Feature: Why Millie Gibson’s Early Exit from Doctor Who Isn’t Shocking
Feature article by guest contributor Craig Sightings.
The recent reports of Millie Gibson leaving Doctor Who after only one full series and a handful of episodes has sparked much debate among fans. This departure, on the surface, appears very sudden, but it isn’t entirely surprising when you consider the show’s history, especially Russell T Davies’ first tenure as showrunner.
RTD’s approach to companions has always been dynamic, often resulting in relatively brief but impactful stints. The Moffat era onwards changed that somewhat with longer companion stays, and that’s why I believe this news generated some shock with fans who may be unfamiliar with how things started out in the revival era. So let’s delve into the history of RTD’s first-era companions.
Rose Tyler: The Outlier
Portrayed by Billie Piper, she was the first companion of the revived series in 2005. Her character played a pivotal role in reintroducing Doctor Who to a new generation. Rose’s journey spanned the first two series, and she developed a profound and complex relationship with both the Ninth and Tenth Doctors. Rose’s tenure was characterized by a significant character arc that saw her evolve from a shop assistant to a universe-saving hero. Her exit at the end of the second series was emotional and memorable, setting a high bar for future companions.
Martha Jones: A Short Stint
Martha Jones, played by Freema Agyeman, took over as the primary companion in the third series. Now here is where we might see some parallels with Ruby. Martha’s time on the show was relatively short, lasting just one series, and the news of her departure was surprising at the time. Martha was portrayed as intelligent, independent, and strong-willed. Her unrequited love for the Doctor was a divisive element, but her decision to leave the TARDIS on her own terms ultimately showed her independence and strength. Her short tenure is often seen as a narrative choice by RTD to explore different dynamics in the Doctor-Companion relationship.
Donna Noble: Another One-Series Wonder (ish)
Donna Noble, brought to life by Catherine Tate, was another one-series wonder (until 2023 at least), starring as main companion in the fourth series (after a guest stint). Donna’s character was unique; she was older, more outspoken, and uninterested in romantic involvement with the Doctor. Her arc was notable for its emotional depth and the tragic nature of her original exit. Donna’s journey was a testament to RTD’s ability to create compelling, multi-dimensional characters, regardless of their time on the show.
RTD’s original tenure featured a remarkable amount of shortlived guest companions too. Of course, you had recurring ones like Captain Jack and Mickey, but some only appeared in one or two episodes. There was the easily forgettable Adam (Bruno Langley), Kylie Minogue’s unforgettable Astrid Peth in “Voyage of the Damned” (2007), David Morrissey’s Jackson Lake in “The Next Doctor” (2008), Michelle Ryan’s Lady Christina in “Planet of the Dead” (2009), Lindsay Duncan’s Adelaide Brooke in “The Waters of Mars” (2009), and last but not least Bernard Cribbins’ Wilfred Mott in “The End of Time” (2009-2010). With Millie Gibson not appearing in this year’s Christmas special it seems obvious that the previously announced Nicola Coughlan will be joining these one-off companions.
Ruby Sunday: The Pattern Continues
So taking this history into account, Millie Gibson’s departure as the latest companion looks to just be continuing RTD’s legacy of short but impactful tenures. While some may feel disappointed at her relatively brief time on the show, it’s a narrative strategy that RTD has effectively employed in his original run, and now appears to be doing again. This approach keeps the show fresh and unpredictable, and crucially grabs a lot of headlines and keeps people talking about the show. Plus I find it hard to believe this is the last we see of Ruby. Every single one of these mainstay companions came back after their departures!
In conclusion, while Millie Gibson’s exit from Doctor Who after a single series may seem abrupt, it aligns with RTD’s history of crafting compelling, concise companion arcs. Each of his companions, from Rose to Donna, has left an indelible mark on the series, regardless of the length of their stay. Their stories have illustrated that even a brief time on the TARDIS can have a big impression.