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It didn’t take long for the Doctor Who writers to think about bringing people in from other time zones as companions. It makes perfect sense, really, given that he roams through time and space, arriving anywhere and anywhen he pleases, that the Doctor should pick up new friends from all over the place, not just late 20th century Britain. So once Ian and Barbara had left the TARDIS, and it was assumed that the audience were up to speed with time travel and Time Lords and all that stuff, the next two companions, Vicki and Steven came from the future. Which meant that the audience were no longer represented by a character on the show from their own era (which is now no longer our era, scarily enough). It’s a sign of how confident the program-makers had become in its audience, once Doctor Who had become a hit.
After a brief dalliance with Swinging London, in the form of Ben and Polly and Dodo (we’ll come back to them), the Second Doctor chose his companions from the past, to begin with. Jacobean Jamie and Victorian Victoria. Which meant a certain amount of explaining things that you and I take for granted before we can even start to address the alien technology on screen: lightbulbs, for example.
Thankfully, for the Doctor at least, help arrived in the form of know-it-all Zoe, played by Wendy Padbury. She’s got a lot in common with the Fourth/Fifth Doctor’s friend Adric, in that she’s a mathematical genius from the 21st Century (our era, so by rights we should be wearing bubble-wrap and going to work in space) who isn’t at all backwards in coming forwards. Her intellect rivals that of the Doctor’s, and she has a photographic memory. Who wouldn’t want to brag about that?
She also has to battle the Cybermen, in her first adventure The Wheel In Space, and comes off considerably better than he did. That’s to say nothing of the Ice Warriors, Quarks, Krotons, space pirates and, in The Mind Robber, reality itself.
She can kick-ass when needed too:
She’s also very young, mid-teens, as far as anyone can work out, and generally tends towards being prim and logical, in contrast to Jamie’s impulsive hot-headedness. Which could be a recipe for a constant Tegan/Adric bickerfest.
Luckily, the bumbling charm of the Second Doctor mitigates against this. Jamie’s the brave warrior, Zoe’s the logical administrator, and the Doctor is the wayward force that drives them along. They’re a complimentary trio. He’s not as imperious as his First, Third and Fourth iterations, coming across more like an easily disappointed parent to everyone he meets. He can’t rely on nervous energy to get stuff done, but doesn’t seem to want to address his own formidable intellect, so he tends to let Zoe do the sums and Jamie do the fighting while he wanders around prodding stuff, much like Matt Smith does today.
In return, Zoe gets to experience a world away from dry academia and her hemmed-in life on the 21st Century space-station where she first meets the Doctor and Jamie. And it definitely suits her.
Sadly it can’t last. Eventually the Time Lords catch up with the Doctor and put him on trial. His defence acts as a neat summary of her time in the TARDIS, while she abandons her usual cool, allowing her youth and rage to take over.
But it’s all to no avail, and Zoe has to go back to her drab life, forgetting everything she learned aboard the TARDIS except that one cyberinvasion, and going back to her numbers, unchanged. Shame.
Even this, her last appearance in the TV show to date, doesn’t make any difference:
Still, at least she doesn’t have to wear bubble-wrap any more.
Next: The Brigadier
See more posts by Fraser McAlpine
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