prospect to look forward to!

What's your favourite Ben and Polly story? Let us know in the comments below.

“Moo” is the pseudonym used by this Doctor Who fan. He can usually be found procrastinating by thinking about Doctor Who. Follow him on Twitter @z_p_moo for more of his unusual takes, but do so at your own risk.

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