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Who is Susan Foreman?

By David Ronayne

The character of Susan Foreman, the Doctor's first travelling companion, has always retained an air of mystery. Verity Lambert has always maintained that Susan was the Doctor's granddaughter, a necessary requirement to prevent any suggestion of anything unseemly in having the young girl traveling unescorted with the older man. This caused no problems in 1964, when the Doctor locked her out of the TARDIS so she could find roots in a time of her own, but now, in more enlightened times, there seems to be a flaw in that logic.

Many people have suggested theories on the nature of regeneration. John Peel in The Gallifrey Chronicles proposes that regeneration was effect of an ancient benevolent artificial virus which only affected a small percentage of the Gallifreyan population. The effects were hereditary and produced an elite group that became the Time Lords. This would suggest Susan may have inherited the ability to regenerate.

Other sources suggest that regeneration is 'gifted' to Time Lords on their graduation (TSV 22: The Social Structure of Gallifrey - A Reinterpretation). While this means Susan was unlikely to be able to regenerate, it does suggest that she is potentially extremely long-lived. Romana had 'just graduated' when she joined the Doctor at the age of 140 (using his age given in The Tomb of the Cybermen, the Doctor would have been well over 390 at the time of his first regeneration). Even without additional abilities gained at the academy the Gallifreyan life-span would far exceed that of a human being.

If Susan was the Doctor's granddaughter, it is highly likely that she would easily outlive David Campbell and end up stranded on Earth. So leaving her on Earth would not be the actions of a caring Grandfather. Could it be then, that she is not truly his granddaughter, but perhaps a human orphan or vagrant he adopted on his travels?

In The Sensorites Susan claims her homeworld is '... quite like Earth's ... but at night the sky is a burned orange. And the leaves on the trees are bright silver!' A burnt sky like this was seen in The Invasion of Time, and, as John Peel points out in The Gallifrey Chronicles, this is probably due to a thinner atmosphere, but it is quite possible that more than one world meets this criterion (look at the skies of Thoros Beta for instance). Perhaps Susan could be from one of these worlds?

In 100,000 BC the Doctor claims that he and Susan were exiles, cut off from their own planet, and that one day they will return. This seems to be in conflict with the commonly accepted reasons for the Doctor's departure from Gallifrey (namely, boredom and disillusionment). Could he be referring to Susan's home planet? A world he adopted on his travels? It is also worth noting that no mention was ever made of Susan at the Doctor's trials. Surely kidnapping, or corrupting the youth of Gallifrey with interventionist ideas, rates a charge as much as stealing a TARDIS.

Susan knows about Gallifrey. In The Five Doctors she recognises the Dark Tower, and says, 'We're on Gallifrey ... Why have we been brought here?' One wonders whether she learnt these legends in her childhood on Gallifrey, or if the Doctor taught them to his adopted grandchild?

She did not however refer to Gallifrey as home or even somewhere she'd visited previously.

The novelisation of The Five Doctors claimed that Susan had children by David Campbell. Cross species breeding rarely results in off-spring, and those that do usually produce gender-less half-breeds (e.g. mules). This, and the fact the Doctor has never shown any sexual interest in anything also makes the possibility of Susan being the result of a liaison between the Doctor and an alien he met on his travels highly unlikely.

On the other hand, in all other sources of reference Susan has never been referred to by the Doctor as anything other than 'granddaughter' even in the New Adventures, which have made many startling claims about the Doctor's past. In Cat's Cradle: Time's Crucible it is implied that Gallifreyans are sterile and the race survives by manipulation of the family's genetic loom. Could this then mean the Doctor is Susan's Gallifreyan equivalent of a grandfather - 'same genetic batch line - twice removed'? The prologue of Nightshade is a flashback to the Doctor's departure from Gallifrey, without Susan. (Although it is worth noting that this section also refers to the trees of silver which Susan described as growing on her homeworld).

In fact, the New Adventures seem to have a policy regarding Susan's identity, at least according to Paul Cornell in TSV 28. Hints in Transit and Peter Darvill-Evans' comments at the end of Deceit suggest the argument whether she is human or Gallifreyan is completely irrelevant.

The term 'TARDIS' also deserves a mention with respect to Susan. In the first story she claims that she created the anagram that has been used throughout the series. This presents problems as how could a girl so young (even if she was Gallifreyan) be responsible for creating the term which must have rapidly become common amongst the normally static Gallifreyan society. This problem can be easily dispelled when considering the vagaries of the TARDIS translation system, but that can wait until next issue.

This item appeared in TSV 38 (March 1994).