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Companions and Regular Supporting Cast ..... ?


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Old 18-01-2013, 11:06
Shoppy
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How many do you think works best?

The reason I ask this is because I watched The Snowmen again and was thinking about how well Vastra, Jenny and Strax have been received, but also how I'd read comments on a forum somewhere after AGMGTW saying the show shouldn't turn into an "ensemble piece" and more recently something in the same vein saying Moff should stick to a "traditional" Doctor-Companion pairing.

The thing is though, what is a "traditional" Doctor-Companion line-up?

The First and Second Doctors both had at least two companions.
The Third Doctor had his supporting cast of UNIT personnel.
The Fourth Doctor only had one season (14) travelling with just one companion, as Harry was in the season before and K9 in the series after
The Fifth Doctor travelled mostly with multiple companions...

Other than Season 14, the idea of the Doctor travelling with a single female companion (a cliche that evolved out of the role of his "assistant" in the Pertwee era) is really something that didn't become a regular thing until the Sixth Doctor's tenure, and even then you've got a guest spot from Jamie McCrimmon in Season 22 and a wider supporting cast in Season 23.

Apart from the Fourth Doctor in Season 14 then, it was only really the Seventh Doctor who had no supporting cast outside of the Doctor-Companion relationship.

So when people grumble about it becoming an "ensemble piece" they're just chasing a misconception that the 4+Sara/Leela or 7+Mel/Ace relationship is a definitve part of what the show HAS to be.

Don't get me wrong, I wasn't keen on RTD's over-use of companions' familes in his narrative, but I can see how the show definitely benefits from either more than one companion OR a wider supporting cast. (For one thing I think it provides an additional point of recognition for the casual viewer.)

Thoughts?
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Old 18-01-2013, 11:51
tinny
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Depends on story , people involved , the dr william hartnell i cant remmeber , troughton worked ok with two,perrtwee had brigg anddd a female one aaand a car ,baker worked well with a assitant female well he did marry one , the actor i mean, k9 was ok , davison had a few and itt wworked, colin baaker didnt wwork well with peri but mel was ok,mcoy worked excellently with aace but nott mel, mcgann worked well wwwwith grace but the other guy was ssso bad aat acting , it spoiled it for me,ecceston and rose brill but mickey and jackie didnt,tennant and rose kool,,him anddd marth no, him and jack and martha ok ,hhhim and donna brill , him and sarah jaane ok but she was older than him so felt odd, k9 added the cute factor , mickey at first seemed to annoy him but got smart and tturrned into a kool assistant , wilf was hm lets say a gooddd man intinally but a bit silly but bernard cribbins is a goodd actor that sscence with claire bloom at xmas 2009 made me choke on my prawns then i cried wwwheen he was on his own , matt and amy wwworked but rorrry is an aaace guy but hhim and amy a bit odd, then add river a tad annoyying , matt with james corden brill , matt wwith clara hm interesting , the others were a taaad gimmicky lets say the dr ddoes need company but does he need that much ,the occaasion where they took the earth home made me howl (with happiness) ax
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Old 18-01-2013, 12:36
Batmannequin
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As much as I loved the Eleven/Amy/Rory/River dynamic, I do think that just one companion, coupled with a "base" with supporting cast [so presumably Vastra et al now, and the Tyler home, UNIT etc. in the past] for some stories works best in the current format.

It was fine to have a bigger cast in the classic era, when stories went for four, six, sometimes even seven episodes, as there was enough time to focus on everyone.

These days, with only 45 minutes per story, we really need less core cast members, or else the plot will run the risk of seeming intensely rushed as we spend most of the time accomodating them, or somebody [well, let's be honest, Rory] has to run the risk of being screwed over by the story to fit the plot in. Hell, a lot of Five's stories struggled to fit in the full team, and they were mostly four episodes each.

Don't get me wrong, I adore the UNIT family, and I love the idea of more than one companion, but with the show in its current format - especially now that Moff is seemingly doing away with 2-parters - we're best served with just the Doctor and one companion (with Vastra and co being around for any occasion that the story needs more protagonists, but in a position where their absence doesn't need to be explained if a story just needs - or can only fit - Eleven and Clara.)
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Old 18-01-2013, 13:26
johnnysaucepn
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Is the perceived problems really with the number of characters travelling directly with the Doctor, or with the number of recurring characters that the Doctor is in frequent contact with? Is the concern that stories cease to become self-contained, and that the show gets too tied up with its own mythos?

I can't see that having Vastra, Strax, or even River, recur is much different from Jackie Tyler, or The Brigadier, or even Rose herself showing up frequently. Apart from the weirdness of the characters, obviously.
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Old 18-01-2013, 13:31
greymarl
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I really like it kept simple to be honest - Doctor + one companion is just right for me. I liked the River Song dynamic when she was first introduced, but it's been handled badly in the last couple of series, which makes me almost wish she'd never been introduced, except that would mean losing one of my favourite episodes (Silence in the Library).

Going back through previous Doctors, I've always preferred just one companion too. Too many hangers-on just tend to dilute things.

I'm perfectly okay with a constant base of other characters reappearing all the time, but as regards people who actually travel with the Doctor, one is best.
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Old 18-01-2013, 14:39
MinkytheDog
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Having fewer companions makes it easier to create and write evolving relationships - multiple regulars tends to lead to more static characters and even stereotyping. If you have, say, four companions, you generally have "the clever one", "the strong one", "the cute one" and the "funny one" - look at Buffy, Star Trek and Scooby Doo. More recently, they added a new dynamic to DW by having overtly "sexy" characters such as River Song and Jack.

If you have one regular companion, you can show all of those qualities in the same person - which is not only more "realistic", it makes for a more rounded and interesting character. The "sexy" (as opposed to just good looking) element is now being used for single companions - it never really was in the original series.

One of the few real failures in 2005+ DW was that they didn't get the balance right in the case of Martha Jones - they made her one dimensional until Family of Blood when they suddenly seemed to remember that she was also string and clever - but it was too late and the audience had lost respect for her. Even without rewriting Martha, they could have done a better job by having at least one other companion at the same time - to add some light and shade. When you see both love-struck Martha and dippy-but-loyal Donna in the same episode, you see how much better her character could have worked with something to balance out the puppy-dog routine.

So - multiple companions or solo side-kick - both are great as long as the characters and plots are well written and specifically written to suit whichever set-up is chosen. My personal preference would be for one or maybe two full-timers and maybe half a dozen regular but not constant "mates" - like Jack, River and Rory (earlier stories). I'm still hoping that Canton Delaware will have a couple of trips in the Tardis - and I'd love to see more of the "Mission Impossible" style teams in the right stories - that worked brilliantly in AGMGTW.
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Old 18-01-2013, 18:35
Pull2Open
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I think two companions work better, although the old saying that the companion is a proxy of the viewers asking the Doctor what was happening, a two companion dynamic can also provide a dialogue between two characters (like an inner dialogue for viewers) trying to understand what was happening and sort of pulling it together. I think, recently, Rory seemed to be the best one to simplify what the Doctor was saying for the benefit of Amy or the viewer.

Just my tuppance worth!
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Old 18-01-2013, 20:50
kyllerbuzcut
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I like having a lot of characters, but in the 'olden days' you had weeks of a story and could pad it out more with more. More characters getting into different parts of a story and all winding towards the big conclusion. In the 'modern era' where we only ever have a maximum of 2 parts to a story it probably doesn't work so well having loads of characters.

There are the story arcs, but you get about 3 minutes of the background plot in each episode, so can't really have too many characters being involved there. One or 2 at the most, if they are only getting a minute on screen every week. We just wouldn't remember who they were with any less. I suppose that's why the companion's family was a good choice. A quick phone call or something every other episode to keep them involved in the plot, then at the finale, we know who they are when the master kidnaps them.

So in conclusion, my thoughts are that it would be nice to see more recurring characters, and I think in the Matt Smith era we have started to see that a bit with Rory, River and now Vastra, Strax and Jenny. So that has been good. But- due to the restrictions in the format these days we can't really have a full blown cast of UNIT characters anymore, plus 2 or 3 companions and K9.

Um, did that make sense?
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Old 19-01-2013, 01:29
sohoguy
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How many do you think works best?

The reason I ask this is because I watched The Snowmen again and was thinking about how well Vastra, Jenny and Strax have been received, but also how I'd read comments on a forum somewhere after AGMGTW saying the show shouldn't turn into an "ensemble piece" and more recently something in the same vein saying Moff should stick to a "traditional" Doctor-Companion pairing.

The thing is though, what is a "traditional" Doctor-Companion line-up?

The First and Second Doctors both had at least two companions.
The Third Doctor had his supporting cast of UNIT personnel.
The Fourth Doctor only had one season (14) travelling with just one companion, as Harry was in the season before and K9 in the series after
The Fifth Doctor travelled mostly with multiple companions...

Other than Season 14, the idea of the Doctor travelling with a single female companion (a cliche that evolved out of the role of his "assistant" in the Pertwee era) is really something that didn't become a regular thing until the Sixth Doctor's tenure, and even then you've got a guest spot from Jamie McCrimmon in Season 22 and a wider supporting cast in Season 23.

Apart from the Fourth Doctor in Season 14 then, it was only really the Seventh Doctor who had no supporting cast outside of the Doctor-Companion relationship.

So when people grumble about it becoming an "ensemble piece" they're just chasing a misconception that the 4+Sara/Leela or 7+Mel/Ace relationship is a definitve part of what the show HAS to be.

Don't get me wrong, I wasn't keen on RTD's over-use of companions' familes in his narrative, but I can see how the show definitely benefits from either more than one companion OR a wider supporting cast. (For one thing I think it provides an additional point of recognition for the casual viewer.)

Thoughts?
A very perceptive post - nice for a change!

I think you're right in many ways, but what doesn't necessarily work is if the wider supporting cast travel in the TARDIS. Yes Davison had a wider team, but really worked better with one or two companions, and the UNIT lads were rarely involved in the major detail (i.e. had their own storylines) for the Pertwee stuff

I enjoyed RTD's approach and am loving Moffat's return to regular characters. But they should largely stay out of the TARDIS - it should be about the Doctor and his best mate, not his best mateS
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Old 19-01-2013, 01:30
Mrfipp
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I'd like to see the Doctor to travel with two companions for the most part. Some of my favorite TARDIS teams included a second companion (Jamie and Zoe, Sarah Jane and Harry, Ace and Hex, Fitz and Anji), as it allows for more dynamic between characters. That's one of the things that disappointed me during the RTD era is that he never allowed room for a second companion.

For now, however, I think the Doctor should just stick with Clara, but I'd like there to be a new companion introduced early on in Series 8. I'd also like to get back into companion overlay; having a second companion with the Doctor when Clara decides to leave so that he isn't alone when the next one is introduced.
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Old 19-01-2013, 01:32
Abomination
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The inclusion of companions, and the inclusion of families/extended cast are two completely different things and I think it wise to think of them as such.

I enjoyed having Rose's family around - particularly Jackie. In fact, when reminiscing over the RTD-era, it is often the likes of Jackie whom I end up missing the most. The series in its current phase defines the Doctor as the alien and the companion as the relatable human. I think that including the family of a companion is a tormenting reminder that The Doctor doesn't have that - it allows a growth of his character and ties him down that little bit which is a joy to see, and makes the exit of the companion all the more tragic. I'd be lying if I said I wasn't disappointed to not see Amy's family after Series 5, or Rory's before Series 7.

Whilst I liked Wilf and Sylvia, they were arranged too conveniently like Mickey and Jackie. It was a bit unoriginal, but just about worked. Martha's family was simply a cold and thoughtless replacement for Rose's family...to fill the gap. Only Martha's mother came out of it being credible in my opinion.

I think there is definitely room for an extended recurring cast - as I said, it grounds the companion and reminds us of how alien the Doctor is. In the end, I'd say it was the biggest failing of The Ponds... we got a brief glimpse of Amy's family and that was that, and then Rory's brilliant dad was shoehorned in at the very end of things. River was a good enough supplement but didn't quite perform the same sort of role.

Above all else, I think it grounds the show a little bit. The amazing thing about Doctor Who is how it can deliver you a period drama one week, and a futuristic sci-fi story the next. Series 7 is the definition of that concept, though as people have pointed out the lack of connection between episodes can make it feel like a series of "specials" at times. Having an established set of characters we can return to now and again is something that reminds us on occasion that it is still the same show, and it gives it a bit of heart as well. For all of its flaws, Love and Monsters perfectly illustrated how a character like Jackie becomes the heart and soul of the piece.
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Old 19-01-2013, 01:57
Shoppy
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A very perceptive post - nice for a change!
Well it's something to do on these dark winter nights.
Shame there's not much on worth watching

I think you're right in many ways, but what doesn't necessarily work is if the wider supporting cast travel in the TARDIS. Yes Davison had a wider team, but really worked better with one or two companions, and the UNIT lads were rarely involved in the major detail (i.e. had their own storylines) for the Pertwee stuff
I agree with this with the exception of the Brigadier, though his closer relationship with the Doctor makes for less retreading through the old "bigger on the inside" schtick (which was nicely turned around in "The Snowmen" I thought)

I enjoyed RTD's approach and am loving Moffat's return to regular characters. But they should largely stay out of the TARDIS - it should be about the Doctor and his best mate, not his best mateS
I think what I'd personally like to see is two companions in the TARDIS, one being more of an unusual alien or mystery character and the other being a human (male or female) performing the expected inquisitive earthling role, and maybe a single recurring character that's not a travelling companion nor another pseudo-timelord.
Kate Stewart would be a welcome feature in the next couple of series, just in one or two stories or so.

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Old 19-01-2013, 03:39
Theophile
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As much as I loved the Eleven/Amy/Rory/River dynamic, I do think that just one companion, coupled with a "base" with supporting cast [so presumably Vastra et al now, and the Tyler home, UNIT etc. in the past] for some stories works best in the current format.

It was fine to have a bigger cast in the classic era, when stories went for four, six, sometimes even seven episodes, as there was enough time to focus on everyone.

These days, with only 45 minutes per story, we really need less core cast members, or else the plot will run the risk of seeming intensely rushed as we spend most of the time accomodating them, or somebody [well, let's be honest, Rory] has to run the risk of being screwed over by the story to fit the plot in. Hell, a lot of Five's stories struggled to fit in the full team, and they were mostly four episodes each.[/b]

Don't get me wrong, I adore the UNIT family, and I love the idea of more than one companion, but with the show in its current format - especially now that Moff is seemingly doing away with 2-parters - we're best served with just the Doctor and one companion (with Vastra and co being around for any occasion that the story needs more protagonists, but in a position where their absence doesn't need to be explained if a story just needs - or can only fit - Eleven and Clara.)
That right there is the problem. They need to slow the story way down. It currently is way too fast and frenetic. There is no time to explain anything, develop anything or, sometimes, even catch your breath.
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Old 19-01-2013, 08:50
kyllerbuzcut
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That right there is the problem. They need to slow the story way down. It currently is way too fast and frenetic. There is no time to explain anything, develop anything or, sometimes, even catch your breath.
I think you are right- a return to the 'good old days' with something like 4 episodes making up a story (hopefully still being 45 minutes long) would provide a better 'canvas' to fit more characters and more real story in there, instead of it seeming rushed at times. They could still put little 'one off' episodes in there too if they really really wanted, as long as they connected with the whole.

I don't see what all the fuss is over having to have a certain amount of writers do a certain amount of stories. Why not just forget trying to shoehorn so many writers into 13 episodes, and have a small team write something like:
3 episode starter to series; 1 episode which is a bit separate; but would have some arc- type stuff going on, so it sets up later events and connects to things; a 4 episode story; another 2/3 episode story; and then another 2/3 episode story, with the Christmas one possibly continuing that. Each individual episode could still have a lot of individual-ness to it, like the 2 parters sometimes have now. there would still be a little bit of an overall arc to what's going on, even with there being a few multi-parters. To tie them together as a series. I'm sure some of the better writers could do a good job of making some of the individual parts of a 4-parter watchable as an individual too. I think part of the reason they don't have more than 2 parts these days is because the BBC fear that 'casual viewers' won't know what's going on if they missed part1, and part 3 is on this week. They will watch the X-Factor diving on ice instead or something, on the other channel. People don't always do that anyway, especially in these times with DVR's etc, and even if they miss one episode, if it's done in a good way then each episode could still be good enough to watch on its own.

The way it's been since 2005 seems to me that the BBC hire a bunch of writers, then sit down and say 'woops, what are we going to do with them all, we better give them all an episode each to write', and that's why we seem to get some single episodes thrown in, that don't connect with the rest of the series, and are usually rated as the worst episodes ever to boot. It's probably not a coincidence.

They could instead select a producer and a show runner and tell them to hire whatever team they want, and they ALL put the whole series together. That's the way more and more shows seem to work these days, with a team of writers all contributing to the whole in whichever way the producer and/or showrunner decide is best to tell the whole story of the series..

Um, I went on a bit too much there didn't I? lol

I guess I'm speaking from the point of view of someone who watches every week and wouldn't miss it, but I've missed other shows in the past and some I have been able to keep up with if I've missed an episode or 2, even though there has been loads of story going on. Others have been like you can't really miss a single episode, otherwise the story has changed beyond all recognition. So- my point is it CAN be done.
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