Monday, 26 August 2013

The Companions That Weren't: the '60s

In Doctor Who stories, it's not unusual for there to be a character who takes on a companion-like role, but who does not, in the end, join the TARDIS crew. Granted, this is often at least partly because they've just died, and many wouldn't make great player characters anyway. But there are some exceptions, who can, if nothing else, give us inspiration for character ideas that fit with the setting.

I'm going to start on the Third Doctor's era shortly after the relevant sourcebook comes out, but that leaves me with a slight gap. So today I'm going to look at four characters from the show's first six seasons who either came close to being actual companions, or are particularly suited for it.

First up, and my only choice from the Hartnell era, is Jenny, from The Dalek Invasion of Earth. She's a resistance fighter against the Daleks and their robomen, and, from the dates given on screen, therefore hails from the 2170s, or thereabouts. She appears on my list because the character was seriously considered as an ongoing companion, replacing Susan, who left in that story. In the event, the writers decided they wanted somebody younger, and introduced Vicki in The Rescue, but it could have been otherwise.

She isn't given a surname, nor do we know how, exactly, she joined the resistance. Unlike the menfolk, she doesn't really do any fighting, although it's hard to imagine that she can't if it comes to it. Her main roles in the resistance are organisational, including such things as manning the communications system. But, given that she's been living in a post-apocalyptic world for ten years, it's also a fair assumption that she has good survival and stealth skills.

She seems reasonably technically adept, and it's worth remembering that her home time is one that's 150 years ahead of our own. Granted, the Dalek Occupation has destroyed so much of the technology that we don't see any evidence of it on screen at all, but she must have at least some familiarity with it, if only from her childhood. (Apparently, there used to be moving pavements in London, and there seem to be at least some off-world colonies that escaped the fall of the homeworld). She's tough, resourceful, skilled, and generally pretty good PC material - should you happen to visit her particular period of history.

My next example... not so much. I include Samantha Briggs, from The Faceless Ones, not because of any PC-like qualities, but because she came closer than any other character to becoming a companion, without actually doing so. Pauline Collins, who played the part, was offered an ongoing contract to continue playing the character as a companion, but turned it down. (Given that Collins has, among other things, since been nominated for an Oscar, it's hard to argue that this was a bad career move).

While Samantha is gutsy and determined, she's also a bit obnoxious, and there's no real evidence that she's good at much. Likely, if she had stayed on, she'd just have been screaming at the monsters... the fifth season was a bit like that anyway. She does get to snog Jamie, but we are dealing with another young female character from the present day who gives us no particular evidence she's good at much. She's conceptually somewhere between Dodo and Victoria, and while therefore perfectly fitting for the era, probably not a lot of cop as a PC. Although, as so often with these sorts of character, there's plenty of room to expand the concept without contradicting anything.

Number three is Anne Travers, from The Web of Fear. Anne is a scientist, the daughter of Professor Edward Travers, who also appears in The Abominable Snowmen. It had been planned to bring her back in The Invasion, and, if that had happened, she might well have been considered for the female companion role in the seventh season, as well (given that she's exactly the same character concept as the one they did use). For reasons that aren't entirely clear, she was written out of the later story, so this never came to pass.

In The Web of Fear, Anne is a scientific advisor to the British Army, and what will later become UNIT. She is clearly an expert in a number of scientific fields, and has no particular difficulty believing in aliens - according to one novel, one of her lecturers at Cambridge University had previously met the daleks, which might explain a lot. While she doesn't actually appear in that novel, she does make a come-back in another, Millennial Rites, in which we learn that she has gone on to become a scientific advisor to the Cabinet on alien-related weirdness. Admittedly, she dies in that novel, which is set in 1999, but, even if we accept that, we can still use her earlier on.

There's no real evidence that she worked for UNIT as such, although somebody must have taken over as scientific advisor after the Doctor left, and she's around at the right time, and has all the right credentials. At any rate, she (or somebody like her) shouldn't be hard to work into any campaign set during that era.

You'll probably have noticed that all of these so far are women. So, to wrap up, for those of you more interested in male characters, I present Lieutenant Carstairs from The War Games. He isn't given a first name on-screen, although the novelisation says that it's 'Jeremy', and since it's written by one of the co-script-writers of the original, that seems fairly conclusive. He's an infantry officer serving on the Western Front in World War I, and is shown as being an honourable man, even amongst the madness of that conflict.

As an army officer, he clearly has a number of useful skills, and we do see evidence of his ability with a pistol. As an officer, albeit a low-ranking one, he's also probably from a wealthy background. He is loyal and courageous, and most likely volunteered to fight out of duty to his country, as so many did. He is a capable leader, as demonstrated by his helping to lead the resistance against the aliens, and, while he has difficulty accepting their advanced technology at first, he seems to get used to it before too long.

Like Anne, he does appear in a novel, and, in his case survives it. According to this, he joins Military Intelligence after the War, and eventually joins Winston Churchill's staff. He'd likely still be doing something of the sort when WWII breaks out, although he'll be middle-aged by then.

Honourable mentions also go to insatiably curious photographer Isobel Watkins from The Invasion, who might end up doing some sort of work for UNIT; gun-toting, helicopter-flying futuristic Bond girl Astrid Ferrier from The Enemy of the World; and Lady Jennifer Buckingham, plucky military nurse, all-round good egg, and Carstairs' love interest in The War Games.

And, finally, because he's the only one without stats in the sourcebooks, here is Carstairs (note the extra story points, since here, I'm not assuming he's an NPC):

Lt. Jeremy Carstairs


Athletics 2, Convince 3 (Leadership), Craft 1, Fighting 2, Knowledge 1, Marksman 4, Medicine 1, Survival 2, Technology 1, Transport 2

Attractive, Brave, Code of Conduct

SP: 12
TL: 4

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