This week Whovian Leap takes a look at the Fifth Doctor’s five (non-android) companions.
When Adric, Nyssa and Tegan joined the Doctor on his adventures through time and space, the Time Lord was coming to the end of his fourth incarnation. Tom Baker had been in the role for seven years and would now finally bow out at the end of Season 18. The youthful new recruits contrasted with the slightly aging Fourth and behind the scenes was a new producer, John Nathan-Turner, who was eager to bring about changes to the show.
Baker felt it was time to move on and JNT cast a younger actor to play the Doctor, Peter Davison. In the opening story of Season 19, “Castrovalva”, the Fifth Doctor would be surrounded by the familiar trio of Adric, Nyssa and Tegan. This made the transition from the much loved Fourth to a fresh-faced newcomer easier for viewers at home to accept.
Later two other companions would join the Fifth Doctor, Turlough and Peri. If we conveniently exclude the clunky shapeshifting android Kamelion, the Fifth Doctor was accompanied by five companions in all. Let’s take a closer look at them one by one.
Something of a “marmite” companion, you either loved or hated Adric (who came on board the Tardis in “Full Circle”). It is difficult to explain why the mathematically gifted stowaway from Alzarius stirred up such strong emotions among fans. Though easy for younger viewers to identify with, the fact that he sometimes came across as something of a “know it all” and would not infrequently bicker with other members of the Tardis crew might have irritated some viewers. One thing is for sure – his demise knocked fans for six. It now seems impossible in Nu Who but poor Adric was mercilessly killed off in “Earthshock”, meeting his end on board a Cybership which crashed into pre-historic Earth. As the credits rolled silently up the screen over Adric’s broken badge that weekday evening, many fans were in tears. Though many were not.
Nyssa was surrounded by tragedy. We first met her in “The Keeper of Traken” when she lost her father to the Master who stole his body. In the following tale “Logopolis” her home planet was destroyed when the Time Lord renegade interfered with the Logopolitans’ formulae. Yet Nyssa never seemed to show her grief, except when Adric died. Dressing elegantly, she had a genteel demeanour, but also a strong personality. She enjoyed an excellent rapport with the Doctor and they obviously liked each other, though JNT would never allow any “hanky panky” in the Tardis. Nyssa leaves the Tardis in “Terminus” to help turn a space station into a hospital. She even gives the Doctor a goodbye kiss!
Bold and brash Australian air-hostess Tegan Jovanka never failed to make her voice heard. Viewers grew to love her as she became the Fifth’s longest lasting companion. Had she stayed a few more stories, she would have travelled alongside no less than three Doctors. She joined the Tardis in “Logopolis” after the Master shrunk her Aunt Vanessa with his infamous tissue compression eliminator. Tegan left when she decided that travelling on the Tardis was no longer fun. She was sickened by the violence and carnage she witnessed in “Resurrection of the Daleks”
In “Mawdryn Undead” the Black Guardian instructs public schoolboy Turlough to kill the Doctor. Not unsurprisingly viewers didn’t quite know what to make of the new companion. However, in the end Turlough stops trying to bump off the Doctor and turns into something of a more traditional companion. It was difficult not to like him. Always with a knowing glint in his eye, he could be impudent and yet charming in equal amounts. In “Planet of Fire” we discover he had been a political exile to Earth from his home planet Trion. He decides to return there at the end of the story.
American college student Perpugilliam or Peri Brown replaced Turlough alongside the Fifth Doctor in his penultimate adventure “Planet of Fire”. As Peri gasps for breath after nearly drowning, many male viewers gasp too at the spectacle before their eyes.
Though Peri would often argue with the Sixth Doctor, she enjoyed a gentler, more affectionate bond with the Fifth. Unfortunately they neither had the time nor opportunity to become particularly well-acquainted, given that the perilous predicaments on Sarn and Androzani made socialising a little difficult. Peri eventually leaves the Sixth Doctor to marry warrior king Yrcanos, though the tampered-with Matrix falsely shows her demise in “Mindwarp” when slimy Lord Kiv is transplanted into her body.
The Fifth Doctor was lucky to have a wide variety of companions, each with their own specific quirks and character traits. They were the physical embodiment of Doctor Who’s new lease of life under JNT and fans look back on them with nostalgia and affection.