Doctor Who companions ranked worst to best: from Rose Tyler to Donna Noble

Billie Piper as Rose Tyler and David Tennant as the tenth Doctor (PA)
Billie Piper as Rose Tyler and David Tennant as the tenth Doctor (PA)

After nearly a year away, Doctor Who will return to the BBC this Saturday.

Ahead of a full-blown new series, the beloved sci-fi series is kicking things off with three standalone 60th anniversary specials, which will see David Tennant and Catherine Tate reprising their well-loved roles.

Then, the 14th series, in which Ncuti Gatwa becomes the new Doctor, will begin on December 25.

Ahead of the new series, we’ve ranked some of our favourite companions since the show returned in 2005 – but do you agree with our order?

7) Martha Jones

Martha Jones was a great companion: she was kind, intelligent and resourceful – but it’s hard not to think of her as the ‘difficult second album’ of Doctor Who companions.

After Billie Piper’s Rose left the show, the David Tennant era continued with Freema Agyeman’s watchable but – dare we say it – sometimes slightly unmemorable replacement.

Still, Jones was headstrong and capable, and Russell T Davies’ writing gave her a convincing family life away from her adventures in space and time. She also featured in some brilliant episodes – The Shakespeare Code, Human Nature/The Family of Blood, and the (mostly) excellent triple-finale starring John Simm as The Master.

6) Amy Pond

Steven Moffat’s era as a Doctor Who showrunner brought plenty of newness: a Matt Smith-shaped Doctor, a fresh TARDIS, and a much-hyped new companion in Amelia Pond.

But great name aside, Karen Gillan’s break-out role proved to be a real mixed bag. Veering between entertainingly feisty and frustratingly brash, the character had her shining moments but often lacked likeability.

Case in point: in series six’s The Girl Who Waited, Amy becomes angry and embittered after getting stuck in a parallel universe for 36 years while the Doctor and Rory try to find her – which is fair enough, except that Rory once spent an entire millennium sitting outside a giant box waiting for her in the series five finale and didn’t once complain about it.

5) River Song

Another Moffat creation with high highs and low lows, River Song is conceptually one of the best characters of ‘new Who’. But in execution, she was saddled with a lot of unnecessary baggage and OTT campery.

The initial introduction of River in the David Tennant-era story, Silence in the Library, was brilliant – she was an important person in the Doctor’s future adventures, which were already in her past. They were both time travellers, moving in opposite directions – each time they met he knew her better, and she knew him less.

Of course, the time-bending quickly became complicated, and the later revelation that River was both the Doctor’s sort-of wife and the daughter of Amy Pond was several twists too far.

Still, actor Alex Kingston was superb, sparkling in the role – especially in the sprightly and emotional Peter Capaldi Christmas special The Husbands of River Song.

4) Yasmin Khan

Jodie Whittaker had several companions, including 19-year-old electrical engineer Sinclair and his step-grandfather Graham O'Brien. But Yasmin ‘Yaz’ Khan was the standout from the bunch, and not only because she stayed throughout Whittaker’s entire run as the Doctor, meaning she became one of the longest-ever Doctor Who companions – the other being Billie Piper’s Rose Tyler.

The fiercely loyal junior police officer from Sheffield won over audiences with the way she battled with her demons, as the series touched on all sorts of issues including bullying, mental health issues, Islamophobia and sexuality.

3) Clara Oswald

Let’s preface Clara ‘Oswin’ Oswald’s inclusion at number three by saying that she wasn’t always a stellar companion. It took a long time for Jenna Coleman’s first Doctor Who appearances to warm up.

But once paired up with Peter Capaldi’s Doctor, Clara flourished with wit and charm. She had an impressive transformation, growing in confidence and recklessness, and leading to her genuinely shocking death in season nine’s Face the Raven.

Frustratingly, the impressively dark end for the character was swiftly unwritten in a garbled conclusion that left Clara frozen in time and travelling through space in her own TARDIS with Lady Me.

2) Rose Tyler

The success of Doctor Who’s return was as much down to Rose Tyler as it was to the nation’s fond memories of former Doctors and Daleks.

The casting of Billie Piper seemed strange at the time, given that Piper was best-known as a Noughties pop star, but she proved to be a gifted actor who made Rose a supremely entertaining and engaging companion for both Christopher Eccleston and David Tennant’s Doctors.

She remains one of the most relatable characters in the revived show – a young Londoner who works in a shop and likes chips – but is still totally convincing as the intergalactic super-being ‘Bad Wolf’ after staring into the heart of the TARDIS.

Her departure in series two closer, Doomsday, is properly heart-wrenching, as Tennant’s Doctor and Rose become trapped in different parallel universes. Please, don’t make us think about it any longer.

1) Donna Noble

Arriving immediately after Rose’s tear-jerking exit, the very loud entrance of Donna Noble made a bad first impression in the Christmas special, The Runaway Bride.

But through her full-series arc in series four, Catherine Tate’s character became the Doctor’s greatest companion of the recent era. Donna Noble evolves from a motor-mouthed narcissistic caricature into the Time Lord’s funniest and most human traveller – on numerous occasions she acts as the Doctor’s conscience (the Ood and Pompeii episodes particularly), and dishes out one-liners like nobody’s business.

Best of all following Rose and Martha, there’s no sexual tension here. Donna and the Doctor are just two people who balance each other out, whether solving an Agatha Christie mystery (starring Agatha Christie herself) or battling walking space potatoes.

If Rose’s exit was totally tragic, Donna’s was almost even more upsetting – she had to have her mind wiped at the end of series four, and reverted to the person she was before she ever met the Doctor. Pass the tissues.

The Doctor Who 60th anniversary specials will air weekly between November 25 and December 9 on BBC iPlayer