From 1963 until 1989, the BBC science fiction series Doctor Who featured the exciting exploits of the alien time-traveler known as the Doctor, who usually had one or more traveling companions to share in his adventures. Most came from Earth, either from the past, the present, or the future, and were often whisked off through time and space without so much as a by-your-leave. They all eventually parted company with the Doctor, through various circumstances, which leaves a question worth considering:
Did the Doctor’s traveling companions make it back to their proper place and time?
Susan Foreman: No. The Doctor’s original companion, she left their home planet of Gallifrey with him and later adopted the name “Susan Foreman” during an extended stay on 20th-century Earth. Susan and the Doctor parted company after stopping a Dalek invasion of 22nd-century Earth, where she remained to marry the human resistance fighter David Campbell.
Ian Chesterton & Barbara Wright: Yes. Schoolteachers Ian and Barbara were able use an abandoned Dalek time machine to return home to London, England. However, they arrived a full two years after having gone off aboard the TARDIS, and would have quite a bit of explaining to do. Close enough.
Vicki: No. The hapless orphan known only as Vicki remained behind after the Doctor and company witnessed the end of the Trojan War. She was clearly headed for trouble, though, for she had adopted the name “Cressida” and fallen in love with the Trojan warrior Troilus. At least she will never be forgotten.
Katarina: No. The simple-minded Trojan slave girl died when she was taken hostage by a desperate criminal. To prevent the criminal from hijacking the spaceship they were on, Katarina opened an airlock door, sweeping both her and her captor into the vacuum of space.
Sara Kingdom: No. Sexy Space Security Agent Sara Kingdom was rapidly aged to death when she was caught in the warp field of the Dalek’s Time Destructor device. In seconds, her bones crumbled to dust and blew away on the wind.
Steven Taylor: No. This former astronaut left the TARDIS crew when he was asked to become the leader of a group of technologically-advanced “Elders” and primitive “Savages” from an unnamed planet, to help the two groups finally learn to live together as equals.
Dodo Chaplet: Yes. The sprightly Cockney girl had a whirlwind tour with the Doctor, but slipped off home when the TARDIS happened to return to 1960s London. Her life seemed to be ruled by coincidences.
Polly Wright & Ben Jackson: Yes. The swinging dolly-bird and the able seaman came in together, and later went out together when they realized the TARDIS had returned to the very same day on which they had left. The opportunity to resume their regular lives without interruption was too good to pass up.
Victoria Waterfield: No. Orphaned by the Daleks in her native Victorian era, this teenaged girl found a new home with Frank and Maggie Harris at the North Sea Gas Refinery some hundred years later.
Jamie McCrimmon: Yes. After numerous adventures with the Doctor, Jamie was returned to his point of departure in 18th-century Scotland by the Time Lord Tribunal, who also erased his memories of his time aboard the TARDIS.
Zoe Heriot: Yes. Twenty-first century girl Zoe Heriot was also returned to her point of departure, an orbiting space station, by the Time Lord Tribunal, with no memory of her adventures with the Doctor.
Dr. Elizabeth Shaw: Yes. Distinguished as the only companion never to leave Earth, Liz Shaw worked with the Doctor during his exile, when the TARDIS was non-operational. After a while, she became bored acting as the Doctor’s lab assistant and left her post at U.N.I.T. to return to her research at Cambridge University.
Jo Grant: Yes. Jo made only a few trips aboard the TARDIS after the Doctor’s exile was remanded, but then resigned from U.N.I.T. in order to marry the ecologist Clifford Jones and accompany him on an expedition to the Amazon rainforest.
Harry Sullivan: Yes. After assisting U.N.I.T. in defeating the Zygon menace in Scotland, Harry wisely chose to return to London with the Brigadier’s men, rather than taking the “shortcut” offered by the Doctor.
Sarah Jane Smith: Yes. When the Doctor received an urgent summons to return to Gallifrey, he determined he must proceed alone, and attempted to drop Sarah Jane off near her home in Croydon, but actually left her in the wrong city. Close enough.
Leela: No. The savage warrior found an unlikely new home on the Doctor’s home planet of Gallifrey, when she fell in love with Andred, commander of the Chancellery Guard.
Romana: No. Inspired by the Doctor’s example, the “Time Lady” Romana elected to remain in the extradimensional universe of E-Space to build her own time machine and help free the Tharil race from slavery.
Adric: No. After accompanying the Doctor out of his native E-Space, Adric sacrificed himself to save his friends from the merciless Cybermen, becoming trapped on a space freighter as it crashed into prehistoric Earth, wiping out the dinosaurs as well.
Nyssa: No. Her home planet of Traken destroyed by the Master, Nyssa eventually found a higher calling, choosing to remain on the space station Terminus to help cure the unfortunates suffering from Lazar’s disease.
Tegan Jovanka: Yes. Tegan actually parted company with the Doctor twice. The first time, she was accidentally left behind at Heathrow Airport when the TARDIS dematerialized, and she went on with her life. A while later, she ran into the Doctor again and continued her travels with him until she became sickened by the carnage wrought during a battle with the Daleks in mid-1980s London. Tearfully, she said goodbye to the Doctor and fled the scene.
Vislor Turlough: Yes. Escaping his own exile on Earth aboard the TARDIS, the Trion-born Turlough was eventually reunited with his people on the doomed planet Sarn, where he learned that Trion’s political prisoners had all been released during the time he was traveling with the Doctor. He returned to his home planet a free man.
Peri Brown: No. The luckless American girl Peri Brown was abandoned on the planet Thoros-Beta when the Doctor was seized by the Time Lords to be brought to trial. She was last seen in the company of the bellicose King Yrcanos of Krontep, who was intent on marrying her.
Melanie Bush: No. Mel hooked up with the intergalactic highwayman Sabalom Glitz and joined the crew of his new ship, Nosferatu II. Apparently, life with the Doctor was not exciting enough for this perky redhead.
“Ace”: Unknown. Although “Ace” was at home in Perivale at the conclusion of the final episode, she and the Doctor were heading back to the TARDIS to continue their travels.
It’s about evenly split between those who did and those who did not return to their proper place and time: 13 yes, 12 no, and 1 unknown. Some ended up better off than they were, some ended up dead, and many were left to uncertain fates. After all, as Doctor Who consistently showed, it is a vast and dangerous universe.
The story of many of the Doctor’s companions, particularly that of “Ace,” were continued in the various novels, audio recordings, and other spin-offs, all of which I consider to be non-canonical. The above is based, therefore, solely on the episodes of the original television series.
Next: Continuity Notes