TV

Can Doctor Who Ever Make Up for Treating Past Companions Badly?


Leela’s new ending is part of a trend to right past wrongs, but Doctor Who can’t turn back time.

Louise Jameson as the Doctor's companion Leela on the Time War battlefield holding a transporter
Photo: BBC

In January 2024, Fourth Doctor companion Louise Jameson returned to Doctor Who in the short promotional film Leela vs the Time War for the release of the Season 15 Blu-ray boxset. It showed Jameson’s character on Gallifrey in the final moments of the Time War being threatened with extermination by the Daleks. “This is not how this ends,” says Leela, before transporting herself to the safety of the TARDIS.

As reported by RadioTimes.com, writer/director Pete McTighe said at a BFI screening of 1977 episode “Horror of Fang Rock”, that he saw the new scene as “an opportunity to right [the] wrong” of Jameson’s character’s original exit, in which Leela was hurriedly married off to a Gallifreyan Time Lord.

McTighe has written increasingly ambitious promotional films for these series releases with original actors returning to play their roles, though the complexity of producing them means they won’t be done for every boxset. McTighe was also involved in writing additional scenes (along with Russell T. Davies and Phil Ford) for Tales of the TARDIS, which likewise brought original cast members back to return to roles they’d played decades ago on television. This was a bonus for the show’s 60th anniversary and the arrival of nearly all of the original series to BBC iPlayer. There’s a sense of officiality to these licenced BBC promotions and productions.

Let’s assume for a second that canon is a worthwhile subject for debate as opposed to someone gaffer-taping 47 disparate items into a ball and saying ‘Behold, Doctor Who’: we know that some companions had terrible departures, and some simply had a terrible time in general. There is a temptation, voiced by McTighe, to right these wrongs. Can a contemporary addition really do this?

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