WARNINGS: Spoilers ahead for the TV series Doctor Who
The British science fiction television series, Doctor Who, is internationally famous for the police box time / space machine, the TARDIS, and for the Doctor, the alien who lives travels with it. Even though the Doctor is, quite naturally, the star of Doctor Who, one can’t dismiss the importance of his traveling companions who did their fair share in the fight against evil at the Doctor’s side.
The Doctor Who TV series began in 1963 and is quickly approaching the fifty-year anniversary as of the date of this article being written. The main character of the show, the Doctor, is an alien time / space traveler from the planet Gallifrey. He travels in a time / space machine called TARDIS (Time And Relative Dimensions In Space) which has the outward appearance of a police box. Only a handful of people have been privileged to be allowed into the TARDIS and to be a companion of the Doctor’s during his travels.
His first companion, the one who was with him even before the start of the series, was his own granddaughter, Susan.
The role of Susan was played by the actress Carole Ann Ford from 1963 to 1964. She acted alongside William Hartnell (the first incarnation of The Doctor), William Russell (Ian Chesterton), and Jacqueline Hill (Barbara Wright). When Ford left Doctor Who she didn’t act again until she made a return to Doctor Who in the episode ‘The Five Doctors’ where she, and other companions, had been kidnapped and taken to the Doctor’s home world, Gallifrey.
Carol Ann Ford played Susan in the 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 very first Doctor Who episode, ‘An Unearthly Child’, started out with Susan Foreman as a student at Coal Hill School. She was an enigma to her history teacher, Barbara Wright, and her science teacher, Ian Chesterton, as she showed signs of both brilliance and a puzzling lack of common knowledge. Another something that didn’t seem quite right to her teachers was that Susan refused extra help after school simply because her grandfather didn’t like strangers. Barbara told Ian that she had even had gone to the length of getting Susan’s home address so she could speak with Susan’s grandfather, but found that the address the school had for Susan was nothing more than an old junk yard. Barbara and Ian were so puzzled and worried for her that one day after school, they agreed to go to the address they had for Susan, 76 Totter’s Lane, and see what happened. It was there, when they followed Susan into the junkyard, that they met the Doctor and became reluctant companions.
According to the book Doctor Who The Universal Databank by Jean-Marc Lofficier the Doctor and Susan had landed on Earth due to business concerning the Hand of Omega (a device created by the Time Lord, Omega, that was meant to turn a sun into a supernova) although in ‘An Unearthly Child’, nothing is mentioned about the Hand of Omega and it isn’t heard about until many years later in the episode ‘Remembrance of the Daleks’ when Sylvester McCoy was playing The Doctor.
When Barbara and Ian forced their way into the TARDIS because they feared Susan was trapped inside, the Doctor decided that in order to safeguard his secret he would have to either keep the teachers imprisoned in the TARDIS or he and Susan would have to leave. Susan threatened to leave her grandfather and let him travel on alone rather than leave Earth in the 20th century. Faced with the possibility of losing his granddaughter, the Doctor chose to abruptly leave the 20th century and, in the process, kidnapped Barbara and Ian.
Very little is known about Susan’s life before the series started, other than the fact that she is the Doctor’s granddaughter. She never mentions her parents or any other family. Although she apparently told her teachers that she was fifteen-years-old, considering that her people can live for many hundreds of years, it’s anyone’s guess as to how old she really is. It also seems unlikely that Susan Foreman is her real name, considering that she’s not actually human, but the Doctor never calls her by any name other than ‘Susan’. We do know that Susan and the Doctor, for whatever reason, are unable to go back to their home world.
Susan left Doctor Who in 1964 at the end of the episode ‘The Dalek Invasion of Earth’ to stay with David Campbell when Daleks had just been foiled in their attempt to conquer the Earth. The decision to leave her grandfather wasn’t Susan’s and, in fact, she’d refused when David asked her to stay with him. She was devoted to her grandfather and worried that something would happen to him if she left. In the end, the Doctor made the decision for her and left her behind.
The following are a few of Susan's memorable moments.
Episode - An Unearthly Child
This episode was the first Doctor Who episode and in the first few minutes, before the Doctor is even seen on camera, Susan starts reading a book about the French Revolution be almost immediately comments that it was wrong. Her teachers, Barbara and Ian, also have a couple of flashbacks that show off examples of her curious blend of intelligence and ignorance. Ian, her science teacher, calls her a genius while Barbara told him that Susan didn’t know something as basic as what the currency system was. Susan also bravely defies her beloved grandfather by threatening to leave him and remain behind if he leaves Earth in the 20th century in an attempt to protect her teachers.
Episode - The Daleks
This episode marks the first appearance of The Doctor’s infamous enemy, the Daleks. Susan shows off her courage in this episode. While she was clearly frightened of doing so, Susan made her way alone through an alien, radioactive forest that was supposedly home to mutants in order to retrieve medicine for her grandfather and her teachers when they were held captive by the Daleks. Because of her courage in getting the medicine and talking to the mutants, Susan was able to save everyone’s lives.
Episode – The Edge of Destruction
In this episode, which takes place entirely within the TARDIS, we get to see for the first time that the TARDIS is more than just a mere machine as it struggles to communicate to everyone that something is terribly wrong. At two separate points in the story, Susan threatened Ian and Barbara with a pair of scissors. It’s a side of Susan, who is generally portrayed as sweet and innocent, that the viewers hadn’t seen before or since.
Episode – Sensorites
After having encountered a dangerous, telepathic alien species, the Sensorites, Susan argued with her grandfather when she attempted to go with them without consulting him, first. The Sensorites had told Susan that if she didn't go with them that they would kill the others. When the Doctor refused to let Susan make such a decision, she snapped at the Doctor to stop treating her like a child. It was, as the Doctor said, the first argument they'd had since they started traveling together. When Ian wondered if the Sensorites were controlling Susan, Barbara seemed to be more of the opinion that Susan was just growing up.
Episode – The Dalek Invasion of Earth
Susan was with David Campbell outside the TARDIS while The Doctor, Ian, and Barbara were inside getting ready to leave Earth when David professed his love for her, telling her that he wanted to marry her. Tearfully, Susan admitted that she loved him, too, but she wouldn’t stay with him; her grandfather needed her. Before Susan could get into the TARDIS The Doctor locked her out and announced to her, in a poignant moment, that he believed her place was not with him, but with David. While he did promise to return, the Doctor left her to continue his travels.
NOTE: As I can't list a TV series as a reference, I wanted to note that the television series Doctor Who was used as a reference for this article including the episodes: '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, and 'The Dalek Invasion of Earth' by Terry Nation.