Friday 4 February 2011

Why can't John and Gillian be real companions?

TV Comic published Doctor Who comic strips between 1964 and 1979. These stories featured the First, Second, Third and Fourth Doctors, but TV Comic did not posses the rights for all the companions and so the First Doctor strip featured an untelevised pair of grandchildren of Doctor Who, John and Gillian. The TV Comic strips have generally not been fondly remembered by fans and there seems to be a consensus that they are not canon and John and Gillian do not belong on the list of official companions. I think it is important to question that consensus. If we can accept New Adventure novels, Big Finish audios and even the TV21 Dalek strips (look at their influence on Parting of the Ways!) why not the TV Comic and poor forgotten John and Gillian?

The most obvious canonical objection to the inclusion of John and Gillian's adventures in the canon is Steve Lyons' glorious New Adventure novel, Conundrum. In Conundrum it is revealed that the Master of the Land of Fiction created fictional grandchildren for Dr. Who, John and Gillian. It is clear that the Seventh Doctor does not recognise the pair as being his grandchildren. However, he never actually states that he has no grandchildren called John and Gillian, only that he does not recognise the ones in the Land of Fiction. The fictional pair could be based on the Doctor's real grandchildren.

There is of course, a question of continuity. Where do we fit John and Gillian's adventures in the personal timeline of our hero? The lack of a companionless period during the First Doctor era has lead most fans to conclude that there is no room for the John and Gillian companionship. It would seem that the Doctor had these adventures during Steve's brief departure from the TARDIS in The Massacre. The Second Doctor's reunion with John and Gillian would have taken place in the Season 6B in between The War Games and Spearhead from Space. In fact, it is the TV Comic that introduced the idea that there was a Season 6B.

Another possible objection to the inclusion of the TV Comic First Doctor adventures in the canon of Doctor Who is that they are somewhat whimsical and fairytale-like. In the TV Comic we have the First Doctor battling the Pied Piper and helping out Santa Claus, who was menaced by the Demon Magician. Yet this objection seems to rest on the assumption that Doctor Who is a science fiction show. It is true that the writers of the t.v. series have generally assumed that it is science fiction and that nothing, no matter how weird in the program cannot be explained rationally. However, there are some stories where this approach is dropped, such as The Celestial Toymaker and The Greatest Show in the Galaxy. These stories are just as whimsical as anything faced by John and Gillian.

The worst objection to the inclusion of the John and Gillian stories in the canon is the fact that the Doctor introduces himself as 'Dr. Who.' For some reason, most fans are convinced that the Doctor is not called 'Doctor Who' in spite of the fact that this name appears in the credits until Season 18. I have argued on this blog that he really is called 'Doctor Who.' 'Who' might not be his real name, but it is at least a pseudonym that he has used and has significance for him.

I don't buy the idea that Susan is not really the Doctor's granddaughter. This flies in the face of everything we see and are told in Season 1. Likewise, I am happy to accept that John and Gillian are real blood relatives of Doctor Who. This obviously raises the question of whether they are Susan's brother and sister or whether they are cousins. Given that Susan never mentions having a brother and sister, it seems safer to assume that they are cousins. This means that the Doctor has had more than one son or daughter. The ultimate fate of John and Gillian is unknown. The Seventh Doctor said that he did not know whether he had any family, raising the possibility of their deaths. Moving into BBC Wales continuity (territory I am uncomfortable in), we must assume that John and Gillian have been lost along with all the other Time Lords in the Last Great Time War.


  1. Great column. There is one possible fly in the ointment though. In a Doctor Who Magazine Comic Strip featuring the Eighth Doctor(entitled "The Land Of Happy Endings") it is revealed that John and Gillian do exist...but only in the Doctor's dreams. Obviously this was never the intention of the TV Comic writers. I personally have never understood how people can make comments like "The companions from the Virgin Books and Big Finish Audios are real companions. The TV Comics and Annuals are not". In fact, the TV Comic Doctor Who was far more about the original spirit of Doctor Who, able to do anything, go anywhere, than the straitjacketed adventures the Doctor faced during the "Wilderness Years".

    1. There is a DWM comic strip that has a death of Ace that completely contradicts the Virgin novels and Big Finish. They play fast and loose with canon.

    2. Hi Matthew, would you mind bunging me an email? I'm at ... I couldn't find any other way to message you!
      Many thanks,