This one is kind of tough. I never saw Victoria’s into story (though I’ll be looping around for it later), and haven’t seen her departure story, either (though same thing). So despite having seen her in several stories, she remains somewhat of an enigma to me.
To a great extent, Victoria is something of an amiable non-entity. She’s pleasant and intelligent and reasonably spunky, but she leaves no real lasting impression. Partly this is due to how few of her stories remain intact, but part of this is just that she’s kind of…there. She’s around, but leaves no real impression.
Which is something of a shame. There is some great potential with the character. If they’d played her a bit more like Charley Pollard, she might have been quite interesting, but mostly she’s kind of dull.
Victoria hasn’t even really been able to be interesting in the Big Finish audios she’s appeared in, which, alas, probably says a lot about Watling’s acting more than it does anything else.
On the plus side with Victoria gone, we now have the field cleared for Zoe, and at last, the Second Doctor’s era will feel like it should!
And so the last vestiges of the First Doctor’s era are swept away as Ben and Polly depart the TARDIS and, eventually, apparently, wind up in India.
Ben Jackson and Polly Wright were two characters who were very much of their time and place. Polly was a swinger in the 1960s term, working at a swinging bar, and living in swinging London, in 1966. Ben was a Royal Navy sailor who thought of himself as a bit of a ladies man and was happy to get into a scrape or two.
The two made a very excellent pairing, and played well together, especially when alongside Hartnell’s more dowdy and dour First Doctor. They presented a very youthful and vibrant contrast to him; even more so than previous younger companions, like Steven and Vicki, or Steven and Dodo.
Sadly, they weren’t as much of a fit with the more wonky and crazy Second Doctor, and once Jamie turned up in the Second Doctor’s second story, they were relegated to near-permanent background status. This is a shame, as there was still much that could be done with the characters. But perhaps the TARDIS was simply too crowded; it wouldn’t have this many passengers in it until late in the Fourth Doctor’s time.
The real shame is the way the characters exited the show. They were shown the door at the end of episode two of “The Faceless Ones”, and though they did appear briefly in a farewell at the end of the story, it was still kind of annoying how much they were gone in that story.
Anneke Wills largely retired from acting after playing Polly, as did Michael Craze with Ben. Both had a few minor roles in TV, but nothing major. Wills went on to become something of a spiritual-type of person, even spending time living at Rajneespurum, a name familiar to anyone in the Pacific Northwest in the early 1980s. As for Craze, he spent time managing a pub and appearing at various conventions before dying surprisingly young in 1999.
Wills has turned to the role of Polly through Big Finish. The character of Ben continues with Big Finish as well, having been recast. I must say it’s nice to have them both back.
In the end Ben and Polly aren’t given quite as much love by the fans as they might have been. The fact that only a couple of their stories remain intact is, I feel, a large part of this. But what we have of them shows two rather wonderful characters that I can’t help but like.
The First Doctor has died, and a new one has come along. But before we enter the era of the Second Doctor, let’s take a look back in fondness at his predecessor.
When we first see the Doctor, he’s a strange, rather paranoid individual. He’s with his granddaughter, and often seems to be looking over his shoulder. At what, we do not know, though we get some hints later.
He’s a grumpy, prickly, hard-to-like character, who is, at best, borderline tolerant of his companions, and at worst openly hostile.
His attitude softens as he goes on, and by the time the team meet up with the Aztecs, he’s calmed considerably, turning into more of a grandfatherly type.
Things change even more when he runs into another Time Lord; the Monk. The Doctor could have left at just about any point, but he takes a very active role in stopping the Monk from tampering with history.
I haven’t ever been a huge fan of the First Doctor. He was ok, but not great. He was much better once he became the grandfatherly type than he had been as the pickly jerk, but I still never really warmed to the character all that much.
William Hartnell was, sadly, not a well man through most of his time on the series, and it really shows with the various constant absences and vacations, not to mention the problems he often had with remembering some of the more difficult, and occasionally even the easy, lines.
Hartnell didn’t last long past his time off the series. He returned briefly for one appearance in 1973, and then died in 1975. He was only 69.
With the departure of the First Doctor, the series had lost everyone who was in at the beginning. The decks have been cleared, the die has been cast, and we can now move on to the Troughton years.
Wither Dodo? The poor dear. She wanders in at the end of one story, speaking with an accent we never hear again, is constantly overshadowed by other characters, and has only a few of her stories intact. To add insult to injury, she’s sent off in the middle of one story with no real goodbye.
Played ably enough by Jackie Lane, who has since retired from acting, Dodo was a spunky young girl who was something of the next logical step after Susan and Vicki. She was more modern, and fairly easy to relate to.
But she never quite “popped” with the audiences. She had tremendous potential, but was never all that well-written. Perhaps if the show had had, at that point, a female writer, or even a female producer as it did during the days of Susan and Vicki, things might have gone differently, but no.
To make matters worse, we have, as mentioned before, very few of her stories. “The Ark”, “The Gunfighters” and “The War Machines”, and that’s it. Now a later companion, Victoria, is in a similar situation, but at least she’s a somewhat better written, and more interesting, character.
Don’t get me wrong here. Dodo wasn’t a bad character, and Lane did the best with what she had, but she could have been so much more. Which is why it’s somewhat depressing that of all the companion actors from the old series, only Lane has refused to come back and work with Big Finish. It’s a shame, because I’d really like to see what they could do with her.
Of course, just about anything would be better than what the series actually did with her at the very end, where they just wrote her out without even a goodbye, and then later killed her off in a spinoff novel. Such a character deserves better than to have things just stop mid-story and
Well, Steven has gone. He was the last male to travel solo with the Doctor until, let me think…Adric? He doesn’t really count that much, though, so maybe Turlough?
Steven was a space pilot; an astronaut from the distant future, centuries on. This was essentially an informed attribute, since we never saw him put his piloting skills to the test, though Big Finish allowed him to do so years later.
As befits someone of that background, Steven was generally fairly brave and intelligent. He wasn’t afraid to fight his way out of a problem, but was also quite comfortable thinking his way out of one. In that matter he’s not entirely dissimilar to Captain James T Kirk.
And in fact, Kirk is a good comparison. The two characters were on TV at roughly the same time, and had much in common. One could easily see someone like Steven aboard the Enterprise, and it’s certainly simple to picture Kirk on the TARDIS.
Sadly, Steven didn’t really get much character development on the TV series. As with most other companions, he’s pretty much the same at the end of his adventures as he was at the start.
The character, and the actor, Peter Purves, returned in audio form with Big Finish. Beginning several years ago, they started featuring him, and that’s been to the character’s benefit. He still hasn’t had much character development, but at least he got to use his piloting skills.
Overall, Steven was a good companion; a younger, capable man who was a nice contrast to the Doctor’s older, more gruff personality. He was fun to have around, and I will miss him. But at least I have Jamie to look forward to!
And there goes Vicki, after only a handful of stories. She will be missed.
Vicki was from the late 25th century. The TARDIS team met her on a distant alien world where she was being held captive by a sinister weirdo. They rescued her and took her with them on their adventures in time and space.
Vicki (no last name given, but called Pallister in the novels), was a vibrant, exciting young lady. Often happy, but not obnoxiously perky, she brought a good energy to the series, especially in contrast with Susan, who was too often poorly and inconsistently written.
Vicki, bizarrely, elected to remain in roughly 1250 BC where she’d met a young man and fallen in love. This seems an odd choice, and it seems more like the writers didn’t really know what they were going to do with her once the actress had announced she was leaving. Indeed, in the spin-off fiction she’s been portrayed as being very unhappy in ancient times, several thousand years before her birth.
Fortunately, Maureen O’Brien has returned on several occasions and recorded audio stories for Big Finish. There haven’t been any that were hugely notable, but they’ve all generally been good, and essentially have focused on filling in the blanks in the First Doctor’s timeline. They’ve been a welcome addition.
So we say farewell to Vicki. She’s replaced, very briefly, by Katarina, and almost as briefly by Sara Kingdom. But then we move on and get Dodo, and…well, yeah. We got that to look forward to.
Ian and Barbara, Barbara and Ian. The first humans that traveled with the Doctor. They brought wit, grace, and charm to the TARDIS and made it a better place by their mere presence.
What to say about these two that I haven’t said over six dozen blog posts? They’re a great pair. William Russell and Jacqueline Hill really brought something great to these roles, and had an amazing chemistry from the moment they first appeared on our screen. They did a wonderful job of grounding us, the viewers, in something real and normal, even while facing Daleks, revolutionaries, Sensorites, cavemen, or walking mushrooms.
Ian was always brave, and always kind to basically everyone. He never ran from a fight, but also never sought one out, and took a life only when there was no other option, and allowed us to see that it affected him to do so.
As for Barbara, she was everything Susan couldn’t be; she was brave without trying (usually), and not afraid to stand up to the Doctor when he was wrong. Her knowledge of history came in handy more than once, and one memorable time, among the Aztecs, it almost cost everyone their lives.
It’s as a team that we remember them. No one talks about Ian being their favorite companion, or about Babs being their favorite. No, it’s always Ian and Barbara, together. Much how later it was, more of than not, Amy and Rory. One without the other could work, and work well, but they were so much, much better together.
Jacqueline Hill returned to Doctor Who once, during the Tom Baker years. She never came back after that, and sadly, died of cancer in the 1980s.
William Russell never came back to the series, at least not on TV (plans for him to return as Ian back in the 1980s were scuttled). But for many years he’s been a solid presence at Big Finish, playing Ian, and giving us more and more insight to the character. He’s quite a bit older, now, and can’t always bring to mind the young man he was, but he gets close enough.
Vicki, Steven, Sara Kingdom, Dodo, Polly, and Ben, all had their places as companions to the First Doctor. They all their moments to shine. But for my money, the best, most consistently wonderful companions, were Ian and Barbara, always there, until they weren’t anymore. I miss them already.