Screams In the Key of F - or, Why do I like Mel so much?


"Looks as though butter would melt in her mouth..."
(Tilda, on Mel: Paradise Towers)

Liking the character of Melanie Bush does not seem to be a popular thing.

This is completely astounding to me, who cannot think of a single unlikeable quality about the character. Mel's personality is classified as sanguine - these people are ceaselessly optimistic and cheerful, they brighten up any room that they enter, they have boundless enthusiasm, and they love to have fun. These are the people whom I aspire to be like.

"Look, Doctor, look - there's the swimming pool! Right at the very top of that building.
Oh, it's wonderful! I can't wait to have a dip in that!"

(Paradise Towers)

"I think that's enough of that, Mel."
"Why? It's great!"

(The Doctor and Mel: Paradise Towers)

"Oh, the water's really lovely!"
(Paradise Towers)

"Oh, that's fantastic!"
(Delta and the Bannermen)

"This is beautiful, Doctor!"
(Dragonfire)

As for Melanie, optimism is certainly one of her more obvious features, and it is a sharp contrast with the other companions of her era. In general, Tegan was often sour about one incident or another; Turlough was grumbly and reticent; Peri, despite her efforts to uplift people, ended up despondent or irritated; and Ace was too cynical to be upbeat. But for Mel, there is always hope and a positive outlook.

"We'll find a way! We have to."
(Paradise Towers)

Usually, however, this is manifested in her determination to get the most out of whatever unfortunate situation has befallen her.

"Still, now we're here I suppose I might as well see what the pool's like."
(Paradise Towers)

"Well, I suppose it is one way of seeing the Paradise Towers..."
(on being stuck in a wandering lift: Paradise Towers)

"I'm determined to try and enjoy myself, if I can."
(Delta and the Bannermen)

"Well, we could always pass the time by playing a game, I suppose. 'I Spy' or something."
(Dragonfire)

Hand-in-hand with optimism goes cheerfulness, and Mel lacks none. She is rarely to be found without a smile on her face.

"Don't you think it's wonderful to be somewhere calm and clean and relaxing?"
(Paradise Towers)

Mel makes an effort to be friendly to everyone, a talent showcased particularly well in Paradise Towers and Delta and the Bannermen.

"She's a nice, polite, clean, well-spoken girl - just the sort we like."
"Excuse me..."
"Oh! There you are, Tilda, what did I say? Lovely manners...
saying 'Excuse me' before asking a question!"

(Tabby and Mel: Paradise Towers)

"Thank you."
"What for?"
"For lending me your dress...for making an effort to be kind."
"Oh, I'd help anyone in trouble, if I could."

(Delta and Mel: Delta and the Bannermen)

Probably Melanie's third main feature, meshing well with the other two, is her enthusiasm. Throughout her tenure, this was the one characteristic that the writers consistently portrayed well (although it may be equally attributable to the talents and energy of Bonnie Langford!). Mel always puts everything into what she does, be it saving the lives of the High Council or chucking nitro-nine at cryogenically frozen zombies.

"We can't just sit here and do nothing! We've got to help him."
(The Ultimate Foe)

"You're still determined to get in?"
"No matter what the risk!"

(Ikona and Mel: Time and the Rani)

"Are you ready?"
"Ready? I can't wait!"

(The Doctor and Mel: Paradise Towers)

"What about the creature? We've got to save it!"
(Dragonfire)

This enthusiasm is usually a result of incipient adventure, however...

"A freezer centre? Well, how boring!"
(Dragonfire)

Melanie is also incredibly bold. This manifests itself through two channels: her speech and her actions. Those who, amazingly, fall into Mel's bad graces are on the receiving end of her forthright chastisement.

"How could they? It's obscene!"
"Not to a Vervoid."
"You can't justify it...!"

(Mel and the Doctor, upon seeing the Vervoids' compost heap: Terror of the Vervoids)

"How utterly evil! You're despicable!"
(The Ultimate Foe)

"Don't antagonize her. She has only to press a button
for every Lakertyan to be exterminated."
"I could nominate a few candidates for extermination myself."

(Beyus and Mel: Time and the Rani)

"Pex, if you could bend that back into shape and put it where it came from,
it might be more use. But you can't, can you?"

(Paradise Towers)

"Imagine, building this beautiful pool and filling it with mechanical killers!"
(Paradise Towers)

"They shouldn't treat him like that!"
(Paradise Towers)

"If Glitz burns his fingers in the dragon's fire, then it serves him right."
(Dragonfire)

"The creature - it's dead! They killed it!"
(Dragonfire)

If Mel's life is being threatened, they experience her determined interrogation and attempts to make them rethink their plan. Either that, or her screaming.

"AAAAAH! AAAAAH!"
(seven times, actually, upon seeing a Tetrap up-close for the first time: Time and the Rani)

Her screaming! It cannot be said that Mel's screams are anything less than fantastic when she is at her best. Terrifying, piercing and loud, Melanie's screams provide Victoria with ample competition for the nickname "Leatherlungs." No pitiful wailing, no startled screech here - these are full-volume shrieks! (note to any non-Doctor Who fans who wander in here - screaming is generally considered one of the three "requirements" for a Doctor Who companion. I don't ordinarily praise women, or men, for the quality of their yelp. *grin*)

Melanie is never one to hesitate when it comes time to carry on a bit of the adventure by herself. She is always cautious and very quick-thinking, but not hesitant. Danger on the horizon? Mel is ready to meet it head-on. A puzzle that needs solving? Let Mel tackle it! And if ever she sees anything that needs to be done, Mel takes the initiative to do it.

"We won't find out by hanging about in here, will we?"
(Terror of the Vervoids)

"I don't need anyone to speak up for me. I'm quite capable of defending myself!"
(Terror of the Vervoids)

"We cannot interfere."
"Well, I can!"

(The Inquisitor and Mel: The Ultimate Foe)

"You! Where's Mel?"
"Where's the Doctor?"
"What have you done with her?"
"Stay away from me! What have you done with the Doctor?"

Using judo, Mel flips the Doctor onto the ground and pins his right arm behind his back.
"Now we'll get to the truth! What have you done with him, you brute?"
"He's here!"
"Where? Under the carpet?!"

(the first meeting of the seventh Doctor and Mel: Time and the Rani)

"You need me to protect you."
"I most certainly do not!"

(Pex and Mel: Paradise Towers)

Mel has a strong sense of right and wrong, and firmly stands up for what she believes. Few things make her angry, but injustices are certain to provoke such a response. She would give her life, if need be, rather than take part in perpetrating a criminal act, although she would not ask that others do so.

"No, leave him alone! I won't let you do -"
(Time and the Rani)

"Set the temperature gauge, Mel."
"I'm setting nothing."
"Stubbornness will not help the Doctor."
"And putting him in here will?"

(Beyus and Mel: Time and the Rani)

"So...one of them escaped."
"You killed all those innocent people!"
"Was the Chimeron queen amongst them?"
"Yes. Yes, she's dead."
"Would you lie?"
Gavrok points the gun to her head. Mel lies anyway:
"You saw what happened to the bus! No-one could have survived that!"

(Gavrok and Mel: Delta and the Bannermen)

"Leave him alone! If you kill him, you kill us too!"
(Dragonfire)

"You, girl! Bring me the Dragonfire!"
"No! I'm not going to lift a finger to help you!"

(Kane and Mel: Dragonfire)

Another trivial thing that I like about Mel is her dedication to fitness. It's an idea that is hardly explored in companions, except for occasional scenes like Leela swimming. But Melanie advocates healthy eating and regular exercise. It's nice to see a companion who cares about keeping their body in top condition!

"Carrot juice?!"
"It'll do you good, honestly! Carrots are full of vitamin A."

(The Doctor and Mel: Terror of the Vervoids)

Even if she did let it slip occasionally... Well, she's polite - who wouldn't refuse a snack from two lonely old ladies?

"There's nothing quite like tea and crumpets, is there?"
(Paradise Towers)

Mel also possesses a photographic memory, a quality which the Doctor openly admires. She can easily recall details and events, and may come to an important realization when mentally reviewing a situation.

"Memory like an elephant."
"That's his idea of a compliment - comparing me to an elephant!"
"It's so ludicrously inappropriate, I find it amusing."

(The Doctor and Mel: Terror of the Vervoids)

And then there's the fact that Mel is a modern woman of the 80s, with her apparently impressive computer skills.

"Computers are my speciality, not nuclear physics."
(Time and the Rani)

"The computer control needs constant monitoring. I can't manage it alone."
"So I've anticipated. And I've got just the expert for you."

(Beyus and the Rani, who is referring to Mel: Time and the Rani)

The icing on the cake, for me, is that Melanie is a very wholesome character. Her clothing is always modest, her personality is caring and open, and her actions hold true to her beliefs. She is motivated by a sense of integrity and tries to help others attain her ideal.

"Can you be trusted?"
"Yes, completely! Discretion's my middle name."

(Delta and Mel: Delta and the Bannermen)

"Excellent! Yes! Mel can keep you out of trouble, Glitz."
"And that means no more dodgy deals."

(The Doctor and Mel: Dragonfire)

"I'm as truthful, honest, and about as boring as they come."
(The Ultimate Foe)

They don't get any better than Mel!



Click on Melanie Bush to return to my page of Mel links.

"Who said anything about home? I've got much more crazy things to do yet!"
(Dragonfire)