Classic Companions: Susan
Guest contributor Jack Hudson grades the Doctor’s very first companion.
Susan was the Doctor’s granddaughter and his first traveling companion. Because of this, she shared a great on‐screen relationship with the Doctor.
Just as the first episode of the revival focused primarily on Rose Tyler, the first ever episode of Doctor Who focused on Susan. She is the titular ‘Unearthly Child.’ Susan was an essential part of introducing the audience to the show because she was the one who explained things to Ian and Barbara; the audiences eyes.
Susan developed a lot during her time in the show, a transition from girl to woman. She started off a little haughty, sometimes terrified and ended up mature and independent. However, I feel that some writers ignored this and used her just to get scared when she should have been more than that, as she showed in her other episodes.
There are some fans who think Susan is a bad companion because she is apparently too much of a ‘screamer.’ I find this unfair. She is a young girl and realistically she does get scared. However she is often strong willed too; for example when she defies the Doctor in The Sensorites or when she encourages the rebels to find the Doctor in The Dalek Invasion of Earth.
Susan had great chemistry with the Doctor, Ian and Barbara. The family ties between the Doctor and Susan makes it one of the best Doctor/ Companion relationships ever. Barbara acts like Susan’s older sister, while Ian and Susan have a mutual respect for one and other and their own interesting relationship. I wish we had seen more of just the two of them together as it really worked, especially in part one of Planet of the Giants, and so did the Doctor and Barbara.
Susan is brought to live fantastically by Carol Ann Ford whose looks have an unearthly beauty and a childlike innocence needed for the role. She managed to find the perfect balance between trying to play an alien and trying to play someone teenagers could relate to. She was a great actress who deserves to come back for the 50th anniversary of Doctor Who in 2013.
Susan’s goodbye scene is one of the most emotional in the show; particularly because of the Doctor’s touching speech, but also because she couldn’t bear to leave but she knew she wanted to. The only downside was that she didn’t get to say goodbye to Ian and Barbara, which I would have liked to have seen.
I think Susan left too soon as would have liked to have seen her develop more. Another reason is the chemistry with her fellow travelers remains one of the best of the show and the dynamic between the TARDIS crew was never as good for the rest of William Hartnell’s era. She should have stayed until at least the end of season 2, but at least she went out on a high.
Susan returned in the 20th anniversary special The Five Doctors and although she didn’t have that big a role, it was still nice to see her again. Her presence made Richard Hurndall’s interpretation of the first Doctor feel more like the original. She also returned in Dimensions in Time, but the less said about that the better!
Susan realizes they have been made smaller in Planet of the Giants. I have chosen this moment because it portrays Susan as intelligent and being able to work things out for herself which I feel should have happened more often.
To sum up, Susan was a great companion but the best thing about her was the chemistry she shared with the Doctor, Ian and Barbara. As a companion she is good, but lacking in some areas. She also really differs in personality in different episodes.
I rate Susan a: 7.5/10