Maybe you haven’t figured this out yet, but I’m a humongous nerd. I love science fiction and fantasy, and one of my go-to shows the past number of years has been British sci-fi staple Doctor Who. It’s campy, it’s funny. It’s sometimes provocative, sometimes scary, and sometimes deeply stupid. But it’s almost always fun.
The new season of Doctor Who starts on Easter weekend. It’s Peter Capaldi’s last series as the Time Lord, and the first one featuring actress Pearl Mackie as new companion Bill. But since I’m going to be a little busy in London when that episode premieres, this week seemed like a good time to bust out this theme for Tottenham Hotspur after their 3-1 win over Swansea City.
But Doctor Who stretches back more than 50 years, and I can’t (yet) say that I’m intimately familiar with every companion that’s joined the Doctor in his 13 incarnations. So we’ll limit this list to just the companions from the 2005 Who reboot onwards.
Here are your player ratings to the theme of modern Doctor Who companions.
An easy choice. Catherine Tate played Donna as a frumpy, middle-aged woman who doesn’t take crap from David Tennant’s Tenth Doctor, and who gives back as much as she gets. Donna is suitably amazed by what she sees in and outside of the Tardis, but isn’t overawed by it, or her traveling companion. She also has enough chutzpah to tell the Doctor when he’s being a complete turd. A female companion who had absolutely no romantic interest in the Doctor? How refreshing! Tate and Tennant worked so well together that I wish she had stayed around a lot longer than she did, and her tenure ended with one of the saddest and most tragic storylines in the Who canon.
Christian Eriksen: Easily Tottenham’s best player against Swansea. Eriksen, understanding that Swansea were going to park the bus after the early goal, slipped easily into “try more stuff mode” and it paid off. His creativity and passing were hindered a little by Swansea’s negative tactics, but he had a number of exquisite passes (including the one that set up Dele).
So here’s the thing about Clara: I don’t think there’s a companion who has such startlingly different character arcs depending on which Doctor she’s traveling with. That’s enough for me to separate her out as, essentially, two companions. The Clara with the Twelfth Doctor is infinitely better. Once given a chance to grow into her character (as opposed to being an “impossible girl” squeeing over Eleven), she became a fantastic foil to Twelve, and was even a capable Doctor-replacement. I wasn’t a huge fan of the Danny Pink storyline, but it was effective storytelling, Jenna-Louise Coleman played it well, and used it as a springboard for her character’s growth. Her closing storyline was a bit dumb (“living” in between heartbeats? A flying 50s diner Tardis?), but her arcs and relations with Capaldi are enough to put her high in the rankings as far as I’m concerned.
Jan Vertonghen: Probably the more stable of Spurs’ defensive options, Jan was steady over the course of the match, if not perfect. Didn’t make any egregious errors, looked good positionally, and held things together in the back. A good shift.
Dele Alli: Midway through the second half, Dele Alli decided to put this team on his back. Worked industriously to find space, passed well, and could’ve had two goals if his header hadn’t been tipped away by Fabianski. Also had an audacious volleyed overhead shot in the first half. If that had gone on target, we might well have forgotten about THAT goal against Crystal Palace last season.
Vincent Janssen: Give the man a hand. Janssen came in and pretty much changed the game with his hold-up play and physicality. Oh, and that pass! Vincent may never be the prolific scorer for Tottenham that he was in the Eredivisie, but this match showed that he can read the game very well, holds the ball even better, can pass, and might nick a few goals here and there. He’s not Harry Kane Lite, but I’m liking what I’m seeing from him. Play him against Watford and let him build up a head of steam.
Mousa Dembele: Moose had a more progressive element to his game than I am used to seeing from him, and it’s not a bad thing. It helped that Swansea were content to let Spurs keep possession for the majority of the match. I thought he was again the best central midfielder on the pitch on Wednesday. Take that, Tom Carroll.
There’s a lot to love about Amy Pond and her relationship with her Raggedy Doctor, but let’s be honest: she’s a manic pixie dream girl in space. I started watching Who with “The Eleventh Hour,” so Matt Smith was my first Doctor and Karen Gillen my first companion. Amy was spunky, inquisitive, smart, and fun, but could also shift into an egotistical arrogance that was completely off-putting. Rory was her counterpart — stable, normal, and at times quietly more interesting, and made Amy infinitely more tolerable at times, when she wasn’t feuding with him for no particular reason. Rory’s steadfastness and loyalty made him interesting as the show started to focus more on his backstory and not just Rory as “Amy’s boyfriend.” Amy and Rory also had some of the most complicated, makes-no-sense plot lines in the show’s current history, which has more to do with Stephen Moffat than it does with the characters, I suppose. All in all: taken together (as they should be), Amy and Rory are pretty much a push.
Kyle Walker: Probably Spurs’ most effective player in the first half as he spent much of his time bombing up the right flank. His delivery left a bit to be desired, though. Still glad to have him back.
Toby Alderweireld: More or less the same as Jan Vertonghen, but Toby gets knocked down a half-star for letting Wayne Routledge get on the wrong side of him for Swansea’s goal. Otherwise, mustered a solid defensive effort for Swansea, who despite countering with alacrity didn’t really generate many chances.
Martha Jones wasn’t a bad companion. In fact, she could’ve been a very good companion. Smart, feisty, and inquisitive, she had all the characteristics that make for a good second fiddle in the Tardis. Martha’s problem is that she came right after Rose, and the writers in their infinite wisdom decided that viewers really wanted another companion in love with the Doctor. That doomed her entire run from the beginning. Throughout the whole series 3, all Martha wants is attention from the Tenth Doctor, but all Ten can do is mope after the loss of Rose. Martha would’ve been a good opportunity to make a clean break from the romance and have a more “chummy” companion (a role later taken up to great effect by Donna). The decision prevented Martha from achieving her potential as a character, and that’s a shame.
Michel Vorm: Couldn’t do anything about the goal, and was otherwise solid enough between the sticks as a replacement for the ill Hugo Lloris. Thankfully, it was a relatively quiet night.
Eric Dier: Slotted between DM and CB over the course of the game. Seemed to be targeted by Tom Carroll, who probably knows his game better than anyone on Swansea’s team. Dier wasn’t great, wasn’t poor.
Son Heung-Min: His goal was scrappy, but perfectly timed. But again, Sonny just doesn’t seem to work as well at the tip of the spear compared to his natural role of off the wing. Never really got too much going offensively until Janssen came on, but it’s hard to look at his game today and say he was poor.
Moussa Sissoko: Psst: Moussa Sissoko wasn’t all that bad. Pass it on. He wasn’t GREAT, mind you, and he contributed very little to Tottenham’s overall attack, but he had some useful moments, especially when paired in the pivot with Mousa Dembele. That said, if that’s his ceiling then we should still sell him to China post haste.
Rose has her fans. I am not one of them. While Billie Piper’s storylines and romance with the Doctor probably saved the show from cancellation early in the series’ run, I found her character mostly insipid and rarely provocative. She wasn’t helped by the whole Bad Wolf thing, either. Her romantic attachment to the Tenth Doctor won Doctor Who a lot of fans, but Rose showed a selfish and capricious nature at times (she let two universes be destroyed so she could be with the Doctor and was frequently jealous of other characters and companions). By the time she retired to her alternate universe with her alternate Doctor, I was ready to see the back of her. Was her character arc hurt by the show still trying to find its footing? Yes. Do I especially care? Not really. In fairness, I will say that Billie Piper turned into a pretty decent actress by the end of her run.
Ben Davies: Yeeeeeeeeesh. Probably one of the worst matches I’ve seen from Ben, ever. Was caught flat footed and outraced to a goal kick, which directly led to Swansea’s goal, and had a number of wayward passes. Rarely got forward. Got into more decent positions as the match went on, but I’m starting to wonder if we really should give N’Koudou a shot at left back before Rose gets back.
Clara Oswald in her first year wasn’t a character, she was a plot device. This is infuriating, and a disservice to what a companion is supposed to be on Doctor Who. Moffat’s original plan for Clara — floating through time, keeps meeting the Doctor as different people and saving his life — is incomprehensible. The resolution of that storyline, in which Clara somehow jumps into his mind, saves ALL the Doctors (plus Gallifrey) and ends up in modern London as a schoolteacher, is even worse. Her personality didn’t mesh well with Matt Smith’s Eleventh Doctor either. Hand-wave all that away and she becomes one of the best modern companions under Capaldi, but her first season is a hot mess.
No Tottenham Hotspur players were as bad as Clara’s “impossible girl” arc.
Osgood is fantastic. Affiliated with the Doctor, but not actually a traveling companion. A super-important member of UNIT with access to high level secrets. A highly intelligent scientist. A total Doctor fangirl. And by the end, a critical component to maintaining peace between humanity and the Zygon Empire. If only there were a way to allow her to travel with the Doctor more often...
Georges-Kevin N’Koudou, Kieran Trippier