By Owen Quinn author of the Time Warriors and Zombie Blues
Once again we look back at the history of Doctor Who and pick out one of the people that helped define one of sci-fi’s most enduring characters…
Doctor Grace Holloway, played by Daphne Ashbrook, was one of those limited number of companions that oversaw one of the Doctor’s regenerations. In fact, she was the first companion ever to be directly responsible for killing the Doctor and triggering his regeneration.
Shot down in a hail of bullets in San Francisco on Millennium Eve, the seventh Doctor is rushed to hospital where he undergoes emergency surgery. Despite his pleas not to administer drugs , Grace goes ahead and his alien biology reacts badly with her work, killing him instantly.
When we meet Grace she is attending the opera, being a fan of Puccini, and has a boyfriend who expects her to stay at home more rather than be a doctor on call. She is devastated at the loss of her patient but knows something is wrong. The x-rays showed he had two hearts but when her bosses burn the evidence and tell her to forget the whole thing she quits.
Unbeknownst to her, a newly regenerated Doctor has followed her and hides in the back of her car, being led there by her CD of Puccini. She thinks he is crazy until he pulls the surgical wire out of his side that caused his death.
Taking him home, she finds her boyfriend has moved out taking all her furniture but there is no time to think about that as the Doctor tells her the Master is somewhere nearby.
It’s not long before the Doctor remembers who he is and Grace becomes the first companion to be kissed on the lips by him, a great source of controversy at the time by fans who declared the Doctor wouldn’t do that sort of thing. If only they knew what would happen in the new era.
Grace falls for the Doctor completely and has no hesitation in following him when he discovers the Master has entered the Tardis and has opened the Eye of Harmony, the power source of the ship.
He realizes the master intends to open the Eye, completely restoring himself but the Earth will be sucked in completely and destroyed.
Before the end of the adventure, Grace is taken over by the Master, having been infected by the same black substance that he has become in order to possess bodies and killed outright. But in another twist that had fans crying, the Doctor reversed time and brought her back to life. If only Adric had been so lucky.
Since Grace was obviously in love with the Doctor, it’s strange she didn’t follow him into the Tardis for a new life. Maybe if the show had gone to a series as intended, that would have changed.
Daphne Ashbrook has returned to Big Finish, albeit as a different character, but you never know with them whether Grace will board the Tardis again.
However, her story didn’t end there; in the comic strip adventure The Fallen she returned. In the movie the Doctor had a habit of telling people about their future and teasing them and he told Grace she would do great things. In the Fallen she finds some of the Master’s essence and believes she can create a cure for all diseases from it but it takes on a life of its own and nearly destroys every living thing in London. The Doctor’s anger about this is silenced when she says it’s his fault for telling her she would do great things. She thought this would be a good thing to help the world and maybe if he had kept his mouth shut it would never have happened.
Grace again refused to go with him, though they did kiss again.
So, for a one-time companion, Grace had a lot happen to her and her time was truly filled with firsts…