Billie Piper has made quite the splash on the new BBC Doctor Who series. But as a companion to a traveling Time Lord, she's merely the latest in a long and honorable line of characters. In fact, if I'm not mistaken, Doctor Who "girls" could give Bond girls a run for their money!
Anyway, I thought it would be fun to remember today the actresses and characters who worked so hard to bring us years of adventure and enjoyment on the original Doctor Who television series. Which one of these characters is your favorite? You can rate 'em based on looks and sexiness, acting skill, or values their character brought to the continuing series and the TARDIS, but I'd love to know who is your favorite, who you rate as the single best. For the purposes of this post, I'm focusing only on old school Doctor Who (1968-1989); and just females. No Adric (!) and no K-9 either.
To refresh your memory, the following women have been traveling companions to the Doctor over the decades:
Susan (played by Carole Ann Ford)
Barbara (played by Jacqueline Hill)
Vicki (played by Maureen O'Brien)
Dodo (played by Jackie Lane)
Polly (played by Anneke Willis)
Victoria (played by Deborah Watling)
Zoe (played by Wendy Padbury)
Liz Shaw (played by Caroline John)
Jo Grant (played by Katy Manning)
Sarah Jane Smith (played by Elizabeth Sladen)
Leela (played by Louise Jameson)
Romana # 1 (played by Mary Tamm)
Romana # 2 (played by Lalla Ward)
Tegan (played by Janet Fielding)
Nyssa (played by Sarah Sutton)
Peri (played by Nicola Bryant)
Mel (played by Bonnie Langford)
Ace (played by Sophie Aldred).
I have to say, I'm a real fan of all these characters, and an admirer of the long-running series to boot. I really enjoyed the icy intelligence and crisp delivery of Liz Shaw (Caroline John) in the Pertwee years. I adored the cute-as-a-button Zoe (Wendy Padbury) in the Patrick Troughton era. I got a kick out of the haughtiness and humor of the first Romana (Mary Tamm), and was physically attracted to Peri (Nicola Bryant). I know many people absolutely loved and adored Ace (Sophie Aldred) in Sylvester McCoy's tenure, and I liked her a great deal as well. A tough cookie (but with a tender side.)
But, proving, perhaps, the pull of nostalgia, my two favorite female companions to the Doctor both come from the era of the fourth incarnation, Tom Baker. That was the era I first saw on television (on WWOR TV) in the 1970s-1980s.
My runner-up is Leela (Louise Jameson; pictured at top left). She was the "warrior" character, and I thought it really interesting that the Doctor should have a female protector; female muscle. That was a new twist on a series that was often derided as sexist. Secondly, I loved her interaction with the Doctor: society was new to Leela since she was essentially "a primitive," and so she and the Doctor shared a charming and funny mentior/student relationship. Also, I happen to think that many of the serials from this period, including "Talons of Weng Chiang," "Face of Evil," and "Robots of Death" are among the very best of the series.
And yet, I think I must say that my favorite Doctor Who companion of all time is Sarah Jane Smith, played by the tiny (but resilient and strong!) Elizabeth Sladen (pictured second from top). She was the first companion I ever "met", and in some senses, she's the prototype as far as I'm concerned. She's curious, resourceful and adept at finding trouble, but she's also incredibly charming, and boy was I sorry to see her leave the series. Sladen's Sarah worked with two Time Lords, Jon Pertwee and Tom Baker, and again, she was aboard the production at one of the absolute best times (the mid-1970s). She starred in such stories as "Ark in Space" (one of the best), "Genesis of the Daleks" (which introduced Davros to the Dalek storyline...), "The Sontaran Experiment" and one of my personal all-time favorites, "Planet of Evil."
So who is it for you? But don't just give me a name. Tell me why. What makes one particular (female) Doctor Who companion a special memory for you?