Monday, 2 March 2015

The Companions That Sort Of Were

Sam Jones
After the dismal failure of the 1996 TV movie (decent audience figures, but pretty much everyone hated it), Doctor Who returned to existing solely in the spin-off media. If a true "Eighth Doctor era" exists at all, which one can certainly debate, then the vast bulk of it surely exists outside of TV. And it's there we have to look for his companions, whether they be those canonically named in The Night of the Doctor, or those of more doubtful status vis a vis the new series.

The rule I am going to adopt in listing them here is similar to that I've used for the individual posts on actual companions. In order to count, they have to be contemporary with the series at the time, rather than being added in new stories featuring old Doctors after the fact. In this case, since we're considering companions of the 8th Doctor, that means that they have to have appeared between 1996, when the TV movie aired, and 2005, when the new series did. It's arbitrary, but I have to draw the line somewhere, and that's where I've drawn it so far, so let's keep it that way.

Leaving the comics to one side for the moment, the novels re-launched in 1997, now under the auspices of BBC Worldwide. Unable to use Grace Holloway for legal reasons, they had to invent a new companion. Apparently deciding that since the people who watched Doctor Who in the '70s and '80s had largely been teenagers, and they surely weren't likely to have aged since (right?), they settled on Generic Teenage Girl as their model for the companion. So, first appearing in the universally derided 1997 novel The Eight Doctors, we have Samantha Jones, better known as "Sam".

Sam was born into a middle-class London family in 1980, making her sixteen when she first meets the Doctor and starts travelling with him. She is notable for her strong moral code, and is initially rather irritating about it. From a game perspective, the most significant aspect of this is that she's a pacifist. To be fair, not a complete pacifist, since she'll certainly fight in self-defence, but she won't start a fight, and generally tries not to hurt people. (She sometimes fails, mind you, and does actually have a couple of deaths on her conscience by the time she leaves). Beyond that, she's a Save the Whales, pro-gay rights, vegetarian sort of a person, and, among other things, supports Greenpeace.

She's saved from being unbearably preachy about this in a set of three 1998 novels culminating in Seeing I, in which she spends three years as a charity worker on a human colony world in the early 23rd century. Returning to the TARDIS more mature, and having proved that she's willing to put in the hard work to back up her beliefs, she's rather less annoying from this point on. And, yes, her story gets rather timey-wimey over the next few books, but there's not the space to go into all of that here.

Instead, we'll note that, especially after her off-world sojourn, she's physically quite fit, good at running (she goes jogging daily), and with some pretty reasonable Self-Defence and Dodge skills. Also while off-world, she will have picked some decent Craft skills, and possibly a bit of Survival. She leaves the Doctor in the two-part 1999 novel Interference, by which time she's about 21. She does so to stay on Earth in the year 1996... which is about a year before she left, requiring her to remain low for a while. What happens to her after that is unclear, but it does mean that, as of the beginning of 2015, she would be aged 39, five years older than her official records say she is.

Some time before this happens, though, in the 1999 novel The Taint, the Doctor picks up another companion: Fitz Kreiner. Under a different line editor, and having realised who was actually reading the books by this point, the writers made Fitz (short for "Fitzgerald") a rather older character than Sam. He proved popular, and appeared in a total of 50 novels over the course of seven years... more than any other companion.

He was born in England in 1936, to a German father and an English mother... which, as you can probably imagine, meant that the '40s and '50s weren't exactly a barrel of laughs for him. He meets the Doctor in 1963, aged about 27, and shortly before his mother dies - his father having died when he was young. By the time of The Taint he's working in a florists' while trying to make it big as a musician, and he's noted as being a good guitarist and a passable writer of lyrics.

He's described as having a thin face, typically unshaven and with long hair - Callum Blue has been suggested by fans as someone with similar looks. Having spent much of his life trying to pretend to be someone he isn't, he has a considerable Acting skill, and regularly uses it to pretend to be other kinds of people, especially glamorous ones such as spies, aristocrats, and the like. In fact, he's good at spinning stories, and can sometimes retreat into a fantasy life. CHA and the sort of INT that reflects quick thinking are probably his highest stats, and he'd much rather use them than his meagre combat skills.

Sod off, Frobisher. You don't belong in this post!
Indeed, his Willpower probably isn't great, either. He smokes and drinks a lot, and manages to sleep with quite a number of women on his travels. (One of the more surreal examples being his attempt to seduce Penelope Pitstop in The Crooked World...) The story of his time with the Doctor, like Sam's, does get rather complicated, but he's an experienced adventurer by the end of it.

Of course, the Doctor has to have at least one female companion, so, when Sam leaves in Interference she is replaced by Compassion. Compassion is, it has to be said, one of the harder companions to actually describe in rules terms, but let's see what we can do. To start with, she is a multiple-generation sterile clone of a woman named Laura Tobin, who lived on a human colony world in the 26th century. The cloning process doesn't work in the normal way, but as a means of continually recreating a person from the memories of those who knew them, after they die. Memory being what it is, and our knowledge of others' internal states being imperfect, quite how much Compassion resembles her original self is open to question, but likely minimal at best.

Moreover, she's permanently plugged into media channels by a means of a receiver in her ear. She apparently can't do without this, so, in order to protect her from potentially harmful signals (she's been travelling on a planet-sized spaceship all her life, and not really been exposed to anything beyond it) the Doctor interfaces her with the TARDIS. Which is when it starts to get weird.

Block transfer computations... Time Lord plots... blah blah... look, the upshot of it all is that she becomes a sentient humanoid TARDIS. In this form, she's essentially indestructible, can deliver electric shocks and powerful psychic feedback, has senses that extend into other dimensions, is larger inside than out, and, well, travels through time and space. Her interior is largely formed from her subconscious mind, but partially controlled by her conscious thoughts and dreams; her console room is a vast empty void with a black, partially crystalline console on top of a stone pillar reached by a narrow bridge. She even has a chameleon circuit, although she prefers to retain her original looks - apparently a sort of chubby Nicole Kidman.

So good luck with statting that one up.

Compassion leaves in the 2000 novel The Ancestor Cell, setting off on her own with a Time Lord engineer for company. The Doctor has adventures on his own for the next few books, before re-joining Fitz in the 2001 novel Escape Velocity, which also introduces the next companion, Anji Kapoor.

Anji is usually said to be of Indian descent, although some of the authors seem to think she's Pakistani. At any rate, even her parents were born in Britain, and that's as much a part of her identity as her ancestry. For instance, while her family is Hindu, she is not a believer herself, preferring science over religion, and, while she speaks some Hindi, she doesn't like wearing saris. She works as a stockbroker in the City of London, which doesn't suggest the most exciting PC skill set ever, although she does have some skill in self-defence, and her Willpower seems fairly good, too.

She leaves, returning to her old job, in the 2003 novel Timeless, in which she is replaced by Trix MacMillan, who had stowed away on the TARDIS some books previously. As a con woman, Trix does seem to have more potential as a PC than either of her predecessors, but it also means that we know next to nothing about her background. She's first seen in the employ of a time traveller, so it's anyone's guess where and when she's originally from, and it's pretty clear that "Trix MacMillan" isn't even her real name. (For what it's worth, though, she claims that "Trix" is short for "Beatrix"). We do know that she's very good at Disguise and Stealth, and there's likely some cross-over with Fitz's skill set as well. Doubtless skills like Streetwise are also appropriate.

The series of 8th Doctor novels ended in 2005 with The Gallifrey Chronicles, shortly before the new TV series started. At the end of the novel, Trix and Fitz are still travelling with the Doctor, but have announced their intention to leave the TARDIS and move in together on present-day Earth. Fitz is apparently in his mid thirties by this point, although how old Trix is is anyone's guess.

But now, of course, we have to step backward. There had been a scattering of audio plays before, but they became a regular thing when Big Finish gained the license in 1999. Initially, the stories featured the 5th, 6th, and 7th Doctors, but, in 2001, with Paul McGann now on board, the 8th Doctor made his first appearance in Storm Warning. The Doctor starts that story travelling alone, and, given the open ending of The Gallifrey Chronicles, it's at least possible to imagine that the audio plays simply take place after the books, with no disruption to continuity. (Having said which, there must be some unseen adventures between them, because the two clearly don't dovetail neatly together, but it's either that or accept two entirely separate continuities).

At any rate, Storm Warning did, of course, introduce a new companion - and the first to be made retrospectively TV-canonical in The Night of the Doctor: Charlotte Pollard, known as "Charley".

Charley is born in 1912 to a wealthy upper middle class family in Hampshire. She later rebels against this uprbringing, deciding to re-model herself as an "Edwardian adventuress" (albeit a decade too late for that to be literally true) and first meets the Doctor in 1930, aged in her late twenties.

Much is made in the subsequent stories of the fact that her death a day or so later is a "fixed point in time" that the Doctor has just broken by saving her - much as he later fails to do for Adelaide Brooke in The Waters of Mars. The paradox is eventually fixed, although not before it's caused some problems.

While she has the requisite bravery and Willpower to act as an "adventuress", the fact that it's largely a flight of fancy does mean that she has few of the actual skills. In DWAITAS terms, she may well have the Inexperienced trait early on in her travels, and doesn't, for example, seem to be particularly adept with technology - even that of her own era - nor to have any experience with skills like Survival. She may, perhaps, have some learned skill in Stealth or the like, and certainly does in social areas such as Etiquette, to the extent that that's useful.

She is fairly knowledgeable, though, being well-educated, and adapts reasonably well to alien cultures, while retaining her moral core. She may not be the first companion to fall in love with the Doctor (Sam at least fancies him when they first meet, but later gets over it, and it's vaguely implied that Benny sleeps with him in The Dying Days), but, in this respect, she is rather more clearly a predecessor of the likes of Rose and Martha. As with the latter of those, her feelings remain, of course, unrequited.

In the 2004 audio play The Creed of the Kromon, set in an alternate universe, the Doctor and Charley are joined by C'rizz. (Which is pronounced "Keriz", although why it's not spelled that way is a mystery). C'rizz is a humanoid alien, with strange bone structures on his head and skin that changes colours, chameleon-like, to match his surroundings. As such, he is probably of limited utility in many settings to which a Doctor Who game might go, and, indeed, in his one historical adventure, ends up imprisoned in a Victorian freak show.

He is also apparently susceptible to having his personality re-shaped by those around him, something that might be reflected by Weak Will or the like, and, partly because of this, turns out to have worked as an assassin before meeting the Doctor. He also has Acute Hearing, and possibly a very limited form of X-ray vision, although he doesn't really use this that we see. Both and he and Charley are still travelling with the Doctor at the end of the period under discussion in this post, although they actually leave not much later, in consecutive stories in 2006. Charley later goes on to get her own series of Doctor-free audio adventures.

Honourable mentions go to some of the comic book characters of the era, namely teenage sci-fi fangirl Izzy Sinclair, who is also the first undisputably LGBT companion in the show's history, and blue-skinned amphibian-faced super-agile combat-bunny Destrii, who, unlike C'rizz, at least has a holographic disguise thingummy.

All of which brings us to 2005, the arrival of the 9th Doctor in Rose, and, at least for the time being, the end of this series of posts. I hope you found them interesting.

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