Current Doctor Who companion Clara Oswald’s time on the popular British television series has finally come to an end. Actress Jenna Coleman announced her departure back in September, admitting in an interview that she had filmed her final scenes. The news didn’t come as a surprise, especially because Coleman first joined Doctor Who back in 2012 — making her character the show’s longest-serving companion since the 2005 reboot first began.
A month after Coleman’s announcement, showrunner Steven Moffat said they were in the “very, very early stages” of finding a replacement. At the time, he stressed there was “nothing really to report,” and that they would “make a noise when we’ve got something to say.” Considering the show’s traditional formula for providing the Doctor with at least one human traveling companion, this also came as no surprise.
The search is ongoing, and if Moffat and actor Peter Capaldi have anything to say about it, the next companion will most likely be a woman. But what if the 12th Doctor went on for a bit without one? What if next year’s Doctor Who was, for not the first time in the program’s storied history, all about the Time Lord and no one else?
With review headlines like “The Doctor Who Finale Had Such a Great Ending, I Forgive Everything” and “Doctor Who Season Nine Made the Show Good Again,” Capaldi has certainly overcome criticisms launched his way since taking over in 2013. The current series was a tour de force for the Scottish actor, especially the penultimate episode “Heaven Sent.” Except for a single bit of dialogue, Capaldi speaks every line and performs all the action throughout the first half of the two-part finale.
He did good with a whole hour, so why not give him 12 episodes to let him make the character really great? A previous instance from classic Doctor Who demonstrates just how great the Doctor can be when the actors playing him aren’t beholden to sidekicks. It’s also a good example of how awful the character can be, too, though not in the this-actor-really-sucks kind of way. More of the holy-sh*t-he-really-just-did-that type of “awful.”
Tom Baker In The Deadly Assassin
Defining the Doctor’s companion-less periods is often a subjective exercise. Some consider “Rose,” the first episode of the reboot, to be an example. Yes, she accepts the Time Lord’s invitation to accompany him after they save London from the Nestene Consciousness, though he goes it alone for most of the story. Yet he ends up with a companion in the end, so it doesn’t really qualify.
For the purpose of this article, if the Doctor begins and ends the episode without a companion, and spends the majority of it without assistants or sidekicks, then he is companion-less. Hence The Deadly Assassin, a serial from the original’s 14th series in which the Fourth Doctor (Tom Baker) travels back to Gallifrey after being summoned. He leaves Sarah Jane Smith (Elisabeth Sladen) behind in the previous serial, The Hand of Fear, and doesn’t pick up another companion until Leela (Louise Jameson) forces her way onto the TARDIS in a subsequent serial, The Face of Evil.
The four-part story provides fans with a detailed look at Gallifreyan life. It also reintroduces the Master, whose plot involves assassinating president, framing the Doctor and trying to destroy the planet in order to obtain a new regeneration cycle. This all sounds like a lot, and it is, but as classic Doctor Who episodes were grouped around single story arcs via serials, Deadly Assassin fit everything in without issue.