Susan Foreman was the first Time Lord we ever saw, and granddaughter to the eponymous Doctor. But where did she really come from, and what happened to her?
When Doctor Who began in 1963, Susan Foreman was one of the first characters we saw. She was the eponymous ‘unearthly child’ of the very first episode, and a supposed teenaged student at the Coal Hill School in London.
But of course, she was no ordinary student. Susan piqued the interest of two of her school teachers – Barbara Wright and Ian Chesterton – who, bemused by both her obliviousness and uncannily advanced scientific knowledge, decided to follow her home. Home, of course, turned out to be a certain blue police box called the TARDIS, where she lived with an irascible and enigmatic old man known as the Doctor.
Susan Foreman claimed she was the Doctor’s granddaughter, although in the TV series this fact was never proved. In the ‘Lungbarrow‘ novel, the writer Marc Platt establishes that Susan is the granddaughter of one of the founders of Time Lord society known as the Other, who may or may not have been the Doctor. And when the First Doctor travels back to the start of Time Lord civilisation, Susan instantly recognises him as her grandfather, and they begin their travels together. However, the canonicity of this version is debatable.
Another questionable origin for Susan Foreman can be found in the official Eighth Doctor novel ‘Sometime Never…’ which sees the Eighth Doctor give some of his own life energy to a man called Soul, who has a daughter called Zezanne. Soul and Zezanne then travel back in time and lose their memories, and Soul takes on the appearance of a man that looks like the First Doctor. And indeed, he believes himself to be the First Doctor, and Zezanne believes herself to be Susan. Their time ship, meanwhile, takes the form of a blue police box – which just so happens to have landed in 1963.
And whilst the canonicity of this origin is also debatable, what is clear is that the Doctor and Susan were of the same race; in ‘An Unearthly Child,’ the Doctor stated that they were “cut off from [their] own people without friends or protection.” Susan confirmed this, adding that she was “born in another time, another world.” Moreover, her surname probably wasn’t Foreman; she most likely stole this from the name of the junkyard where the TARDIS had landed.
It wasn’t until the series progressed that fans began to glean more details about Susan Foreman’s origins. In the 1969 story ‘The War Games,’ it was revealed that the Doctor had stolen the TARDIS and run away from his own people, dissatisfied with the life of mere observation and desirous to explore the universe of space and time. The Twelfth Doctor later explained that it wasn’t just boredom that drove him away, but fear.
And fans would have to wait some 50 years before they were given more details about this event. In the 2013 episode ‘The Name of the Doctor,’ we see the First Doctor and Susan Foreman stealing a TARDIS from a repair shop on Gallifrey. But because one of the Doctor’s future companions – Clara Oswald – has entered the Doctor’s timestream, she influences which machine he chooses, persuading him to pick the TARDIS with the faulty navigation system.
After this, it’s not known how long the Doctor and Susan Foreman travelled together, but we do know that they had numerous adventures, including a visit to the planet Quinnis in the Fourth Universe which the Doctor references in ‘The Edge of Destruction.’ (This adventure was later made into an audio drama by Big Finish.)
Ultimately, the travellers landed in England in 1963, and Susan became a pupil at Coal Hill School where she studied for five months.
Eventually, the Doctor and Susan Foreman parted ways. In the 1964 story ‘The Dalek Invasion of Earth,’ Susan falls in love with a young freedom fighter called David Campbell, and although she has no intention of ending her travels with her grandfather, he takes the decision for her. He sees how deeply she has fallen in love, and locks her out of the TARDIS. Susan pleads with him, insisting that they belong together, but the Doctor gently refutes this. She’s a woman, he says, and he wants her to find her roots of her own. “Your future lies with David,” he points out, “and not with a silly old buffer like me.”
And with that, he leaves her in London in the year 2164.
So what happened to Susan Foreman after this? There are several explanations. One can be found in the Eighth Doctor novel ‘Legacy of the Daleks,’ in which the Doctor returns to London just after the Dalek invasion to discover that Susan is working as a Peace Officer, and that she and David are having marital problems. The adventure ends with Susan acquiring the Master‘s TARDIS and heading off for her own solo adventures in time and space.
The explanation that seems to carry the most weight, though, is the one from Big Finish which begins with ‘An Earthly Child.’ Again, the Eighth Doctor returns to London after the Dalek invasion, only this time he discovers he now has a great-grandson known as Alex (who just happens to be played by Paul McGann’s son Jake.) The planet is in disarray and is on the brink of falling into the hands of a xenophobic group known as Earth United, which Alex has become embroiled in.
In this timeline, Susan Foreman remains on Earth with her son, but she later leaves to get involved in the Time War. This is depicted in the Susan’s War box set from Big Finish, which sees Susan form an allegiance with the Sensorites and recruit her old friend Ian Chesterton as a diplomat, among other things. One particularly interesting story – known as ‘The Shoreditch Intervention’ – involves Susan being manipulated into travelling back to 1963 to help the Daleks retrieve The Hand of Omega and prevent Skaro’s destruction (tying in with the Seventh Doctor story ‘Remembrance of the Daleks.’)
But will Susan Foreman ever make a TV return to Doctor Who? It would be complicated, but not impossible. First, the showrunners would need to decide which timeline was the right one, or come up with a brand new timeline of their own. Certainly, Susan Foreman hasn’t been forgotten in the Whoniverse; the Eleventh Doctor talked about her in the 2013 story ‘The Rings of Akhaten,’ and the Twelfth Doctor had a framed picture of Susan on his desk in ‘The Pilot.’
Where do you think Susan Foreman came from, and where do you think she is now? Would you like her character to return to Doctor Who someday? Let me know in the comments below.
Cybermen Doctor Who scarf – order now from the Lovarzi shop!