Blogtor Who finishes revealing the secret histories of the Doctor’s former friends in Graham’s group, with… Mel Bush

One of the last, and most lovely, surprises in The Power of the Doctor 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. But also their traumas and problems reintegrating into ‘real’ life. It’s a well attended group. 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, finishing with Mel Bush.

In her way Mel is the most mysterious companion of all. Even her last name, Bush, while used in novels and audio plays for decades, only appears on screen for the first time in The Power of the Doctor. She’s also only the second ever companion who we never get to see meet the Doctor. Of course he was simply already travelling with his granddaughter Susan when we met him in 1963. But Mel’s story is more convoluted. Her TV debut is in 1986’s The Trial of a Time Lord, when the Sixth Doctor presents events from his own future as evidence in his defence. In this flash-forward he’s travelling with Mel as they encounter murder and intrigue aboard the luxury hyperspace liner Hyperion. Following that, the Time Lords physically bring her back in time to give her testimony in person.

 

The Doctor first meets Mel as a future companion he hasn't met yet, called as a witness at his trial (c) BBC Studios Doctor Who Trial of a Time Lord Mel Bush
The Doctor first meets Mel as a future companion he doesn’t know yet, called as a witness at his trial (c) BBC Studios

Even compared to someone like Clara, Mel’s time with the Doctor is a timey wimey mystery

The headache really begins when, the trial over, the Doctor and Mel disappear into the TARDIS together even though he hasn’t actually met her yet. And then it turns into a proper migraine. In the very next episode, Time and the Rani Part One, the Doctor regenerates into the Sylvester McCoy version. So what’s happened in between? It appears like Mel meets the Sixth Doctor, travels with him, gets pulled back in time to meet his younger self, travels with him for a while, gets dropped off, meets the older Sixth Doctor again, and then witnesses him regenerate. Or something. And, yes, multiple books and audios have tried to untangle her wibbly wobbly timey wimey ball of a timeline with the Doctor, with mixed results.

 

Mel (right) helps the Doctor through his regeneration, but has to contend with an imposter! (left) Doctor Who Seventh Doctor
Mel (right) helps the Doctor through his regeneration, but has to contend with an imposter! (left) (c) BBC Studios

There are few companions we know less about than Mel, but her time with the Doctor was anything but unexciting

We do know that Mel is a 1980s computer programmer. There’s also a passing mention that she first meets the Doctor in the small Sussex village of Pease Pottage. We don’t get to see many of her adventures with the Sixth Doctor, but we do see her guide the Seventh Doctor through that difficult post-regenerative phase. Although that complicated by rival Time Lord the Rani kidnapping him and persuading him that she was Mel! From there the duo travel to Paradise Towers, a futuristic and supposedly perfect high rise apartment building. But teenage gangs roam the halls, the old age pensioners are cannibals who eat anyone who wanders into their parlours, the caretakers have somehow evolved into a sort of fascist secret police, and the cleaning robots are killing people to feed to something nasty in the sub-basement.

A planned trip to 1950s Disneyland goes awry and the Doctor and Mel wind up in a holiday camp in Wales instead. Their fellow guests are aliens on holiday on Earth, but one of them is Delta, the last of her kind and being hunted by the genocidal Bannermen, drawing them unintentionally to Earth. And in Mel’s final television adventure she and the Doctor visit the supermarket planet Iceworld. It holds many dark secrets, including a biomechanical ‘dragon’ stalking the ice tunnels and notorious war criminal Kane running the shops while building an army of mercenary zombies. But it’s also on Iceworld that they meet Mel’s fellow Companions Support Group member Ace. The mystery of how Ace came to get there from 1980s Perivale piques the Doctor’s interest. He invites Ace aboard and Mel decides to leave with spacefaring rogue Sabalom Glitz instead.

 

Mel at the companion support group in The Power of the Doctor (c) BBC Studios Doctor Who Mel Bush
Mel at the companion support group in The Power of the Doctor (c) BBC Studios

Exactly how she got from there to back again is just another mystery to add to the enigma that is Mel Bush

Quite how Mel Bush gets from travelling in space aboard the Nosferatu II in the far future to being back on Earth at a support group in 2022 we don’t know. But it’s not quite as impossible as it sounds. The Doctor says Glitz can get Ace and Mel home by “the direct route” if they like. So not only is the distance to Earth traversable for the Nosferatu II but it must also have some time travel capacity. Considering that the first time we meet Glitz in Trial of a Time Lord he’s on a secret mission for the Time Lords, that would make sense.

On screen Mel was a character arguably underserved both by only being in five stories, and by those stories being written in the style where the function of the companion was to scream loud, scream often. So it’s lovely to see her revisited in The Power of the Doctor as one of the Doctor’s vast found family.

 

David Tennant stars in the 60th Anniversary specials. But how? (c) BBC Studios TARDIS Tenth Doctor
David Tennant stars in the 60th Anniversary specials. But how? (c) BBC Studios

Doctor Who returns in November 2023 for three 60th Anniversary specials

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