The Ever-Changing Role of Doctor Who's Human Companions

Doctor Who has changed a lot over the years, including its format and its setting. But one of the biggest changes might be the nature of the show's companions, from protagonists to sidekicks... and back again.

In this post, looking at the split between classic and new Doctor Who, commenter lightninglouie looks at how the mantle of mystery had shifted from the Doctor to his companions, over the course of the re-boot — and how the pendulum might just swing back the other way with the newest Doctor:

With Rose, you can see how much the show has changed since the beginning. She was the audience identification character for all of the first and most of second season, because the Doctor was supposed to be strange and mysterious, too alien for casual audiences to relate to. By the middle of the Tennant era the Doctor was clearly the main character, because viewers had come to trust and identify with him. With Moffat as the showrunner, the roles are reversed; the Doctor is definitely the main viewpoint character, and, as another commenter observed last night, the companions — Amy, River, and Clara — are mysteries to be solved. I have to wonder if the roles will switch back with Clara as the protagonist and Capaldi's Doctor as the enigmatic, otherly character.

There is a clear parallel with the original series here. During the Hartnell years, the Doctor was a mysterious, even unsympathetic character and the Earthborn companions were our identification figures. By the '70s, under Pertwee and Baker, the Doctor was the hero, and the companion was just a sidekick. In fact, by the end of the '70s there were no human characters in the main cast at all — just two rather flirty Time Lords and a robot dog.

So what do you think? Will Capaldi bring with him a return of the Doctor's alien-side? Or is the newest Doctor going to tap even deeper into his humanity, while his companions teeter on the brink of their own?