Heroes of Doctor Who: Susan

By Owen Quinn author of the Time Warriors and Zombie Blues

Photo copyright BBC

Every week Owen looks back at a character from Doctor Who, some you’ll recall, others you won’t, but all were important to the story of our favourite time-traveller…

To date the only known living relative of the Doctor, Susan, played by Carole Ann Ford, was his granddaughter.

We first met her as a mysterious super pupil attending Coal Hill School where her knowledge drew the attention of two of her teachers.

They followed her home to a junkyard where they found a police box and an old man who they believed was holding Susan prisoner. But the truth was far more amazing as they were hurtled into time and space.

Susan’s heritage should have made her a strong independent character in her own right but the newly formed Tardis family saw her fill the role of surrogate daughter to Ian and Barbara (next week’s Heroes). As the stories progressed, Susan became little more than a screamer and was the victim of many a sprained ankle.

Fiercely protected by her grandfather, she was the bridge between their human passengers and the Doctor. She saw a kindred spirit in humanity which the Doctor had not yet embraced. Susan was always intended as the reason young people watched the show, someone they could identify with. She was a frightened young girl in most stories, eager to see the uninverse and show it off to her friends but the character focus was mostly on Ian, Barbara and the Doctor.

Occasionally, her telepathic abilities were touched upon such as the recently released DVD story The Sensorites. It gave Susan a depth and a purpose that was rarely utilised and here we saw a glimpse of the powerful character she could have been if written properly.

In human terms, she was approximately fifteen-years-old and she claimed she and the Doctor were exiles cut off from their own world for reasons unknown. She was the only link the Doctor had to his home so it seemed very strange that at the end of the Dalek Invasion of Earth, the Doctor locked her out of the Tardis claiming she had to settle down and find roots with the freedom fighter David Campbell whom she had fallen in love with.

His decision haunted him and years later when he learned how to pilot the Tardis, it seemed strange the Doctor never went back to see her.

copyright Bbc

She did return in the twentieth anniversary story the Five Doctors where she was teamed with Turlough and contributed little else except sprain her ankle but she did finally face the Cybermen.

Though we have met Jenny, a girl created from the Doctor’s D.N.A. and the jury is still out whether the woman in the End of Time was actually his mother but none will ever have the connection Susan had.

Of course, Susan reappeared in novels which used the alien part of her to great effect like the Witch Hunters and when, in Legacy of the Daleks, the 8th Doctor returns to Earth after the Dalek Invasion. Susan is separated from David now and hides her aging with make-up. However, the Master has returned to revive hidden nests of Daleks left over from the invasion. In the end, Susan manages to steal his Tardis, leaving the Master hideously deformed leading into the fourth Doctor adventure the Deadly Assassin.

But in the Big Finish world we see a different life. The eighth Doctor makes another visit to Earth and discovers Susan alive and well and hiding a secret. The Doctor has a grandson, played by Paul McGann’s real life son. In it we get to see something we have never seen before with the Doctor; family dynamics where he wants to take his grandson and show him the universe but Susan objects vehemently.

The story is further explored in the McGann final story in the 8th Doctor range when the Daleks again invade 22nd century Earth. But this time the Doctor is joined by his granddaughter, his grandson, the Meddling Monk and Lucie Miller as the race to save Earth is on.

Carole Ann has also completed several Companion Chronicles for the series highlighting adventures during and before her time on the show.

Maybe we will get to see Susan again in the new series but according to the Doctor all the Time Lords are dead. But he has been wrong before; Master anyone? This adds a new dimension to the Time War. Was Susan recalled to help fight or did the Doctor change her to be human to keep her safe as in the Family of Blood? Though these may be questions for fan fiction to answer in the future, for now all we can do is speculate…

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