‘Companions: Fifty Years of Doctor Who Assistants’ book review

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On screen there have been upwards of 35 fellow travellers, depending on your personal criteria, but the book throws its net wider borrowing the ‘Expanded Universe’ terminology of Star Wars. Encompassing the programme’s rich heritage in audio, novels, short stories and comics, we meet characters such as John and Gillian (the Doctor’s other grandchildren), Erimem, Frobisher, Bernice Summerfield, Fitz Kreiner, Charley Pollard and many more.

The ‘Expanded universe’ chapters also cover missing adventures which slot in between the TV adventures, plus the pre and post-TARDIS lives of series regulars. Granting our heroes deeper motivations and fuller back-stories, these additional appearances create a wealth of glorious inconsistencies between them to explore.

With the Doctor’s granddaughter Susan, it appears writers have created no less than four possible origins and multiple futures which involve having variously three, one or no children. Ace enjoys has at least three differing futures too and Romana seems to endure a complex web of presidential destinies.

Some old fan tropes get a look in, with the Season 6B theory being one of the more prominent. This particular notion attempts to resolve the continuity blunder of an older Troughton and Jamie in ‘The Two Doctors’ and the Doctor’s apparent role working on behalf of the Time Lords.

The Sarah Jane Adventures story ‘Death of the Doctor’ has a lot of impact across the book, as it name checked all the companions who returned to Earth after their TARDIS travels. Of course, that particular spin-off also guest-starred the Brigadier and the old soldier is granted his own special chapter at the end of the book, befitting his unique status.

The author occasionally endeavours to find continuity in the television show’s uneven production. One highlight is his attempt to retcon a production slip up from ‘Resurrection of the Daleks’. Leela was omitted from the roster of companions shown from the Doctor’s memory and he bravely suggests this was intentional as she was already on Gallifrey and therefore no use as a Dalek duplicate.

One grumble is that the book has neither a contents page nor an index. This is a pity because we can envisage it as an ideal reference source for writers. Also, the final chapters seem to cover the Ninth, Tenth and Eleventh Doctors companions in a little too much depth, although this may be due to the programme’s shift towards richer emotional storytelling and companion’s family connections.

Companions is a very thorough volume and consequently suited to the more dedicated fan. We found it fascinating to see all the touches that have been added to our favourite characters over the years and it really motivates us to catch up on some of the non-television adventures we have missed!

Released on Thursday 27 June 2013 by Candy Jar Books.

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