WARNING: Spoilers for the 'Doctor Who' TV series
This is the second part of a series featuring the companions of the British science fiction television series, 'Doctor Who'. While the first part of this series of articles dealt with the first companion who traveled with the Doctor, this one will be all about the first companion that is seen on screen – Barbara Wright.
For the sake of people who haven’t watched the ‘Doctor Who’ series, here is a brief glimpse of this long-running show. The ‘Doctor Who’ series began in 1963 and has recently passed it’s very respectable fifty-year anniversary as of the date of this article being written. The main character of ‘Doctor Who’ is the Doctor, an alien who makes his way through space and time in his TARDIS (Time And Relative Dimensions In Space) which is a time / space machine that has been disguised as the famously blue police box. The series follows the Doctor and his companions though exciting and dangerous adventures as they travel across the universe.
As the Doctor travels he occassionally encounters a person, usually human, who, for one reason or another, becomes a traveling companion and journies with him. There have been relatively small number of people who have accompanined the Doctor, but their importance to the series can’t be dismissed as they were instrumental in the outcome of story. In fact, the companion who is featured in this article, Barbara Wright can easily be seen as the sole reason that the Doctor travels rather than sitting idly in a dark scrap yard.
The character of Barbara Wright was played by Jacqueline Hill, one of the few actors to take on the roles of more than one character in 'Doctor Who' when, years after she stopped playing Barbara Wright, she took on the role of Lexa in the episode 'Meglos'.
Jacqueline Hill played Barbara Wright in the following episodes: 'An Unearthly Child', 'The Daleks', 'The Edge of Destruction', 'Marco Polo', 'The Keys of Marinus', 'The Aztecs', 'Sensorites', 'Reign of Terror', 'Planet of Giants', 'The Dalek Invasion of Earth', 'The Rescue', 'The Romans', 'The Web Planet', 'The Crusade', 'The Space Museum', and 'The Chase'.
The character of Barbara Wright, a history teacher at Coal Hill School, helped to draw the audience into the story of ‘Doctor Who’ as she used the first few minutes of the fist episode, ‘An Unearthly Child’ to talk with her fellow teacher, Ian Chesterton, about about the mystery that was one of their students, Susan Foreman. The mystery intrigued her so greatly that she and Ian tracked Susan to her home which, to their surprise, turned out to be in a junk yard.
Barbara was an intelligent, strong woman and while her travels in the TARDIS were quite against her will, she adapted well and showed delight in the visiting the history that she’d once only studied and taught. Courage and compassion were two more of Barbara’s admirable qualities, both of which she demonstrated in ‘An Unearthly Child’ not only because it was her worry for Susan that drove her to the junk yard where she first met the Doctor, but also when she overcame fear of a violent caveman who had been hunting her and her friends. That caveman had been gravely wounded and Barbara tried to save his life. Also, in the episode ‘The Daleks’ Barbara was courageous enough to explore an alien city alone in order to help find a necessary component for running the TARDIS. Her compassion was shown, again, when she tried to help a man driven nearly mad by alien influences on his mind in ‘The Sensorites’. Even when she found herself in a position of great power in ‘The Aztecs’ her compassion led her to attempting to end the practice of human sacrafice in order to prevent what she saw as needless deaths.
Barbara was older than most of the young girls who ended up traveling with the Doctor such as Vicki, Zoe, and Jo. Perhaps it was because of her maturity or the fact that she was a teacher and used to being in the role of leader and protector, but she wasn’t a bit intimidated by the Doctor and had no hesitation about standing up to him when she thought he was in the wrong.
Barbara’s Memorable Moments
Episode - An Unearthly Child
In ‘An Unearthly Child’, the first episode of Doctor Who, the pivotal moment when we are given our first look into the TARDIS is brought about by Barbara. Barbara’s worry for her student drives her to the junkyard where she, and Ian Chesterton, first met the Doctor and began their travels. The Doctor believed that he had to either keep the two humans as captives inside the TARDIS or, if he freed them, he would have to force Susan to leave Earth for their own protection. When Susan refused to leave Earth and didn’t want her teachers kept as prisoners, the Doctor chose, instead to kidnap Barbara and Ian which began the whole Doctor Who series. If Barbara had ignored her worry for Susan it is entirely possible that the Doctor would have allowed Susan to stay very comfortable and safe on Earth which would mean that he may have never started his travels.
Episode - The Edge of Destruction
The ‘Edge of Destruction’ is only the third adventure in Doctor Who and is an odd one in that there are no alien planets or monsters to deal with. Rather, the whole episode takes place within the TARDIS and the adventure is a conflict they have to work out amongst themselves. There is some mysterious force at work, causing inexplicable pain to the crew and black outs. Barbara’s shining moment comes after the Doctor accuses her and Ian of attacking him and Susan. Barbara roared into a righteous rage. She berated him for his ingratitude of the times when she and Ian had saved the day, ending up nearly screaming at him with her anger. It was also Barbara who figured out that the TARDIS was not just a machine, but was a machine capable of thinking and that all the troubles in that episode was the TARDIS’ ways of trying to warn them, by way of clues, that the ship was in so much danger that it was about to be destroyed.
Episode - The Aztecs
‘The Aztecs’ episode focused a great deal on Barbara, but not in altogether positive light. Barbara had decided to try changing history, despite the Doctor’s warnings and orders not to. When the TARDIS landed in a tomb in the Aztec empire, Barbara became separated from her friends and, because she’d thoughtlessly put on a bracelet found in the tomb, she was mistakenly thought to be the reincarnation of a priest and put into a position of very high regard. That mistake was lucky in the beginning as she was able to use that power to keep her friends safe. However, when she learned that there was to be a human sacrifice she went against the Doctor’s advice and attempted to stop the whole practice of human sacrifice. Barbara refused to listen to the Doctor’s warnings and, because of that, everyone was put in danger when it came to be believed that Barbara was nothing more than an imposter. Susan was imprisoned and Ian was nearly killed and, in the end, Barbara’s efforts changed nothing and the Aztec practice of human sacrifice continued on.
Episode - The Romans
While they spend some time in ancient Italy during the episode 'The Romans', getting a well-deserved rest from their hectic travels, Barbara was kidnapped and sold into slavery on account of her great beauty. Alone and helpless, without any weapons or power at all, Barbara is bought and taken as a servant into the household of none other than Caesar Nero, Emperor of Rome. Barbara found herself not only the object of Nero's fascination but also the object of the empress’ jealous ire. Barbara managed to elude Nero's enthusiastic pursuit through the episode, leading him on a chase through the palace halls, but a moment that was more telling of her character happened while she was still captive of the slave traders. Even as Barbara was locked behind bars and had no way to take care of herself, she tried to care of another slave, an ailing woman. She encouraged the other woman to eat and rest, showing a thoughtful regard for a stranger even in a situation where she must have been desperately frightened.
Note: As I can't list TV as a reference, I would like to note that much of this information came from the TV series, Doctor Who. Episodes I used were: 'An Unearthly Child' by Anthony Coburn, 'The Daleks' by Terry Nation, 'The Edge of Destruction' by David Whitaker, 'The Keys of Marinus' by Terry Nation, 'The Aztecs' by John Lucarotti, 'The Sensorites' by Peter R. Newman, 'Planet of Giants' by Louis Marks, 'The Dalek Invasion of Earth' by Terry Nation, 'The Rescue' by David Whitaker, 'The Romans' by Dennis Spooner, 'The Web Planet' by Bill Strutton, 'The Space Museum' by Glyn Jones, and 'The Chase' by Terry Nation.