Travelling with the Doctor has its risks. Here, we remember the Doctor Who companions who didn’t survive their TARDIS travels.
Poor Katarina. As well as being one of the shortest-serving Doctor Who companions, she also had the misfortune of dying during her time with the Doctor. After a mere five episodes in the show, she perished in the fourth part of ‘The Daleks’ Master Plan‘ after being cornered in an airlock by the villainous Kirksen from the planet Desperus. He was using Katarina as a hostage to get the Doctor to change the spaceship’s course, but Katarina sacrificed herself to let the Doctor escape – by jettisoning herself and Kirksen from the vessel.
And sadly, Katarina wasn’t the last of the Doctor Who companions to perish in ‘The Daleks’ Master Plan,’ as Sara Kingdom also died in the story’s finale – although it’s debatable as to whether she counts as one of the official Doctor Who companions.
It’s so secret that actor Matthew Waterhouse was non-too-pleased when he learned he was to be the next of the Doctor Who companions to expire. He expressed his unhappiness at the time, but the Fifth Doctor Peter Davison reassured that him that being killed off was a memorable way to go – and history has shown that he was right.
And even though being blown up in a spaceship that has been sabotaged by the Cybermen doesn’t bode well for one’s Doctor Who career, it’s worth mentioning that Adric did indeed return to Doctor Who a couple of weeks later in Season 19’s ‘Time Flight’ – albeit as an hallucinogenic image.
Moreover, Adric’s dramatic exit in Eric Saward‘s ‘Earthshock’ marked the first time in the series’ history that the programme had ended without its traditional theme music. In this case, the actors’ names scrolled over a still image of Adric’s shattered badge for mathematical excellence, and in complete silence.
When actor Nicola Bryant decided to leave Doctor Who in 1986, she asked to be given a dramatic departure. And she certainly got this in the eighth episode of ‘The Trial of a Time Lord’ when she appeared to have died at the hands of the crooked surgeon Crozier.
But at some point over the course of ‘The Trial of a Time Lord’s development, it seems the production team grew uncomfortable with giving Peri such a bleak send-off, and it was revealed in the story’s finale that she had in fact survived and was now living as a warrior queen with the thunderous King Yrcanos. The explanation that was given was that the Matrix (the Gallifreyan data repository) had been tampered with, and Peri’s supposed death had never occurred in the first place.
Doctor Grace Holloway
The 1996 TV movie was the first time in which both the Doctor and one of his companions died in the same adventure. First, the Seventh Doctor was gunned down by a San Francisco street gang, and indeed remained dead for some considerable time as the anaesthetic almost destroyed the regenerative process.
After this, the Grim Reaper had its sights set on his new friend Doctor Grace Holloway, who died after the Master threw her off a ledge in the TARDIS cloister room. Shortly after, he snapped the neck of another (possible?) Doctor Who companion Chang Lee.
But we have to remember that this is Doctor Who we’re watching, and the TARDIS is a very “sentimental thing.” The machine brought these two Doctor Who companions back with something that resembled regeneration energy, although the story implies that their revival was as a result of time travel.
Either way, does the miraculous survival of these Doctor Who companions add some weight to the Second Doctor’s claim that his regenerative power is “part of the TARDIS”? (See ‘The Power of the Daleks‘ part one.) The debate starts here…
Captain Jack Harkness
A similar power was at play for the next of our Doctor Who companions – in this case Captain Jack Harkness, who died after being exterminated by the Daleks in ‘The Parting of the Ways.’ It was Rose Tyler who brought him back, after absorbing all of the energy of the time vortex and using her new-found powers to revive him. Unfortunately she brought him back for all eternity, leaving him effectively immortal.
Interestingly, ‘The Parting of the Ways’ marked the second occasion in which the Doctor and one of his companions died in the same adventure, as the Ninth Doctor was forced to absorb all of the energy of the time vortex to save Rose’s life, triggering his next regeneration.
Rose Tyler was not long for this world either, though, as she ‘died’ at the end of the following series. But we use this term loosely; she introduced the adventure as “the story of how I died,” and whilst this is technically true, it’s not quite on the same scale as Adric or Grace. Because in the Series Two episode ‘Doomsday,’ Rose ended up trapped in a parallel world after a run-in with the Daleks and the Cybermen, and because the authorities back on the real Earth were unable to find her body, she was listed as dead.
Of course, one could argue that ‘a part’ of Rose died when she was eternally separated from the Doctor, owing to the sheer magnitude of the emotional pain. But otherwise, she got off fairly lightly compared to some of the other Doctor Who companions.
Of all the Doctor Who companions, Rory Williams must surely hold the record for the highest number of deaths and resurrections, unless you count Captain Jack. He experienced his first demise at the hands of the Silurians in 2010’s ‘Cold Blood,’ but was brought back in the form of an Auton in ‘The Pandorica Opens’ as a means of trapping the unwitting Time Lord.
This Auton version then ceased to exist when the Doctor rebooted the universe in ‘The Big Bang,’ and as such it’s debatable as to whether his first death ever actually happened. Then, of course, an alternate version of Rory died in a parallel universe-cum-aborted timeline in ‘The Wedding of River Song,’ followed by a fourth(?) death in another aborted timeline in ‘The Angels Take Manhattan.’
This was followed by an actual death in the same episode when he and his wife Amy jumped off the roof of an apartment building, but because their sacrifice triggered a temporal paradox, it reset the timeline, meaning that their death never happened. Are you keeping up?
After this, Rory died for real as an old man having lived out the remainder of his years in the wrong century. And if you’re wondering just how many times Doctor Who companions can die, here’s another one to fry your brain: Rory also dream-died in the Series Five episode ‘Amy’s Choice’ after being pulverised by the Eknodine. Oh, and he hallucination-died in the TARDIS corridors in ‘The Doctor’s Wife.’ Have we missed any out?
The next of our Doctor Who companions makes Rory Williams’ life look simple. Nobody quite knows how many times Clara Oswald and her various, splintered versions perished. This is because, in ‘The Name of the Doctor,’ she entered the Doctor’s timestream in order to save him from The Great Intelligence, and in doing so she encountered all of his previous incarnations. All we know for certain is that the Oswin Oswald version died in ‘Asylum of the Daleks,’ followed by Clara Oswin Oswald in the 2012 Christmas special ‘The Snowmen.’
But the real(?) Clara finally met the Doctor in ‘The Bells of St. John’ and stayed with him until the 2015 episode ‘Face the Raven’ where she met her match at the hands of a – well, it’s in the title.
So what does this mean for one of the most timey wimey Doctor Who companions of all time? Well, she was given a stay of execution in ‘Hell Bent’ as the Doctor used Gallifreyan technology to rescue her. But it was only a temporary fix. Clara still had to return to that moment and face the proverbial raven – just as soon as she’d explored the universe in her own TARDIS.
The final entry on our list of Doctor Who companions is the unfortunate Bill Potts – the first (and hopefully the last) of the Doctor Who companions to be ‘upgraded’ by the Cybermen. Now, the ‘essence’ of Bill did actually survive, and she was transformed into a fluid-like being by another fluid-like being called Heather. Together, the pair left the Doctor (believing him to be dead) and raced off to explore the universe.
As such, the extent to which Bill Potts actually ‘died’ is up for debate, even if her human body perished. She did, however, ‘meet’ the Doctor again in the 2017 Christmas special ‘Twice Upon a Time,’ albeit as a compendium of memories put together by the glass-like creature from the spaceship Testimony.
Who else would you add to this list of Doctor Who companions? Does Donna Noble count, as she lost all of her memories of the Doctor? And if so, should Jamie McCrimmon and Zoe Heriot be added to the list? Let me know in the comments below.