Some Doctor Who companions stayed longer than others! We take a look at the travellers who left after short stints in the TARDIS, and try to work out who was the briefest of all.
First, it’s worth bearing in mind that it’s not always easy to determine what makes a bona fide Doctor Who companion. A trip in the TARDIS is certainly a must, but characters like Sara Kingdom are trickier. She arrived (and departed) during the course of ‘The Daleks’ Master Plan‘ in 1965 / 66 and began as a baddie who was trying to capture the Doctor, before ultimately joining him in his fight against the dreaded mutants from Skaro. And as a no-nonsense space security agent from Kemble, she was well-qualified for the role.
In total, Sara Kingdom appeared in six episodes of this story, travelling with the Doctor for five of them – even if one of these journeys involved accidentally stumbling onto a teleporter! But she was never intended to become a full-time Doctor Who companion, and came about during a somewhat messy period in the show’s history when the incoming producers were trying to decide on a new TARDIS team (more on that later.)
Eventually, she perished at the hands of the Daleks’ time destructor at the end of episode 12.
Kamelion was arguably the most ‘avant-garde’ Doctor Who companion. It was the programme’s 20th anniversary year, and the producer John Nathan-Turner had the bold idea of casting a robot as the latest member of the TARDIS team – as in, a genuine machine, not a man in a suit.
Predictably, this proved near-impossible to pull off, and Kamelion was reduced to a handful of short appearances – once in episode two of ‘The King’s Demons,’ and then in four episodes of ‘Planet of Fire’ a year later, where he was dramatically written out. (There is a deleted scene from ‘The Awakening’ that features Kamelion, but this never made it onto the air.)
Despite his brevity, Kamelion is perhaps the most fascinating Doctor Who companion due to his ability to mimic the appearance and voice of any being he chose, something that the Doctor’s enemy the Master was able to use to great effect. And this was an idea that particularly lent itself to radio, and was later used by Big Finish to give the character of Kamelion the air-time he deserved.
Katarina was another brief Doctor Who companion from the blood-bath that was ‘The Daleks’ Master Plan.’ Unlike Sara Kingdom, however, it was planned for Katarina to become a fully-fledged Doctor Who companion, and she boarded the TARDIS at the end of the previous story ‘The Myth Makers.’
However, it soon became apparent that her character wouldn’t lend itself to travelling through time and space. Indeed, it would be difficult enough to explain 20th century concepts to a citizen from the historical city of Troy, let alone dimensionally-transcendental spaceships and mutants in polycarbide armour.
The decision was made, therefore, to quickly curtail Katarina’s stint as a Doctor Who companion, and she departed after a mere four episodes. Thus, she won the accolade of becoming the (at the time) shortest-serving Doctor Who companion, as well as the first to die on-screen, sacrificing herself in ‘The Traitors’ to help the Doctor and his friends escape.
Sara Kingdom, therefore, was introduced as a temporary stand-in to fill the gap she left.
It’s hard to say whether Wilfred Mott counts as a Doctor Who companion or not. Certainly, he travelled with the Doctor in the TARDIS, but only for one brief journey in ‘The End of Time.’
Assuming this was enough to elevate him to Doctor Who companion status, his stint was still a brief one at just two episodes. But he did make multiple appearances prior to this. As the grandfather of long-term companion Donna Noble, his life frequently overlapped with the Doctor’s, beginning with the 2007 Christmas special ‘Voyage of the Damned’ and continuing into the show’s fourth season.
And with Donna Noble returning to the show (along with David Tennant) in 2023, it’s possible that we may see a return of Mott as well. And who knows, he may even get an extended trip in the TARDIS…
Like Wilfred, there is some debate as to whether Adam Mitchell counts as an official Doctor Who companion. He was introduced in the Series One episode ‘Dalek’ as a young, geeky scientist working for the eccentric entrepreneur Henry van Statten, as well as a potential love interest for the Doctor’s other companion Rose Tyler.
And at the end of ‘Dalek,’ Adam wandered into the TARDIS moments before it took off, soon finding himself whipped up into the Doctor’s travels. He was therefore an ‘official’ Doctor Who companion throughout the subsequent episode ‘The Long Game,’ as the Doctor and Rose travelled to Satellite Five in the year 100,000.
But like many others before him, Adam was destined for a short stint aboard the TARDIS. As far as the Doctor was concerned, he didn’t quite cut the mustard owing to his reckless actions whilst on the Satellite, and he was booted out at the end of the episode. This means that he was a Doctor Who companion for all of one episode, and was possibly the first to cease travelling with the Doctor against their will (dying notwithstanding!)
Of course, these aren’t the only Doctor Who companions who served brief stints. Other contenders include Mel Bush (companion to the Sixth and Seventh Doctors), Bill Potts (companion to the Twelfth Doctor) and Dan Lewis (companion to the Thirteenth – assuming he departs in the upcoming centenary special.)
Can you think of any other Doctor Who companions with brief stints? And who is your favourite from the list above? Let me know in the comments!
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