Doctor Who Week: The Muppet Companions

Published: November 20, 2013
Categories: Feature

Celebrating 50 years of Doctor Who!

If you’re a nerd like me (or are friends with a nerd, which, in retrospect, probably makes you a nerd, too, but don’t worry, we don’t judge), then I’m sure by now you know that Doctor Who, a British sci-fi television show, is celebrating its fiftieth anniversary. I could go on forever about how a show about an alien that has multiple incarnations (yet all of them manage to sound British) and his companions, who travel the expanse of all of time and space in a police box and foil the plans of sinister creatures and the creative realms of Jim Henson are similar, but I’ll keep it short by saying that the folks behind Doctor Who are probably Muppet fans, and vice versa. And given that a lot of us here at ToughPigs are also fans of Doctor Who, we thought we’d celebrate this golden (or TARDIS blue) anniversary by asking the all important question: Which Muppets would make good companions for each Doctor? Not just characters from The Muppet Show were discussed; Sesame Street and Fraggle Rock were also in play. Given that each of the eleven Doctors (with number twelve due at Christmas) has a distinct, individual personality, not every Muppet would pair well with every Doctor. And some, as much as I love them, don’t really belong in the TARDIS (particularly if they might eat the controls). You can’t run away from Daleks if you have someone obsessively counting all of them. And even the TARDIS’ translation matrix would have a hard time with mock Swedish. But after much thought and deliberation, I’ve made a pretty comprehensive list of who should pair up with Who. (See what I did there?)

The First Doctor (William Hartnell)

The First Doctor poses a bit of a challenge, as his character changes over Hartnell’s run. In the beginning, the Doctor was gruff and had an air of superiority over his human companions. But as time went on, he softened up and became a gentler leader, though no less strong when the going got tough. He often enjoyed teaching his younger companions, so he would need someone with a strong sense of curiosity that needs a little bit of a guiding hand. For me, there was a natural fit: Gobo Fraggle. His love of adventure would do any Doctor proud. Given that the First Doctor never traveled with less than two companions, in later seasons, Elmo could join the fold, once the Doctor lost his cantankerous attitude. Elmo loves to ask questions and learn about new things, but if the Doctor were still cranky, he would’ve left him back in the Cave of Skulls.

The Second Doctor (Patrick Troughton)

The Second Doctor was known for being a bit of a clown. He’s not afraid to be the butt of the joke, and a Muppet partner would need to be a good partner that could play the straight man to the Doctor’s manic tendencies. And no Muppet would seem better suited to fit the bill than Rowlf. He’s naturally calm in the face of chaos, but unafraid to go for the laugh on his own, especially when joking about his situation or canine nature. Plus, the TARDIS would host the best recorder/piano jam session in all of time and space.

The Third Doctor (Jon Pertwee)

The Third Doctor is first and foremost, a man of science. Incredibly clever, the Doctor spent most of his time on Earth, working for international taskforce UNIT. Despite working for a global organization, the Doctor had a bit of a problem listening to authority, especially when he knew he was right. In looking for a companion, he wanted someone clever, but knew when to let him take the reins. My pick was a match for the Doctor played by “Big Jon” Pertwee: Big Bird. Even though he’s still learning, Big Bird can be pretty smart and has a big imagination, which would produce some good outside-the-box solutions, and with all the things the Doctor has seen, he would probably be quicker to believe in the existence of a Snuffleupagus. And what scientist would be complete without a few assistants? So naturally, Dr. Bunsen Honeydew and Beaker would have to be there to help out with experiments. Come to think of it, the TARDIS could probably use a gorilla detector…

The Fourth Doctor (Tom Baker)

When people mention “Doctor Who,” the Fourth Doctor is probably the incarnation most folks think of. Level-headed, optimistic, and possessing a strong moral code and a sense of humor, the Doctor is a born leader. He can have a laugh and also get emotionally deep. So when you’re presented with the textbook Doctor, only the textbook Muppet will do: Kermit the Frog. Considering how balanced this Doctor is, Kermit’s centered attitude is the perfect pairing. I could see these two easily hopping around galaxies, championing justice and freedom and making millions of people (and aliens) happy. Plus, as we’ve seen, Kermit already has a thing for scarves.

The Fifth Doctor (Peter Davison)

When discussing this with friends, the general consensus on the Fifth Doctor was this: he’s just so…normal. He doesn’t have many eccentricities. He is the everyman. But there was something that intrigued me: most of his time was spent with very strong, driven women. Whether it was Teagan, Nyssa, or Peri, he often let his companions be the dominant forces. That’s why I think he needs some strong characters to work with, and so I chose Red Fraggle and Prairie Dawn. Red and Prairie are take-charge gals who don’t take guff from anyone, but are fiercely loyal to the ones they love, and aren’t afraid to lend a helping hand. With this trio, the Daleks better watch out!

The Sixth Doctor (Colin Baker)

The Sixth Doctor knew he was special, and wasn’t afraid to share that knowledge with the universe. He didn’t suffer fools, and implied on more than one occasion that he didn’t need a companion, but his unpredictable personality belied a deep sense of justice and compassion for those in need, as well as a dry sense of humor. Any companion would need to loosen this Doctor up, and sometimes you just need a comedian, so who could be better than Fozzie Bear? While the Doctor would probably be less than impressed with his jokes, few in the Muppet world need more love then Fozzie. His refusal to give up in the face of adversity and his constant willingness to help (not to mention his surprising ability to rally a crowd) would endear himself to the Doctor. Plus, they’d probably spend most of their time gabbing about neckties.

The Seventh Doctor (Sylvester McCoy)

The Seventh Doctor can be charming and goofy at times, but his clownish appearance can be deceiving. This Doctor just might have been the cleverest incarnation yet, and was almost always one step ahead of his opponents as well as his allies. This allowed him to take command just by saying the right things, and he often had to make tough decisions, whether it was wiping the Daleks out or choosing to hide important information from his companions. But the Doctor also had a great capacity for having fun, which he often demonstrated in magic tricks and juggling. So how do you balance silliness with seriousness? Sometimes, you need the experts: Bert and Ernie. Their balance of yin and yang can match the Doctor’s often clashing traits and they work well independently, which can help when the Doctor needs to work on his own. The only question left is whether or not the Doctor would trade in his vest for a striped sweater.

The Eighth Doctor (Paul McGann)

Despite having appeared in countless audio dramas and other supplemental material, the Eighth Doctor hasn’t had much screen time, amounting only to the 1996 television movie (as well as a recent short, which Whovians should really watch before they see “The Day of the Doctor”). The biggest problem for the Doctor is that for a good part of his movie, he doesn’t remember who he is as a result of having just regenerated, so he’s going to need a companion who can help him remember and who won’t run away when the going gets tough. This job is best served by one of the newest Muppets, Walter. When he cares about something, he devotes himself to it. His patience and helpfulness would get the Doctor back to his old self…or should I say his new self?

The Ninth Doctor (Christopher Eccleston)

In 2005, the Doctor came back to television in a big way, with a new face: the Ninth Doctor. And with a new appearance came a new attitude. Battle-scarred from the (as yet unseen) Time War, where he was forced to sacrifice all those involved to prevent the innocent from being destroyed. But despite this horrific act, he’s still the Doctor, and he still carried a deep and abiding respect for all life (with the exception of the Daleks, the Time Lords’ opponent in the Time War), and he could be the sassiest guy in the galaxy. He was aloof and distant, most likely for fear of getting attached to people he knows will leave him eventually. So a companion was needed to get him to open up again, which came about in the form of Rose Tyler. Much like the Sixth Doctor, a Muppet is needed that’s just too loveable to hate: Grover. His positive attitude would remind the Doctor that hope is always alive, but even Grover can let his emotions out, like when he’s scared and alone. Maybe he can get the Doctor admit he’s scared and alone, too. The Ninth Doctor and Grover make a sweet and spicy combo that could win over any opponent.

The Tenth Doctor (David Tennant)

The Tenth Doctor would probably feel right at home with the Muppets. Always in the pursuit of fun, he reveled at the chance to visit new places and experience new things. He also could be dark and calculating, but he always offered his enemies the choice to surrender before unleashing his fury. Still hurting from the effects of the Time War, he often lamented the fact that he was “the last of the Time Lords.” There’s one Muppet who knows what it’s like to be the only one of his kind around, and still loves pursuing the weird and wonderful: Gonzo. He could be the perfect friend for the Doctor, always encouraging him to embrace his strangeness and love himself for who he is. At the same time, they need a grounding force to bring them back to reality, and that’s where Rizzo the Rat comes in. Even though he can be very self-centered at times, Rizzo always does the right thing whether he likes it or not. If there was ever a Doctor-Muppet combo I actually wanted to see on TV, it would be the Tenth Doctor with Gonzo and Rizzo. I’m pretty sure it would end with them being shot out of twin cannons.

The Eleventh Doctor (Matt Smith)

Both child and adult, the Eleventh Doctor carries a sense of whimsy and responsibility. He knows when he has to step up, but also makes time for the fun stuff. Even though he doesn’t always understand humanity, he always works for their protection, and never stops caring for the ones he loves. Two of his frequent companions are Amy Pond and River Song. Let’s see if these descriptions sound familiar: River is a woman who’s very good in a fight; she’s a born leader with a heart as big as all outdoors. Even though her eyes may roam, Amy’s heart stays true to Rory Pond the man she loves. In fact, if you rolled Amy Pond and River Song into one, you’d probably get Miss Piggy. While she may find the Doctor attractive (as many people do), we all know that her heart belongs to a certain frog. (Perhaps her “Last Centurion” is the “Last Amphibian!) And if that doesn’t convince you, think of the catchphrase: “Kissy kissy, sweetie!”

The Twelfth Doctor (Peter Capaldi)

Since “Doctor Who” is all about traveling through time and space, I think we should wrap up by looking to the future. On Christmas Day, the Eleventh Doctor will have his final adventure, and with his end comes a new beginning. It’s already been announced that actor Peter Capaldi will be taking the controls of the TARDIS as the Twelfth Doctor. So how do you give a Muppet companion to a Doctor that hasn’t appeared yet? I gave this some thought, and I think this new Doctor deserves an all-purpose companion: Scooter. He’s a fantastic gofer, incredibly bright (certainly enough to work at Google), and unfazed by strange creatures. He’d make a great companion for any Doctor.

Click here to travel through time and space with a weirdo on the ToughPigs forum!

by Matthew Soberman

Tagged:Doctor Who

You May Also Like…

Written by Matthew Soberman

Read More by Matthew Soberman

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This