Doctor Who Blog

The Companion Departures - #12 Steven Taylor

Steven’s departure often gets overlooked because it is one of the few examples where there are no surviving episodes currently in the BBC archives for the story in which a companion departs (Vicki & Victoria being the other two). There are audio soundtracks of course and telesnaps for The Savages and also off-air 8mm footage of Steven’s departure scene, so we do get a pretty good sense of his final scenes. His final story is a great one - both as an adventure in its own right but also a great story for Steven. He is very much the hero in this story and his toughness (both physical and mental) that we saw come to the fore early on in his era (in such stories as The Time Meddler, The Daleks Master Plan and The Massacre returns, letting the character leave on a high note. I won’t “spoil” (for a 49 year old story) the details of Steven’s heroism in this story for those of you who haven’t heard it or read the novelization yet, but suffice it to say it is Steven who turns the tide in the good guy’s favour, particularly when the Doctor is incapacitated for a long stretch in this story. Particularly good are the scenes where Steven taunts his opponent (repeatedly calling him “Soldier Boy”) in a duel which occurs Episode 3.

The previous companion departures in the series to date had seen companions leave because they fell in love or simply wanted to return home (or in the case of Sara Kingdom and Katarina, because they were killed). Steven’s departure is the first one to happen for purely altruistic reasons as he stays behind to help lead the people on an alien planet who needed an impartial leader between two separate factions on the planet. It was not an obvious reason at the time for a companion to leave, but works very well and satisfactorily for Steven’s character. It probably takes a touch of confidence and mental toughness to leave the security of the TARDIS to stay behind on an alien planet for benevolent reasons. It is a somewhat brash move as well given that he’s staying behind to become a leader - but it suits Steven’s character because he was brash, confident and mentally tough - at least, as originally conceived and played in the aforementioned stories - less so in something like The Gunfighters but that’s a criticism that could be reserved for that story rather than The Savages which returns the character to its roots in a satisfying and original way for his departure. Simple, but effective.

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