Blogtor Who reveals the secret histories of the Doctor’s former friends in Graham’s group, starting with… Ian Chesterton
One of the greatest achievements of last month’s Doctor Who was how well it managed to surprise viewers. David Bradley, Peter Davison, Colin Baker, Sylvester McCoy and Paul McGann all returned as the Doctor, sort of. Jo Martin showed up too! But one of the last, and most lovely, surprises was when Graham unveiled his support group for former companions. It’s a place for those who once travelled with the Doctor to share their stories, traumas, and problems reintegrating into ‘real’ life. It’s well attended, but unless you’ve seen an awful lot of Doctor Who, you might not be able place them all. So here’s our roll call of some of the Doctor’s very best friends.
Some of the members of the group are only recent additions to the Doctor’s extended fam
First of all, let’s have a quick look at the obvious ones. There’s Graham O’Brien, who set the whole thing up. Along with Yaz he first met the Thirteenth Doctor when she crashed through the roof of a commuter train in 2018 Sheffield. After the death of his wife Grace helping the Doctor save the life of Karl, the chosen quarry of alien hunter T’zim-Sha, he was whisked away by the Doctor into the depths of space by accident. But both he and Yaz decided to stick around. It wasn’t entirely Graham’s idea to leave the TARDIS after two series in Revolution of the Daleks. But with his grandson Ryan needing to reconnect with his friends and the world, Graham felt the need to stay behind with him.
Yaz, of course, remained with the Doctor to the end, becoming the only companion ever to feature all the way from an incarnation’s first episode to their last. While the ‘Thasmin’ arc of their ‘will they or won’t they’ romance was an important part of the Thirteenth Doctor era for many fans. Dan, in contrast, was a relative newcomer who joined the Doctor on her travels after she saved him from Karvanista’s ‘rescue’ in Flux. But ultimately, while some of the Doctor’s friends have been such thrillseekers they put themselves in harm’s way, Dan realized the lifestyle of constant near-death experiences wasn’t for him.
Also at the meeting where the Fifth and Seventh’s Doctors old friends Tegan and Ace. Blogtor Who has already gone into detail about their previous adventures both on and off screen, but what about the others?
Ian was one of the Doctor’s original companions, in Doctor Who’s very first episode
Ian Chesterton, and the actor who plays him, William Russell, is a genuine Doctor Who legend. At ninety-seven years of age, and fifty-eight years since his last appearance, the Guinness Book of World Records are currently verifying if its the longest gap ever between appearances as the same character by the same actor in TV or film. Ian appeared in the very first moments of the very first episode of Doctor Who, several scenes before even the Doctor does. In much the same way as 2005’s Series One could be said to be primarily Rose’s story, that first season in 1963 and 1964 could be said to belong to Ian and his fellow companion Barbara. Indeed, Ian is arguably the show lead, with the Doctor at times almost the wild card character whose eccentricities and stubbornness creates problems for Ian to overcome.
Ian and Barbara were, respectively, science and history teachers at Coal Hill School in 1963, the same school that Clara Oswald would later teach at. They joined the TARDIS after having concerns about the odd behaviour of one of their students, Susan Foreman. Following her home one night to uncover her mysterious living circumstances, they discover her grandfather apparently keeps her locked up in a Police Box. Pushing their way in, the Doctor whisks them away into space and time to stop them revealing his secret. Unfortunately, these are early days and even as the two teachers gain his trust, he genuinely can’t get them home.
The school teacher fought his way across history and across galaxies, always a fierce defender of his friends
Ian stays on the TARDIS for almost two seasons, alongside Barbara. Together they’re present at the Doctor’s very first meeting with the Daleks on the planet Skaro. Ian later stops a Dalek bomb aimed at the core of the Earth, saving the whole planet, and destroying the Dalek occupation force. Ian delves into Earth’s history too, spending months travelling in China with Marco Polo, becoming a warrior among the Aztecs, escaping the guillotine during the reign of terror, and fighting as a gladiator before Emperor Nero. He’s even technically Sir Ian, having being knighted by none other than Richard the Lionheart! As you can see, with the First Doctor an older gentleman, Ian was the TARDIS’s resident action man. That extended to his travels in space too, whether the planet was Marinus, Dido, Vortis, Xeros or the Sense-Sphere.
Ian and Barbara left the Doctor when a stolen Dalek time machine was able to bring them home, more or less, to London! 1965! But their time in the TARDIS had a great impression on the Doctor. They taught him that humanity was worth saving, and that coldly standing back and watching history unfold wasn’t always an option. More than anyone, they made the Doctor the hero they are today. They also shared an adorable flirty affection for each other. It’s no wonder that their appearances in various novels, audios and comics in the years since all agree that they got together. The Doctor Who Magazine comic strip even featured the Eleventh Doctor as best man at their wedding! Jacqueline Hill, who played Barbara, died in 1993, but it was fantastic to see the OG TARDIS team represented by Ian in the The Power of the Doctor.