Doctor Who Explainer – Who is Susan Foreman, and is she coming back to the show?

·Contributor

In the Doctor Who series premiere episode, The Pilot, the Twelfth Doctor was working in a university. On his desk were two pictures. One, of River Song, a character familiar to many viewers in the audience.

The other picture was of a character called Susan Foreman.

Susan was the Doctor’s granddaughter, and very first companion. When the Doctor first fled from Gallifrey, he left with her; after travelling for a time, visiting places like Akhaten and Quinnis, the pair found themselves on Earth in the 1960s. Susan enrolled as a student at Coal Hill school – a location we’ve seen a lot over the past few years.

The first episode of Doctor Who, called An Unearthly Child in reference to Susan, saw schoolteachers Ian Chesterton and Barbara Wright investigating their strange pupil Susan Foreman, and her even stranger grandfather – the first Doctor. Not wanting the teachers to tell people about Susan and himself, the Doctor took off in the TARDIS while they were still onboard, and the four characters ended up travelling together.

Eventually, however, Susan left the TARDIS. Deciding that Susan needed a proper home rather than wandering in the TARDIS, and seeing her attraction to the freedom fighter David Campbell, the Doctor left Susan behind on Earth in the 22nd Century. His departure and farewell scene is one of the most poignant moments of the first years of Doctor Who.

Though promising that he’d come back one day, we’ve never seen the Doctor return for Susan on screen during Doctor Who.

Might that be happening soon, though? Fans have speculated about this for a long time, but it’s starting to seem possible now in a way that it hasn’t before.

We’ve had references to her from time to time before, of course; often whenever the Doctor talks about his family, Susan is implicit within that. But over the course of series 10, those references have been far more explicit. Her picture in The Pilot is the most obvious, of course, but in yesterday’s Knock Knock there were some quite overt references too. Bill referring to the Doctor as her grandfather certainly puts one in mind of Susan, while the Landlord’s description of losing his daughter is very evocative of Susan’s final fate.

Could Susan return? It’s not impossible. Carole Ann Ford, the actress who originally portrayed Susan, is still alive – while at 76 she’s largely retired, Ford has still continued to play the role of Susan in Doctor Who audio stories. So, it’s not entirely out of the realms of possibility for Carole Ann Ford to return as Susan – but then, knowing Doctor Who, they could bring the character back, but played by a different actress as a result of regeneration.

Certainly, there are fans who would be pleased – and none moreso than Peter Capaldi. A lifelong fan, Capaldi has been talking about his wish to see Susan return to the series for some time now, and even said the same to Carole Ann Ford when she visited the Doctor Who set.

We know, of course, that Peter Capaldi was vocal about his wish to see the return of the original Mondasian Cybermen – and now, as Capaldi is coming to the end of his tenure as the Doctor, Steven Moffat has included the Mondasian Cybermen as something of a parting gift for Capaldi. Is it possible, then, that we’ll see a similar appearance from Susan? It’s certainly possible, and recent episodes appear to have been foreshadowing it heavily.

In the end, though, only time will tell – as time always does…

Related:

Doctor Who Explainer – What are the Mondasian Cybermen?

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