10.) Leela: I was never a huge fan of Leela during my first viewing of the series. It was only through subsequent viewings, and listening to her in the Big Finish audio plays, that I came to appreciate her. But she's got a lot going for her. She's only in nine serials, but each one tells a distinctive and memorable story. I think that's the core of her appeal; she's not an ingenue from then-modern London, as are so many of the modern companions, but a primitive tribesman descended from the survivors of a survey team on an alien planet, who eventually leaves the Doctor on her own terms, to live on Gallifrey. You can tell stories with Leela that you can't tell with other characters.
On top of that, Louise Jameson still owns the part. When she announces that she is Leela of the Sevateem, she's neither boastful, nor apologetic. It's simply who she is.
9.) and 8.) Jamie McCrimmon and Zoe Heriot. Despite the fact that Jamie was on the show for almost two full seasons before Zoe (she had her debut in the final episode of season 5), I always think of them a package deal. You can't have one without the other. (Except for, you know, Season 4, or The Two Doctors.)
I like them for much the same reasons I like Leela. They're not the usual boring audience surrogates. (Well, for a 21st century super-genius, Zoe does have a lot of "But, Doctor, I don't understand" dialogue.) The characters had interesting connections with each other, and played off each other in interesting ways, and the actors all like each other, as well. I even find Frazer Hines' attempt at a Scottish accent endearing.
I don't like his portrayal in early Torchwood at all. All of the joy was gone from him, but he has several lifetimes of goodwill from how he swaggered to his death in The Parting of the Ways.
|"...as if the way one fell down mattered."|
"When the falls is all there is, it matters."
6.) Nyssa: The worst thing one can say about Nyssa is that she's Romana Lite, which isn't a bad thing to be at all. Like Zoe (whose name really needs an umlaut somewhere) and Jamie above, she's enriched as a character in large part due to her interactions with her fellow companions.
She's more a peer than a companion to the Doctor, particularly in his Fifth incarnation. In the Big Finish audio plays, the Doctor refers to her as the daughter he never had, and I like that conception of their relationship.
5.) Sarah Jane Smith: I wrote in my review of Shada that one of my favorite interpretations of the Doctor is that he was strictly an average Time Lord within their society, and only became exceptional after leaving it. Sarah Jane was a wonderful companion, but she became more than that after leaving the show. She was the elder statesman of former companions. When I picture Lis Sladen, I imagine her as she was when she passed, and not as she looked when she originally appeared on the program.
For most of the Big Finish stories, the actors reprise their roles as if they were the same age as when they originally played them. But not Sarah Jane. She's mentor to new generation in the audio plays, and on the Sarah Jane Adventures. Her character grew in a way that the others didn't.
4.) Hex: I had briefly read about Hex when looking up something else on a Doctor Who wiki. He sounded just awful. Apparently his mom was some kind of bio-engineered vampire, and that name. Just the sound of it is like nails on the chalkboard. "Hex". Except it's short for Thomas Hector, which actually kind of works.
He's a nurse from the near future, a kind, caring and emotionally intelligent young man. Hex just wants to help people, and he's a wonderful counterweight to the dark Seventh Doctor and the darkening Ace. (In one of the behind the scenes featurettes, Sophie Aldred mentioned how odd it is to be playing a Will They/Won't They romantic relationship between the pair, as she's old enough to be his mom, whereas he's close to the age of his character.)
Like the rest of us, he's got a bit of a crush on Ace, who treats him like a younger brother. Like Zoe/Jamie and Nyssa/Turlough/Tegan, he's a good character made brilliant through his interplay with the rest of the cast.
Like Leela, she was in fewer stories than I would have guessed. (Only nine stories/31 individual episodes). Each one was so memorable that it just seemed like more.
She matures in the spin-off media in a way that few other companions do (though her continuity is a bit of a nightmare), and she has wonderful chemistry with McCoy and Philip Oliver (Hex).
Ace had guts and independence, and everything you can say about Rose goes double for Ace. She's so awesome that she even points out to the Doctor that Silver Nemesis was the same story as Remembrance of the Daleks.
2.) Romana: Romana II, obviously. No offense to Mary Tamm, but Lalla Ward is where it's at.
I'll just say the things everybody says about her. City of Death is like a honeymoon episode, and it's the one you show your non-Whovian friends when you want them to like Classic Who. She was great with Tom Baker. The Second Doctor treated Jamie and Zoe as peers, but on some level that was just a courtesy to people he liked and respected. They weren't true equals in the way that Romana was. (Sorry, Jen!)
Like some other companions, she has had a rich (and sometimes complicated) life beyond the series. She was Lord President of Gallifrey, which is something I could really believe. Apparently, Juliette Landeau voices Romana IV in some of the later Big Finish plays, which is pretty cool.
1.) Evelyn Smythe: Another audio-only companion. I touched on how great Maggie Stables/Evelyn Smythe was in an earlier post.
Maggie Stables retired from acting after an illness, but not before Evelyn received a wonderful, bittersweet, poignant send off in the aptly titled Death in the Family.
She was a superb foil for the Sixth Doctor, giving as good as she got. Older, not as traditionally pretty, feisty, opinionated. Anyone who tries to cockblock Julius Caesar's parents by barging in to play a kazoo during their romantic dinner is a companion for the ages.
That's my personal, biased list. Please add yours in the comments, and stay tuned for the list of the worst Doctor Who Companions, coming soon!