Doctor Who Fixed A Big Problem With Its Most Controversial Companion


Doctor Who and companions seem to go hand in hand. Though The Doctor is more than capable of standing on his own two feet, having a friend to explore the latest alien planet with, helps to create a comfortable dynamic throughout the show. But as the show celebrates its 6th decade, it’s evident that not every companion is as loved as some others.

Melanie Bush, better known as Mel, joined the cast in 1986 and quickly divided fans. Though she was written as a high-class computer whiz, Bonnie Langford’s portrayal of the character made her seem extremely immature and hysterical. But, her return to the show in 2022 offered her the chance to re-write her history. So, with a whole new persona under her belt, fans are curious as to what Mel Bush will offer the franchise next.

Who Is Melanie Bush?

Melanie Bush is an integral part of the Doctor Who canon, mainly because she was present for multiple Doctors’ regenerations. She first appeared in Trial of a Time Lord, a short season that explored how the Sixth Doctor would be punished for breaking several laws of Gallifrey. Though Bush was present during the Sixth Doctor’s regeneration, she was knocked out by radiation. She also travels alongside the Seventh Doctor, combating fearsome aliens with other popular companions such as Ace.

Despite her prevalence on the show, many contemporary fans had a strong dislike of Mel Bush. Audiences viewed her as a damsel in distress, which caused various plots to be centered around her hysterical reactions rather than the issue at hand. Plus, Bush is characterized by her computer skills but is rarely allowed to go near the TARDIS, let alone take control of the console. Thus, throughout the 1980s, Mel Bush was seen as a crybaby who distracted from stronger companions and storylines during her arc.

However, as Melanie continued to appear in various audio dramas, her character seemed to take a turn for the better. Bush was no longer an over-dramatic character but a fierce and compassionate companion. These traits also carried over into the 2020s, when Langford reprised her role in The Power of the Doctor. Thus, as she re-enters the Doctor Who canon, it’s clear that Mel Bush is no longer a stereotypical female companion but a force to be reckoned with in her own right.

Why Is Her Character So Controversial?

Alongside being quite over-dramatic, Mel Bush follows the traits of a typical ’60s woman. As such, she’s often overly reliant on her male counterparts, theatrical and sensational. Thus, she seemed to be a bit dated, even for audiences in the 1980s. In Season 24, Episode 1, “Time and the Rani,” Mel gets trapped in a bubble contraption and thrown off the side of a cliff. Instead of showing an ounce of bravery in the midst of this situation, Mel resorts to screaming and wailing her arms around. Though this probably seems like a suitable reaction for many audiences, it comes across as a bit much. This is especially true when fans compare Mel to modern companions like Yasmin Khan, who, in times of trouble, reminds herself, “What Would The Doctor Do?” Plus, even though the bubble lands safely in the water, she still has an immense reaction. As such, Mel’s exuberant response often made contemporary audiences cringe, inadvertently labeling her as a bit of a softie.

Another example of Mel’s amplified responses to danger is in Season 24, Episode 4, “Dragonfire.” In this episode, Ace and Mel fear for their lives as they come face to face with a snarling dragon. Mel, of course, begins screaming and howling. Yet, even though Ace is a lot younger than her counterpart, supposedly around 17, she shows a lot more confidence and restraint. As such, the audience is yet again forced to watch Mel act irrationally while The Doctor and her fellow companions try to save the planet.

Mel Bush Is Now One of the Best Modern Companions

There’s no denying that Mel developed a bad reputation during her time on Doctor Who, but as the years went by, her character grew from strength to strength. Since returning in 2022, Mel has managed to secure a lucrative role at UNIT as a computer programmer. Though this may seem like a small nod to her past, it helps to give her character a much-needed sense of development and context. For example, in Season 14, Episode 7, “The Legend of Ruby Sunday,” Bush is responsible for keeping a close eye on the elusive Susan Triad. As such, she’s no longer forced to scream and wail to get The Doctor’s attention, as she is able to take on larger roles by herself. In turn, it’s clear that a greater sense of responsibility has given this classic companion a new lease on life.

Bush’s new-found sense of ambition is also evident in Season 14, Episode 8, “Empire of Death.” As the Suketh works to wipe out the population with a swarming dust cloud, Mel gives The Doctor a ride on her scooter, and the pair go whizzing around Central London. Not only is it extremely entertaining to see this woman riding a vintage scooter, but this scene works to completely alter the audience’s previous perception of Mel. In turn, this companion strives to push away from her damsel in distress past and is now working to pull her own weight and finally save The Doctor by herself. Although the criticisms surrounding Mel Bush were probably formed from misogyny, it’s clear that she is now a strong woman and a great example of a modern Doctor Who companion.

Will Mel Bush Return to Doctor Who Soon?

Bonnie Langford is undeniably one of the UK’s most memorable performers, leading parts on both stage and screen. As such, Langford’s keen sense of enthusiasm is often what made Mel Bush so intriguing. Whether fans love her or hate her, Bush has been a pivotal part of many key stories, making her an integral asset to the entire Doctor Who canon.

Since making her mark on a plethora of Big Finish audio dramas and returning to the show, it seems that Mel Bush is gearing herself up to go on more adventures with The Doctor. With a new UNIT spin-off in development, it’s possible that Bush could be involved in this project, leading the organization on a series of new adventures. Regardless of what’s on the horizon for Doctor Who, it seems that fans have changed their minds about Melanie Bush and now welcome her presence with open arms.