Doctor Who: Most Memorable Companion Departures

Folks, Doctor Who may have temporarily left our screens, but the good man will show up here, once a week or so. Today I bring you the most memorable companion departures. I'm sure many of you will have other ideas, and that's what the comments section is for :).

Rose in Doomsday
Rose gets one of the saddest send-offs in the show.

She gets to have the family she's always wanted, complete with a dad, but she never gets to see the Doctor again. This is a moment the entire series was building up to: there's no such thing as forever with the Doctor, and you're left with the people you loved on Earth.

It was an accident of fate, not a decision made by the Doctor or herself. Unlike future companion departures, there was no question of agency because there was no agency to be had. It was tragic in a classical way, more tragic perhaps than if she'd died. But we were left to wonder whether she'd get over it, and I believed that she would come out stronger.

(let's not talk about the second Rose Tyler send-off, one of the worst things ever)

Here's the clip. Watch how beautifully it's directed.


Romana in Warrior's Gate
Romana begins as a Timelord prodigy sent to help the Doctor in his quest for the key to time. He shows her the ways of the world beyond Gallifrey (and many speculate that he showed her the ways of the secular flesh), and she does not want to go back.

Well, this student surpasses the master, and she becomes her own Doctor (complete with her own sonic screwdriver, which happens to be better than the Doctor's). The Universe simply wasn't big enough for the two of them, so she finds her own.

The downside? Romana got the dog, while the Doctor was stuck with the damn kid.


Tegan in Resurrection of the Daleks.

Tegan is one of the few companions who had the opportunity to leave not once, but twice. The first time was after she'd spent an entire season whining (justifiably) about how the Doctor had kidnapped her and failed to return her home. As these things go though, the Doctor took her at her word, despite a change of heart.

Luckily for slashfic writers everywhere, the Doctor bumped into her again in Amsterdam, and thus Tegan began a second, more successful run on the TARDIS. The tense threesome of Tegan, Turlough and The Doctor merits an entire post of its own, but her second departure was not as joyful as their subtextual hijinks.

Tegan bears witness to a run of episodes where the Doctor fails entirely, in which pretty much everybody dies apart from the principals (and even one of them).

Sick of all the death and destruction, she leaves, wearing what is possibly my favorite outfit ever worn in Doctor Who (I mean serious love). This is the only time I can think of where a companion leaves the Doctor out of anger or disappointment. In her eyes, he's absolutely not a hero, he's a catalyst for mass murder.

But there's still so much obvious love between them, just look at his horror when she leaves with a cold shake of his hand. And his parting line, "It seems I must mend my ways." So haunting.


Jo Grant in Green Death

I'm no great fan of Jo Grant (she's the anti-feminist whippet who sits between brilliant scientist Liz Shaw and fan favorite Sarah-Jane Smith), but the Doctor's affection for her was undeniable. And until this episode, it was decidedly paternal.

Jo is the only character who would legitimately leave the Doctor to get married, so unlike the many other times female characters were paired off owing to contract negotiation failures, it didn't feel cheap for her to leave the Doctor. Especially with the line to break his hearts: "He's sort of a younger you."

Also, as we learn in The Sarah Jane Adventures, she ended up living an AWESOME life.

Hall of Shame:
Leela, our great warrior, being "married off" to the captain of the Gallifreyan guard.

Peri, who was first "killed off," but was actually married off in one of the worst bait-and-switches the show has ever produced.

Donna. I can't even begin to express in words how much I hated her ending, but just know that it made my blood boil.

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7 Responses to “ Doctor Who: Most Memorable Companion Departures ”

  1. I've always rather liked Martha's exit. I don't like how RTD seemed unable to hold onto a companion for more than a year after Rose left (as apparently you needed a fresh pair of eyes to make it exciting) but she made the decision that was best for her and I admire that.

    Especially as the Doctor had been treating her rather badly.

  2. I also loved Martha's exit, for the reasons that you mentioned. However, I wasn't too crazy about how the Doctor wouldn't man up and tell her how amazing she was, even as she was leaving.
    But she knows she's awesome, and I guess that's what counts!

  3. I still get sad about Donna Noble.  She deserved better than that.  Far better.

  4. I know! It was wrong on so many levels.

  5. You're right, that was a very sweet ending for a totally unlikeable character. I was tempted to put it on the list just for the dawn of ACE!

  6. Ah, but that wrongness was sweetly painful.  Donna's unconcerned OK, bye" as she briefly looks up from her phone-call on Ten's departure -- that's a great moment.

    That said: no question, Rose is the one.  By a country mile.

    Just a shame they destroyed its significance by bringing her back in The Stolen Earth.  *sigh*

  7. You're right about Donna, but then eveything about Journey's End was appalling. I'm stunned, however, that Sarah in Hand of Fear didn't make your cut. Her departure really set the standard by which all others are judged.

    Incidentally, I just finished ranking all of the stories of the new series, with commentary about why I rate them so. I'd like to see you do a list like this!

    Happy New Year!


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