Doctor Who Blog

The Companion Departures - #19 Mickey Smith

Perhaps surprisingly, it is Mickey Smith who ranks as the most effective companion departure of the RTD era. This is on the basis of his departure in Rise of the Cybermen, and even his (first) return appearance in Army of Ghosts does not detract from his exit. Rise of the Cybermen works for Mickey on every level - his motivation for leaving rings true (staying in a parallel universe to get a second chance to look after his grandmother, rather than staying to play second fiddle to both Rose and the Doctor in the TARDIS) and the character shows true signs of development. Mickey leaves the TARDIS on a high - no longer an “idiot”, providing himself able to take on the Cybermen on his own and demonstrating the bravery and courage that he lacked in his first appearance in Rose. The development can also seen gradually throughout the course of the first two seasons of the new series, rather than a sudden overnight transformation from coward to brave hero. When Mickey returns a handful of episodes later to close out the season, it is a genuine surprise because his story felt so “complete” at the end of Rise of the Cybermen - in Army of Ghosts, Mickey’s confidence has increased (naturally, given what he’s been up to on the parallel world since he left the TARDIS) but he is still the same recognizable character that we last saw in Rise of the Cybermen. For a change, a return appearance by a companion in the RTD era doesn’t feel like the departure has been undermined in any way (it helps that Mickey returns back to where he came from at the end of Doomsday so that it doesn’t feel as though his grandmother isn’t suddenly forgotten).

It’s unfortunately in some ways that this saga in Doctor Who simply didn’t end there. His character is almost unrecognizable in his final two appearances - a macho “tough guy” who is suddenly married to Martha. This isn’t so much character development as character transformation. Had this transformation occurred in his departure story or even his first return appearance a few episodes later (so that it felt more closely connected to his departure), rather than two and a bit years later, then this departure would have been ranked lower. And as bizarre transformation it is, it still doesn’t feel like it undercuts anything that had been established as the reason for leaving the TARDIS, unlike some of the other RTD-era companions - there is a nice reference to the fact that his grandmother has now passed away peacefully, so it makes sense for him to want to come back to his home universe at this point. As such, I’ve ranked Mickey’s the highest amongst all the RTD companions (and remember, Adam doesn’t count!).

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