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For someone whose on-screen time with the Doctor lasted less than ninety minutes (that’s only three episodes of normal Doctor Who), Grace Holloway – played by Daphne Ashbrook – made quite an impact, not least because of all the Who rules she broke. And because her time was so short, as short as the Doctor she helped, she has become one of those lost characters that Whovians want to hear more from. She has the “what if?” factor.
In a way, you can credit Grace with being the first companion to properly address some of the bigger unspoken issues of the show, the ones that wouldn’t occur to a younger audience, but might pop up in the minds of their parents. The first, and most thorny, is the issue of the Doctor’s relationship to his companions. In the early days, he took on the role of eccentric uncle, or grizzled mentor, a clearly defined relationship without much room for any suggestion of hanky panky.
Then the Doctors started regenerating younger. The Fourth and Fifth Doctors appearing to be only ten years older than their young companions. Nobody said anything at the time, but the family balance had started to shift. Then the Sixth Doctor arrived, imperious and judgemental, old before his time, and that thought vanished again. The Seventh Doctor was an older man acting young, which seemed to put things right again, until he regenerated into the Eighth Doctor, an out-and-out hotty.
Well, what’s a poor companion to do? Having witnessed his regeneration, Dr Holloway, who is only human after all, finds herself attracted to our double-hearted Time Lord hero. They kiss. Suddenly the thing which has never been on the table is on the table, creating a mess which future Doctors are going to have to clear up (or, in the case of the Tenth Doctor and his human doppelganger, make all over again).
The other Who taboo she breaks is her ability to understand the complicated inner workings of the TARDIS with absolutely no prior knowledge, or guidance from the Doctor. And she’s astonishingly quick on the uptake too, look at this:
Rather than saying “but it’s bigger on the inside than the outside,” she goes in feet first with “oh! You mean like interdimensional transference…that would explain the spacial displacement we experienced as we passed over the threshold.” Which some people find annoying, because it’s not what a surgeon from Chicago would say on first entering a device like the TARDIS. Her comment only exists as a smart-ass joke for Whovians, who know people usually react with awe and wonder. A joke which had already been made by the motorcyclist going in and out of the TARDIS at speed anyway.
None of which is Grace’s fault, and she is at least unafraid of getting her hands dirty and sorting things out. Still the prospect of the Doctor being henpecked by his companion is an intriguing one, and in this respect, Grace is River Song before River Song was River Song (apart from the complicated parentage, obviously).
Here’s her sad goodbye. The first companion to kiss the Doctor, and the first to ask him to stay with her in her world, rather than joining him in his. And she’s a doctor too.
Fraser has been writing and broadcasting about music and popular culture for over 15 years, first at the Top of the Pops website, and most recently for the NME, Guardian and MSN. He also wrote BBC Radio 1's Chart Blog and reviews albums for BBC Radio 2.
He is Anglophenia's current resident Brit, blogging about British slang and running around the Mall taking snaps of the crowd at the Royal Wedding, as well as reigniting a childhood passion for classic Doctor Who and cramming as much music in as he can manage.
Fraser invites you to join him on Twitter: @csi_popmusic