Note: This is not a list of the monstrous armies that have come back time and time again to do battle with the Doctor, but the individual characters he has run into on his travels many times over. These are the people whose legends loomed so large in classic Doctor Who they simply had to come back in the modern era.
Some are good, some are rotten, but none of them have been forgotten.
Sarah Jane Smith
Always more than just a fellow traveler, Sarah Jane had a relationship with her Doctors (Three and Four) that was similar to that of Donna Noble or Amy Pond to theirs. She was someone who could not only handle the terror and drama, but also provide a reality check, to keep the Doctor from becoming too lofty or high-handed. Always quick to protest and with a strong rebellious streak, the Doctor clearly adored her, and quite understandly so. By rights, Sarah Jane should now be running a rehabilitation centre for former companions, to help them get over their experiences (and form an interstellar alien fighting unit).
He may have only made a return to modern Whovian service through The Sarah Jane Adventures (as did Jo Grant too), but there have been enough references to Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart in the main show—including a touching on-screen tribute after Nicholas Courtney died—to prove the Doctor never forgot him. Incredibly, there are still sections of the Whovian community that believe the Brigadier does not count as a proper companion because he didn’t travel through space and time. Well, technically that’s true—apart from a couple of trips in the TARDIS here and there—but also, he can’t count as a subservient companion in the conventional sense, as he was technically the Doctor’s commanding officer at UNIT.
There again, any list of prominent companions that leaves his name off is no list at all. So that’s that.
Kate’s journey into the modern Doctor Who comes via the spin-off media created in the gap when the show wasn’t on air. She’s the daughter of the Brigadier, and first appeared in a home video-only release called Downtime in 1995, which also starred Nicholas Courtney as the Brigadier and Elisabeth Sladen as Sarah Jane Smith. Kate was played by Beverley Cressman at the time. Those home video versions existed in an area slightly outside of what is normally considered the canon of proper Doctor Who stories, so it was doubly exciting to see Kate Stewart appearing in “The Power of Three” as UNIT’s new director.
Perhaps the most fitting thing you can say about the return of the Master, as one of Doctor Who’s most fondly-remembered villains, is that it was only a matter of time. The best thing about the return of the Master in “Human Nature” is that it is entirely unexpected, that an entirely fresh Doctor Who audience would have little idea who he was, even, but that within seconds of that Gallifreyan fob watch rudely kicking Professor Yana out and reinstating this Time Lord rotter, everyone watching had the measure of him. He’s like the Doctor, only evil (and a smidge madder).
The Bard of Avon has appeared in Doctor Who twice. Once when the First Doctor watched him talking to Sir Francis Bacon and Queen Elizabeth I through his Time-Space Visualiser, in “The Chase” (see below), and once during that nasty business with the Carrionites.
Oh and speaking of Her Majesty…
Queen Elizabeth I
Not content with discussing the finer points of literature with Shakespeare and Bacon, Queen Elizabeth reappeared twice—once at the end of “The Shakespeare Code” to order the Doctor’s execution, and once in “The Day of the Doctor” to marry him. These events did not happen in that order as far as she was concerned, which possibly explains all the anger and shouting.
If you’re the kind of person who can genetically engineer an entire race to live without fear or remorse or compassion and then place them inside a near-impervious shell, you’ve probably picked up a few survival tips along the way, and so it proves with Davros, creator of the Daleks. He’s been reduced to a single head, blown up, kept in suspended animation and frozen in ice, and used most of the cells in the skin of his chest to clone a fresh Dalek race, and he always seems to come back just as twisted and determined as always.
The most legendary figure on all of Time Lord mythology, and a bit of a tough cookie to boot. Rassilon’s history is long and complex. It begins with him (and his colleague Omega) kickstarting Time Lord civilization on Gallifrey and becoming its first leader. He was the engineer who created the TARDIS, the De-mag Gun, and the transduction barrier around his home planet. Consequently a great many Time Lord objects were said to be his: the Sash of Rassilon, the Coronet of Rassilon, the Harp of Rassilon, the Crown of Rassilon, the Game of Rassilon, the Rod of Rassilon, the Black Scrolls of Rassilon and so on. Then there’s the Ring of Rassilon, which gave its wearer the gift of immortality (stuck inside a statue on the outside of the Tomb of Rassilon).
During the Last Great Time War, Rassilon (played by Timothy Dalton in the modern series) once again took his place as the leader of the Time Lords, but he appeared less as a wise sage and more as a dictatorial visionary, hoping to pull the Time Lords out of their time-locked physical conflict with the Daleks by turning them into creatures of pure consciousness. The Doctor prevented those plans, and the Master attacked Rassilon for forcing the maddening Time Lord rhythm of the vortex into his mind as a child. Now that the Doctor is once again looking for Gallifrey, the name of Rassilon could be heard once more.
Because a robot dog is the perfect traveling companion, especially when you don’t know where you’re going to get your next supply of doggy-bags from. We still don’t know what happened to the first K9, who elected to stay on Gallifrey with Leela when she left the TARDIS. Or the second K9, who had to stay in E-Space with Romana, due to severe damage. The third K9 was sent to Sarah Jane and popped up when she and the Doctor had their tearful reunion.
Dr. John Smith
For a long time, John Smith was not an actual person, but a useful name the Doctor went by when travelling incognito. It was the name on his UNIT credentials, the name the First Doctor used when joining Shoreditch public library in 1963. This was probably because he wanted the most nondescript human name he could find, but it seems his human alter-ego was/is a living breathing being. Not really understanding the technology involved in becoming human, as the Doctor did in “Human Nature”/”Family of Blood”, it’s hard to be sure whether a new personality can be made or simply develops, but John Smith is not the Doctor, far from it.
Oh one last thing: 10 points to anyone who wondered if Clara Oswald would be on this list. She has definitely earned her place, what with going back and making sure all the Doctor’s previous adventures were put back the way they had originally happened. The only difference is she made her comeback backwards, and no one saw her do it at the time.Read More