In celebration of the upcoming “Doctor Who” 50th Anniversary Special, we at Literally, Darling decided to compile a list of the best 50 characters from the record-breaking sci-fi series. Enjoy!
(Characters are listed in no particular order.)
1. Sarah Jane Smith
The only (human) companion thus far to appear in both Classic and New Who, Sarah Jane captured the the Third Doctor’s heart with her curiosity and her penchant for investigative journalism. Years later, she recaptured the Tenth Doctor’s heart the same way when she guest starred in the episode “School Reunion.” Courageous and resourceful, Sarah Jane’s curiosity was one of the best things she brought to the TARDIS, complementing the Third Doctor’s natural affinity for science extremely well. She’s also the only human companion to have received her own spin-off series, “The Sarah Jane Adventures.”
2. Martha Jones
The Doctor’s second female companion of the new series, Martha was clever and very smart, in addition to being in training to be a medical doctor. Admittedly she was shafted several times by both the writers and the Doctor, but Martha’s dedication to the Doctor never wavered. She has arguably had the most difficult tasks of any companion in either series, from keeping his human self safe in “Family of Blood,” to traveling around the world in the year that never was, the Doctor asked more of Martha than he did of anyone else and she always came through for him brilliantly.
The Third Doctor’s main mode of transportation when he was stuck in exile on earth with UNIT, Bessie wasn’t quite as sassy as the TARDIS, but she definitely made herself known. Bright yellow, everyone except the Doctor was usually skeptical of her ability to well, function, but function she did, in another example of Classic Who’s ingenuity in giving life and personality to non-speaking objects.
4. Donna Noble
Originally a one-off character, until Catherine Tate decided she wanted to return to the series. Full of heart, Donna cared about the Doctor and other people and was the first New Who companion other than Mickey who wasn’t actually romantically interested in the Doctor—not that it stopped the running gag of “You two are married, aren’t you?” She brought a very human side of the Doctor out and reminded him as well as the viewers the fun side of time and space travel, it was easy to see why she wanted to keep on doing so forever.
5. The T.A.R.D.I.S.
The Doctor’s constant companion throughout all of his adventures, the TARDIS may not be perfect, but she’s perfect for the Doctor. From disobeying his requests to refusing to dematerialize properly, the TARDIS is probably the sassiest mode of transportation to have ever graced a TV screen, and we love her for that. With beeps and clicks that only the Doctor apparently understands, she may not always take him where he wants to go, but as she herself said, he always ends up where he needed to be.
6. Amy Pond
More than just a sexy set of legs, Amy had the patience of a saint, the flirtiness of a flapper and the Scottish sass to top it all off. A runaway like the Doctor at first, it was with the help of the Doctor and her beloved Rory that she finally stopped running away from herself and was able to face the music. Of course, that didn’t stop her adventurous spirit and she continued to journey through space and time with “her boys.”
The best quote I’ve ever read about Ace is that “She’s who River Song wants to be when she grows up.” The last companion to be featured in the Classic series, Ace has a penchant for explosives, particularly Nitro 9, which she makes herself. She is also a feisty loudmouth. Picked up by the Doctor out of her own space and time after falling through a rift, Ace was about as different to her predecessor Mel Bush, a.k.a “The Screamer,” as you could get. Ace is tough as nails, determined and refuses to call the Doctor anything but “Professor,” which for Sylvester McCoy seemed oddly fitting.
8. Rory Williams
Adorable, dorky, naive and with a heart of gold, Rory was in some ways the opposite of his spitfire wife Amy, and a much-needed male presence on the TARDIS with the Doctor. He perfectly balanced Amy out and was also the calmer voice of reason for both his wife and the flighty and sometimes impulsive Doctor, not to mention River Song. Plus, he had an adorable collection of puffy vests.
9. Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart
Next to Sarah Jane, the Brigadier is the most prolific companion of the Classic series. First introduced in the Second Doctor era, he became a main cast member during the Third Doctor’s stay on earth with UNIT, and they clashed beautifully. He was the perfect foil for the scientifically and careful minded Doctor, with strength, military prowess and a tendency to bomb first and ask questions later. However, the Brigadier’s loyalty was absolutely unwavering and he would always go above and beyond, both for his men in UNIT and to help the Doctor, whom he trusted absolutely.
10. River Song
She’s the Eleventh Doctor’s true love, and the most confusing character timeline since Mel Bush. River’s crackshot marksmanship and trademark “Hello Sweetie” helped her find her way into the Doctor’s hearts and ours as well. Tough, determined and willing to rip apart time and space for what she believed in, River always knew what she wanted and was unafraid to go for it. The mystery of who she was and how she ended up in the Doctor’s life was a mystery that kept us guessing for two whole seasons, ever since her first appearance and death in “Silence in the Library.”
The Doctor’s incomparable robotic dog, absolutely obedient and indispensable to the TARDIS crew on adventures. K-9, like the Doctor, went through “regenerations,” and always came back as his next “Mark,” ie. Mark I, Mark II, etc. Smart and eager, K-9 was friendly and, like a true canine, loyal till the end.
12. Wilfred Mott
Donna’s grandfather and the Tenth Doctor’s final companion, Wilf as he was affectionately called, seemed a little batty sometimes, but in truth was far from it. He saw the world in a different way than most people and was perceptive and kind, traits which he was able to pass on to his granddaughter, to whom he served as a father figure in the absence of her real dad. His sympathy was his greatest quality and it was always interesting to see where he’d next pop up in the Doctor’s life.
13. Mike Yates
Just as the Brigadier was the perfect foil for the Doctor in his days with UNIT, Yates was the complement to the Brigadier. He provided a more human and caring side of UNIT, always looking out for others and going out of his way to be kind to Jo and the Doctor, helping in their adventures whenever he could.
14. Captain Jack Harkness
A fabulous, omnisexual, immortal alien from the Boeshane Peninsula, Jack’s character goes from flirty and lighthearted to a determined warrior in the blink of an eye. He’s really revolutionary for Who as he is the first major non-heterosexual character in the entire series, a breakthrough for the program and the far less-restrictive TV censorship rules in the 21st century.
15. Tegan Jovanka
By no means the Doctor’s first non-English companion, Tegan was a talkative and smart flight attendant from Australia who accidentally wandered into the TARDIS mistaking it for a real police box on her way to the airport. Swept up in the Doctor’s activities, it made a real refreshing change for the program not to have an English accent on screen, though her companions were all from other planets and in some cases, other dimensions.
16. Sally Sparrow
Very few one-time characters are actually able to carry an episode by themselves, and Sally did so beautifully. The protagonist of “Blink,” which was both a Doctor and Companion-lite episode, Sally fought the Weeping Angels and watched them take the people she loved, but that only made her more determined in the end. Watching her communicate with the Doctor across space and time was an interesting change of pace for the show and she was actually a protagonist who fit very well with the Doctor Who mythos. She also would have made an excellent companion, and I would still be very interested to see her pop up again in a future season.
17. Romana I
Introduced in the Fourth Doctor’s “Key to Time” arc, Romana was the second Time Lord companion of the Doctor and she didn’t take any of his nonsense. She often played the voice of reason in the show but borderlined on killjoy sometimes. That is, until the end of the first season when she regenerated into Lalla Ward’s Romana II, with a completely different personality. Still, Romana I was a great contrast to Tom Baker’s Fourth Doctor and K9, and it was fun for viewers to see another Time Lord as a companion again.
18. Astrid Peth
A one-off Doctor Who special character, not a companion, but brimming with the potential of becoming one. She’s another girl hard on her luck who took off to see the stars. She helps the Doctor defeat some very creepy angels (though not weeping ones) and ultimately gives up her life in the process. While admittedly her purpose is to show the depth of the Doctor’s heart (and to be a pretty face), she’s got spunk and faith of her own.
19. Sabalom Glitz
A companion of the Sixth and Seventh Doctors, Sabalom was constantly in trouble and needing to be bailed out, usually through his own fault. He was a rogue from the planet Salostopus and loved money above all else. Nonetheless, he was interesting and unpredictable, you never knew where he would turn up and next cross paths with the Doctor. He also briefly interacted with the Master.
20. Angel Bob
The only one of the Weeping Angels to have a name, Angel Bob is perhaps most famous for being tricked into saying “comfy chairs” by the Doctor. However, the addition of an actual personality to the Angels was important. It made them more than just a terrifying, silent mass of killing statues and in some ways made them seem like an even greater threat.
The nefarious creator of the Daleks, along with the Master is one of the Doctor’s recurring arch-nemeses. However, though he isn’t as clever as the Master or the Rani, Davros’ creations, the Daleks, became one of the most enduring and iconic parts of Doctor Who fandom throughout the years. The balance that Davros has with the Daleks is far from stable, which makes every encounter with them interesting and unlike the Master who is cold and calculating with his madness, Davros more often than not comes across as simply a raging lunatic, which makes him an even more unpredictable foe for the Doctor.
22. Harriet Jones
One of the most tragic characters of New Who so far, we saw Harriet Jones’ journey to the top, followed by her spectacular downfall. Completely devoted to Queen and country, her unwavering dedication was what ultimately turned the Doctor against her and lead to her demise. But even on the way down, Harriet still tried her hardest and never stopped fighting for what was right and what she believed in.
23. The Master
The Master was one of the first recurring villains the Doctor fought who was his intellectual equal and not just bumbling around trying to kill as many things as he quickly could. By creating a rival, the writers really gave the Doctor a chance to show off his own creative and strategic prowess. Proof enough is that the Master is one of very few singular villains who made the jump from Classic to New Who pretty darn flawlessly, a brilliant challenge for the Tenth Doctor and Martha and Captain Jack to face.
Best known as the Chronovore who destroyed Atlantis, he was the offspring of a forbidden union between Prometheus and Elektra. The Master tried to bind Kronos to his will in the 1970s by tricking him into manifesting himself on Earth, but Kronos defied him. He later appeared to both the Doctor and the Master and, after asking the Doctor if he should kill the Master (he says no), he allows the Master to escape.
25. Vincent Van Gogh
A brilliant painter, tragic figure, adorable ginger, Vincent Van Gogh proved essential to the plot of season 5, the first series with the Eleventh Doctor. The fact that the audience, as well and the Doctor and Amy, knew of his death going into the episode didn’t make it any less sad, but the scene where they show him how loved he is in the future was still filled with bittersweet hope.
The founder of Time Lord civilization, he is the single greatest figure in Gallifreyan history. He’s generally considered the First Time Lord, though some would say that would be Omega, Rassilon’s compatriot whom he is sometimes credited with murdering. Rassilon returned to lead the Time Lords in the Last Great Time War. However, in the greatest example of “Why you shouldn’t trust politicians,” Rassilon evolves throughout the series and goes from “Benevolent Time Lord Founder,” to “Murdering Psychopath who Drove the Master Insane,” and he does so quite brilliantly.
27. Madge Arwell
The face of a million British wives during WWII, keeping the home fires burning and trying to keep her children safe from the Blitz. She’s heartbroken, weary, and yet her chin is up and she carries on to make one last Christmas for her children before telling them terrible news. In true Doctor Who fashion, the depth of her fortitude and self-less love triumphs and she becomes mother to all, saving the world, Christmas, and even her lost husband.
28. The Valeyard
According to the Master, the Valeyard was a representation of the darker side of the Doctor’s nature. Additionally, the Great Intelligence said that the Valeyard would be one of the Doctor’s future name. The Valeyard appeared during the Sixth Doctor era and wanted to take the Doctor’s remaining regenerations and keep them for himself, and eliminate his “other self” to be free of his influence. He was the first hint that Doctor Who would soon be taking a darker turn with the storylines.
29. Madame Vastra
A female Silurian warrior, Madame Vastra first appears during the Eleventh Doctor’s era. She is romantically involved with Jenny, who used to be her maid. She first appeared when, during the construction of the London Underground, she sought to revenge her “sisters” after they had been killed by a large drill. The Doctor convinced her not to give in to her rage and told her the story of his people, and she grew to respect him from that. She lived in Victorian London with the Doctor and is credited as the inspiration for Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes.
30. The Watcher
A manifestation of the Doctor during the regeneration of his Fourth self into his Fifth, the Watcher had the ability to traverse time and space without aid. The Watcher, though silent, is capable of communication. In a dream, the Doctor saw the Watcher and thought of his next reincarnation. The mystery of who this stranger in white is occupies several serials of the Fourth Doctor.
31. Jenny Flint
A human and wife of Madame Vastra, the Doctor saved Jenny’s life at some point, and she becomes loyal to him. She marries Madame Vastra and together they live in Victorian London and help watch over the Doctor during his time of depression following the death of the Ponds.
32. Celestial Toymaker
A villain who faced off against the first Doctor, the Toymaker was evil and twisted and loved to play games. Game which he, of course, always rigged in his favor. Guests to his “celestial toyroom,” were essentially prisoners in a universe where he had ultimate control but was forced to play by the rules of his own games. Despite his age, the Toymaker was more like a little kid, forcing his victims to play his games though he hated losing. However, it was his cleverness and ingenuity that proved to be a match for the Doctor and his companions.
33. Brian Williams
He’s perhaps one of the most tragic characters on “Doctor Who” aside from Wilfred. While his son Rory and daughter-in-law Amy go galavanting off with the Doctor, he stays behind, keeps the home fires warm, and dreams of adventure. We first meet him during “Dinosaurs in Space” and learn where Rory gets his quiet gumption from. He pops in and out of the final episodes with the Ponds, and each time we see him recognizing that one day they might not come back. And after the “Angels in Manhattan” you’re left knowing that Brian’s still there, waiting patiently for his kids to come back. If you haven’t seen the P.S. from that episode and resolution of Brian, grab your hanky and watch it now.
34. Jo Grant
UNIT’s replacement for Liz Shaw in the second series of the Third Doctor and part of a “soft” reboot of his era, Jo was by no means Liz’s intellectual equal, but she was resourceful, sneaky and always trying her best. Her endearing smile and willingness to keep on trying and pushing forward, no matter what the challenges were eventually wiggled her way into the third Doctor’s heart, despite her clumsy start to the show. And who doesn’t love a girl whose favorite accessory is a set of skeleton keys?
35. Susan the Horse
Admittedly Susan is on here exclusively because of the Doctor riding him in the Old West and saying, “He’s called Susan and he wants you to respect his lifestyle choices.”
A traveller cataloging life throughout the universe, Light eventually ended up on Earth at Gabriel Chase in 1883 where he clashed with the Seventh Doctor and Ace. Angry that his catalogue was incorrect because life was constantly evolving, this observer of the universe turned destructive, determined to murder all life to stop it from evolving so his collection would remain perfect, an extreme example of a Type A personality disorder, he was one of the Seventh Doctor’s darker foes.
37. Madame de Pompadour
Madame De Pompadour appeared early on in the reboot series, and is one of the most memorable one-off companions. Ignoring her historical relevance, Madame de Pompadour was quick, intelligent, quirky, and a kindred soul to the Tenth Doctor. Kind of makes you wish she didn’t spend her life dealing with Louis XV.
38. The Rani
Much like the Master, the Rani was a rare opportunity where the Doctor fought one of his own kind. Just as devious and cunning, the Rani was not so much interested in taking down the Doctor as she was in using him for her own purposes. Ruthless and manipulative, she only appeared in two serials but made a lasting impact on both the Doctor and the fandom.
Son to Craig Owens, he is the temperamental infant whom only the Doctor can understand. In a hilarious episode where the Doctor admits to of course speaking baby, he tells us that Alfie much prefers to be addressed as, “Stormageddon, the Dark Lord of All.”
40. Jamie McCrimmon
The Second Doctor’s Scottish companion, Jamie returned several times to accompany the Doctor in guest appearances in later years. Originally from the highlands in the mid-18th century,Jamie made up for his lack of technological knowledge with practical, straightforward sensibility and enthusiasm, though he was often teased by the Doctor and his fellow companions.
41. Clara Oswald
The Impossible Girl, Clara has weaved in and out of the Doctor’s life for hundreds of years though he hasn’t realized it until his Eleventh incarnation. Clever and curious, Clara is as in the dark about her own nature as the Doctor is but still journeys with him, eager to see the world and the universe. Flirty, fast talking and stubborn, Clara is more than a match for the Eleventh Doctor and she’ll be the first companion of the Twelfth Doctor after his regeneration.
42. Tobias Vaughn
Though many humans have attempted to harness the power of the Cybermen throughout the years, Tobias Vaughn did it first. Convinced that he could use the Mondasian Cybermen for his own ends, he formed an alliance with them and concocted a plan for the invasion of Earth. Power hungry and determined, Vaughn kept these qualities when the Cybermen betrayed him and switched sides to aid the Doctor in a twist.
43. Joan Redfern
In an era where everyone is in love with the Doctor, Joan Redfern was just the opposite. She didn’t want this brilliant Doctor to sweep her off her feet and across the universe—she wanted John Smith, the kindhearted and normal English schoolteacher, to settle down and live a normal life with her. That’s what made her different and what made it heartbreaking for the viewers.
44. Vislor Turlough
More commonly known as Turlough, he was a companion of the fifth Doctor and traveled with Tegan. Not as straightforward as his fellow companion, the Doctor once said that he was interesting precisely because he was never sure what Turlough was thinking. Secretly an alien in exile from Trion, Turlough disguised himself as a normal human before he met the Doctor but continued to keep up the charade. He was also, for a time, an associate of the Black Guardian who had contracted him to kill the Doctor. Selfish, with a survivalist mentality, Turlough was a different sort from the Doctor’s more amiable and self-sacrificing companions.
45. Kazran Sardick
As a little boy, Kazran first met the Eleventh Doctor in Sardicktown when the Doctor lured a sky fish into Kazran’s bedroom, because the child had always wanted to see one. However, when a sky shark comes to eat the fish and accidentally eats the Doctor’s sonic screwdriver, Karzan enlists the Doctor’s help to save the shark’s life, since eating the screwdriver will kill it.
46. Great Intelligence
Originally known as Yog-Sothoth, the Great Intelligence is a disembodied sentience who sought a body and a physical existence. Using humans as its avatars, the Great Intelligence is also well known for using snow as a vessel, most recently in the 2012 Christmas Special “The Snowmen.”
47. The Black Guardian
An opponent of the Doctor, he tried several times to kill him, including contracting the Doctor’s future companion, Vislor Turlough, to do so for him. He was technically an embodiment of the forces of chaos and fought the fourth Doctor trying to retrieve the Key to Time for himself.
Instrumental in aiding the Seventh Doctor and Mel Bush after his regeneration, Ikona was different in that he wasn’t a bumbling yet well-meaning side character who royally screwed things up with the best of intentions, nor was he clueless or evil. Smart, a rebel leader of his people against the Rani, he was a one-off character that you were always rooting for.
49. Harry Sullivan
A companion of the Fourth Doctor, Harry was yet another UNIT employee. Old-fashioned and dead clumsy, he often got on the Doctor’s nerves, but was still indispensable. With a can-do attitude and medical training, Harry was a different sort of addition to the TARDIS crew.
50. Susan Foreman
Susan, the only confirmed relative of the Doctor’s to have any appearances, was his first companion traveling in the TARDIS after they both ran away from Gallifrey together. As the Doctor’s granddaughter she provided an important, humanizing aspect to him and established early on the importance of family, friendship and companionship for the Doctor.
Who are your favorites? Tell us in the comments or by tweeting us @litdarling.
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How did Rose Tyler get left off??? There are Whovians crying everywhere :(
Oh my, you forgot The Doctor himself! I think he’s in the top 50 ;)
Some others that are rather splendid are: Strax,The Face of Boe, and of course Rose Tyler!
So many to choose from. And I am SO EXCITED about the 50th anniversary episode tomorrow. :D
Love the list, but I’m wondering where the heck Rose Tyler went. She’s my number one.
Finally! Someone who doesn’t put “Rose Tyler” as number one!