|Doctor Who character|
Bonnie Langford as Mel, in a promotional still from Terror of the Vervoids
|First appearance||The Trial of a Time Lord: Terror of the Vervoids|
|Last appearance||Dragonfire (regular)
“Dimensions in Time” (charity special)
|Portrayed by||Bonnie Langford|
|Home era||20th century|
Mel, also sometimes referred to as Melanie, is a fictional character in the long-running British science fiction television series Doctor Who. A computer programmer from the 20th Century who is a companion of the Sixth and Seventh Doctors, she was a regular in the programme from 1986 to 1987. Her family name was never revealed on-screen, but production notes and promotional literature refer to her as Melanie Bush. She was portrayed by Bonnie Langford. Mel appeared in six stories (20 episodes) and is the penultimate companion of the classic series.
Mel first appears in the serial Terror of the Vervoids, part of the 14-part story The Trial of a Time Lord. At this point, she and the Sixth Doctor have been travelling together for some time. The events of Vervoids are shown as part of a Matrix projection of future events being shown by the Sixth Doctor to the court, so from his point of view, he is seeing an adventure he will have with Mel even before he meets her in his own timeline. At the end of Trial, the Sixth Doctor leaves with this future Mel, presumably to drop her off somewhere, meet her past self for the first time (from her point of view), and then carry on from there. (This scenario is portrayed by The Trial of a Time Lord screenwriters Pip and Jane Baker in their novelisation The Ultimate Foe.)
Mel is at present the only one of the Doctor’s companions never to have her actual first adventure with the Doctor chronicled on screen. Series producer John Nathan-Turner indicated his intent to chronicle this adventure in Season 24, which would have followed Trial of a Time Lord. However, the subsequent departure of lead actor Colin Baker prior to production of the new season made this impossible. Aside from the continuity issues arising from The Three Doctors and “The Five Doctors“ that are never addressed nor apparently acknowledged, Mel is the first companion who had already met the Doctor before he met her and vice versa, and the only such companion in the classic era, setting a precedent for numerous companions and other characters in the revived era, most notably River Song.
Mel is a computer programmer from the 20th century who comes from the village of Pease Pottage in West Sussex, England. She has an eidetic memory, and a cheery, almost perky personality. She greets most situations with a warm smile and good humour, and is an optimist whose views extend to believing the best of people’s natures, but can also scream with the best of them. She is a health enthusiast and a vegetarian, often encouraging the slightly portly Sixth Doctor to exercise more. She is present (albeit unconscious at the time) when the Sixth Doctor regenerates into his seventh incarnation, and continues to travel with him. In the serial Dragonfire, she reunites with the galactic confidence trickster, Sabalom Glitz, whom she met in The Trial of a Time Lord and decides to travel with him aboard the Nosferatu II, leaving the Seventh Doctor with new companion Ace who (according to the later Virgin New Adventures novels) was, conversely, Glitz’s former lover.
Appearances in other media
The novelisation of The Ultimate Foe includes a scene in which the Sixth Doctor returns Mel to his future self at the point she was taken from, with the Virgin Missing Adventures novel Time of Your Life stating this was during an adventure on the planet Oxyveguramosa. The Past Doctor Adventures Business Unusual, by Gary Russell, covers the first meeting between Mel and the Sixth Doctor and establishes that she comes from 1989. The novel Spiral Scratch, also by Russell, reveals that Mel’s middle name is Jane and that she was born on 22 July 1964 (Langford’s actual birthday). The 2013 Big Finish audio The Wrong Doctors depicts Mel’s first adventure (from her perspective) with the Doctor, an apparent contradiction of Business Unusual.
Mel’s history after she leaves the Seventh Doctor is not explored in the series. However, some of the spin-off novels and short stories add to her history. In the Virgin New Adventures novel Head Games by Steve Lyons, it is revealed that Glitz tired of Mel and left her on the decrepit leisure world Avalone. Mel was left here for months until she was finally saved by Jason and the fictional Dr Who. It is revealed that her decision to leave the Doctor was actually due to psychic persuasion on the Doctor’s part, so he can go on to become the darker and more manipulative Time’s Champion. Mel confronts the Seventh Doctor over this, and at the end of the novel he returns her to 20th century Earth and Pease Pottage (the short story “Business as Usual” by Gary Russell, published in the anthology More Short Trips).
In Heritage by Dale Smith, it is revealed that at some point Mel travels in time and space again, ending up on the planet Heritage, where she dies in the 61st century. However, this story takes place during a story arc in which enemies of the Doctor are attempting to eliminate his companions from the timeline, so Mel’s fate in Heritage may be part of an alternate destiny that vanishes once those enemies are defeated.
The unofficial novel Time’s Champion provides more details on how the Doctor became Time’s Champion and Mel’s involvement. However, this book was published unofficially (after being rejected), and its canonical status is thus even more unclear than for official spin-off material. This book also offers a different explanation for the Sixth Doctor’s regeneration than both the televised series of events in Time and the Rani and the official novel Spiral Scratch.
Bonnie Langford played Mel once again in the 1993 charity special, Dimensions in Time, and has voiced the character in a series of audio plays from Big Finish Productions, alongside Colin Baker and Sylvester McCoy as the Sixth and Seventh Doctors. Langford has also voiced an alternative, more cynical version of Mel in the Doctor Who Unbound play He Jests at Scars….
The canonicity of non-television stories is unclear.
List of appearances
- Season 23
- Season 24
- 30th anniversary special
- The One Doctor
- The Juggernauts
- Thicker than Water
- The Wishing Beast & The Vanity Box
- The Brink of Death
- The Fires of Vulcan
- We Are The Daleks
- A Life of Crime
- Fiesta of the Damned
- Maker of Demons
- He Jests at Scars… (Doctor Who Unbound series, outside of regular Doctor Who continuity; interacts mainly with the Valeyard)
- Business Unusual by Gary Russell
- The Quantum Archangel by Craig Hinton (Spends some time in an alternate timeline where she interacts with the Third Doctor)
- Instruments of Darkness by Gary Russell
- Heritage by Dale Smith (Primarily in flashbacks as the Doctor investigates her death)
- Spiral Scratch by Gary Russell (Interacts with multiple alternate versions of herself)
- “Brief Encounter: A Wee Deoch an..?” by Colin Baker (Doctor Who Magazine Winter Special 1991)
- “Fegovy” by Gareth Roberts (Decalog 3: Consequences)
- “The Man Who Wouldn’t Give Up” by Nev Fountain (Short Trips: Past Tense)
- “Mortal Thoughts” by Trevor Baxendale (Short Trips: Life Science)
- “Sold Out” by (Short Trips: A Day in the Life)
- “The Invertebrates of Doom” by Andrew Collins (Short Trips: Zodiac)
- “Daisy Chain” by (Short Trips: 2040)
- “Uranus” by Craig Hinton (Short Trips: The Solar System)
- “Special Weapons” by Paul Leonard (More Short Trips)
- “The Eyes Have It” by (Short Trips: Snapshots)
- “24 Crawford Street” by (Short Trips: The Ghosts of Christmas)
- “Dr Cadabra” by Trevor Baxendale (Short Trips: The Ghosts of Christmas)
- “Driftwood” by Dale Smith (Short Trips: Transmissions)
- “The Jumping of the Shark” by and (Shelf Life)
- “The Finest Restaurant Known to Man” by (Shelf Life)
- “Plastic Millennium” by Gareth Roberts and Martin Geraghty (Doctor Who Winter Special 1994)
- Mel had shared this distinction with the Doctor’s granddaughter and original companion Susan Foreman, until Susan’s departure from Gallifrey with the First Doctor was depicted fifty years after-the-fact in 2013’s “The Name of the Doctor“.
- John Nathan-Turner, Doctor Who: The Companions, Piccadilly Press (1986).
- Jo Grant was unknown to the Third Doctor when she started working for UNIT and him, yet she is seen by the First and Second Doctors in The Three Doctors; Sergeant Benton and Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart had been unknown to the Second Doctor, yet are seen by the First Doctor in The Three Doctors
- Sarah Jane Smith, Vislor Turlough, and Tegan Jovanka interact with the First, Second, and Third Doctors in the “The Five Doctors”, yet they are not known to the Doctor when starting their respective companionships of the Third and Fifth Doctors.
- Rose Tyler meets the Ninth Doctor as an infant in “Father’s Day” when he is already travelling with her adult self; adult Rose meets the Tenth Doctor in “The End of Time” months before the Ninth Doctor first meets her in “Rose”.
The Ninth Doctor meets the Face of Boe (who calls the Doctor “Old Friend”) in “The End of the World” before Jack Harkness meets the Ninth Doctor in “The Empty Child”; the Ninth and Tenth Doctors interact with Jack and the Face of Boe in apparently chronological order until Jack is revealed in “The Last of the Time Lords” to be the Face of Boe’s younger self.
As a young boy, Mickey Smith meets the Ninth Doctor in “Father’s Day”, shortly after (from the Doctor’s perspective) the Doctor met adult Mickey in “Rose”.
Martha Jones first bumps into the Tenth Doctor en route to work in “Smith and Jones”, whereupon he meets her; he bumps into her hours later (from his perspective) on her way to work the previous morning.
Amelia Pond unknowingly meets the Eleventh Doctor and her adult self in “Good Night”, two years before the Eleventh Doctor meets her in “The Eleventh Hour”; he then continues to interact with Amy in her youth and adulthood in “The Big Bang”; after reading her farewell message to him and seeing her grave in “The Angels Take Manhattan”, he revisits her childhood self (at her adult self’s request) on the morning after he had met her in 1995.
The Eleventh Doctor who invites Amy, Rory, and River to his own “death” at Lake Silencio in “The Impossible Astronaut”/”The Wedding of River Song” is hundreds of years older than the Doctor whom they join immediately afterwards.
After meeting the 21st century incarnation of Clara Oswald in “The Bells of St. John”, the Eleventh Doctor goes back to the 1990s to watch her grow up in “The Rings of Akhaten”.
The Tenth Doctor first encounters non-companion Elizabeth I who has declared him her mortal enemy in “The Shakespeare Code”. He beds and abandons her off-camera between “The Waters of Mars” and “The End of Time”, causing her reaction to seeing him in the earlier serial; further complicating things, the Eleventh Doctor becomes her step-brother-in-law years earlier, when River Song’s mother, Amy Pond, accidentally marries Henry VIII in “The Power of Three”.
In “Blink”, the Doctor and Martha send messages to non-companion Sally Sparrow through video tapes; who then gives them her notes when they first meet her.
The Great Intelligence encounters the Eleventh Doctor in 1892 in “The Snowmen”, 43 years before the Second Doctor first encountered the Great Intelligence in The Abominable Snowman.Canton Delaware III’s relationship with the Doctor is in-sync in “The Impossible Astronaut” & “Day of the Moon”, but Amy Pond, Rory Williams, and River Song meet his elderly self before making the acquaintance of his 41-year-younger self.
- River Song (née Melody Pond) is first met by the Tenth Doctor at the end of River’s life in “Silence in the Library“/”Forest of the Dead“. River’s infant self (via a Living Flesh avatar) subsequently meets the Eleventh Doctor in “A Good Man Goes to War” and again (earlier, from his perspective) as a young girl in “The Impossible Astronaut” and young woman in “Let’s Kill Hitler“.
Their respective timelines remain entirely out of sequence and often double-back on each others and their own, such as when her mature self briefly attends her parents’ wedding which her younger adult self is avoiding in “The Big Bang”, the two Eleventh Doctors and two Rivers (at two different points in her younger life, for a total of three – not including the possible Living Flesh avatar of her embryonic self within Amy Pond) in “The Impossible Astronaut” and “First Night” or the two Eleventh Doctors and three Rivers in “Last Night”.
Her timeline is equally convoluted in relation to those of her parents who know her as at least five different identities (River Song, the mysterious astronaut who appears to kill the Doctor, the little girl who phones President Nixon, their infant daughter Melody Pond, and their best mate Mels for whom Amy named River’s infant self in a predestination paradox) before gradually learning that she is all of them. They even served in loco parentis of Mels during their childhood together, unknowingly rearing their own daughter; and she intentionally caused her own existence by facilitating Amy & Rory’s initiation of their romantic relationship in “Let’s Kill Hitler”.
While it may be a coincidence, River’s birth name and her second incarnation’s nickname (Melody and Mels, respectively) are remarkably similar to the forename and nickname of Melanie “Mel” Bush.
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