The Power of the Doctor will see the return to our television screens of a boisterous Australian. A former air hostess and companion to the Doctor. But who is Tegan Jovanka?
The Power of the Doctor hits screens in just a couple of hours and is packed with returning characters. Some are villains like the Master, the Daleks, and Ashad the lone Cyberman. And others are long lost friends, including Ace and Tegan. But despite being one of Doctor Who’s longest serving companions, joining the TARDIS in Season Eighteen and staying until Season Twenty-One, some fans might not be as familiar with her as others. So here’s everything you need to know about Tegan.
Tegan begins her travels alongside Tom Baker, before become an iconic part of the Davison era
Hailing from Australia, when we first meet Tegan she’d relocated to London to start a new job as an air hostess. It’s the job she’s always dreamed of and as a result, compared to other companions of the Doctor, she was perhaps the most unwilling of travellers. Viewers were first introduced to the character in Tom Baker’s departure story Logopolis with Tegan’s Aunt Vanessa giving her a lift to the airport as Tegan embarked on her new career. Unfortunately, car trouble meant that Tegan and Aunt Vanessa ended up on a lay-by. As Tegan sought assistance, she stumbled into the Fourth Doctor’s TARDIS. And thus the adventure began…
Not many companions are present for a regeneration but Tegan, Nyssa and Adric were all gathered for the momentous event as the Fourth Doctor regenerated into his Fifth incarnation. Tegan remained in her air stewardess uniform for her early travels with the newly regenerated Fifth Doctor as a visual reminder of her desire to return to Heathrow airport. Her frustrations increased as the Doctor consistently failed to get the TARDIS to Heathrow Airport.
Early travels and first departure
After the shock of the Master murdering her Aunt Vanessa, Tegan would cross paths with the renegade Time Lord in Castrovalva. The Fifth Doctor’s TARDIS crew of Tegan, Nyssa and Adric would also encounter the Urbankans and demonstrated her ability to speak Aborigine. That story, Four to Doomsday, would also demonstrate the strength of will of Tegan actor Janet Fielding. She vetoed the original intention to script those scenes with ‘plausible gibberish’ and instead insisted on a proper Aboriginal dialect being used.
The next few attempts to get to Heathrow would go similarly awry. Tegan found herself on the jungle planet Deva Loka, at a masked ball at a stately home in 1925, and in a cave patrolled by lethal androids, centuries in Earth’s future. Amongst all that, the Doctor did once successfully get her to Heathrow, if three centuries before the airport was built. Tegan, as you’ll likely see in The Power of the Doctor, has never been one to suffer fools gladly. So these repeated failures did her mood no good at all, while the Doctor, for his part, became increasingly desperate to prove he could get there. Even if only to be rid of Tegan’s complaining.
Return to the TARDIS
The Doctor finally succeeds in delivering Tegan right to heart of the airport in the Season Nineteen finale Time-Flight. Naturally, though, they’re just in time to get mixed up in the Master’s plans to steal Concorde and send it 140 million years in the past. Faced with the decision to actually leave, Tegan changes her mind, realizing she’s been enjoying her travels despite herself. But it’s too late, as the Doctor and fellow companion Nyssa have already slipped into the TARDIS and left.
Unable to settle back into a more boring life without the Doctor, and maybe never best suited anyway to facing rude and unpleasant passengers with a smile, Tegan winds up parting ways with the airline. In the meantime, by a stunning coincidence, her cousin Colin has become a pawn in the Time Lord Omega’s attempts to escape his black hole prison and conquer Gallifrey. As a result Tegan, the Doctor and Nyssa bump into each other again on the streets of Amsterdam in Arc of Infinity at the start of Season Twenty. (In later Doctor Who, all these coincidences would probably be their own arc.)
The Doctor is less than enthusiastic about having her back, but he can hardly say no. But while she never stops being ready and able to call it out when the Doctor’s only pretending to know what he’s doing, they become firm friends over the next two seasons.
Meeting the Five Doctors
While there are changes to the TARDIS lineup, with Nyssa departing and new boy Turlough coming aboard, Tegan remains a constant. And she’s fiercely defensive of the Doctor, keeping a watchful eye on Turlough, whom she suspects is up to no good. She’s right too, with the very mature looking schoolboy actually on a mission from the Black Guardian to kill the Doctor. But over the course of the season the Doctor and Tegan succeed in freeing Turlough from the villain’s clutches and he remains aboard as a friend. Not that Tegan every entirely trusts him, mind you.
Tegan is also marked out among companions by having visited Gallifrey itself, and getting caught up in a multi-Doctor story. All in all, Jodie Whittaker will be the sixth Doctor Tegan has met on screen, after travelling to the Death Zone on Gallifrey in The Five Doctors. In fact, if you name something in the world of Doctor Who, Tegan has probably done it. In addition to encountering the Master several, she’s faced the Cybermen in Earthshock, the Silurians and Sea Devils in Warriors of the Deep, and Davros and the Daleks in Resurrection of the Daleks.
Possessions and dead friends
Tegan also deals with some traumas few other companions have grappled with. In Kinda she’s possessed by the Mara, a creature of “the Dark Places of the Inside,” which brings her own dark side to the fore and uses her as a puppet in its scheme to plunge Deva Loka into chaos and horror. Worse, it transpires the Mara isn’t entirely purged from her mind and it returns in the following season’s Snakedance. While possessions are ten a penny in Doctor Who, Tegan’s experiences are almost unique, with both Christopher Bailey’s script and Janet Fielding’s performance acknowledging the depth of the trauma involved.
She also has to watch helplessly on the TARDIS scanner as her fellow companion dies in Earthshock. Although by modern standards Tegan, along with the Doctor and Nyssa, seems to move on very quickly from the death, it undoubtedly adds to her awareness of the dangers of life in the TARDIS. It’s also something explored in depth in the Big Finish audio plays that have followed. The Doctor’s refusal to change history by saving Adric, and her struggles to understand why, remains a source of friction between the two.
“It’s stopped being fun, Doctor”
But it’s that final encounter that proves too much for Tegan. It’s a story with a high body count, even for Doctor Who. And Tegan is troubled not just the deaths of people she had met and liked, but how pointless and wasteful those deaths seem in the face of the Daleks’ all encompassing hatred. But maybe worse for her is the extremes to which the Doctor will go to stop them, at one point even using a revolver to shoot a Dalek mutant out of its casing dead. Telling the Doctor her Aunt Vanessa’s advice “if you stop enjoying it, give it up,” she declares “it’s stopped being fun.”
As with many companions, new stories with Tegan have continued to be told long after her final television episode in 1984. Some set between those TV stories, and some set in the years after. She had a particularly bad time in the vogue for giving companions tragic ends during Doctor Who’s time on air. In one Big Finish play she’s diagnosed with terminal cancer and given a year to live before a final adventure with the Doctor. In another short story, she’s depicted as having experiencing poor mental health in later life and believing her travels in the TARDIS are a fantasy and a product of her illness. Yet another version suggests Tegan actually died in Resurrection of the Daleks and the Tegan that leaves the Doctor is a Dalek replicant.
Brace yourself! Doctor Who’s feistiest companion is back!
Fortunately, as of tonight, it seems we can definitely say neither of those futures came to past. Instead, it looks like we have a Tegan Jovanka who’s every bit as feisty, strong-willed and heroic as ever. In The Power of the Doctor she’s once again battling the Daleks, Cybermen and Master. And with the Master having killed her Aunt Vanessa, and the Cybermen having killed her friend Adric, there may be fireworks ahead.
And who knows what she’ll make of the Thirteenth Doctor. But we can probably be sure that when plans go wrong, as they invariably will, Tegan will be satisfied that no matter how long it’s been, the Doctor doesn’t change that much.