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Grading Love, or Grating Love: Rating Companions’ Romantic Exits

We’ve looked at companion departures from a few different angles over the past several months: the good, the bad, the dumped. But there have been a handful that left for “love”. That extraordinary happenstance where a companion makes some romantic connection during a single story and ends up leaving the Doctor, the TARDIS, and all of time and space. For some dude, typically. Each occurrence was a bit different, sometimes we bought it, sometimes it was impossible to do so…

So it’s time to look back and “Grade the Romance!”

Susan and David Campbell, The Dalek Invasion of Earth

Carole Ann Ford felt it was time to leave Doctor Who, as her character was mostly just used for screaming, ankle twisting, and hostage work. Being the first companion to leave the programme, producer Verity Lambert tried her level best to give Susan a proper send off. The DIE (hmmm) was six parts and saw future Earth under the control of the Daleks. With the Doctor and co. joining forces with the resistance movement, over the span of six weeks, we saw an emerging romance between Susan and David Campbell (Peter Fraser).

Now, as we look at each of these courtships, it’s important to remember that, although we tend to watch these stories all in one go these days, back then, a six part story stayed in the fans’ consciousness for six full weeks. In this case, over the span of a month and a half, viewers saw Susan and David fight together against the Daleks, face terror together, and have quiet moments together. They made the connection fairly believable. And even then, Susan was ready to abandon him to stay with and take care of her grandfather. Ultimately, it was the Doctor who made the decision for her, and for her own good. 

I think they could have had a little bit more time devoted to the romance but in all fairness, the story had a lot of things going on. In addition, this story took on the extra burden of elevating Susan from screaming teen to young woman in a relationship, all in one fell swoop.

All in all, a good farewell for Susan and a believable relationship for the new couple, developed in a wartime atmosphere. 

Relationship Grade: B

Vicki and Troilus, The Myth Makers

The writing was on the wall for Troy, as well as Maureen O’Brien back stage, and her character Vicki. This four-part story illustrating the conflict between the Greeks and the Trojans was every bit as engrossing as The Romans, but is among the missing episodes, so all we have is the soundtrack. Nevertheless, it’s an entertaining romp, which I hope one day gets animated. It’s during the second half of this story that Vicki (O’Brien) connects with Troilus (James Lynn), a young warrior. 

There’s not a lot of romancing here: it is a whirlwind courtship, and basically, producer John Wiles wanted to be rid of O’Brien. Viewers who remember she came from the far future, might scratch their heads about her choice to strand herself deep in the past, but hey, the heart wants what the heart wants. In this case, you can take that stance, because with all that stacked against her, O’Brien actually sells it! At least, she makes the hook up seem a bit more plausible than in the hands of some other actor. 

Relationship Grade: C+

Jo and Clifford Jones, The Green Death

In the battle between the “Nut hutch” and UNIT vs Global chemicals, green slime, and of course giant maggots, we got six episodes that showed a romance cooking between Josephine Grant (Katy Manning) and professor Cliff Jones (Stewart Bevan). After three full seasons as Jo, Manning was moving on. This time, producer Barry Letts, who, along with everyone else, was sorry to see her go, wanted to send her off in style. So, off to the Nut hutch. 

A lot of care was taken in crafting this relationship. It’s worth noting that Bevan and Manning were together in real life for a while, and you can see the chemistry on screen. By the later episodes, it was clear where it was all going and it felt real enough. They say that a girl usually ends up marrying a younger version of her father and sure enough, there were some very Doctorish elements to young Mr. Jones. Not that the Doctor necessarily wanted to hear it. It was the end of an era, and a sad, lovely, powerful goodbye.

Relationship Grade: A

Leela and Andred, The Invasion of Time

Once again, it comes down to quality control in the hands of the producer, which can sometimes lead to nonsense. Evidently, the Doctor’s breaking all the rules and acting crazy on Gallifrey, making everyone in the capital, including Leela (Louise Jameson) and K9 (John Leeson), think he’s bonkers. The Time Lord most likely to control a room simply by clearing his throat is playing along with the masters of sparkles, the Vardans, but playing a much deeper game all the while. Eventually, he outsmarts the tin foil terrors, and, unfortunately, himself too, because he leaves the Gallifreyan back door unlocked, and lets the Sontarans in. What follows is a bizarre game of hide and seek, deep within the questionably decorated TARDIS interior, the building of a Demat-gun, and general chaos with a Rassilon name check or 12. 

But all of that is run of the mill, standard operating procedure, Doctor Who. Totally believable, in the grand scheme of things. 

What is NOT believable is the sudden onset relationship between Leela and Andred (Chris Tranchell), which pops up out of left field at the end of the story. Even the Doctor can’t believe what he’s hearing, or what’s more unlikely, that Leela was staying on Gallifrey or that she was staying with Andred. 

There was nothing in the script or on screen that indicated any connection, romantic or otherwise, between the savage of the Sevateem and the goon of the Gallifreyan guard. Andred was a stiff. A pill. A drip. A dope. A stooge. And boring. This was another case of a producer (Graham Williams) clearly not caring about the fate of characters. Louise Jameson asked to leave, but also wanted Leela to be killed off, likely in some proud, warrior fashion. Williams thought Leela being killed might be too much for the younger viewers, so decided to really terrorise them by shackling her to Andred. 

What’s really non-sensical about that match up is that in the story, we’re introduced to a whole barbarian culture on Gallifrey just outside the dome. One would think that if you’re going to hook Leela up with a Gallifreyan, there’d be a more natural choice out in the wasteland, a warrior caste choice. But no, no, she, um… she picked Andred. And I’m not sure anyone even told Andred. Come to think of it, since Time Lords don’t really do that type of thing… ah well.

Well, I will give the arrangement one bonus point — the incredulity on the face of Tom Baker when the Doctor hears she’s staying. Worth the price of admission. The following grade is for that, plus, there’s worse to come.

Relationship Grade: D-

Peri and King Yrcanos, The Trial of a Time Lord

First, Mindwarp was great. For me, it was the highlight of Season 23. No, that’s not saying a lot but there was a lot to love. A lot of alien colour saturation on the planet made it actually seem alien for once. The return of Sil (Nabil Shaban) saw the gurgling reptile trying to find a new body to host the brain of his dying superior, Lord Kiv (Christopher Ryan).

As the unwitting new host, Nicola Bryant not only did her best work as Peri, but in her closing moments, she was allowed to ditch her horrible, forced American accent and revert to her natural British one. That, mixed with the horrifying ramifications of the brain transplant, were chilling. Of course, that’s when a horrified King Yrcanos (Brian Blessed) burst in, destroying the abomination and everything else in the lab. Brian Blessed is truly a legend. 

Colin Baker was also in top form, having to show a wild array of extreme moods and emotional conditions in very confusing set ups. The crux of it was that, quite often, during all the video evidence presented in the over arching trial theme, we never knew if what we were viewing in the Matrix were real events or falsified by the Valeyard (Michael Jayston), the original purveyor and creator of Deep Fake videos.

But at the end of the season, after all’s well that ended well, John Nathan-Turner decided, for whatever reason, to mention in passing that, oh yeah, BY THE WAY, Peri’s not even dead, no, she totally decided to stay with Yrcanos and got married. Sure, she’s a queen now. 

AhHAHhahaaHAAha. Oh man, I don’t know what’s more ridiculous, the fact that JNT pulled that out of his Eye of Harmony at the last second, or that no one ever even told Bryant about it. She had to find out decades later when doing a DVD commentary! She was not a fan of this decision

This whole thing really does fascinate me and to this day, I wish they’d work Yrcanos and Peri back on the show, just so the queen can have a chat with the Doctor.

Anyway, Worst. Send off. Ever. 

“Relationship” Grade: F. Such a poor Grade, we’ll call it Michael.

Rose and Metacrisis Doctor: Journey’s End

I’m not sure this even counts, as in the new era, things were done fairly differently, so there really were no introducing all new characters that a companion met, fell for, then eloped with at the end before splitting. The ‘half human Tennant Doctor’ consolation prize for Rose is about as close as we’re going to get, I think. 

It was the Doctor in Tennant form, with all his memories, but with the mental attitude of Eccleston’s Doctor when she first met him. All with the human frailty to age along with Rose and live a life together. Evidently, Billie Piper wasn’t quite satisfied with the arrangement, as it wasn’t the “real” Doctor. But frankly, for her, this was probably a better version, virtually tailor made for her and frankly, the best Time Lord she could possibly manage. 

Relationship Grade: B

And The Others…

As for the other relationships that we’re more informal that were thought to have possibly blossomed later, well…

Ian and Barbara were just lovely, and although in the fairy tale view of Russell T Davies, they were supposed to have never have aged, I think they were probably perfect together, grew old together, and it was a romance for the ages. Grade A.

Ben and Polly would have struck me as a temporary thing, if at all. She was cool, but he was always griping. Grade C.

The Ponds were all over the place throughout the years but ultimately were great. Grade B.

It absolutely would not surprise me if Clara and Ashildr (Me) got together, although they might be too much alike. Just guessing. Grade C.

Finally, the Doctor and River. All those incarnations, all those exploits together. Then finally spending their last night (in actuality, 24 years) together on Darillium…

Relationship Grade: *spoilers*

Rick Lundeen

Grading Love, or Grating Love: Rating Companions’ Romantic Exits

by Rick Lundeen time to read: 8 min
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