‘Doctor Who’ and Reality: Lessons in Fearlessness from 7 Unforgettable Companions

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:

Rose Tyler

Billie Piper (Rose Tyler)

Billie Piper (Rose Tyler)

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

John Barrowman (Captain Jack Harkness)

John Barrowman (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 Jones

Freema Agyeman (Martha Jones)

Freema Agyeman (Martha Jones)

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 Noble

Catherine Tate (Donna Noble)

Catherine Tate (Donna Noble)

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 Pond

Karen Gillan (Amy Pond)

Karen Gillan (Amy Pond)

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 Williams

Arthur Darvill (Rory Williams)

Arthur Darvill (Rory Williams)

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.

River Song

Alex Kingston (River Song)

Alex Kingston (River Song)

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?

Image credit to Cle0patra, DavidDJJohnson, Sutherland85, Gage Skidmore, wdecora, Tegan26, meahtsingan, and Capt Tim.

Rachel Hamsmith

When not writing for the blog, Rachel is a data entry specialist at QLP. She spends most of her free time consuming a variety of geeky TV shows, movies, and books, as well as funny cat videos and other Internet oddities. Otherwise, she moonlights as an editor for a literary magazine and tries to spend as much quality time as she can with friends and family. You can also connect with Rachel on Google+.


  1. Cybernetic SAM

    I miss the days of Rose…. This was a great post!!!! I love how you really extracted all the strong and distinct characteristics of all the companions. It is really neat to see their personalities this way!!! Great Job Rachel! Side note Cpt. Jack Harkness (John Barrowman) is actually from Aurora IL!!!!!!!

    • Rachel

      Thanks, Sam, glad you enjoyed it! As a fellow Doctor Who fan, I hoped you would. 🙂 And yes, I knew that John Barrowman grew up in Aurora!! So cool!

  2. Jen

    I’ve never seen this show, but the way you described the characters and their traits is really cool. It seems like they all have really distinct and different personalities. I like the bit about Rory staying with Amy for two thousand years to protect her while she is in stasis (I assume that means she is in some sort of coma). It’s really sweet and that is quite a commitment on his part. How did he say alive all that time? Is he immortal like Captain Jack Harkness? Sorry, I have a lot of questions now.

    • Rachel

      Rory’s not immortal, but his consciousness was in a plastic version of himself during that time, so he was temporarily able to live for thousands of years. Sounds weird, I know. 🙂 But yes, it was a huge commitment on his part, and a very loving one!

      I’m glad you enjoyed the article despite not seeing the show! Thanks for reading, Jen!

  3. Jeff Porretto

    I have to say, letting go of grudges is not one of my strong points. I’ll see someone I haven’t seen in years, and just remember I’m mad at them for no reason whatsoever.

    “Hey, you did that thing to that person that one time!”
    -“I was five years old!”
    “Yeah you were, and I’m not ready to move on yet…”

    I could take a page out of Amy Pond’s book methinks…

    • Rachel

      It can be very hard to let go of grudges, for sure. As you said, Amy can teach us all a thing or two about forgiving and forgetting. 🙂

      Thanks for commenting, Jeff!

  4. Amy Swanson

    Like Jen, I haven’t seen Doctor Who, but from what Mandy and Jill have said it sounds really cool! After reading your post Rory sounds like a stand-up sorta guy, the first thought that crossed my mind was, “ahhhh, how sweet!”

    I’m such a scaredy cat if the Doctor asked me to come along I’d probably say ‘no’ haha. But now that I have some background on him, maybe it wouldn’t be so bad?

    Fun post, Rachel!

    • Rachel

      Rory’s the best. His character is a lovely combination of awkward and BAMF. 🙂 And I’d probably say “no” to the Doctor too, if I’m being honest with myself. I tend to steer clear of spontaneity and life-threatening adventures, haha. Maybe if we went on trips that didn’t involve the planet or the entire universe being in danger … but then that wouldn’t make for very good TV, I suppose. 😉

      Thanks, Amy!

  5. Mandy Kilinskis


    Second: Amazing post! Any time we can relate Doctor Who to business is a good time. While all of these traits are essential to a great, well, anything, I think that Jack’s adaptability is one of the most important. The business climate can change at the drop of a hat, especially in our fast-paced, digital environment. Change can be scary, but we have to embrace it to come out on top!

    • Rachel

      Whoo Martha!!!!!! She rocks. I have decided that she and Rory need to go on a BAMF tour together. Jack can come along too. 🙂

      Great point about Jack’s adaptability. It’s such an important quality to have! Thanks for commenting, Mandy. 🙂

  6. Jill Tooley

    It’s honestly quite a challenge to pick my favorite companion! Normally, I’d go with Rose immediately, but Donna grew on me there toward the end of her run. People get down on Amy a lot, but I like her as well. Crap, all of them are so good in their own ways!

    Regardless of my indecision, you’ve done a fine job of picking out each companion’s key feature and strengths. They’ve all helped the Doctor in one way or another, but in completely different ways. That’s part of what makes the show so special.

    If the Doctor asked me to be his companion, I probably wouldn’t hesitate to join him. How many times does one get an opportunity like THAT? 😉

    • Rachel

      I really do like all of them, some more than others, but I can’t say there’s a companion from the new series that I hate. Martha ranks up there as a favorite, though.

      “They’ve all helped the Doctor in one way or another, but in completely different ways. That’s part of what makes the show so special.” — So true! Thanks for the comment, Jill. 🙂

  7. Emily

    I love every said about each charter. I am a huge fan of doctor who and I can say that everything said about Rose, Martha, Donna, Captain Jack, Amy and Rory is all true. Thank you Rachel Hamsmith for writing those beautiful words.

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