Today I woke up to some big news about Series 11 of Doctor Who: Jodie Whittaker’s Thirteenth Doctor is going to have no less than three companions, played by Bradley Walsh, Tosin Cole and Mandip Gill. (At least the assumption is they’re going to be companions, since the BBC news article on the subject just says “regular cast members”.)
I’ve already talked about how I don’t support the decision to make the Thirteenth Doctor a woman, but I’m actually quite intrigued by this new development. I haven’t seen anything of Cole or Gill’s work but I do like Bradley Walsh, and I’ll be interested to see just what the relationship between these three characters turns out to be. Given their differing age groups as well as genders, the potential is there for a good dynamic.
Looking at the comments in various places, quite a few people are already complaining, either because a) they think three companions plus a new Doctor is too many characters to focus on or b) they think that since Cole and Gill are non-white, the BBC is just pushing political correctness some more. First, it is worth noting that Doctor Who began in the first place with three companions – Ian, Barbara and Susan – and having watched several of their adventures with the First Doctor, I don’t have any problems appreciating them all as characters. The show can always have these three new people take turns in being the main focus of an episode if that helps flesh them out. Second, having non-white companions feels far less like pushing political correctness than, say, changing the gender of a protagonist who has been male since his inception 54 years ago; especially since Doctor Who has already had non-white companions – Mickey and Martha – and I don’t recall any such fuss about them.
Personally, I’m more annoyed about the fact that the number of episodes has been reduced again – from twelve to ten – and we have to wait until autumn next year before Series 11 starts.
In fact, having three companions feels strangely appropriate when you consider that Doctor Who began with that setup. Series 11 is going to be a new start, for better or worse: a new Doctor, with a new gender, and a new showrunner. So why not bring the show round in a circle to its beginnings? They’re already bringing back the First Doctor for the Christmas special, after all.