Susan should be the next companion

susanSusan Foreman, the Doctor’s granddaughter, was left by the First Doctor on Earth in the 22nd Century at the close of The Dalek Invasion of Earth, Susan having fallen in love with David Campbell, a London freedom fighter, during that serial. It was the Doctor’s first goodbye, and his goodbye to the only member of his family to travel with him. I think she should be brought back as the Doctor’s companion for series 9.

Just bear with me, here…

A brilliant idea came to me while I was laying awake at midnight pondering Doctor Who (as, I’m slightly ashamed to say, I do), a “master plan” for series 9. I suspect that the “searching-for-Gallifrey” plot will be explored to some extent in series 9 — to what extent, it’s hard to predict. However, what I would propose is for the searching-for-Gallifrey plot to constitute a strong story arc encompassing the whole of series 9, and ending in its resolution in the finale, in which the Doctor finally arrives at Gallifrey (but has some conflict to overcome there — a tyrant to overthrow? The threat of a renewed Time War? A terrible decision to make?). Such an arc would be similar to the Key to Time arc — the Doctor’s search for Gallifrey would take him all over the universe, all over time and space (I haven’t fleshed out the details). For one series, the Doctor would finally have a destination, a purpose to his travels.

Which is where the Doctor’s granddaughter comes in. Assuming, and it looks probable, that Clara Oswald doesn’t return in series 9, there would be a vacancy open on the TARDIS for the position of the Doctor’s best friend. Susan should take that role. If the Doctor is looking to find and restore the home planet of the Time Lords, surely a Time Lord is most appropriate to accompany and aid him in such an endeavour? He can’t conscript a human girl for what could potentially be a long, arduous and dangerous quest. He couldn’t burden a human with that. He either needs to go it alone, or team up with the only other Time Lord left in the universe. Besides, a “going-home” quest is inherently a family affair. It is only appropriate that the Doctor seeks the company and help of another Gallifreyan for an objective in which both have a deeply personal interest. More appropriate, still, that that other Gallifreyan is the Doctor’s own kith and kin. Susan would have as much an interest in finding her lost home again as the Doctor.

How could this turn of affairs be brought about? The Doctor could, upon resolving to find Gallifrey, decide to seek out his long-lost granddaughter to ask her to join him. The Doctor links up with the TARDIS telepathic interface, asking the TARDIS to take him to Susan.* The TARDIS materialises in 23rd Century London. The Doctor is eventually confronted with a familiar female figure. She peers at him unsurely, and poses a tentative question, “Grandfather?” She looks different: she has regenerated, and is older than when the Doctor saw her last, but he recognises her instantly as his Susan. “You came back,” she coos tearily, and they embrace. She explains that, although she and David lived a long and happy life together, David had died long ago, and that she has been living out a lonely existence on Earth ever since without contact with her family or the Time Lords. The Doctor explains the resolution he’s made to find Gallifrey. He asks Susan if she wants him to take her with him, take her back home. She agrees, admitting that there is nothing left for her on Earth.

The reason it should be Susan who accompanies the Doctor on his quest to find Gallifrey, rather than some other Time Lady (such as Romana), is the potential for character development for both the Doctor and Susan. The Twelfth Doctor has been presented in series 8 as being less dependable, less “user-friendly”, less attuned to his “human” side (so to speak); darker, meaner, morally ambiguous. That’s what 900 years’ spent on Trenzalore watching people he knew and loved continually die around him, while he, only, remained, did to him — it made him, in the most painful way possible, come to the realisation that he, the Last of the Time Lords, was “nobody’s boyfriend”. Here, now, is a chance for the Twelfth Doctor’s character to mellow. In being reunited with his granddaughter, the Doctor finally has someone to care for and someone whom he is finally allowed to love with all his being. Not just anyone, though, someone like him, a Time Lord who supposedly knows what it’s like to have buried loved ones and to be alone. Susan’s experience on Earth parallels the Doctor’s experience on Trenzalore. To have each other would be the best possible thing for them.

Moreover, returning Susan could present a further opportunity to develop Susan’s character. Susan was the archetypal Classic Who “cardboard cut-out” companion whose job was to look pretty, scream, ask questions and get rescued a lot. Carole Ann Ford herself apparently resented her character’s being portrayed in this way. “New Susan”, Susan 2.0, Susan 2000 (or whatever) will have aged and matured, have become self-reliant (perhaps a cause for tension with a paternalistic grandfather?), and will have generally have changed during her time on Earth, as well as having undergone personality change due to her regeneration, in any case. Here’s the opportunity to reimagine Susan as a modern companion, a strong and capable female lead character, dear but at the same time invaluable to her grandfather.

Other opportunities presented by the return of Susan could include delving deeper into the Doctor’s past and his other family. Could we meet, or at least be told about, the Doctor’s children, siblings, or, pray, his (first) wife? Could the writers pick up where Andrew Cartmel et al. left off in 1989?** The opportunity is there, if the writers are man enough to take it. A further opportunity for Doctor Who, in this idea in general, is to move the programme away from its very Earth-centric preoccupation, to get the Doctor out into the universe and move towards more hard science fiction. In this way, Susan would be the first non-human companion of the revived series.

I know there are reams of potential continuity problems with this idea. For example, I’ve completely ignored all of Susan’s history in the extended media (having consumed none of it). I’m relying on the production team’s ability to retcon at whim to avoid these tricky questions. The extended media is, after all, secondary to the television series, and not necessarily canon. If the extended media is to be taken as canon, I’m sure there is still nevertheless a way to somehow reunite Susan (wherever she is) with the Doctor. That said, the biggest problem with my master plan is the question of what happened to Susan in the Time War. The “Last of the Time Lords” mythology would seem to suggest Susan is not in the universe — she either perished in the Time War or was trapped along with all the other Time Lords in Gallifrey’s pocket universe. It is true enough that the Doctor seems to have made no effort to locate Susan after the Time War, which would imply she really is lost or dead. If that is so, I truly am stumped. Having said that, Susan’s fate is never explicitly stated. There may be a way yet for the Doctor to be with Susan. If nothing else, the Doctor could always discover that Susan had a son or daughter with David he never knew about, whom she left on Earth to protect from the Time War…

#bringbacksusan

* Alternatively, the Doctor could simply set the co-ordinates to 22nd or 23rd Century Earth. Dark Water seems to suggest that the TARDIS’ telepathic link, when employed to take a person to another with whom one’s timeline is “intertwined”, takes one to that person’s destination with respect to one’s own point in one’s relative timeline. So, if 2000-year old Doctor linked up to the telepathic interface and asked the TARDIS to take him to Susan, he may well meet up with 1800-year old Susan, or worse, Susan’s grave.

** Whether the writers adopt the Lungbarrow interpretation of the Doctor’s and Susan’s respective origins or retcon it is up to them.

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