8 Friends of the Doctor Who Turned Down the TARDIS
Choosing a traveling companion for such a singular ship as the TARDIS is no easy feat. To be the right sort of person, you need to be able to fend for yourself against overwhelming odds, keep the Doctor to some kind of moral compass, and be able to see the funny side even when things are at their bleakest.
And while the Doctor’s filters are pretty formidable, it doesn’t mean that everyone who receives the invite says yes. Here are a few who shut those famous blue doors, took a deep breath and walked away.
1. Perkins (“Mummy on the Orient Express”)
Often, the Doctor dazzles the people they meet to such a degree that they lose all sense of proportion. Perkins, the sharp-eyed handyman, is cut from different cloth. For starters, he’s the one who introduces the idea of coming aboard the TARDIS, offering to help the Doctor replace the “drive stacks,” whatever they may be. The Doctor, cool as a cucumber, says, “Whoever I did get in, it might just be easier to have them stay on board for a while. I don't suppose you'd know of anyone?”
And while this is the point that other people might be tempted to say “YES OF COURSE! I ALREADY PACKED!” Perkins is a wiser man, saying: “No. Sorry, Doctor, but I don't think I do. That job could change a man.”
Which begs the question, why bring it up in the first place?
2. Petronella Osgood (“Death in Heaven”)
As sometimes happens, the Doctor’s offer of a trip in the TARDIS came just too late for superfan Osgood to feel able to take it up. In fact, this bitter irony happens twice. After “The Zygon Inversion,” one of the two remaining Osgoods, who may or may not be a Zygon, finds herself in conversation with the Doctor. He asks her, “Do you want to come? All of the future, all of history, and all of the universe?” and she, regretfully, says she has to stay to try and maintain peace between Zygons and humanity.
This is several stories after Missy had already disintegrated another version of her (in “Death in Heaven”), mere moments after the Doctor offered her all of time and space, “for your bucket list.”
3. Dr. Grace Holloway (“Doctor Who: The Movie”)
Grace is one of the few people to ever insist that the Doctor consider staying put rather than gallivanting all over time and space. Having experienced a nasty attack from the Master, she elected to return to her medical practice, rather than enter the TARDIS. The Eighth Doctor implores her, saying, “come with me,” and she replies, without a moment’s pause “you come with me.” And as soon as it becomes clear that he won’t, she shuts down all further discussion with a heartfelt “I’m going to miss you.”
Now that’s what I call Graceful.
4. Joan Redfern (“The Family of Blood”)
It’s hard to see how Joan – traumatized by the invasion of moving scarecrows and the attack of the Family – could have agreed to a life aboard the TARDIS. The Doctor had emerged from within John Smith, the man she had fallen in love with, as if he was just a human puppet to hide within. He answers her nervous question of “could you change back?” with a gentle “yes,” but when she asks if he will, he declines. That’s the preamble to the Doctor’s offer of a trip to space, and Joan is rightly appalled that he would even have the nerve to ask.
First she makes an observation, “What must I look like to you, Doctor? I must seem so very small,” restating the point the Doctor often makes about how his companions age and he doesn’t. And then, she jabs him with this devastating question: “If the Doctor had never visited us, if he'd never chosen this place on a whim, would anybody here have died?” When he cannot answer, she dismisses him with a curt “you can go.”
5. Donna Noble (“The Runaway Bride”)
We all know that the Doctor and Donna end up traveling together and we also remember how that ended for poor Donna. But at the end of their first romp, the Doctor is already taken with his new friend and offers her a ride. She gently turns him down, pointing out that the way he lives his life is far too much for the likes of her. It’s part criticism and part self-doubt, best encapsulated in her response to the Doctor claiming that the universe he can show her is beautiful. She replies: “And it's terrible. That place was flooding and burning and they were dying, and you were stood there like, I don't know, a stranger. And then you made it snow. I mean, you scare me to death.”
All of which are extremely valid points, especially given what eventually happens not long after she changes her mind and goes looking for him.
6. Aaron (“Resolution”)
By contrast, the refusal of Ryan Sinclair’s father Aaron to entertain the idea of joining the Thirteenth Doctor’s “Fam” comes with the speed and certainty of an expertly-shot bullet from a very, very good marksman. They’ve just kicked a de-shelled Dalek out through the TARDIS doors, and everyone is a little winded and unsure of themselves. Aaron double checks that what he has experienced – including Dalek possession – is commonplace for this group of interstellar travelers, and the Doctor replies that yes, this happens all the time. Then, she offers him a ride.
His answer is immediate and without qualification: “No. Call me when you get back.”
7. Ashildr (“Hell Bent”)
And then there’s Ashildr, or Me. An immortal who outlives even other immortals, she would perhaps be justified in wanting to spend a bit of time with one of the only other beings who seems to be around from one end of time to the other.
But as we’ve seen with Captain Jack, the Doctor doesn’t like being among people for too long. Ashildr may ask him if he’ll take her aboard, but he has one really good reason not to — he wants to maintain perspective.
As he says: “People like us, we go on too long. We forget what matters. The last thing we need is each other. We need the mayflies. See, the mayflies, they know more than we do. They know how beautiful and precious life is because it's fleeting… I looked into your eyes and I saw my worst fears. Weariness. Emptiness.”
And to her credit, she can see what he means: “That's why you can't travel with me. Our perspectives are too vast. Too far away.”
Incidentally, "mayflies" is exactly how the Doctor referred to the Family in “The Family of Blood,” before he hid from them. Joan clearly had a point when she pointed that out to him — we all look like tiny flashes, whizzing through time. Small wonder he wants to trap a few in a jar every now and then, and take them home.
8. Captain Jack Harkness (“Last of the Time Lords”)
Which leads us to our final example, the companion that never was. Captain Jack was told off by the Ninth Doctor for being a space privateer, then made immortal by Rose Tyler. The Tenth Doctor ran away from him, the TARDIS tried buck him off like a bronco, and still he keeps coming back.
After the Master has enslaved humanity and killed at least 10% of them, and the prematurely aged Doctor is returned to full health and vitality, the chance to travel in the TARDIS opens up again. But as with Osgood, Jack’s responsibilities as chief trouble-stamper-outer in Torchwood drag him back down the Earth. Jack turns down the Doctor’s offer with an uncharacteristically noble sentiment: “I had plenty of time to think that past year, the year that never was, and I kept thinking about that team of mine. Like you said, Doctor, responsibility.”
And when Captain Jack is teaching you something about being responsible, it’s time to look at your own life choices.
Who would you most like to have seen as the Doctor's companion?