‘Doctor Who’: 3 Theories About The Empty Chair At The Former Companion Support Meeting
Who was the chair for?
With the airing of the BBC centenary special, 'The Power of The Doctor', the tenure of Jodie Whittaker's Thirteenth Doctor has come to an end. As a celebration of Doctor Who's long history on the BBC, 'The Power of The Doctor' was packed full of Easter Eggs and special appearances from former cast members. Among these, a favourite moment for many fans was a support group for former Companions taking place towards the end of the special.
Eagle-eyed Whovians took note of a single empty chair at the Support Group. Officially, it seems this chair would have belonged to another past companion (rumoured to be Anneke Wills, aka Polly) who was forced to drop out at the last minute. But naturally, the truth of the chair has not stopped Whovians developing their own theories as to who was supposed to be sitting in it. Here are the most popular of those theories.
1. The chair once belonged to Sarah Jane Smith
One of the earliest theories, and probably the one that has gained the most traction, is that the chair had once belonged to one of The Doctor's most beloved companions, Sarah Jane Smith. Fans of both Classic and NuWho will be well aware of who Sarah Jane is. A companion of both the Third and Fourth Doctors in the Classic series, Sarah Jane later became the first Classic era companion to be featured in the revived Doctor Who, appearing alongside David Tennant, The Tenth Doctor, in the series two episode 'School Reunion'. Soon afterwards, the character received her own spin-off, The Sarah Jane Adventures, which ran for five seasons. Sadly, a planned sixth season had to be scrapped when Sarah Jane's actress, Elisabeth Sladen, passed away after a short battle with cancer.
While Elisabeth passed in 2011, Sarah Jane lived on off-screen until 2020, when the Webisode 'Farewell, Sarah Jane' was produced as part of the Doctor Who: Lockdown series. The webisode, featuring numerous former companions and other Whoniverse characters gathering for Sarah Jane's Memorial service, heavily implies that she was killed while thwarting an alien invasion. Some fans believe that characters like Jo and Ace, who have both had adventures with Sarah Jane in Expanded Universe material, like to leave the empty chair in honour of Sarah's special position among The Doctor's companions.
The Empty Chair represents all the companions we have lost over the years
Doctor Who is set to celebrate it's 60th Anniversary late next year, and has remained a beloved and iconic series the entire time, even during the long hiatus between the Classic and NuWho eras of the show. However, the more time goes on, it is, unfortunately, quite likely that we will find ourselves losing more beloved actors from the early years of the show.
For this reason, some Whovians have taken the theory that started with Sarah Jane much further. The empty chair exists to represent not just Sarah, but any companion that may have wanted to be at the Support Group, but could not be depicted due to the death of their actor. Characters like Barbara, Ben, Harry, or of course, Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart. Though the actors may be gone, the characters will always have a place in The Doctor's inner circle.
The Empty Chair is for The Doctor
It seems oddly convenient that the about-to-regenerate Thirteenth Doctor managed to drop off Yaz at the perfect time and place to run into fellow companions Graham and Dan as they tried to make their way to the support group.. Perhaps a little too convenient. Some fans believe that The Doctor already knew of the creation of the Support Group, and left Yaz there in the hope she would find comfort in the face of their separation. The Doctor knowing of the group's existence has resulted in the theory that the empty chair has been left for The Doctor, if He/She should ever decide to stop by.
The idea of companions saving a space for The Doctor is not new. After being informed of the death of Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart in series six, The Eleventh Doctor learns that The Brig always asked that an extra glass of Brandy be poured, in case The Doctor should ever visit. In the 2011 Christmas Special 'The Doctor, the Widow, and the Wardrobe', it is revealed that Amy Pond and Rory Williams always set a place for The Doctor at Christmas Dinner, despite never knowing whether he would actually be there.
This, unfortunately, seems to be part of the fate of all Doctor Who companions. As happy and fulfilled as their post-Doctor lives might be, a part of them will always be waiting, hoping, to see Their Doctor one last time. And if that isn't in the cards, a group of new friends who understand how it feels could be the next best thing.
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