Wednesday, April 12, 2023

Character Spotlight: Susan Foreman

At first when watching "Dalek Invasion of Earth", I thought I’d like to do a “Doctor Revisited” post about it, but in the end the serial didn’t catch my interest enough. That being said, not only was this episode the last to feature Susan as a regular companion, it was the first time any companion left the TARDIS. Add to it the fact that it was involuntary and she’s the Doctor’s granddaughter. Regardless of how I feel about Susan, I’d feel remiss if I didn’t spotlight her here after her departure. So now the title question: Who is Susan Foreman?

Disclaimer: For simplicity, I’m only going to reference on-screen material, no books or audio dramas.

Heritage on Gallifrey

We don’t know the circumstances surrounding Susan’s childhood on Gallifrey and her heritage on her home planet. Some sources have alluded to the Doctor not technically being her grandfather, just a fatherly figure. That might not seem like much until you realize what makes being a “Time Lord” different from being Gallifreyan. Especially in light of the Timeless Child, we don’t know for certain that all Gallifreyans are able to regenerate. If Susan is biologically the Doctor’s granddaughter, she could theoretically have some of that Timeless Child in her–though the Time Lords could have engineered that out of her I suppose. If she is only the Doctor’s granddaughter by bond and not by blood, then all bets are off if she can regenerate even once.

Leaving in a Stolen TARDIS

Despite all the uncertainties surrounding Susan’s past, what we know is that she decides to leave the Time Lords along with the First Doctor (shown on-screen in a flashback of a Clara splinter). Early adventures included visits to Dido (featured in “The Rescue”) and Akhaten (featured in “Rings of Akhaten”).

Susan takes a liking to modern-day Earth in the 1960s, despite the Doctor’s hesitation staying there. While living in London, she attended Coal Hill School, where she gave Ian and Barbara a run for their money. Unfortunately for her (and more so for the Doctor), her quirks caught the attention of her two teachers and they followed her back to the TARDIS…

Traveling with the TARDIS Team

After Ian and Barbara became unwitting TARDIS companions in “An Unearthly Child”, they traveled with the Doctor and Susan for a long while before returning to present-day London. Adventures with her grandfather and her teachers involved settings as broad as Skaro in the (relatively) early days of the Daleks, the Aztec Empire, and the Sense Sphere.

Susan ended up leaving the TARDIS well before Ian and Barbara (well, the Doctor left her behind). She fell in love with a young man named David in the 22nd Century and her grandfather made the decision to have her plant her roots in that post-Dalek world. The Doctor promised he’d come back for her someday. So maybe someday I’ll get my wish to see her again properly. If you’re unfamiliar with it, here’s his iconic speech.

“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. Goodbye, Susan. Goodbye, my dear.”

Reuniting with the Doctor(s)

At an indeterminate time after being left behind by the Doctor, Susan was whisked away in a time scoop and taken to the Death Zone to aid the First Doctor. We don’t know when or where exactly Susan was taken from, presumably Earth in the 22nd Century (though 23rd Century is plausible, depending on how fast Susan ages). Along with the First Doctor, she helped the Fifth Doctor, Tegan, and Turlough to navigate the Death Zone. Along with two other incarnations, the Doctors stopped Borusa and the First Doctor returned Susan home.

Returning for Susan?

While she technically reunited with the Doctor(s) in The Five Doctors, I don’t think that’s the kind of reunion he’d planned on when he gave his famous speech. We know he never forgot about her, as the Twelfth Doctor had her picture on his university desk. So I hold onto the idea that Susan might return. Only time will tell. But as of writing this post, Carole Ann Ford is still alive. So even if they don’t have her regenerate, we could have Susan return. But in the meantime, I’ll echo the Doctor: “No regrets, no tears, no anxieties.”

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