Companion Piece: Women Celebrate the Humans, Aliens and Tin Dogs of Doctor Who is the first Doctor Who piece of literature I’ve read since I dove into the world of Who in 2014. The dust is still settling from me getting all caught up on New Who so I hadn’t planned on getting into any books just yet, but when Mad Norwegian Press offered me the chance to do a review of this one I was too intrigued to pass it up.
As the title indicates all the essays in Companion Piece are written by women, but not all the essays are only about female characters from the show. Some pieces are critiques, some defenses; others are tributes, reflections, or clever analyses. And if one thing is certain, all of these essays were written out of love.
Going in I was unsure how much I would be able to appreciate the writings about companions from the Classic Era of Doctor Who as my knowledge of that part of the show is comparatively limited. But I found it all depended on the author’s focus. I did not enjoy every Classic-focused essay but I did walk away with a list of companions from early Who that I feel compelled to check out – and others I will probably avoid at all costs. People have made suggestions to me as to which Doctors I should watch from the early days, but not which companions.
Unsurprisingly I was more at home with the pieces on the modern era of Doctor Who. I loved reading new perspectives on the characters I’ve come to know so well. Since I’m relatively new to this fandom, there were opportunities to discover positive or negative storytelling elements that I hadn’t even considered yet. Other times the discourse served to confirm that someone else out there saw a character situation the same way I did.
In “Different Way of Living” Julia duMais’ personal connection and eventual disappointments with the first companion of the revival, Rose, brings to light “the paradox of the companions”. As she puts it: “He changes their lives, but they’re the ones who go out and live, while he keeps on going in circles.” That’s something that really stuck with me from my Doctor Who adventures. From what I’ve seen traveling with The Doctor, more often than not, empowers these companions to be the best version of themselves. Unfortunately the endgame doesn’t always work out that well and there are plenty of writings in Companion Piece that look at that too.
Some of my favorite pieces included the aforementioned duMais article as well as:
- “Stories and Fairytales: Feminism, Agency and Narrative Control with the Pond Family Women” by Karen K. Burrows – I appreciated the acknowledgement of some of the problematic issues Moffat tends towards with his female characters while making an argument for the idea that the Doctor’s story is as defined by the Ponds as their story is defined by him. While I’m not in 100% agreement it’s still an interesting read.
- “I Can Do Your Part If You Can Do Mine”: Romana II as the Girl Doctor by Gwynne Garfinkle – This one makes Romana II a must-find for my Classic Doctor Who watchlist.
- “From ‘There’s Nothing Only About Being a Girl’ to ‘The Most Important Woman in the Whole of Creation’” by Linnea Dodson – Dodson gives a veritable history lesson on the path of the show’s companions since the 1960s with comparison of real world events affecting women in corresponding times.
- “Rewriting History with Sticky Notes” by Emma Ward – Listening to Bernice Summerfield’s adventures is definitely on my to-do list now too.
- “The Ones He Leaves Behind” by Foz Meadows – In addition to defining primary, secondary, fleeting, potential, and peripheral companions, Meadows looks at the unifying qualities of those who were potential companions but never got to go and what sets the apart from the fleeting and secondary.
- “Science Princess FTW” by Mary Robinette Kowal – Kowal gives a touching reflection on connecting with a character who showed her it was ok to be smart and girly.
Overall, if you’re looking for thoughtful insights into the companions of the Whoniverse, there’s most likely something in Companion Piece for you.
The publisher provided FANgirl Blog a copy of this book.
Kay grew up wanting to be an astronaut. After seeing Star Wars, she wanted to be Princess Leia, Han Solo, and an astronaut. Life’s taken her on a bit of a different path, but she’s still a Star Wars fangirl at heart who enjoys surprising people with how geeky she really is. A voice actor, photographer, and artist who also consults in communications and marketing, Kay spends the little bit of free time she has reading, writing, and, of course, making pew pew noises. She would pick up more jobs and hobbies if she was a Time Lord. You can follow her on Twitter.
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