The program began with the Doctor and three companions, just as it has now. Together, they formed a sort of surrogate family. This first TARDIS team is one of my favorites.
Ian Chesterton, the Doctor, Barbara Wright and Susan Foreman
First Appearance: "An Unearthly Child" (November 23, 1963)
Last Regular Appearance: "Flashpoint" (December 26, 1964)
Played By: Carole Ann Ford
Description: The Doctor's grand-daughter, she left Gallifrey with the Doctor when he stole the TARDIS. Traveled with him for an undetermined period of time before he effectively abandoned her in Twenty-Second Century London after defeating the Dalek invasion of Earth. Seen again briefly years later when Borusa drew several of the Doctors and their companions to the Death Zone on Gallifrey as part of his plot to gain immortality. We never learn her final fate, but there were hints in the new series that the Doctor believes that she died in the Time War. We never learn much about Susan, although there have been many fannish theories, none of which I personally subscribe to.
Overall: A personal favorite of mine, and one of the old series companions that I'd like to see them bring back if she was willing. Ford left the show because she felt that she was given the part that she was promised. A shame, really, because she really did have an "alien" quality to her that not many of her successors did.
2)Ian Chesterton and 3)Barbara Wright:
First Appearance: "An Unearthly Child" (November 23, 1963)
Last Appearance: "The Planet of Decision" (June 26, 1965)
Played By: William Russell (a.k.a. Russell Enoch) and Jacqueline Hill
Description: A science teacher at Coal Hill School in Shoreditch, Ian and his colleague, history teacher Barbara Wright were intrigued by the way one of their students seemed to more science and history than either of them and yet did not always know basic facts about life in contemporary Britain. Following her home one evening, they discovered that she was an alien time traveler. Kidnapped by her grandfather, the Doctor, they had many adventures before returning to Earth in a captured Dalek timeship. Little is known of their fate. However, in the episode "Day of the Doctor", we see an "I. Chesterton" listed as "Chairman of the Governors" of the Coal Hill School, and in the Sarah Jane Adventures episode "The Death of the Doctor", Sarah says she heard rumors of a couple of Cambridge professors, Ian and Barbara Chesterton, who hadn't aged since the 60's. (I can't say as I'm wild about that last idea.)
Overall: I always liked these two. I thought they worked well together and worked well with Hartnell and Ford. I think the fact that the initial TARDIS team had such good chemistry was a key factor in the early success of the program. Russell never returned to the program, but Hill returned in the 1980 story "Meglos", playing Lexa, one of the rare occasions where a "companion" actor returned playing a different part.
First Appearance: "The Powerful Enemy" (January 2, 1965)
Last Appearance: "Horse of Destruction" (November 6, 1965)
Played By: Maureen O'Brien
Description: From the 25th Century, Vicki was shipwrecked on the planet Dido. Rescued by the Doctor, Ian and Barbara, the young orphan became a surrogate for the Doctor's departed grand-daughter, Susan. She traveled with the Doctor for a time, until, during a visit to the Trojan War, she was named "Cressida" by King Priam. Taking up with a young fellow named Troilus, she remained behind when the Doctor left. Vicki was never given a surname on-screen. Some sources give it as "Pallister", but this is of doubtful canonicity.
Overall: One of the unfairly overlooked companions, I think. O'Brien made the best of the thankless job of replacing Carole Ann Ford. As Ford was before her, she was unhappy with how her character was handled.
First Appearance: "The Planet of Decision" (June 26, 1965)
Last Appearance: "The Savages", Episode Four (June 18, 1966)
Played By: Peter Purves
Description: A space pilot from an unspecified time in the future, Steven crash-landed on the planet Mechanus, and was held captive by the Mechanoids. During a climactic battle between the Mechanoids and the Daleks, he stumbled into the TARDIS and traveled with the Doctor and his companions for a time. Eventually, after an adventure on the planet of the Elders and Savages, Steven accepted the leadership of the newly-formed combined society that was forming there. Nothing of his further history is known.
Overall: Another favorite of mine from the early days of the show, Steven provided the muscle to complement the Doctor's brain-power. Purves had appeared in the show three weeks previously, playing Morton Dill, a stereotypical Alabama hillbilly so broadly drawn as to make Max Baer Jr.'s Jethro Bodine look subtle and nuanced by comparison. Purves later became a presenter for the long-running BBC children's series Blue Peter.
First Appearance: "Horse of Destruction" (November 6, 1965)
Last Appearance: "The Traitors" (December 4, 1965)
Played By: Adrienne Hill
Description: A handmaiden serving Cassandra who meets the Doctor, Steven and Vicki while they were visiting the Trojan War. Finding herself aboard the TARDIS, she believed that she was dead and the Doctor was Zeus taking herself to the afterlife. Her travels were short as she was killed saving the Doctor and Steven from an escaped criminal.
Overall: It's hard to judge Katarina as most of her episodes are missing. She was intended to be an ongoing character, but it was quickly decided that the character would be too difficult to write for. A pity, really, I think it could have been interesting. She is mostly remembered now as the first of the Doctor's companions to die on-screen.
First Appearance: "The Traitors" (December 4, 1965)
Last Appearance: "Destruction of Time" (January 29, 1966)
Played By: Jean Marsh
Description: A Space Security Agent who encounters the Doctor and Steven during their battle with the Daleks. Mutually suspicious at first, they subsequently joined forces. Sara was aged to death by the Daleks' Time Destructor.
Overall: Another character that it's hard to judge since most of her episodes are missing. Marsh had appeared in the program previously as Princess Joanna in "The Crusades", and would appear again many years later as Morgaine in the Seventh Doctor story "Battlefield".
8)Dorothea "Dodo" Chaplet:
First Appearance: "Bell of Doom" (February 26, 1966)
Last Appearance: "The War Machines", Episode 2 (July 2, 1966)
Played By: Jackie Lane
Description: A young Londoner, Dodo rushed into the TARDIS thinking it was an actual police box, just as the Doctor dematerialized it. She had many adventures with the Doctor and his companions. Eventually the TARDIS returned to 1966 London. Dodo was taken over by the rogue computer WOTAN. The Doctor broke her conditioning and sent her to the country to recuperate. She subsequently sent him word via Polly that she had decided to remain in her own time. Her subsequent history is unknown.
Overall: Dodo was another somewhat obvious "Susan replacement". Lane initially played the part with a Cockney accent but was quickly made to drop it. Dodo had one of the more unceremonious departures of any companion, essentially vanishing halfway through her final story.
9)Ben Jackson and 10)Polly:
First Appearance: "The War Machines", Episode 1 (June 25, 1966)
Last Appearance: "The Faceless Ones", Episode 6 (May 13, 1967)
Played By: Michael Craze and Anneke Wills
Description: Polly was a secretary who met Dodo in 1966 London, taking her to a night club, where they met Ben, a sailor. Ben and Polly got caught up in the Doctor's battle against WOTAN. Afterwards, they entered the TARDIS, seeking to return the departed Dodo's TARDIS key to the Doctor, and were accidentally taken away with him. They had several adventures with the Doctor, and witnessed his first regeneration. When the TARDIS returned to Earth the day they left it, they decided to remain there. Little of their future life is known, but "The Death of the Doctor" suggested that they were running an orphanage in India.
Overall: These two were good companions, serving during one of the show's early transitional periods. Polly was never given a surname on-screen. On a personal note, I've actually met Anneke Wills, a gracious, pleasant lady.
Polly, Jamie McCrimmon. Ben Jackson, and the Doctor
First Appearance: "The Highlanders", Episode 1 (December 17, 1966)
Last Regular Appearance: "The War Games", Episode 10 (June 21, 1969)
Played By: Frazer Hines
Description: A piper of the Clan McCrimmon, Jamie fought alongside the Jacobites at the Battle of Culloden. Encountering the Doctor, Ben, and Polly, he eventually was persuaded to join the TARDIS crew. After several adventures, he, the Doctor and Zoe was captured by the Time Lords. After the Doctor's first trial, he was returned to his own time with his memories of all but his first adventure with the Doctor wiped. Nothing is known of his subsequent future, although the Doctor saw a vision of him in the Dark Tower on Gallifrey. Older-looking versions of the Second Doctor and Jamie helped the Sixth Doctor and Peri battle the Sontarans and the Androgums. Where this adventure fits into continuity is the subject of many fannish theories that I don't mean to get into here.
Overall: For me, Jamie is one of the all-time greats, the best of the Doctor's male companions so far. He had a great chemistry with Patrick Troughton and Deborah Watling, and later Wendy Padbury. For that matter, he worked well with Colin Baker and Nicola Bryant, as well. A personal favorite.
First Appearance: "The Evil of the Daleks", Episode 1 (May 20, 1967)
Last Appearance: "Fury from the Deep", Episode 6 (June 1, 1968)
Played By: Deborah Watling
Description: A young woman from 1866 Britain, Victoria joined the TARDIS crew after her father - her only known living relative - was killed by the Daleks. She had several adventures with the Doctor and Jamie, but, tiring of their dangerous lifestyle, she settled down in late 20th century Britain, taken in by the Harris family. Nothing is known of her subsequent life.
13)Brigadier Sir Alastair Gordon Lethbridge-Stewart:
First Appearance: "The Web of Fear", Episode 3 (February 17, 1968)
First Regular Appearance: "Spearhead from Space" , Episode 1 (January 3, 1970)
Last Regular Appearance: "Robot". Part Four (January 18, 1975)
Played By; Nicholas Courtney
Description: Then Colonel Lethbridge-Stewart first encountered the Doctor when the Great Intelligence and its robot Yeti invaded London. He was subsequently promoted to brigadier and made head of the UK branch of UNIT. The Brigadier met the Doctor again when the Cybermen invaded Earth. He recruited Liz Shaw to be his scientific advisor, but soon replaced her with the newly-regenerated Third Doctor during the first Auton invasion. He served as the Doctor's nominal superior during the latter's exile on Earth. After the Doctor left Earth, he met the Brigadier once more during the first Zygon invasion. The Brigadier subsequently left the military and took a post teaching mathematics at the Brendon School. While there, he met the Fifth Doctor and helped him battle Mawdryn. He later rejoined UNIT and met the Seventh Doctor and helped him battle Morgaine. By this time, the Brigadier was married to a woman named Doris. He was also later revealed to have a daughter named Kate. He kept busy in later years, often spending time in Peru, although he is known to have had one adventure with his old friend, Sarah Jane Smith. The Brigadier later died in a nursing home, much to the Doctor's dismay. He was subsequently resurrected as a Cyberman, but overcame his conditioning and helped the Doctor and his daughter battle Missy. His subsequent fate is unknown.
Overall: One of the all-time greats,my third favorite character in the show after the Doctor and Sarah Jane. Nick Courtney just was brilliant in the part. He was good with every Doctor that he worked with. Courtney had appeared in the program previously as Bret Vyon in "The Dalek Masterplan" with William Hartnell.
First Appearance: "The Wheel in Space", Episode 2 (May 4, 1968)
Last Regular Appearance: "The War Games". Episode 2 (June 21, 1969)
Played By: Wendy Padbury
Description: A genius astrophysicist and mathematician, as a young girl Zoe served aboard a late 21st Century space station called the Space Wheel. She met the Doctor and Jamie when the Cybermen attempted to invade the station. She stowed aboard the TARDIS, and had several adventures. After the Doctor's first trial, she was returned to her own time with her memories of all but her first adventure with the Doctor wiped. Nothing is known of her subsequent future, although the Doctor saw a vision of her in the Dark Tower on Gallifrey.
Overall: Another all-time favorite. The Troughton/Hines/Padbury grouping is one of my all-time favorite TARDIS teams. Padbury went on to become a noted theatrical agent.
First Appearance: "The Invasion", Episode 1 (November 2, 1968)
Last Appearance: "The Android Invasion", Part 4 (December 13, 1975)
Played By; John Levene
Description: A member of the British branch of UNIT, Benton was a corporal when he first met the Doctor during an invasion by the Cybermen. He would later be promoted to Sergeant and then Warrant Officer/Regimental Sergeant Major. During the time of the Doctor's exile to Earth, Benton served as the Brigadier's senior NCO.He later left the army and sold second-hand cars.
Overall: One of the series' great supporting characters, Benton was a mainstay of the show's UNIT Era, always at the Brigadier's side like a faithful hound. The character was never given a name on-screen. Levene had previously played a Yeti and a Cyberman, and lucked into the part of Benton when the original actor was fired.
16)Doctor Elizabeth "Liz" Shaw:
First Appearance: "Spearhead from Space", Episode 1 (January 3, 1970)
Last Regular Appearance: "Inferno", Episode 7 (June 20, 1970)
Played By: Caroline John
Description: A brilliant scientist, Liz was drafted away from Cambridge by the Brigadier to serve as his scientific adviser, only to be almost immediately redundant by the arrival of the exiled Doctor. After a few adventures with the Doctor, Liz returned to Cambridge. Little is known of her later life, although according to "The Death of the Doctor", she was serving on a moon base in the early Twenty-First Century. The Doctor saw a vision of Liz in the Death Zone on Gallifrey.
Overall: I always liked Liz, and felt it was a shame she didn't get a longer run, but the producer felt that the Doctor didn't really need a genius companion. As it happened, the actress became pregnant during her time on the show, so she probably would have had to leave anyway.
17)Josephine "Jo" Grant (later Jones):
First Appearance: "Terror of the Autons". Episode 1 (January 2, 1971)
Last Appearance: "The Green Death", Episode 6 (June 23, 1973)
Played By: Katy Manning
Description: As a young woman, Jo pulled pulled strings and got her influential uncle to get her a position with UNIT. The Brigadier wished her off on the Doctor, making her his new assistant. At first, he resented her, especially as she was somewhat of a bumbler. However, over time, Jo grew into her role, and she and the Doctor developed a close relationship. Jo had several adventures with the Doctor, but eventually left him and UNIT to marry Professor Clifford Jones, a young scientist. Jo had several children, and later grandchildren. but still found time to battle injustice all over the Earth. In the early Twenty-First Century, she and Sarah Jane Smith battled the Shansheeth alongside the Eleventh Doctor.
Carole Ann Ford has reprised her role in quite a few Big Finish audios in several ranges, including The Companion Chronicles, Short Trips and Lost Stories. The one I would recommend first, though, is "An Earthly Child," which introduces Susan's son, Alex (played by Paul McGann's son). Susan and Alex play a pivotal role in three of the last four episodes of the the fourth season of Eighth Doctor Adventures.
Updated for Ian and Barbara.
William Russell has participated in a number of Big Finish audio plays. He does a passable impression of William Hartnell.
Updated for Vicki.
And Maureen O’Brien continues to play Vicki (alongside Peter Purves as Stephen) in Doctor Who: The Early Adventures, the fifth “season” of which was released just last month.
Easily. The "main range" alone is up to 250. Then there are all the various spin-offs, sub-sets, (Companion Chronicles, Short Trips and so on), etc.
Updated for Steven Taylor
Updated for Katarina and Sara Kingdom.
Updated for Dodo Chaplet.