Companion Tropes 39
When you look at the Doctor Who companions who were present for a regeneration, an interesting pattern emerges. In the company of Ben and Polly, the Doctor becomes much younger and more energetic, with a Sixties mop of Beatles hair. Although he regenerates alone, the Third Doctor seems to be modelled after Zoe, all scientific and serious, and is quickly paired with a Zoe substitute, another super-brain called Liz, while also gaining Jamie’s tendency towards physical conflict with his enemies. The Fourth Doctor sheds the paternal, patrician ways of his predecessor and becomes a younger, fun, eccentric friend for Sarah Jane, while the regeneration from Four to Five endows the Doctor with the precise combination of attributes that are represented by his companions at the time, Adric, Nyssa and Tegan, an uneasy mix of quiet scholarship paired with bursts of exasperated grumpiness. Six, with his young American companion, becomes bright, brash and loud, and when he regenerates in the company of Mel he becomes… shorter.
OK, some of this is stretching things a bit. Doctor Who is the product of a lot of different writers, so no pattern that emerges will work entirely, but it is still a general rule that companions who are present for a regeneration tend to work much better with their new Doctor rather than the old one. This is certainly true of Ben, Polly, Adric, Nyssa and Tegan. Sarah Jane with Four, Peri with Six and Mel with Seven are arguably much more iconic pairings than what came before, and Liz functions strongly as the new Zoe. So there is an argument to be made that the Doctor’s regeneration each time makes him a more suitable friend for the person he is travelling with at the time, and shapes his personality accordingly. The ultimate example of this has to be the Tenth Doctor and Rose.
When we first meet the Ninth Doctor he has just lost his entire race and is the last of the Time Lords. He is very grumpy about that, lashing out at humans as “stupid apes”. Rose gives him a reason to see the wonders of the universe through excited, younger eyes again, and he starts to recapture his love of life travelling among the stars. She’s what tropers call a “Positive Friend Influence”, somebody who is defined not by heroically influencing whole societies for the better (e.g. the Doctor), but who is defined by a very personal influence on a friend. Rose shows the Doctor a better way to be. It’s worth recognising that the Positive Friend Influence trope can often work both ways, and the Doctor also helps Rose to be a better person.
When the Ninth Doctor regenerates, it’s almost like he turned himself into the perfect companion for Rose, in temperament and also physically. Nine and Rose were already being mistaken for a couple, but Ten and Rose look like they belong together, all bursting with youth and energy. At times they are almost too good a match, possibly even a bad influence on each other because they are too similar, eventually becoming a little reckless and thrill-seeking, even disrespectful of others, but they are most definitely a very good match. The Tenth Doctor sheds most of his predecessor’s occasional moping and grumpiness, and it is not until Rose leaves that his tendency for Time War induced melancholy really returns in force. That’s because Rose gives him relief from the loneliness of being the last of his kind. He is travelling with somebody who is a perfect match for him, so the empty feeling of not having a single person who is like him in the whole universe, and certainly no family anywhere, is assuaged for a while. He moulds himself after her, and those “stupid apes” instead become the inspiration they once were to the Doctor. Once Rose departs he will always (and immediately) need a human to remind him of his own humanity, and not to go too far and become a monster. Most of all, the Tenth Doctor’s personality is strongly defined by the impression she must have given his predecessor. He is much more happy and upbeat about life, with a younger outlook in more ways than one. He has the quirkiness of modern youth, and an irreverent sense of humour. He sees the universe anew, finding wonder and beauty wherever he goes. He learns how to love again. Rose saves the Doctor from the desperate loneliness inflicted on him by the Time War, and influences him on a fundamental level. Quite literally, Rose makes a new man of the Doctor. RP