The Doctor travels through space and time with periodically changing companions. Though his companions give The Doctor his “humanity,” they are often swallowed up by his agenda, tragically losing who they are to his adventures. This drama is unsurprising considering that The Doctor is a force of nature and has a habit of commanding both fanatical devotion and outright hatred.
Naturally, some companions are more popular than others. While there’s a lot of love for Sarah Jane Smith, Donna Noble, and Rose Tyler, others are often overlooked. This list of Doctor Who‘s most underappreciated companions from the recent, post-2005 iteration of the show, considers each character’s resilience and independence, even when faced with The Doctor’s all-consuming nature.
As the overlooked and often overshadowed boyfriend of Rose, Mickey is one of the best examples of an underrated companion. When he first enters The Doctor’s world, he’s a relatively unimportant character. Showing little backbone or common sense in early episodes, he appeared to be more of a plot convenience than an actual person.
Mickey ends up finding his niche and becomes a hero in the episodes “Rise of the Cybermen” and “Age of Steel.” While Rose’s love for The Doctor consumes her, Mickey decides to take control of his destiny, fighting heroically against the Cybermen. When faced with the decision of following The Doctor, Mickey realizes that The Doctor is beyond anything he can do or be, and to preserve his own identity, Mickey leaves. Rose, meanwhile is trapped in another dimension — a victim of her devotion to The Doctor.
Martha Jones begins her travels with The Doctor according to the typical formula. She is a medical student who falls into The Doctor’s web. Initially, Martha isn’t particularly memorable and is victim to the common Doctor Who trope when she falls in love with him. Had this remained the case, she would not be on this list.
Martha grows significantly as a companion, and in the three-parter, “Utopia,” “The Sound of Drums,” and “Last of the Timelords,” Martha finally comes into her own. While The Master holds The Doctor prisoner, Martha wages a mix of guerrilla war and religious mission, eventually saving The Doctor and the world.
Although Martha adopts The Doctor’s philosophies, she ultimately realizes that he will never love her the way she wants. She recognizes that to preserve her identity and achieve her goals, she needs to part ways with him. It’s unusual to see a companion “break up” with The Doctor in this way, but Martha ends up making a name for herself working with Torchwood and UNIT, eventually marrying another “Doctor graduate”, Mickey.
To call Craig a companion is a bit of a stretch, but he does appear in two episodes and shares a friendship with The Doctor. His limited appearances make him forgettable, but his independence makes him a good companion. Craig has his own life, goals, and loves. While Craig makes common cause with The Doctor in “The Lodger” and “Closing Time,” he doesn’t abandon his life or loved ones in pursuit of adventure.
Craig enjoys the best of both worlds: friendship with The Doctor without losing himself. In the end, he gets to go home to his family, something many of The Doctor’s more devoted companions never do. It serves as a reminder to The Doctor that not everyone is willing to sacrifice everything for him.
Rory is often lumped together with Amy Pond. Although Rory is more typically a supporting character, he is much more than a sidekick to the sidekick. Rory is a stalwart companion to Amy in ways that occasionally seem absurd or foolish.
However, even as a centurion Auton defending the trapped Amy for thousands of years in “The Pandorica Opens,” he never forgets his humanity. Eventually, he is lost to time, but his commitment was never to The Doctor, it was always to Amy and his ultimate sacrifice is for her, rather than The Doctor.
Amy was an excellent companion to Matt Smith’s Eleventh Doctor, and she plays a powerful role in his development as a character. For this, she deserves credit, but she would have been relatively unremarkable if not for the unconditional support and love from Rory.
Can we even consider the TARDIS to be a companion? I would say yes. The TARDIS is arguably The Doctor’s longest running and most committed companion. This idea is supported in the episode “The Doctor’s Wife.” The incarnation of the TARDIS into the body of a woman puts “the ship” in a whole new light. She claims that not only did she allow herself to be stolen, but that she, in fact, is the one who stole The Doctor.
Given this information, we might that Doctor Who is a story about the TARDIS, and The Doctor is, in fact, her companion. She is sentient and has demonstrated her desire for independence, often taking The Doctor on excursions of her own design. The TARDIS often imposes her agenda on The Doctor, a departure from the norm, saying that she takes The Doctor “where he needs to go,” not necessarily where he wants. In many ways, she is The Doctor’s most important companion, while all the rest are ephemeral guests.