What would you do if a man claiming to be from another planet asked you to travel with him through time and space?
This question is nothing out of the ordinary on BBC’s Doctor Who, a long-running sci-fi series that follows the adventures of the Doctor, his time-traveling ship the TARDIS (short for “Time and Relative Dimension in Space”), and the people he invites along.
We can learn a lot from the Doctor and his adventures. But his companions, too, share a long history of saving the universe and being awesome.
Dozens of characters have been featured as the Doctor’s traveling companions over the course of the series, which began in 1963 and was revived in 2005 after many years off the air. Here’s a closer look at his most recent companions and the work/life lessons we can glean from them:
When we meet Rose, the first companion of the revived Doctor Who series, she is just a normal nineteen-year-old girl. But by the end of her stint in the TARDIS, she has grown into a strong, brave individual willing to give her life to save others.
We should all wish to have the courage Rose learns from her time with the Doctor. Whether that means defending a friend who’s being ridiculed, standing up for yourself in a hostile work environment, or protecting the world from an alien invasion, be courageous.
As Rose says, you should “have the guts to do what’s right when everyone else just runs away.”
Captain Jack Harkness
Jack is a time-traveler who is forever changed by his experiences with the Doctor. And I really mean forever — after the events of the first season, Jack becomes immortal and is sent over a hundred years back in time.
Both blessed and cursed with a never-ending life, Jack’s adaptability to any setting keeps him sane. Rather than isolate himself, he learns to thrive in different centuries, different locations, and with different groups of people.
Like Jack, we should try to adapt to what life and work give us and make the most of our present.
Martha, a medical student, endures a lot during her time on the TARDIS. Most notably, when the Doctor is imprisoned and his nemesis, the Master, has enslaved the Earth, Martha is tasked with saving the universe. She spends a year as a fugitive, traveling the world and spreading the Doctor’s plan to the whole of the human race.
Without Martha’s perseverance and strong will, the Earth would not have survived.
Most of our daily struggles are not life-or-death situations; but as demonstrated by Martha’s example, even the most difficult problems can be conquered by hard work and persistence.
Donna, an office worker, doesn’t think she’s special. But her experiences aboard the TARDIS prove that she is, indeed, more than “just a temp.” Like many of the companions, Donna ends up saving the world. As the Doctor says, “But for one moment, one shining moment, she was the most important woman in the whole wide universe.”
Donna struggles with self-confidence, but the Doctor helps her see her own worth. Her arc teaches us the importance of believing in yourself.
Whether at work or at home, inner strength leads to happiness and better relationships with friends, family, and coworkers.
Amy first meets the Doctor at age seven, when the TARDIS crash-lands in her yard. He leaves shortly thereafter, telling Amy he’ll be back in five minutes. However, when the TARDIS disappears, it doesn’t return again for twelve years.
This experience scars young Amy, but her forgiveness of the Doctor in adulthood leads to her time in the TARDIS. Had she not forgiven him, she would not have found such a close friend in him nor realized how much she truly loves her fiancé, Rory.
In our own lives, learning to let go of grudges can lead to greater things. Maybe you won’t go time-traveling, but you might form new relationships or seize opportunities that you otherwise would have missed.
Rory, Amy’s eventual husband, joins Amy and the Doctor on the TARDIS. Though it takes time for Amy to admit her love for Rory, Rory has loved Amy since childhood. He shows this affection most heroically at the end of the fifth season: Amy is preserved in stasis, and Rory chooses to watch over her for two thousand years until she can be restored to life.
Rory’s loyalty to Amy is extraordinary. While traveling with the Doctor, Rory shows Amy his love and loyalty in ways beyond what he could have done in a normal life.
We can only hope to express such levels of devotion to our loved ones and to our commitments.
As another time-traveler, River’s adventures with the Doctor happen out of order. In fact, the first time the Doctor meets her is the last time she sees him in her own timeline. Even though from her perspective they are in love and trust each other completely, usually the Doctor barely even knows who she is. River is constantly worried about “spoilers” and what damage she might do to his personal future.
Because of this, River must practice patience and self-restraint. Just as River waits for the Doctor’s timeline to catch up with hers, so should we remember, especially in a world focused on instant gratification, that some of the best things in life and in our careers only come with time.
Courage, adaptability, perseverance, self-confidence, forgiveness, loyalty, patience — these are just a few of the qualities exemplified by the characters of Doctor Who. If only we could all be a little bit more like the Doctor’s companions!
Which of these characteristics is most important to you? What else can we learn from the Doctor’s fellow travelers? And seriously, what would you do if the Doctor asked you to be his companion?