Who Travels With The Doctor? edited by Gillian I. Leitch and Sherry Ginn (book review).

Looks like Doctor Who companions are the flavour of the year. ‘Who Travels With The Doctor?’ is an international (USA and UK) eight author examination of a sampling of the various people who have travelled with a certain Time Lord. Co-editor Gillian I. Leitch gives a resume of them all in the first piece and where the book title came from. As you will realise, much of my comments come from how I reacted to some of their articles.


It goes without saying that you know the ratio of females to males is awfully large, so there is a lot of emphasis on how well they are treated, especially in how much dialogue they are given using the Bechdel test, which is a measure of dialogue. I’m less sure about this because there are so many elements involved subject to story, when produced, circumstances, scriptwriters and script editors, let alone producers having an influence, to given any form of true assessment of anyone being slighted.

That doesn’t mean that there aren’t some things I don’t agree with. The companion is essential to give the Doctor someone to talk to and to act as a surrogate viewer answering the questions you would want to know. Everyone knows that, don’t they?

An examination of Clara Oswald and how the Doctor met her in a few different guises before finally meeting her properly. What Kimberly McMahon-Coleman neglects to remember that Clara is that as the Impossible Girl’ is scattered throughout time it’s inevitable that the Doctor must bump into manifestations of her from time to time. I do wonder if any new showrunner will do that for a guest appearance from time to time? Up to now, the Doctor has just met them earlier than later. That shouldn’t come as much of a surprise if you remember another person that also applies to.

With the change from Liz Shaw to Jo Grant to Sarah Jane Smith came an appreciation as to what was needed to make the right kind of companion, even if Leela bucked the trend but showed her own level of independence.

I’m less sure about Tania Nathanael’s assertion that Rose Tyler’s Christian name was chosen to mirror the English rose. If that was the case, her research would have shown verification from her creator, Russell T Davis. Name creation, from my own experience, is more to do with a name that feels right first than an analysis of making a perfect name. Granted Pamela Achenbach in her article points out that Astrid is an anagram of TARDIS, but I bet it wouldn’t have been used if it had been a plain name. I was curious enough to run ‘TARDIS’ through an anagram solver on-line and 19 popped up 9 of them could have made interesting names.

Lest you think that none of the 14 men out of 43 companions are ignored, Teresa Ford’s look at Rory Williams shows that there is more a stereotype with the recent males. They become a bit of a triangle with their girl-friends being attracted to the Doctor, but not necessarily in a sexual way. This should have been cross-connected with how people become companions. I doubt if the Doctor would want too many testosterone-controlled men on his travels because they are more likely to become unnecessarily aggressive in dangerous situations where a little thought might resolve the problem.

It’s hardly surprising that River Song gets a chapter to herself by Tom Powers. With Steven Moffatt having one season left, I still think we will get at least one more story involving her, though. I agree with his sentiments that River Song is probably the first ‘companion’ (dittoed because she isn’t a regular traveller with the Time Lord) since Romana, who had less experience, to get into his life. I suspect it’ll be problematic to do this again, largely because any other character of the same mode will always be compared to her.

The final article by Aaron John Gulyas looks at the companions in the assorted ‘Doctor Who’ novels. I know the BBC are inclining towards making them canon but I can’t help but refer to the numbers in the opening article and think it’s never likely to catch on. More so from the point of view that the number of readers of those is small in comparison to the number who watch TV.

As you can no doubt tell, my reactions should tell you how much I absorbed and reacted to the material in this book. There is a lot here that I agreed with so don’t take the reaction as it being a bad book. There is obviously an emphasis on modern day companions than the earlier companions although I suspect that might have something to do with the age of the various writers here. Although there is mention on how smart some of the companions are, little is said about Zoe Heriot, who surely must have been one of the smartest.

GF Willmetts

August 2016

(pub: McFarland. 170 page indexed enlarged paperback. Price: £32.50 (UK), $35.00 (US). ISBN: 978-0-7864-9525-2)

check out websites: http://www.mcfarlandpub.com/ and www.eurospanbookstore.com

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