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Lady Christina de Souza: The Companion Who Never Was

Patrick Kavanagh-Sproull looks back on the Planet of the Dead character.

lady-christina-de-souza-planet-of-the-dead

Planet of the Dead doesn’t get a lot of love. I’ll admit it isn’t the best thing to come out of the 2009 specials but, in my honest opinion, it’s considerably better than the rather subpar Christmas special that preceded it. The reasons Planet of the Dead doesn’t get a lot of love is because it’s largely straightforward with few twists; essentially, nothing special. I’ll agree that it’s one of Russell T Davies’ weaker scripts but there are some excellent ideas in there. The concept of a commonplace bus transported to an alien planet had a lot of potential and the production team wrung as much as they could out of the idea (i.e. the overseas filming). There wasn’t all that much that could be done with UNIT back on Earth and so the action was confined to Malcolm Taylor’s portable laboratory. Then there’s Lady Christina de Souza who, I feel, was a wonderful character. Michelle Ryan might not have given her all but the idea was what draws me to Planet of the Dead time and time again.

“Hello. I’m so terribly sorry. That card paying device thing. That’s a Lobster card, am I right?”

lady-christina-de-souza-planet-of-the-dead-portraitFrom her first scene it was clear Christina was a bit of an oddball. A companion that steals? Heavens above, this is a turn up for the books. I liked Christina from the off because she was, well, different. She wasn’t someone like Rose, Martha and Donna before her (all fantastic, wonderfully three-dimensional characters), who wished for something more out of her life, who wanted adrenaline and the thrill of running down corridors away from monsters because she had it – or the closest thing to it. Her thieving was, as the Doctor so puts it, a “lifestyle”.

Now, we get onto the above quote. She was in London, in the heart of London, in the biggest, most frequented city in the United Kingdom and she didn’t know what an Oyster card was. There will most likely be some readers sitting back, scratching their heads so I’ll explain: almost every second person you will encounter in London will have an Oyster card (a smartcard that works on almost all modes of public transport, most commonly the Underground), possibly less. It’s the currency of a Londoner and a commuter and the fact that Christina didn’t even know the name of it (you might have heard of it but not possess one) beggars belief. Which asks the question, what has Christina been doing that means she’s so out of date? Her background is rarely touched on throughout Planet of the Dead leading us to…

“Daddy lost everything. Invested his fortune in the Icelandic banks.”

Was Christina joking? I like to think she was. Given that she was formally titled a lady, it seems she was a minor member of the aristocracy and so numbed by boredom she decided to steal – and she wasn’t very good at it, though. (Who takes their balaclava off while still in the establishment you have just robbed?) It’s an interesting back-story to a regrettably fleeting companion. But she could be fibbing as she seemed to be a congenital liar. So, did Lady Christina de Souza’s father really invest in Icelandic banks? Was she really a lady? The lines are blurred.

The case of Donna Noble.

Donna Noble in The Runaway Bride was bolshy, loud-mouthed and a bit irritating – like Christina; there’s no denying the burglar had some aggravating moments. The Runaway Bride Donna wasn’t a good companion and by the sixty minute mark a lot of us wanted her out. Then there’s Donna Noble in Partners in Crime. A resourceful, playful, cheeky companion that was a vast improvement on the last time she appeared in the show. From the Series 4 opener onwards she grew as a character, which made her exit all the more tragic. If we imagine Christina in Planet of the Dead as Donna in The Runaway Bride then consider the potential, imagine what she could be with time and some good scripts. Donna went from being one of the worst companions to the best in about fourteen episodes. We could see Christina’s origins, why she really turned to crime, her family, her “lover” (at the beginning, shortly after purloining the golden wrapping paper-coated Cup of Athelstan, she leaves her accomplice, a man, for the police) and the de Souza homestead.

Other material.

In February, an e-book entitled Keeping Up with the Joneses was released and it starred the Tenth Doctor during the 2009 specials (we fans like to determine when a story is set and I consider the events of Keeping Up with the Joneses to take place between Planet of the Dead and The Waters of Mars because there’s undetermined amount of time between the two – and an undetermined amount of adventures). It’s light, engrossing stuff and I don’t want to give away any of the surprises so I’ll only cover it briefly. The Tenth Doctor finds a whole town has materialized inside his TARDIS and there’s a young woman, a widow called Christina de Souza living there. She’s not a lady and she has no idea who the Doctor is.

The upshot of Keeping Up with the Joneses is that the Christina in it is not the same one as the burglar in Planet of the Dead and the KUTJ Christina merely has the image of the POTD woman (who KUTJ Christina really is, well, I won’t say). Nick Harkaway, the author of said e-book, chose the character’s likeness because – and I paraphrase – she had a lot of potential as a companion and from what I can gather cites the same reasons as myself.

Christina has also appeared in other forms such as the comic, The Eye of Ashaya in which it is revealed that her escapades on Earth were incredibly well publicized – so much that when she encountered the Eleventh Doctor, his companion Rory Williams identified her by sight.

Conclusion.

Christina was an excellent idea. Not one well executed, but still a really good idea in my view. There are plenty arguments against my case: she’s a thief, Michelle Ryan isn’t the best actress about and she was almost a bit too smug for certain people’s liking – so this is just one side of a debate but personally Christina was pregnant with potential; a great, revolutionary companion waiting to happen.

Step back in time...

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80 comments
LydiaGraves
LydiaGraves

I just rewatched this episode for the first time in years, and was wishing that we'd seen more of Christina! This article, and all the comments on it, are giving me hope for something with Big Finish! I don't see how it's a problem that she's a thief, so is the Doctor!

Seaborn W Deadman
Seaborn W Deadman

What was so bad about Donna in Runaway Bride? That's one of my favourite Donna episodes. Sure, she's an annoying mouthy witch in it, but that's the point. It's hilarious XD And at the same time she was still very three dimensional, even then you could see that her shouting at the world thing was just a big facade to hide her insecurities. It broke my heart to see her brutally stripped of her attitude defenses and crying when she found out that Lance had been lying to her. Honestly when I first saw that episode I never once thought it had been originally intended for her to be a one off companion, I assumed she would return right from the start...because she was brilliant in my opinion :) I won't say the same for Lady Christina, though. She was intriguing for one episode, yes, but I think she would have annoyed the heck out of me if she had actually stayed on as a companion :) something about her just seemed...cheesy. Probably Michelle Ryan's portrayal. Like the article says, I really don't think she was giving her all, Christina struck me as quite superficial and fake. Fine for one episode, but I would not want to have had her around for a whole season and I'm quite glad we didn't. But that's just my opinion, to each his own :)


Romanadvoratrelundar
Romanadvoratrelundar

I really really love Planet of the Dead, and I'm forever sad that Christina didn't continue as a companion. I really hope that if Big Finish get the new series licence it might open up that possibility!

Baker Street is excited for Series 8!
Baker Street is excited for Series 8!

I thought that she was a brillant companion too - intelligent, courageous, individual, totally mysterious, and very well portrayed by Michelle Ryan.

DW_girl
DW_girl

I liked her and thought Michelle Ryan played her well. In all honesty I didn't pick out any of the peculiar things you mentioned whilst watching (the oyster card and the Icelandic banks thing), so I don't think a great deal of mystery was purposely written for her character at the time. Maybe it was just lazy writing? I don't know. I'm not that bothered about her coming back- I think her flying away in the bus was a good enough ending for her. Also, I liked Donna in the Runaway Bride- she was very comedic and she literally makes the episode!

Bert_Macklin
Bert_Macklin

I like the idea of the character but wish she was given more depth. There's something golden about the concept of a Ms.Peel meets Catwoman companion.

The MasterDoctor
The MasterDoctor

I can understand a member of the aristocracy not knowing what an Oyster card was.  When the original George Bush was President of the United States, he was given a tour of a grocery store.  At the check-out counter, he was absolutely amazed by the product code-scanner.  He had never seen one before and hadn't even known they existed.  It really brought to the forefront how far out of touch the wealthy can be with what "common folk" contend with every day.



I agree with the author of the piece.  The character had potential and it would have been interesting to see how things would have proceeded had she become a regular companion on the show.

stargazer0118
stargazer0118

I agree. I didn't like her much, but her character had lots of potential.

KingOfTheInterWebs has Kidneys
KingOfTheInterWebs has Kidneys

I never really had much against Christina, there was a lot of potential there and sure she could be a tad annoying but there was huge room for growth and a fairly expansive backstory. Plus I never really felt she was painted as 'the perfect companion' really. One thing I have to say though is when The Doctor lets her get turned over to the police it would've made more sense if it was because she was a thief as opposed to simply because he doesn't want anymore companions because as much as I understand he didn't want anymore companions and why, his reasoning didn't seem to make much sense in the context of Christina. I'd love to see her again and see her grow as a character more to progress from arrogant thief to a good person, it'd be nice to see an extremely independent companion like this for once. She may seem annoying but we thought the same about Donna originally. People only really see actual companions as bad people if they started out as annoying, arrogant or horrible and either didn't grow or grew into a even more annoying, arrogant or horrible person.  

Liana21
Liana21

The first thing i did when i moved to London was get an Oyster card, so you made me laugh with your commentary about it.

I think that if she would've had the proper development, she could've been a good companion, i can imagine her as a freelance look-for-problems, having to be rescued one day and rescuing The Doctor by herself at the next. And her outlaw skills could've been useful sometimes.

Mikeyboss182
Mikeyboss182

I really didn't like Christina at all she's is just so relentlessly smug and it also annoyed me how the script kept trying to paint her as the perfect companion, I hate it when New Who dose that.


Shadestryke
Shadestryke

I could see a great deal of potential in a character like Christina on board the TARDIS, not so much for her own growth but for the effect she would have on the Doctor. Every companion to date has grown to one degree or another, but each has also had an effect on the Doctor himself. 


The Doctor seems to pick up traits from his companions like he collects accents - Rose cared about people (a trait that 9 seemed to have lost for a time) and had a love for life that he soon picked up. Jack was flirtatious and cheeky, which started to show in 9 but which really manifested in 10. I can't think of any traits the Doctor may have picked up from Martha, but then we have Donna. She was loud and energetic and always ready with a funny comeback to any situation - traits that 11 took to extremes. It will be interesting to see what effect Clara has on 12 (if any).






beskar
beskar

Such an un-original character, although most Nu-Who fans wouldn't get why. You see, kids, Ace was going to be replaced, in the 1990 season of Doctor Who by... drumroll please... an aristocratic cat burglar. True story. Of course, the season was never made, but people like Andrew Cartmel have talked, at length, about the character since then. It would appear RTD ripped off the idea bigtime with Christina.

Oliver J. "cool"
Oliver J. "cool"

I disliked this character a lot; just everything about her I didn't like.

YorkshireDicky
YorkshireDicky

"Michelle Ryan isn’t the best actress about"

Not sure that was necessary. Neither is just about anyone who has been in Doctor Who (perhaps aside from Jacobi) but that's not the point.

The Finn
The Finn

It's highly plausible she actually was a lady and that her father lost money investing in Iceland. Just because one is an aristocrat doesn't mean they can't do bad business decisions. Just look at the stock market crash of 1929 and it's affects.

chinnysandshoes
chinnysandshoes

I'm one of those who did not like Christina. I don't understand why really, because she is everything I think a companion should be. She's highly intelligent, more than capable of taking care of herself, strong, brave.... I am so tired of companions that play second fiddle to the Doctor or who fancies him. I just want someone like Donna again - a best friend - with no mating, sunshine. But yet something about Christina irritates me. Maybe I can't get over how at the heart of herself, everything she does is self-serving. She has no wonder or curiosity at the Universe. She's just seeking out another thrill, of a kind she hasn't encountered before, and that's the only reason she wanted to go with the Doctor. Certainly, they can write in her character development along the way. On potential alone, the character of Christina is big. But since she is already so adept at taking care of herself, the only development that can occur is moral development. Ugh. Preachy.












NeutronFlow
NeutronFlow

'so this is just one side of a debate but personally Christina was pregnant'


Wow, she must have been doing some serious exercises! It didn't show ...

Gustaff
Gustaff

She comes prepared for everything under the sun, but can't be bothered to carry bus fare in case her driver gets arrested? So unrealistic. Sunglasses at night, for when her robberies. Gets dragged out till morning, Takes crazy prepared and makes it lame.

VictorWong1
VictorWong1

That "lobster card" bit -- I always got the feeling CdS knew perfectly well what an Oyster card was, she was just trying to charm the bus driver into letting her on without paying. If she dropped a casual lie about Daddy, then odds are that this is a lie too.

I agree that CdS is a perfectly strong character, one who can assess and make decisions on her own. I seriously doubt she could take up a berth on the Tardis, though -- character-wise she's very much the equal of the Doctor and equally rebellious, meaning she's more likely to go off on her own than go under the Doctor's supervision.

TheNightmareChild sees into your soul!
TheNightmareChild sees into your soul!

I don't deny that the character had potential, but I'm sorry to say, Michelle Ryan's performance pretty much ruined any enjoyment I could've taken from the character.

Polyphase
Polyphase

Excellent well written article, You have expressed my thoughts almost exactly. I enjoy a fun episode whenever they present themselves and this one could have been one of the best. 

Proving yet again that even an average episode of Who can be eminently watchable :)

needcomicmoney
needcomicmoney

Basically it was 'the Doctor meets Catwoman'. Let's throw a bad-girl at him and see what happens. We were meant to warm to her at the same pace as the Doctor so that by the end we were happy with the outcome. For me it was a bit like the end of The Doctor's Daughter, it left me wanting to know what the character was going to do next and that's a good ending.

VERITASERUMUK
VERITASERUMUK

Interesting article. There have been many characters since 2005 who could have been a companion. Lynda Moss, Sally Sparrow, Astrid Peth, Jenny (Doctor's Daughter), Lady Christina de Souza, Canton Everett Delaware III, Lorna Bucket and Rita (The God Complex). Out of all the ones mentioned I would say Sally Sparrow would have been an excellent companion.



KristiStoneman
KristiStoneman

I liked Christina and "Planet of the Dead".  It would have been nice to see her as an actual companion.  Can you do more articles on "companions who never were"?








stargazer0118
stargazer0118

@Mikeyboss182  I didn't get that idea about her. I think the writing showed that there was plenty of room for Christina to change into a much better person. 

DW_girl
DW_girl

@Shadestryke I think Martha made him realise that he needs to move on from Rose and that he was basically an 'insert swear word here' to Martha. He became more loving and energetic after that.

PlaidWolf
PlaidWolf

He didn't rip it off. He incorporated it. For those who may not know the Cartmel "masterplan" or have read all of Virgin New Adventures they wouldn't recognize that nearly half of all nuwho episodes or more have referenced or used something to do with both. Which is why it infuriates me when nuwho only fans insist anything produced in the "dead time" in book or audio form is not "canon" as a lot of it has been used in one way or another to in nuwho which makes most of it "canon" by their standards (which is generally when people say, everything onscreen is canon but everything not isn't)

Anyway everything Cartmel did was up for grabs, used, expanded on, and became the basis for a lot of what has made up nuwho and since RTD worked on the Virgin New Adventures he would have been a follower if not a complete fan of the Cartmel plan so anything "nicked" from it is fair game and to be frank better than if he hadn't. I haven't been impressed with the original ideas either Moffat or Russell have come up with. They lack escape routes for their stories, and generally are a mess.

The stories that have been the best are either when they themselves have played around with Cartmel and VNA or when their staff writers have been allowed to. Not to say I would like everything in VNA to show up onscreen. Some of it is far too dark for a family show and some of it gets bogged down in a lot of HP Lovecrafty mythology with all the various mysterious versions of people, demi-gods and the whole looms stuff.

But incorporating bits here and there like choosing a character but modifying it a bit for modern audiences is perfectly okay in my book. Whenever something out of Cartmel or VNA is used I'm actually a happy clam. I'm one of those weirdos who actually loves those books and the audios more than the show itself. I love the show but The audios and VNA are DW's true story to me.

PK-S
PK-S

@The Finn  Of course, it is highly plausible that she was a lady and I looked at the scene in which she said that line about the banks and I concluded she was joking. She stole for the thrill, I felt, although some would disagree. RE: the daddy quote, I think she was trying to make a joke to avoid answering the question. That's how I interpreted anyway. Each to their own! :-)



DW_girl
DW_girl

@NeutronFlow LOL! I saw that sentence initiially and thought WHAT?? But then I realised that it was just a weird metaphorical term!

Polyphase
Polyphase

@ilyootha Agreed, The doctor had a companion once before that was a thief and and attempted murderer and his name was Turlough. It added a different dynamic to the show :)

PK-S
PK-S

@Gustaff  You have to admit that she wasn't really expecting to have to board a bus to Brixton :P

NeutronFlow
NeutronFlow

@VictorWong1'I seriously doubt she could take up a berth on the Tardis, though -- character-wise she's very much the equal of the Doctor and equally rebellious, meaning she's more likely to go off on her own than go under the Doctor's supervision.'


I think a 'loose cannon' companion could make for some very interesting and different storytelling!

No? 




PK-S
PK-S

@Polyphase  Thank you, Polyphase. I really do like Planet of the Dead (I didn't realise it was broadcast 4 years ago today - great timing on DWTV's part :D) but I know it has its flaws and it can sag in places. As I said, one of the reasons I keep coming back to it is because of Christina, really.

Liana21
Liana21

@VERITASERUMUK You can go through all the series finding people that would've been really good companions, I've got something with Evans from The Web of Fear, that would've been great as comic relief on UNIT, the Witch of Devil's End or Herbert from Timelash.

PK-S
PK-S

@KristiStoneman  It's tempting but Christina is one of the few who didn't a) die through horrific circumstances or b) kill herself (which, to some extent, ties in with the first option). As @VERITASERUMUK noted above others include Lynda Moss, Sally Sparrow, Astrid Peth, Jenny, Canton Everett Delaware III, Lorna Bucket and Rita. Only three of them out of that bunch survived and only one of them was offered a spot on the TARDIS. That's Jenny and there have been plenty articles on her. The temptation to do an article on Professor Amelia Rumford out of The Stones of Blood is almost too much. She was wonderful.



The Finn
The Finn

@PK-S @The Finn  Fair do, from what I remember of the episode I interpreted it differently :)

ilyootha is in the Divergent Universe
ilyootha is in the Divergent Universe

@PolyphaseAn attempted murderer, yes, but a thief? He wasn't a thief, at least not in the sense of "someone who breaks into safes and museums". And the dynamic he had with the Doctor was completely different to those either Raine or Christina had anyway.




PK-S
PK-S

@The Finn @PK-S  Clever writing from RTD and Gareth Roberts, really. It's hard to work out anything about Christina because everything she said was open to interpretation.

Polyphase
Polyphase

@ilyootha He stole the brigadiers car in the first episode he is in. That's a thief isn't it :)