For a show about a lone wanderer through space and time, ironically, Doctor Who has been at its most successful when it’s been about family.
It’s easy to forget that the very first companion in the TARDIS was Susan, the Doctor’s granddaughter.
Since then, there have been a lot of crews in the TARDIS, and the most memorable ones have been the ones that felt most like a family.
The second Doctor, Jamie, and Victoria had the sort of close-knit feel of a family, which was, somewhat amazingly, retained with Zoe joined. (This was no doubt due partly to the good working relationship between actors Frazier Hines and Pat Troughton.)
During the third Doctor’s exile on Earth, the U.N.I.T. team – Jo, the Brigadier, Benton, and Yates – was often described as a family. Even the villain, the impeccable Roger Delgado’s Master, became part of the family.
That sense of family weakened for a long while. The fifth Doctor had a little TARDIS crew for a while, but it always felt more thrown together and lacked a certain closeness in the scripts.
When the series returned in 2005, it was a family drama in more ways that one. “Nine hundred years of time and space, and I've never been slapped by someone’s mother.” Mothers and daughters and boyfriends and fathers and all those relationships were there in full force.
It may have been a dysfunctional family, but Rose and Jackie and Mickey and Captain Jack and Sarah Jane – how wonderful, Sarah Jane again, better than ever! – gave the Doctor an odd new family. I think that one one of the elements that contributed to the huge success of the series’ return.
Amy and Rory? Family again. And didn’t the dynamic get even more interesting when Rory’s dad got added to the mix?
While the Doctor and companion as pals and partners-in-crime can work (the seventh Doctor and Ace, the eleventh Doctor and Clara), the times the show has had the tight-knit, frequently recurring cast have been some of my favourites.
Save The Day essays #1: Restoration
Save the Day essays #2: Recovery