I've always been a big fan of the companions. In fact, it's one of my main draws to the show. Fortunately, Doctor Who has had a host of great companions, none of which I have actually managed to dislike. No, not even Adric. Of course, there are some companions that I like better than others, and that's what I intend to discuss here. Just my favorites.
First, though, don't forget to visit The Companions' Home Page! Kevin Parker has devoted this site to the oft-unrecognized companions and the actors and actresses who portrayed them. This page is still being compiled, so don't expect to find all the companions represented just yet - but it's coming along very nicely!
And now, to the list.
I'm putting Ian and Barbara together because, let's face it, they're meant to be with one another. There's something about the two of them that just seems so much more realistic than almost any of the other companions; maybe it's the very solid characterization that they got during their run in the series. Barbara's a very levelheaded, strong woman who is capable of thinking clearly in a crisis; Ian is the more impulsive one who will take risks to get done what needs to be accomplished. Barbara the mediator, Ian the protector. They balance each other out well and make a great team.
I really don't know much about Katarina, never having actually been able to see Adrienne Hill portray the character. Nevertheless, I know exactly what draws me to Katarina - her innocence. Katarina seems to have a very wide-eyed, naive quality about her that's very endearing, yet she still possesses that inner strength that's so vital to being a good companion. It's a shame she was killed off so quickly.
Like Katarina, Dodo is charmingly innocent, but she is also a very energetic and optimistic person. I haven't been able to see as much of Dodo as I'd like, either, but what I have seen, I like a lot. There's just something about Dodo that makes her lovable.
Who can not like Jamie? I think it's his zeal that makes him such a great companion - no matter the danger, no matter how unfamiliar the territory, Jamie is always eager to learn and impatient to jump right into the center of things. Maybe that's why he was such a perfect foil for the Doctor! He retained the necessary degree of cluelessness, just enough that the Doctor would have to explain things to him, but he was almost as likely to land himself in trouble as the Doctor was. Of course, Jamie even landed the Doctor in trouble sometimes! Plus, he very obviously cared for his fellow travelling companions.
Her great hairstyle aside, one of the things that draws me to Zoe is her implacability. Okay, on occasion she screams, but in general, it's hard to ruffle her. Zoe just out-IQs the idiots that try to intimidate her. I have to admit that I live in a kind of ideal world where Zoe never sprains her ankle or flashes her underwear or screams at the horrifyingly unscary monster - I think I see her as a distillation of her most important characteristics. Like her triumphs in "The Invasion"...that, to me, is Zoe. (not the part where she gets trapped in a big box while wearing a feather boa...)
For a long time, Leela reigned as the Queen of Companions in my heart. She was strong, and brave, and independent, and the best! I still haven't lost that basic feeling of joy whenever I watch her in action. I can't even describe why I like Leela, because so much of it is rooted in my early childhood bliss. The sound of her name; Louise Jameson's voice; watching Leela fire guns at bad men, or plunge her knife into evil aliens...it's all wrapped up together!
You know what I think it is about Romana I? I think it's the "Androids of Tara" costume. I have to like anybody who shows such great fashion sense. (She has great taste in colors, don't you think?) Plus, this Romana doesn't take any nonsense from the Doctor, which is rather fun. It's also rather like she's out of her element - she's determined to be strong and lofty and haughty, but the squalid situations the Doctor gets her into keep throwing her curves.
The only companion for quite a while that managed to knock Leela off her perch as number one was Nyssa. Again, it's the innocence and sweet naïvete that makes me like her so much. Nyssa is the kind of person that I get along really, really well with - kind, gentle, softspoken, and diplomatic. But she has that vital core of inner strength that not only helps her get through her situations with the Doctor, but gives her the aristocratic air that sees her through some sticky spots. Mix in her great desire to help everyone and her surprisingly frequent courage, and you have one fantastic companion! And she works so well with the fifth Doctor - what I would give to have more stories like "Arc of Infinity"...
I live in an ideal Peri world, too. In my world, Peri always has her character from "Planet of Fire" but wears much more decent (and tasteful, which throws her Trial stories out the window) clothing. I see Peri as being incredibly adventurous at heart, and a whole lot braver than the writers usually let her be. The defining Peri moment for me is when she stands up to the Master... "I am the Master!" "So what? I'm Perpugilliam Brown, and I can shout just as loud as you can!" I love it! Oh, and in my world, Peri actually uses her botany skills more than once. Peri is another companion that just should have had more stories with the fifth Doctor...they're also great together.
Did I really have to say it?
Ace was the last companion prior to Mel who held the coveted first-place position. It's not hard to see why - she's given far more characterization than practically any companion before her, and it's all put to good use. I like that Ace has very clear character flaws, not in terms of being sloppily created, but rather that she's so realistic. She likes to project an image of fearlessness, but is almost like a scared child inside, with a huge need for support and acceptance. Plus, she's extremely competent, independent, willing to take risks, and just as eager as Jamie was without landing herself in trouble quite as much.
Picture courtesy of The Companions softcover, scanned by moi. How could I resist?