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Tournament of Sad Doctor Who Companion Exits, Part 1

(Also from LJ--unless you are as big, or even bigger, of a geek as I am, I suggest you skip it. Seriously--it reeks of geek.)

So, I've been listening to the Murray Gold soundtracks for Doctor Who a lot recently, and, after hearing "Rose's Theme," "Doomsday," "Martha's Theme," "The Rueful Fate of Donna Noble," etc. ad nauseum, it got me wondering about all the companions who've left the TARDIS over the years: some willingly, some unwillingly, some really unwillingly (goodbye, Adric!). So, who had the worst exit ever? [Note: worst here will mean both most tragic or sad or merely pathetic (hello, Dodo!).] Let's start with a few ground rules: first, some companions both get decent exits and are happy to be where they are, so, we're going to ignore them. By my reckoning, this eliminates Ian, Barbara, Vicki, Steven, Polly, Ben, Victoria (though she's debatable), Jo Grant (another debatable one, but it seems to be the best explained of the "convenient marriage" exits), all the UNIT staff, Harry, K-9, Romana, Nyssa, Turlough, Mickey Smith, and Martha Jones. Second, in classifying companion, I'm using what I'm going to call the "one plus some" rule which means simply that, to be a true companion, a person or entity (hello, Kamelion!), has to join the Doctor, go through an entire adventure with him and then at least start a second, or, alternately, join at the end of one story and go through the entire next story. "Companions" struck by this rule include the late, lamented Katrina, Sara Kingdom, and Astrid Peth, plus other pseudo-companions like Madame de Pompadour, Dr. Grace Holloway, Professor River Song, and Lynda (with a "y"). So, with the rules established, it's time to get started.

In a nod to March Madness, we're going to deal with this bracket style--a tournament of bad companion exits! Yippee!!!!

"The Sad Sixteen"

Susan Foreman v. Dodo Chaplet -- In the "Dalek Invasion of Earth," Susan's sudden desire to get married and abandon her grandfather (!) is a bit far-fetched; she, at least, is given a future mission of sorts and the Doctor gets a nice farewell speech to her, one of the First Doctor's best scenes. Dodo's off-screen exit in "The War Games," on the other hand, is pathetic. She's hypnotized by a computer, sent off to the country, and then her exit is done in the third person by Polly. Pitiful. Dodo advances.

Jamie & Zoe (they have the same exit, so they're taken together) v. Liz Shaw -- I love Liz Shaw, and her abrupt, no farewell scene departure irks me. She's there in "Inferno," then gone in "Terror of the Autons." While it's supposedly her choice to leave the Doctor, it just feels, well, stupid and poorly explained; it reeks of being the behind the scene decision that is was. However, Jamie and Zoe's exit in "The War Games," with their memories partially wiped by the Time Lords (foreshadowing Donna's exit), is both sad for both the Doctor and the fans and problematic for continuity, giving rise to the whole fan-inspired insanity of Season 6(b). Jaime & Zoe advance.

Sarah Jane Smith v. Leela -- Ah, Leela, victim of another convenient marriage. Why on Earth the most independent and savage of all the Doctor's companions would choose to marry Andred and settle down on stuffy Gallifrey at the end of "The Invasion of Time" is simply beyond me, but at least she gets a leaving scene. Sarah Jane Smith, too, gets a leaving scene, arguably the most emotional one in the classic series. The last few minutes of "The Hand of Fear" are truly touching. She is the first companion since Jamie and Zoe who gets booted from the TARDIS. Unlike them, though, she both wishes to remain and retains all of her memories. The new series episode "School Reunion" serves to make her departure even sadder in retrospect. This one's easy. Sarah Jane Smith advances.

Adric v. Tegan Jovanka -- Okay, this one should be easy. I mean, Adric dies at the end of "Earthshock" for crying out loud. No "real" companion had died--ever. (Sorry Sara and Katarina.) While it's dealt with fairly honestly at the end of the story, that gets quickly forgotten in the silliness that is "Time-Flight." Tegan's departure, though, coming as it does at the end of the truly depressing "Resurrection of the Daleks," is a beautifully sad grace note. She's perhaps the first companion to see the Doctor as the man who leaves death in his wake wherever he goes, and it's simply too much for her. You get the impression that her experiences with the Doctor have scarred her. That is truly sad. Adric's being an annoying teen-aged jerk doesn't help his case. This one's close, but Tegan advances.

Kamelion v. Peri Brown -- Poor Kamelion. A shape-changing robot seems like a good idea, unless your budget is diddly squat. A nice idea, poorly executed, Kamelion is something like the robot version of Dodo, more pathetic than sad. The stories between his first and last appearance don't even mention him. I mean, what was the point? At the end of "Planet of Fire," he is destroyed by the Doctor in a weird sort of mercy killing. Peri, on the other hand, gets two departures. First, in "Mindwarp," she gets a truly awful exit when her mind is surgically removed and the nasty Kiv takes over her body. The Doctor is told that the Peri he knew is dead. Bad enough, right? Turns out, that was one of the Valyard's lies. In apparent reality, it is revealed in "The Ultimate Foe," she suffers another convenient marriage, this one to the bombastic King Ycarnos. Talk about adding insult to injury! While Kamelion is pathetic, Peri's duel fate is both genuinely upsetting and, later, ridiculous. Peri advances.

Melanie Bush v. Ace -- This one's really tricky. At the end of "Dragonfire," Melanie "no introduction" Bush falls victim to the convenient marriage syndrome, this time with the intergalactic ruffian Sabalom Glitz. It's just random as all get-out. As they say in The Discontinuity Guide, maybe she fancies a bit of rough. She and the Doctor get a great leaving scene, though, and the character is truly annoying--the female Adric, if you will, so her departure is a relatively welcome occurrence. (No offense to Bonnie Langford, who is brilliant on the Big Finish productions.) Ace, on the other hand, is the only televised companion whose departure is never explained at all in the series. She's there at the end of "Survival" but gone for the TV movie when the 7th Doctor regenerates. What happened to her? The last great classic companion, one of the greatest ever, is just lost in time. While other media state that she went to Gallifrey after traveling with the Doctor for a while longer, this isn't canon. As a result, Ace's future, her leaving, the circumstances of her departure, is a total mystery. On that count alone, on the sheer fact that this great show has left such a wonderful character dangling in the vortex, Ace advances.

Rose Tyler v. Adam Mitchell -- Easiest one in the bracket. Though Rose's eventual fate in "Journey's End" somewhat undercuts her initial, terribly tragic fate in "Doomsday," the idiot Adam doesn't stand a chance. He barely qualifies as a companion, and his forced exit in "The Long Game" is only just and fair. Rose advances, handily.

Captain Jack Harkness v. Donna Noble -- This one is really close to my heart. These two are both just brilliant characters and watching both of them leave the series was upsetting for me on a personal level. Examine it more dispassionately, though, and the situation changes. Though the regenerating Doctor's abandonment of Captain Jack at the end of "Parting of the Ways" is a sad moment not terribly well treated, his appearance as the lead character in Torchwood does much to mitigate it, as does his appearances in the finales for both series 3 and 4. Donna, however, is not coming back, barring some crazy sci-fi mumbo-jumbo. From "The Runaway Bride" to "Journey's End" we watched her go from being a shrill one-dimensional character to the Doctor's true equal and "most faithful companion." Her memory wipe, her reversion to the obnoxious Donna we all disliked, the knowledge of how wonderful Catherine Tate had been in the role, the 10th Doctor's palpable grief at losing his best mate; all combine to make Donna's departure sad in the extreme. Wilf just makes it worse. Argh. The rueful fate of Donna Noble indeed. Donna advances easily.

Well, we're all set for the second round, where we'll have the following match-ups:

Dodo v. Jamie & Zoe! Sarah Jane v. Tegan! Peri v. Ace! Rose v. Donna!

Coming soon, "The Elegiac Eight!" Watch this space...

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