10 Best Doctor Who Companion Departures (And 5 Worst)

This weekend, Amy and Rory Pond make their final bow in Doctor Who . Will Salmon looks back at some of the show’s best – and worst – exit strategies…

10 ROMANA and K9

Leave in: “Warriors’ Gate”

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One of the most deceptively abrupt departures in the show’s history: Romana suddenly announces to the Doctor in the last couple of minutes of the story that, no, she’s not leaving E-Space with him, but sticking around to help the lionesque Tharils escape slavery. Oh, and she’s taking K9 with her (he had some technobabble rust or something which prevented him from leaving E-Space anyway). We say deceptively because, to quote the Doctor from his own regeneration two stories later, the moment has been prepared for. Two stories previously, the Doctor had been asked to return Romana to Gallifrey. She didn’t want to go, and only an unplanned detour into E-Space prevented it happening straight away. So when the Doctor found a way to return to our universe it was only logical she’s say, “No thanks.”

The actual departure scene may have been blink-and-you’ll miss it, but the off-the-cuff, impulsive manner was totally in character for Romana 2. Plus it did give the Doctor the chance to deliver one of his classic one-liners, “You were the noblest Romana of them all.” (It’s a Shakespeare reference, if you don’t know your classics.)


Leaves in: “Resurrection Of The Daleks”

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’80s Who may be controversial among fandom, but the show certainly wasn’t afraid to take risks and try new things. Tegan’s final scene in “Resurrection Of The Daleks” is a case in point. Where most of the Doctor’s friends leave to start a happy new life, Tegan walks because she’s depressed. The Daleks have been defeated, but so many people have died. In a very dark story, Tegan sums up what many viewers were feeling at the time: “It’s stopped being fun, Doctor.” Shaken, the Doctor leaves, only for his friend to come back after the TARDIS has vanished and whisper sadly, “I will miss you.”


Leave in: “The Chase”

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The Doctor, Ian, Barbara and Vicky find the Daleks’ abandoned time ship. Spying an opportunity to finally get home, the two teachers convince the Doctor into showing them how to operate it. After two years of traveling in time and space they’ve had enough of monsters and battles – and, let’s face it, they’re clearly desperate to get it on. The two companions arrive back on Earth in 1965, just a few years after they left.
It’s a brilliant little sequence, as the first Doctor – keen not to lose his friends – reverts to his belligerent earlier self, before grudgingly accepting that they need to go their own way. “Goodbye Doctor, thanks for the ride!” grins Barbara, before the pair of them dash off to lark about in a slightly bizarre, but funny, photomontage sequence…


Leaves in: “Last Of The Time Lords”

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Love her or hate her, Martha Jones’s exit at the end of “Last Of The Time Lords” was the natural conclusion to her story arc. The poor lovesick fool had spent the last season mooning after the tenth Doctor, only for him to unfavourably compare her to his beloved Rose. Eventually, she’s had enough.
There’s no big flashes or bangs in this scene, but after a year of walking the Earth, spreading the Doctor’s name and fighting back against the Master, she’s grown out of her need for the Doctor, and is keen to look after her family who have been traumatised by events. The dialogue in this scene is Russell T Davies’ at his naturalistic best.


Leaves in: “The Dalek Invasion Of Earth”

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The original companion’s departure is still affecting. After defeating the Daleks’ frankly baffling plans for planet Earth (yeah, drilling out the planet’s core and replacing it with an engine – bound to work!) Susan chooses to stay behind with dullard rebel, David Campbell. It’s a standard companion exit, but it shakes up both the format of the show, and the Doctor. He’s lost his only family member, and the last tie to his home. The final scene, with Hartnell’s “one day, I shall come back” speech is his Doctor’s defining moment.



Leaves in: “The Hand Of Fear”

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Sarah Jane Smith may be the classic series’ most iconic companion, but she had an oddly muted farewell…

After being recalled to Gallifrey, the Doctor decides to leave her behind on Earth. It’s a low-key scene, full of understated sadness on both the Doctor’s and Sarah’s part. In retrospect, the idea that the Doctor wouldn’t just take her with him is a bit daft, but the scene works thanks to the fantastic performances from both Tom Baker and Elisabeth Sladen. “Until we meet again…” the Doctor says, and of course they do… But it’s clear that Sarah Jane will always carry the memory of this abandonment with her.


Leaves in: “The Green Death”

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The departure of a companion was often a rushed affair. It was rare that it would be seen to affect the Doctor at all. Arguably, Jo leaving at the end of The Green Death is the first time since Susan’s departure that he’s clearly truly upset. And with good reason…

The third Doctor and Jo’s relationship is largely paternal. But, in leaving him for young, hip scientist Cliff, it’s hard not to think that the Doctor isn’t just sad to be losing a friend – he’s also jealous. He’s been binned off for a younger man! (And one who even has a certain Doctor-ish quality to him.) You only have to look at the poor love’s expression as he drives away in Bessie to see his hearts break once again.



Leaves in: “Earthshock”

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For fans of the classic years, this is probably the most memorable departure. Adric – a young, preternaturally irritating math’s whiz – was loathed by fandom. So when he was blown to bits in 1982’s “Earthshock”, there was much whooping and cheering.

Seriously though, Adric was the first true companion to die in Doctor Who . Say what you like about Sara Kingdom and Katarina, but they were only brief acquaintances of the Doctor. Adric had been on the show for two years. His death was a real jolt that reminded us that the Doctor’s adventures weren’t just exciting and fun – they were also dangerous.

It’s also a beautifully constructed death scene, with moments where he looks like Adric’s going to avoid his fate – crash-landing in a bomb-filled space ship onto Earth – only for his efforts to fail in the end. And the final twist is – he needn’t have bothered. The spaceship was always destined to crash into Earth, because it was the one that wiped out the dinosaurs (it’s timey-wimey plotting, y’see).

It’s an event that is still felt today. You know that bit in “The Power Of Three” where the Doctor says that some of his companions have died? He’s thinking about Adric at that moment.

And, we hope, secretly laughing his arse off.



Leaves in: “Journey’s End”

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Poor, poor Donna Noble. She may now be living the high-life with a nice new husband and a fat stack of cash, thanks to the Doctor, but she could have had so much more…

Of all the companions in the new series, Donna grew the most. From the shallow temp we saw in the opening scenes of “The Runaway Bride”, to the caring woman who becomes the Doctor’s moral compass in season four, she had an incredible journey. But nothing lasts forever. After transforming into the Doctor-Donna and defeating the Daleks, she starts to burn up. Only a quick mind-wipe courtesy of the Doctor saved her. But at what cost! All that experience, all those adventures – gone. “I was going to be with you… forever,” she says forlornly before the end. Oh Donna, we wish you had been.


Leaves in: “Doomsday” or… erm…

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Ah… the tenth Doctor’s beloved. But which ending to choose from – she’s had three after all. But it’s the original departure in “Doomsday” that still wields the most power. Watch that episode again, and it’s impossible not to be moved by the sudden severance of their relationship. The final, teary-eyed coda on the beach at Bad Wolf Bay, with the Doctor unable to say what we’ve all known for weeks, is a true tearjerker.

Of course, Rose returned a couple of years later, and received another sad farewell – albeit a more hopeful one. But it’s the devastated Time Lord, alone in the TARDIS, that we remember most fondly.



Leaves in: “The Invasion Of Time”

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“The Invasion Of Time” may be a wretched story, but it does at least provide Leela with a sweet final scene. Sure, she’s doomed to that most archetypal of companion exits – pairing off with someone she barely knows (and in this case somebody so wet it’s hard to see what she sees in him) – but the scene is nicely underplayed by Tom Baker, who silently gives Leela a boggle-eyed smile, before dashing into the TARDIS.

That said, leaving her behind on Gallifrey does rather make a mockery of the Doctor refusing to take Sarah with him just a couple of seasons earlier!


Carry on to the next page for the 5 Worst…


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She may have had a terrible accent, but Peri was a very likeable companion. So when she’s killed at the end of “Mindwarp”, it’s a genuine, horrible shock. Even Adric’s death wasn’t this bleak. Such a shame, then, that it’s thrown away a few weeks later when it’s revealed that her death was actually faked and she’s now living happily ever after with King Yrcanos. Yep, that’s right – Peri married BRIAN BLESSED.

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You’d think that any ending for Melanie-bloody-Bush would be a welcome one, but you’d be wrong. After arriving on Iceworld, the sweet, ditzy health freak decides to leave the Doctor and go off traveling with gun-totting mercenary Sabalom Glitz instead. Wait… whaaaaaaaaaat?

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Poor old Liz Shaw, the third Doctor’s first companion, didn’t even have a farewell scene, suffering instead from that staple TV fate – vanishing between seasons. At the start of season eight the Brigadier simply announces that the talented scientist has left UNIT because she felt that all the Doctor really wanted was somebody to pass him the test tubes. The Doctor doesn’t even have the decency to look bereft, and ends up instead with Jo Grant, who was more likely to drop and smash the test tubes.

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Whoooooo? Well exactly. Dodo is a companion so utterly inconsequential she doesn’t even get a proper leaving scene. She abruptly disappears off screen halfway through “The War Machines” to recover from a headache* or something never to be seen again. Good riddance.

(* We know it wasn’t a just headache; it was post hypnotic stress syndrome… which was probably a really bad headache)

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She may have only been in the series for one episode, but it’s clear that the Doctor intends to take Astrid with him on his travels. And then – shock – she dies! It should be a brilliant moment. Unfortunately, Kylie Minogue ramming evil head-in-a-box Max Capricorn with a forklift truck is just a bit daft. Worse still is the laughably mawkish scene when the Doctor manages to bring her back as “starlight” to say farewell…

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