You hear a grinding of gears, a far off moan of something that might be bagpipes or out of the corner of your eyes, you catch a glimpse of a gangly man in a blue suit, running as though the fate of the Universe depended on it.
It’s the Doctor. And this time, he’s come for you.
Impress him with your wit, Hand him his screwdriver at a key moment and you’ll be off, whirling through time and space in an impossible blue box.
Fail him and you’ll be left behind, lonely and ashamed. The worst bits of humanity encapsulated in flesh.
But what about those who do everything right? Those beautiful humans who are so brave and so true that every viewer feels a measure of guilt as they run through their fleeting lives with passion and grace; aiding the Doctor in any way they can while we sit on our couches dreaming and eating ice cream.
The first of these is Renette. Madame Pompadour. The beautiful French girl in the fireplace. Although already accompanied by Mickey and Rose it is obvious that the Doctor wants to swoop up little Renette (and then bigger, gorgeous Renette) and show her the stars. And he tells her as much at their last meeting; after she has braved years of clockwork men plotting her death (not to mention the every day perils of the French court). The Doctor tell Renette de Poisson to pack her bags and pick a star. But then, like he does, the Doctor gets the timing wrong and fails to return until after her death.
Renette de Poisson was brave, and quick-witted, the epitome of companion material. Yet she was left on Earth to live out her life as a mortal, dying of a mortal disease without ever seeing the stars.
The second of those unjustly left behind was Sally Sparrow. If anyone deserved to be whisked off to the stars and beyond it was Sally. In the span of twenty four hours she lost her best friend and a very intriguing new man to the weeping angels and instead of crying, giving up or becoming angry, she soldiered on. Sally Sparrow unlocked a forty year old message from the doctor, destroyed the weeping angels (well, some of them) and restored the TARDIS and its owner to the present time stream.
And what does she get? A ‘thank you very much.’ An ‘aren’t you grand.’ And she is left behind.
Sally Sparrow is arguably one of the most interesting (and definitely most beautiful, although I’m glad that this doesn’t seem to matter too much. They aren’t Bond girls, thank Jeebus) of all the women who aid the Doctor in his quest to alleviate guilt and boredom. Especially contrasted to Martha, the companion du jour.
Martha may be brilliant and gorgeous but my GOD is she boring. I can’t be the only one who was desperately sick of her puppy dog worship of the Doctor by her third episode.
(Side note. I’m re-watching Doctor Who as I write this; season three, episode twelve to be exact. I was thoroughly engrossed in writing when I realized that the Doctor was shouting, ‘We’re on a planet at the end of the universe and you’re busy blogging?!’ Well yes, yes I am. And since no one in the show is currently blogging, am I wrong in thinking that he’s talking to me? Excuse me while I go outside and listen for the wailing of an interstellar parking brake.)
Well, I’m still here (sadly) and I’m not the only one.
The final unchosen companion may not be an obvious choice.
Wilfred Mott is Donna Noble’s grandfather. The innocuous, red capped stargazer is present in the Doctor Who plot line for almost as long as Donna herself and he does much to endear the audience to the brash Ms. Noble. He stares at the stars every night. He believes in magic, in space and in the impossible. Every single day of his life.
Wilfred Mott is a man after my own heart.
We stare at the stars day after day and refuse to give up hope even when the years pass without so much as a common supernova. Wilfred Mott and I have looked into the void and we hope beyond hope that something brilliant is looking back.
Yet we’re the ones left behind.
The Doctor chooses his companions seemingly willy nilly. When he finds himself alone he plucks an intelligent mind from the human populace, endears himself to them and proceeds to change (ruin?) their lives. He has no more control over who he takes with him than we have over which continent we’re born on.
The Doctor is flying through time, clinging to humans like life rafts. And I’m not sure that he always grabs the right one.