Those who remember the classic series fondly may disagree, but according to fifth Doctor Peter Davison, Rose Tyler is the first well-written Doctor Who companion role – and a lack of sexual tension in the Tardis may be to blame for previous failures.
“I don’t know why but [Doctor Who bosses] were so obsessive about there being no flirtation,” said Davison. “I wasn’t allowed to put my arm around female companions in case they thought there might be.
“I think it was part of the reason why they never quite mastered the whole companion idea."
“They were struggling for many years to find a better way of making the companions more rounded characters," said Davison. "And certainly, when it comes to the female companions, they never once thought that it was a good idea to put any kind of sexual tension, even in its most innocent form, between the Doctor and companion. I think it probably would have made it easier to write a better character.”
Billie Piper’s Rose Tyler, the first companion of the new Who era, shared a kiss with Christopher Eccleston’s ninth Doctor and his successor David Tennant. Karen Gillan’s Amy Pond did the same with 11th Doctor Matt Smith, who also got to smooch a version of Jenna Coleman’s Clara Oswald. And these days flirting in the vicinity of the Tardis is commonplace.
But far from frowning on these rather 21st-century developments, Davison thinks they have helped create more believable characters.
“I think the idea that there’s a kind of frisson in the Tardis is fine and works actually rather well,” said Davison. “I’m rather envious at the number of times that the Doctor gets to kiss girls now.
“They struggled for many years to write a good companion’s part and didn’t really ever manage it. In fact, I don’t think they’ve ever managed to do it until Rose, when the series came back, and that was really just writing a damn good part.”
Peter Davison played the fifth Doctor between 1981 and 1984, alongside companions including Sarah Sutton's Nyssa and Janet Fielding's Tegan.