top of page

Media Essays: Susan Foreman: The Forgotten Companion

Title card

Greetings everyone, it is I, the Wandering Fox, with a brand-new essay and this time I’m looking into something which not only has been on the minds of Doctor Who fans for years, but there was sign of this character for the 50th and 60th anniversaries of the series.

Susan Foreman. The Doctor’s granddaughter, the one the very first episode is named after, An Unearthly Child, the first companion to leave. Yeah, funny how we haven’t seen her since The Five Doctors and there’s almost no confirmation of Susan’s fate after it.

I’m honestly annoyed Susan has almost no love in the modern series, and Steven Moffat and RTD had their moments to bring Susan back. Peter Capaldi wanted her back, but nah, we didn’t get her.

You’d think one of the few relatives of the Doctor we’ve met deserved a return by now, and I’m here to explain how they could’ve brought her back for either the 50th or the 60th.

But firstly, we must begin with explaining who Susan is.

Susan Foreman

Susan left Gallifrey with the First Doctor, both of them going to London in 1963, stealing a TARDIS. Susan attended Coal Hill School, in which she took interest in history and science. Her schoolteachers were Ian Chesterton and Barbara Wright, both of whom were interested in Susan’s bizarre answers and Barbara was concerned for Susan’s living conditions upon learning her address was to Totters Lane Junkyard. Both followed her back to the junkyard, in which they found the TARDIS and the Doctor. The latter tried to scurry Ian and Barbara away, but once they heard Susan inside the police box, they both barged in and found Susan inside a much bigger room.

Susan tried begging the Doctor to let Ian and Barbara go but he wasn’t willing to let them tell anyone of the TARDIS, so he dematerialised the TARDIS back to the cavemen years. From here, things changed for everyone in the machine.

Susan would encounter the Daleks on their home planet Skaro and went out into the jungle to find the medicine needed to help her grandfather and Ian and Barbara, meeting the Thals and played a crucial part in escaping the city and stopping the Daleks.

Susan treasured life big and small from plant life to those of strangers she met. Though a scared girl, Susan was smart and was willing to help others.

Susan’s journey in the TARDIS ended in The Dalek Invasion of Earth. In the 22nd century the Daleks took control of Earth and the Doctor and friends teamed with human freedom fighters to defeat the Daleks. During this, Susan met David Campbell, a young man who loved the simpler life and had a desire to help grow new vegetables for his people once the Daleks were defeated. Susan’s care for others was more prominent here and she fell in love with David but was torn between staying with him and going back with her grandfather. The Doctor made the choice for her, telling her, her future lay with David, not him, and she could begin a new life. These words stuck with everyone since.

“One day I shall come back. Yes, I shall come back. Until then, there must be no regrets, no tears, no anxieties. Just go forward in all your beliefs. And prove to me that I am not mistaken in mine.” - The First Doctor, The Dalek Invasion of Earth 1964

Those words have been on Doctor Who fans minds. Would the Doctor come back? Would Susan have a brand new life? Well, kinda.

Coming Back

Susan returned in The Five Doctors, the twentieth anniversary of Doctor Who. A Time Lord brought her to the Death Zone on Gallifrey, reuniting with the First Doctor. They both escaped a Dalek and found the Fifth Doctor, Teagan and Turlough. Both the Fifth Doctor, Teagan and Susan left and confronted the Master before the girls fled back to the TARDIS. From here Susan doesn’t do much aside from watching Cybermen outside the TARDIS. Once the story ends the First Doctor takes Susan back to her home on Earth.

From there Susan’s life is a bit of a mystery. In one book, Roger Delgado’s Master killed David so Susan killed him out of revenge, making him regenerate into the crispy Master. In another variant, Susan and David adopted a few children, naming some of them after Ian and Barbara.

I like the audio of what happened next. An Earthly Child sees the Eighth Doctor return to Earth and meets Susan who’s now a councilwoman and learnt she and David had a son, Alex. David died of a virus a few years earlier and Susan missed him but was a loving mother to Alex. The Doctor was keen on taking Alex to Gallifrey so he could study.

Yet things turned dark where, after he left his companion Lucie Miller with Susan and Alex, the Doctor returned to find Earth had been invaded by the Daleks once more with help from the Meddling Monk, the Dalek Time Controller trying to turn Earth into a giant time machine to spread a disease through time and space. Susan had faith in the Doctor’s return but feared he was killed, though she was relieved he survived. Susan had to calm Lucie who, by this point, was paralysed and blind in one eye. Both the Doctor and Susan were captured by the Daleks while Alex was killed by them. The Doctor could do nothing but hug a crying Susan close to him until they were saved by the Meddling Monk after Lucie sacrificed herself.

Susan's War

The Daleks gone, the Doctor had a breakdown and in his emotional state left Susan behind once again, leaving her to grieve Alex alone. Susan would end up living in an apartment on top of Coal Hill School, then one day the Doctor returned, looking tired and trying to distract her. Susan was called upon by the Time Lords to join in the Time War. Susan wanted to stop the Daleks for the pain they caused her and left the Doctor. During the Time War, Susan met Ian again, then travelled to 1963 meeting the Eighth Doctor again, their relationship soured by Alex’s death. Later in the Time War, the Doctor regenerated back and forth, the Tenth Doctor just having one conversation with Susan before the end of the story.

Susan doesn’t know but Alex was resurrected during the Time War, travelling with the Doctor.

This is Susan’s story, we don’t know if she’s dead or alive. The Doctor did say he’s not a grandfather anymore, Clara said Susan was missing presumed dead.

This is where Steven Moffat could’ve done something with bringing Gallifrey back. Susan could return, if she survived or not. Moffat made bringing Gallifrey back a big thing in the 50th, yet the only thing he did with it was have the Doctor glare Rassilon off it, and broke time and space to save Clara. Then Chibnall destroyed Gallifrey. Nice job, Steven, you could’ve set a foundation for future Gallifrey stories if you had Susan, Romana or Leela in it, but nah, had to make it about Clara.

With Gallifrey gone once more and we don’t know who survived or didn’t, we’re back wondering where Susan is. The 60th didn’t include her, so once again, I ask, where is Susan, why isn’t she back?

What Would I Have Done

If I was in charge of the Day of the Doctor, I would’ve done things much differently to what Moffat did, like having McGann in the War Doctor’s job in the script, come up with a reason why Tennant was in it, maybe not bring back all the Time Lords, aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaand, bring back Susan.

For how Susan could’ve returned without Moffat wanting to give away if she was dead or alive, have the Moment take on the forms of several past companions, like Susan, Adric, Amy, Donna. Susan’s form is enough to convince the Eighth Doctor to find a different way of stopping the Time War by saving as many Time Lords as he can. The Doctors warp the citadel out of the Time War, the Curator hints the Time Lords are neither in the right or wrong timeline, and hints Susan could be alive.

If I was in charge of the 60th anniversary specials, I’d do more than what RTD did, you know, bring back other Doctors, other villains and do more to celebrate the show’s history instead of giving us David Tennant and Catherine Tate all the bloody time. But most of all I'd bring back Susan.

Wild Blue Yonder, while I liked it, had the chance of the No Things taking on forms from the Doctor’s memories, like you know, Amy, Rory, Clara, Susan, each tormenting the Doctor of his past mistakes.

The Giggle could’ve done more with the Toymaker making puppets of Susan along with Amy, Clara, Bill and well, bring back other Doctors to play a game with, Eight is brought back to see if he can rescue Susan again unlike last time in a game called Dalek Dodge. Doing so, Susan is brought to UNIT and watches the Eighth and Eleventh Doctors help the Fourteenth regenerate into the Fifteenth. By the end, Susan expresses there’s nothing left for her in the 22nd century and Donna’s family offers to take her in and UNIT opens a job for her.

There we go, I sorted it right there.


Susan deserves better, as does Carol Anne Ford. Both anniversaries were the right moments to bring her back and do something with her. Carol is still alive so they could have brought her back, but it feels like they just don’t want the hassle of doing something with Susan, which is a hindrance.

I still look forward to the Doctor’s new life with Ncuti Gatwa, but RTD, please just bring Susan back and do something? 

bottom of page