All 12 Modern Doctor Who Companions ranked from worst to best

Companions are some of the most important characters in Doctor Who, but some are better than others. Here are all 12 companions from the modern era, ranked.

Bradley Walsh as Graham, Mandip Gill as Yaz, Tosin Cole as Ryan - Doctor Who Special 2020: Revolution Of The Daleks - Photo Credit: James Pardon/BBC Studios/BBCA
Bradley Walsh as Graham, Mandip Gill as Yaz, Tosin Cole as Ryan - Doctor Who Special 2020: Revolution Of The Daleks - Photo Credit: James Pardon/BBC Studios/BBCA /
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Since the beginning of Doctor Who, the companions have been the audience proxy within the show. They are the ones who get to experience the universe with awe, the ones who get the explanations about complex phenomenon, and the ones who get the most emotional arcs. Because the Doctor cannot change too much, the companions do it for him.

In the modern era of Doctor Who, the companions have also had the privilege of being the special ones. Rather than just tagging along on the Doctor's adventures, they get to help out and even save the day. Through them, the audience learns that anybody can be a hero with enough courage.

Because the audience connects with them most, the companions end up being a strong litmus test for the success of the show. If their journeys aren't interesting or sympathetic, then the writing as a whole probably has a problem. While picking favorites is always subjective, it's possible to rank each companion by their skills, character arc, and likability.

Tosin Cole
Doctor Who Photocall - Tosin Cole / Anthony Devlin/GettyImages

12. Ryan Sinclair

Ryan was one of the 13th Doctor's companions, and while he had a lot of potential as a character, he suffered from being one of three concurrent companions. His major character arcs (family conflict and his dyspraxia) were mostly resolved offscreen, which made it hard for audiences to connect with him.

With four members of Team TARDIS active in nearly every adventure, Ryan often seemed to be along for the ride, rather than making many active choices. He was often overshadowed by the Doctor and Yaz because his contributions involved planning more than doing.

Ryan was at his best when working through his family trauma. Some of his most powerful scenes came as he and Graham settled their differences and Ryan learned to accept the family he still had. This allowed him to connect with others they met in their travels who had family traumas of their own. It also gave him the strength to confront his father, who had never been there for him.

All in all, Ryan isn't a bad character. He just never got the development that fans expect from a companion. This may be one of those situations where time makes the difference because Ryan could benefit from more focused attention in other media. As a returning character or in non-televised appearances, he may get the development needed to become a truly iconic companion.

Best episode: "Resolution"

Bradley Walsh
"Doctor Who" - Bradley Walsh / Karwai Tang/GettyImages

11. Graham O'Brien

Graham joined the TARDIS during the 13th Doctor's run, and he was known for providing comic relief during Series 11 and 12. He provided a good break from the usual companion demographic of women in their 20s, and his tendency to be grumpy broke up the tension well.

While Graham didn't have as much of a personal connection with the Doctor, he was a good contrast to her in darker moments. He brought a lot of common sense to the team, as well as an enjoyable "I'm too old for this" attitude. Despite this, his best moments were often those when he showed his softer side, talking about his life and bonding with Ryan.

One of Graham's biggest downsides can be attributed to the writing far more than the performance of Bradley Walsh. Because the 13th Doctor was a woman, Graham was often seen as the authority figure instead of her. While this occasionally set up fun opportunities to put people in their place, it frequently just undermined the Doctor.

Ultimately, Graham was a fun companion who added dimension to Team TARDIS, but he just didn't have enough screen time to become much of a fan favorite. After two seasons of traveling with the Doctor, it felt like the time was right for him and Ryan to go back home.

Best episode: "It Takes You Away"

DOCTOR WHO_S13_DAN EXCLUSIVE_001
John Bishop as Dan - Doctor Who _ Season 13 - Photo Credit: James Pardon/BBC Studios/BBC America /

10. Dan Lewis

While a companion can gain a cult following after just one season, it's not very easy. Dan was fairly well-liked as a companion, but he was only in nine episodes, which made it hard for viewers to get much of a feel for him. This was made harder by the fact that much of his experience traveling with Yaz was done off-screen.

Despite that, Dan was quickly shown to be a kind and passionate person, volunteering at the Jenning Street Food Bank and guiding people on unofficial tours of the Museum of Liverpool. Despite being flung into the Doctor's world by accident, he repeatedly demonstrated a willingness to take action when it would protect others, including invading the Sontaran base with little to no support.

Dan and Yaz developed a great dynamic in their three years trapped in the past, and while it would have helped to actually see that growth, it did create a path to address the tension between the Doctor and Yaz. Unlike some of the other companions, Dan was willing to confront the Doctor when she was making the wrong choices.

It would have been nice to see what more Dan could have done, had he had a longer run. He had a lot to offer the team. However, he was gone too soon, making it hard for fans to connect with him beyond his surface characteristics.

Best episode: "War of the Sontarans"

Matt Lucas
Comic-Con International 2017 - Matt Lucas / Jerod Harris/GettyImages

9. Nardole

Like Dan, Nardole only had one season to cement himself in the minds of fans. Unfortunately, he often fell into the background compared to Series 10's primary companion Bill and the team's frenemy, Missy. He was an enjoyable character, but it often felt like he was just there, rather than having much of a distinct purpose.

Perhaps part of why Nardole never seemed to form much of a bond with the Doctor (and thus the fans) is that he actually began as a companion to the Doctor's wife, River Song. The Doctor just acquired him after his and River's stay at Darillium, and it was clear that his loyalty was to River, not the Doctor.

Nardole's offhand comments suggested that he had a fascinating backstory, but it was rarely spoken about and never shown on screen. He was clearly a criminal before flying with the Doctor, but this hardly ever influenced his decision-making. The only part of his past that seemed relevant was his promise to keep the Doctor from killing Missy.

One of the highlights of Nardole's inclusion in the series was that he was not a human being, which provided the opportunity for fans to see a fundamentally different perspective on the world. However, he usually acted like a human, just one who had a lot of disdain for his fellow man. It was helpful to have someone onboard who was willing to put the Doctor in his place, but it often came across as nagging.

All in all, Nardole might have been a great companion for another version of the Doctor. However, he ended up being the least compelling main character in his season. He was not as human as Bill, nor was he as insightful about the Doctor as Missy was. This made him a perfectly serviceable companion, but not an overly exciting one.

Best episode: "Oxygen"

Pearl Mackie
Comic-Con International 2017 - Doctor Who: BBC America Official Panel - Pearl Mackie / Albert L. Ortega/GettyImages

8. Bill Potts

As another one-season companion, Bill had relatively limited opportunities for character growth. However, she was consistently entertaining, and her arc during Series 10 was genuinely enjoyable. Despite claims that Steven Moffat was losing his touch, Bill stands out as a powerful counter-example.

Many of the Classic Era companions had a teacher-student relationship with the Doctor, but Bill is currently the only one during the modern era to develop a similar dynamic. While she and the Doctor certainly grew to become friends, he took an interest in her because of her curiosity and eagerness to learn.

These traits made Bill an ideal companion for a version of the Doctor who remained relatively grounded on Earth. While the Twelfth Doctor remained at St Luke's University to keep an eye on Missy, Bill was the one stumbling into alien encounters. Her curiosity helped drive the season, and her enthusiasm balanced Nardole's rigid nature.

While some fans were frustrated by the "forced" political agenda behind Bill being a Black lesbian, most genuinely enjoyed her unique dynamic with the Doctor. She was a good character, particularly for Series 10, but her thirteen episodes just weren't enough to put her in the top tier of companions.

Best episodes: "World Enough and Time" and "The Doctor Falls"

Mandip Gill
Mandip Gill, "Doctor Who" - Photocall / Karwai Tang/GettyImages

7. Yasmin Khan

Yasmin Khan was unquestionably the best companion of Chris Chibnall's era of Doctor Who, but while she frequently had shining moments, she hardly ever got as much attention as earlier companions due to sharing the screen with so many other people. Perhaps this is why, despite being a relatively new character, Yasmin Khan has more fan fiction on Archive of Our Own than any other companions, excluding Rose Tyler and Clara Oswald.

While some of the other companions felt like they had little personality beyond their unique character traits, every element of Yaz's character seemed to contribute to her overall life perspective. As a Muslim woman, LGBTQ character, and police officer, it would have been easy for Yasmin to become little more than a political mouthpiece. Instead, each of these elements added to her quality as a companion.

Yaz had an immediate connection with the Thirteenth Doctor, despite the distance the Doctor often put between herself and her companions. This was aided by the chemistry between actors Mandip Gill and Jodie Whittaker. Whether you like the idea of "Thasmin" as a couple or not, it's hard to deny that she made the Doctor a better person and a more enjoyable character.

When the full group was together, Yaz was the stand-out for her ability to keep up with the Doctor and her eagerness to enter dangerous situations. When on her own, Yaz was the only companion of this period who could consistently support a subplot on her own. She was compassionate and brave, the key traits a companion needs to win the fans' hearts.

Altogether, Yasmin probably should rank much higher on this list. But since she was so often hindered by lack of screen time, fans could never connect with her as much as they wanted to. She is likely a character who will gain more fans with time, especially if she gets more adventures in the future.

Best episode: "Village of the Angels"

Freema Agyeman
Doctor Who - Gala Screening / Dave Hogan/GettyImages

6. Martha Jones

When Martha joined Doctor Who in Series 3, she struggled to gain much fan appreciation, due to comparisons between her and Rose. However, fan approval has increased in the decades since, particularly because of her appearances outside of Series 3.

From the beginning, Martha demonstrated her power of reasoning and her selfless nature, actively working to care for the residents of Royal Hope Hospital when it was on the moon. When she was shown on Torchwood and in Series 4, however, fans got to see her at her best. Martha was self-assured, willing to go off on her own to help as many people as possible.

In addition, Martha served as a perfect example of the Doctor's influence on a person—both good and bad. She, more than anyone, became a soldier after her time with him, seen in her actions during the Year That Never Was, as a member of UNIT, and during "The Stolen Earth." But she never gave up her desire to help people, repeatedly trying to sympathize with and provide medical treatment to those others saw as their enemies.

Perhaps the biggest failing of Martha as a companion was that she had a weak connection to the Doctor. He refused to get close to her after losing Rose, but she also spent very little on-screen time with him. Of her 13-episode season, Martha was separated from the Doctor for large portions of six episodes.

At the end of the day, Martha didn't need the Doctor. This made her a really interesting character and explains why she did so well beyond her initial season. However, it doesn't make her a very strong companion, because the bond between the Doctor and Martha was so much weaker than his relationship with others.

Best episodes: "Human Nature" and "The Family of Blood"

Peter Capaldi, Jenna Coleman
"Dr Who" Photocall / Stuart C. Wilson/GettyImages

5. Clara Oswald

Clara Oswald is one of the companions that fans are most divided on because her arc was not as simple as some of her predecessors. Rather than being a character who only got better in the Doctor's presence, Clara arguably got worse, and she made the Doctor worse as well.

From the beginning, Clara had the allure of mystery to her. Why had the Doctor met so many different versions of her? Who was the Impossible Girl? But because that plot was solved within one season, the next few seasons had to find a new purpose for her.

The path for Clara's character made her increasingly hard to like in Series 8 and Series 9. While she was becoming more like the Doctor in individual episodes, even being able to trick the Cybermen into believing she was him, she also repeatedly used the Doctor for her own purposes.

This culminated in the reveal that Clara and the Doctor together were the Hybrid. Some fans love that idea. Others hate it. Because what does it say about a person who can make the Doctor into someone who "will one day stand in the ruins of Gallifrey? It will unravel the Web of Time and destroy a billion billion hearts to heal its own"?

Clara is clever and funny and confident, but she is also willing to betray the Doctor and hurt a lot of people to get what she wants. Narratively, that makes her a very compelling character. But she isn't necessarily an enjoyable one. She probably has the best evolution of any Doctor Who companion, but it's hard for such a complex character to compare to those that are consistently good.

Best episode: "Mummy on the Orient Express"

Karen Gillan, Matt Smith
"Dr Who" UK Tour Photocall In Manchester / Shirlaine Forrest/GettyImages

4. Amy Pond

Amy Pond was the definitive companion during Matt Smith's era as the Doctor, and she is a real favorite among those who loved Steven Moffat's time as showrunner. With two and a half seasons to show her growth, she went from a hurt young woman to a powerful companion, wife, and mother.

It's hard to look at Amy without Rory since they shared most of their screen time, but it's worth exploring. Young Amelia Pond was kind and open-minded, believing in the Doctor inherently. She saw him as a superhero, so that's the lens that fans got to see the Eleventh Doctor through in the beginning. Despite the pain from being abandoned for so long, she had ultimate faith in him.

However, Amy's devotion to the Doctor didn't consume her entire character. When left to her own devices, she was curious and empathetic, frequently managing to solve their problems by having faith in the kindness of others.

The biggest reason for fans to dislike Amy is because of her relationship with Rory Williams. Although it's understandable why she would get cold feet before her wedding and run away with her childhood hero, many people disliked Amy because they believed that she always chose the Doctor over Rory. Although she almost always chose Rory when it came down to it, the show itself reinforced the idea that she still had doubts about her relationship.

Amy was scared of commitment, which is a perfectly reasonable character trait for a girl who was abandoned by the Doctor, whose family disappeared, and who was frequently told she was crazy. While the audience could see Rory's earnestness, Amy struggled to believe that she could be loved unless she had something concrete to offer.

Over her 31 episodes, Amy grew into a more responsible young woman, and her relationship with Rory became more solid. She learned that the Doctor couldn't always save the day and that her faith in him may have been too high. But she never lost the confidence, compassion, and determination that made so many fans love her to begin with.

Best episode: "The Girl Who Waited"

Arthur Darvill
Arthur Darvill, On Location For "Doctor Who" / Michael Stewart/GettyImages

3. Rory Williams

While partners of companions often spend an episode or two on-board the TARDIS, none have been as long-lasting or as beloved as Rory Williams. Introduced halfway through Series 5, Rory was always the man in Amy's life who came second to the Doctor. The fanbase, however, fell in love with him immediately.

It's not possible to talk about Rory without acknowledging his love for Amy. Rory Williams is the man who waited 1,000 years because it might keep Amy safe. He's the man who accepted that he may never have another biological child, but who loved his wife more than anything. He is the epitome of devotion, and that was really compelling.

But his love for Amy was not all that made him a great companion. While Rory's initial relationship with the Doctor was based on his jealousy, he grew to become a close friend and support system. From the beginning, Rory recognized the darkness in the Eleventh Doctor, forcing him to acknowledge how he endangered those around him.

In addition, Rory (like Martha) is a medical expert. He began the show as a nurse, eventually becoming a doctor himself. This gave him both a lot of skill with medicine and a compassionate spirit. He was devoted to helping other people, even if it went against other people's plans.

Finally, Rory grew from a kind of dorky character to an absolute badass. And he didn't need to change who he was to do it. Rory was more combat-ready after his time as a Roman soldier, but his bravest decisions required faith, not strength. From his core traits to his growth over the show, Rory is one of the best companions in the show to date.

Best episode: "The Girl Who Waited"

British Actress Billie Piper
British Actress Billie Piper / Eleanor Bentall/GettyImages

2. Rose Tyler

Rose Tyler was the first companion that many fans of Doctor Who met, and it's hard for any other character to fill her shoes. She had a bubbly personality, which worked well with both Christopher Eccleston's and David Tennant's versions of the Doctor, and she was the perfect audience proxy for enchanting a new generation of viewers.

Rose was frequently in awe of the wonders the Doctor showed her, which made it easy for audiences to feel the same way. She encountered the best of Classic Who's villains, and while she was often portrayed as being a bit ditzy, her compassion helped direct the Doctor's intelligence properly. Rose Tyler proved to the audience that they, too, could do remarkable things.

Perhaps one of Rose's most consistent traits is her determination. After running into the Doctor just once, Rose was determined to find him again and learn more about his past. This is the same trait that resulted in her becoming the Bad Wolf, unwilling to be left behind by the Doctor if she could do anything to help. While this might better be understood as stubbornness, it usually paid off.

Finally, it's hard to talk about Rose without discussing her role as a love interest. The Doctor had been alive for nearly a millennium when he met Rose, but she helped to pull him out of the darkness of the Time War in a way no other person could. She helped him see the joy in the universe, the importance of showing mercy to even the cruelest villains, and the power in even the weakest people.

Whether you believe Rose was the Doctor's soulmate or not, she was clearly the person he needed when he escaped the Time War. That connection made it impossible for fans to ignore her, and it made both characters better people throughout their time together. The most steadfast shippers might love or hate her for her romantic arc, but no fan of Doctor Who can deny how special she was.

Best episode: "Dalek"

Catherine Tate
Catherine Tate; Woman's Own Children Of Courage Award 2008 / Samir Hussein/GettyImages

1. Donna Noble

Donna Noble is perhaps the only companion that fans don't fight over. This is because Series 4 was one of the best seasons of Modern Doctor Who, and Catherine Tate's portrayal of the Chiswick temp was a huge part of that. Originally intended as a one-off character for the 2006 Christmas special, Donna became the best companion in the modern era—arguably, the best companion in the show's 60-year history.

She was brilliant in her first appearance, but her return in "Partners in Crime" is still one of the show's best episodes. Her chemistry with David Tennant is off the charts, yet it never veers into the romantic territory so common in recent years. They simply seem to make each other better actors, as their characters made each other better people.

The Tenth Doctor has some dark moments, but Donna's no-nonsense understanding of wrong and right is the perfect compliment to it. Of course, he would be inclined to believe the worst of the world, after all he's seen, but she never lets him use that as an excuse to let people suffer.

While some might think of her as simply a brash, quippy companion, Donna is more significant for her heart. Yes, she can make a joke to lighten any mood, but she also sees others' pain and will fight to fix it. Her emotional intelligence is powerfully portrayed, and it would be difficult to find a single episode where her intuition doesn't make a huge difference.

Despite appearing in only 14 episodes (prior to the 60th Anniversary specials), she is the gold standard for what a companion should be: fun, affectionate, intelligent, perceptive, and just a little bit vulnerable. All credit goes to the writers and the actors, for making a one-season companion that fans just can't get over.

Best episode: "The Fires of Pompeii"

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