All of the scheduling shakeups of the last few years mean that the wait for the next season of Doctor Who feels extra-long. Good news, though: if you need more Who in your life, you know where you can turn? Try the dozens of seasons of classic Doctor Who!
Yes, it can be a little jarring, especially when it’s black and white and a little fuzzy, but that doesn’t mean the stories aren’t still interesting – and involved! It’s not unusual to see a Doctor Who plotline that has four or more episodes, with truly epic storytelling. And it doesn’t hurt to brush up on your backstory: when the showrunner is a total Who geek himself, references to classic Doctors tend to creep in. Prime example: in “The Impossible Astronaut” in the most recent season, the Doctor says, “Brave heart, Canton,” to help buck up an overwhelmed Canton Everett Delaware III. This is a callback to the Fifth Doctor, who frequently said the phrase to his companion Tegan.
Not everyone has time to wade through fifty years of Doctor Who (I certainly haven’t seen every available episode myself yet), so today I’d like to tell you about the classic companion I think is most important as we approach the Fiftieth Anniversary of the show. If any classic companions pop up for more than a cameo appearance, I think it’d be her: the Doctor’s first companion, and granddaughter, Susan.
An Unearthly Child
The very first serial in Doctor Who was titled “An Unearthly Child.” As the show begins, we’re introduced to Barbara and Ian, two schoolteachers who are thoroughly weirded out by one of their students, Susan. She’s incredibly intelligent, but at other times seems to have no knowledge of other subjects, like pop culture. She just seems… otherworldly.
The teachers go to her home address, but it’s a junkyard. They think they hear her voice coming from a police box, so they enter… and the adventure begins. Susan tells her teachers, “I was born in another time, another world.” The First Doctor, Susan’s grandfather (and a bit grumpy), soon sends them all to the Stone Age.
Yes, the Doctor does have a granddaughter – at least we think so. She certainly called him “Grandfather” and she’s certainly an alien herself, and her description of her home world does sound like Gallifrey. Still, there are lots of alternate backstories for Susan that were written later, for novels and radio productions and the like, and they all like to run with the theory that she wasn’t biologically the Doctor’s granddaughter. Now, New Who Doctors have definitely made some allusions to having been a father… but typically, in the same breath, the Doctor will say his family is dead. But is he right?
A New Hope
Susan left the show fairly early; she falls in love with a freedom fighter from the 22nd century who’s looking to rebuild Earth after a war with the Daleks. The Doctor, realizing he’s holding Susan back and that she’s no longer a child, locks her out of the TARDIS in a heartwrenching move (we know how the Doctor is about dumping his companions). An adult Susan pops up in a later special, but they don’t mention if she’s still with her freedom fighter.
Here are a few assumptions we might be able to make: Susan is Gallifreyan; she’s probably a Time Lord; and, based on the context of her episodes, she really was only a teenager, not hundreds of years old like the Doctor. She ought to have had many regenerations still in her. Now, granted, supposedly all the Time Lords were wiped out due to the Time War – but considering the Master survived, and multiple Daleks survived, is it too much of a stretch to wonder if a lone Time Lord, out on planet Earth, far from Gallifrey, managed to slip through the cracks? And what about that whole ‘restarting the universe’ thing? Argh, now I’ve gone and hurt my brain.
…But Don’t Hold Your Breath
As awesome as I think it would be if Susan were brought back in a regenerated form, I doubt it’ll actually happen. For one thing, only a fraction of the current fans of Doctor Who have actually seen episodes with Susan; considerably more might vaguely know who she is, but not really be invested in her or excited at her return. (Though, wouldn’t it be cute if Susan had somehow found Jenny, the Doctor’s daughter, and taken her under her wing…?)
Second, one might think that if the Moffat were to bring back any new Time Lord (who isn’t the Master) it might be a potential love interest for the Doctor (or bring back Romana and you appease the Classic fans and have a love interest). Male or female, biologically related or not, you’re not going to have a love interest when she’s been raised as your granddaughter. Of course, River Song now kind of takes care of that role… and what if Susan were descended from that pair in some timey-wimey way? I’ll bet I just made a few people squeal and several more want to throw shoes at me.
Anyway, there’s a little background on Susan, first companion. Feel free to check out the first episodes of Doctor Who – they really are quite good. And if, just perhaps, Susan were to show up in the future, you’ll be in the know. Heck, some conspiracy theorists wonder if the pics of the new brunette companion – and Moffat’s cagey refusal to give any background on her – mean she’s back already.
What about you? If you’re familiar with Susan, would you like to see her make a return? What companions would you like to see during the Fiftieth Anniversary season?