The Doctor's Companion
As sure as eggs is chicken ovulations, the recent announcement of the identity of our Eleventh Doctor has brought about a whole new round of tedious guess work on who will be his first companion. Will they be female? Male? Young? Old? Alien? Modern? Historical? Me? Only tedious guess work and lists will give us the answer!
The most significant source of the current rumours comes from this Telegraph article, with actual, factual quotes from in-coming Executive Producer Piers Wenger. It has to be said, it’s not an entirely comfortable read:
The singer Lily Allen is an early favourite, while sources say Strictly Come Dancing stars Rachel Stevens and Kelly Brook are high on the BBC’s wish-list.
The usual bullshit names crop up like a recurring illness as expected, but Piers’ criteria wouldn’t necessarily rule these people out:
“Someone terribly exciting like Billie Piper, who was at the beginning of her acting career but who had a profile for other reasons, would be great. We are looking for someone whose light can burn brightly. We would never cast anyone on the basis of their celebrity, but if Lily wanted to audition we would be delighted. It would be a lot of fun.”
These comments do quite nicely deflect the issue of Allen as assistant, but I am uneasy about the wish to find someone in a similar light to Billie. She was a big risk, and one that initially paid off brilliantly, but can lightening really strike twice? And, more to the point, is that lightening likely to strike on Lilly Allen? Well, below we have the current list of actors and celebrities currently receiving odds from William Hill. It’s a bit of a mixed bag.
Lily Allen - 6/4
When Billie Piper was cast as the first new series companion, she was best known to most as an ex teenage pop star and wife to Chris Evens, but she had very recently impressed a number of people with her performance in Canterbury Tales. She obviously had acting ability and RTD and co. were confident she would augment her obvious star attraction with a strong performance. Lily Allen, however, currently has nothing going for her other than a big name, a mediocre pop career and a reputation that doesn’t exactly befit a Doctor Who companion. Frankly, her dad would be a better role model for the kids and a more suitable choice and her position as favourite for the role says more about the sources sprouting these rumours than it does about her suitability.
Kelly Brook - 4/1
Actually, Kelly Brook isn’t a half bad choice. Over the last few years she’s found her acting CV expand gradually but admirably. She has the experience and she’s clearly never going to be busy enough to take on the intensive Who schedule. So, on the surface, she’s not a choice I would object to, but we also have the difficult issue of what kind of companion will be right for Matt Smith’s Doctor. I still haven’t worked out the answer to that definitively (see more speculation on this later on), but I don’t think Kelly fits the bill on that score.
Rachel Stevens - 9/2
Rachel’s been on this list since 2003 and she’s always been a terrible choice. It’s true that the casting of Matt Smith, complete with acting chops almost as vast as his face, does allow a certain amount of leeway when it comes to the acting experience of his companion to allow a trade off for a big name, but Rachel Stevens has done practically fuck all of any worth (a great deal of that S-Club TV show and movie abomination may have given her a good amount of experience, but… well, it was the S-Club TV show and movie abomination.) She’d have to be bloody amazing at the audition stage, and frankly I’m just not seeing it.
Michelle Ryan - 5/1
Ah, now this is more like it. Arguably, Michelle Ryan is the only truly believable name on this early betting list not just for the fact that she’s a very good actress and been linked with the role previously but that she also has previous Moff experience through her role in the recent (and underrated) Jeykll. The real revelation came, though, in her role as Jaime Sommers in the equally underrated 2007 remake of Bionic Woman as she showed a great energy, wit and genuine acting chops, all while working with what must’ve been the tremendous distraction of feigning a passable American accent. Even outside of this pathetic list, she’s got to be one of my favourites for the role.
Agyness Deyn - 7/1
Not a fucking hope in hell. Her name is on this list solely for the fact that she’s incredibly well known, young and pretty - all the ingredients needed to have your name bandied about by tabloids looking for something to bullshit about. NEXT.
Catherine Zeta Jones - 7/1
Another bullshit name, but for entirely different reasons. Catherine also appeared on the betting list for the Eleventh Doctor, and all because RTD is a cheeky sod with a penchant for whipping the tabloids and fans into an overexcited frenzie with his horribly credible off-hand comments. Objectively speaking, she really wouldn’t be a bad choice as I would argue that an older companion played by a hugely well known and accomplished name would be very suitable for Matt Smith’s Doctor, but really, honestly, can you ever see Catherine Zeta Jones giving 9 months of her working year over to an intensive filming schedule in Cardiff?
In fact, the inclusion of Catherine Zeta Jones and Agyness Deyn at such relatively low odds shows more than anything that this early betting list is a massive pile of jobbies, cobbled together from ancient rumours and lazy guesses by the tabloids. Still, it gives us something to talk about, eh?
Kimberley Nixon - 14/1
My first reaction was “who?”, but on closer inspection she looks like a likely candidate. She fits the superficial profile of what the media and people in general would expect in a companion and she’s appeared in some fairly high profile projects such as Cranford and that film about BOYS and SNOGGING, but she still strikes me as unsuitable as she is (and, more importantly LOOKS) far too close in age to Matt Smith. I’m becoming more and more convinced that we need age and experience for the next companion as the contrast would be very pleasing. If Moffat and co. wanted someone like Kimberley they should just abandon all pretension of imagination and just get Carey Mulligan back back as Sally Sparrow so the fanboys can wank themselves into a frenzie.
Russell Brand - 50/1
Oh, just fuck the fucking fuck off. My liege.
Others on request
And here we have the most likely outcome. The new companion is almost certainly going to come from outside this list, making this speculation pretty redundant, but never mind. The big question we have to be asking ourselves, though, is what kind of companion will Matt Smith need? What should the character be? From a promotional point of view a very well known name would be a good idea to counteract Smith’s relative obscurity. Despite my flag currently being firmly planted in the Michelle Ryan corner (oooh, pardon! etc.) I don’t really believe a companion only a few years older than Smith will work. Too much of a grey area kissy-kissy wise, and not nearly enough contrast in looks.
Let’s see what RTD has to say on the matter:
“We’ve got a young female companion at Easter, and then a much older woman next Christmas - someone in her fifties or sixties. I love that.”
Firstly, the idea of a companion in her fifties or sixties is *excellent*. There’s no denying the character of Donna was an admirable departure for the new series (despite what you may think about Catherine Tate as a casting choice (I certainly was never properly won over)) and this will be an excellent way to show a very different Doctor/companion dynamic. However, at the moment it’s unclear if “next Christmas” refers to the 4.16 special or 4.17/4.18 (Tennant and RTD’s final two-part story.) If it’s the latter then the idea of this older companion crossing over to full time for series 5 suddenly becomes a fascinating prospect, as a companion of that age would be a *perfect* counter-point to Smith’s incredibly youthful looking incarnation. A brisk, elderly yet warm woman either complementing an older acting Eleven (but with the twist of his younger looks) or providing some contrast if he ends up acting more boyish and Tennant like, giving us an interesting reversal of the original Doctor/Susan pairing.
Let’s not forget that it’s very rare for a Doctor to regenerate and not bring across an old companion to bridge the gap - it’s *very* likely we’ll see the new companion in Tennant’s last story, whomever it ends up being. Russell mentions in the article that he’s working with the Moffat administration on the matter of the new companion, and even though he says this is to avoid casting someone for a one off when they might have a shot at the full series, it’s certainly not unlike RTD to just out and out lie or mislead. It’s not beyond the realms of possibility that a joint decision is made on who to cast for Tennant’s final story, with a view to bringing that character forward into 2010. In fact, this has now officially become What I Want to Happen, older companion or no.
As for who that actress might be… well, I think I’ve waffled on enough on the whole matter for now, but someone like Maggie Stables as Dr. Evelyn Smythe (from off of excellent Doctor Who webcast Real Time and I believe a number of other Baker C. Big Finish adventures) would be lovely. Failing that they should just cast David Cross as Mrs. Featherbottom from Arrested Development.