Who Is Melanie? Doctor Who 2023 Companion Explained

By Sam Hargrave Posted:
Doctor Who David Tennant

Doctor Who brought back Bonnie Langford's classic companion Mel Bush for Special 3, "The Giggle." But who is Mel and what is her history with the Doctor?

Mel's Doctor Who Return Explained

Mel in Doctor Who 60th The Giggle
Doctor Who

Mel traveled with the Doctor from 1986 to 1987, appearing in 20 classic episodes including in the final adventures with Colin Baker's Sixth Doctor and the debut episodes for Sylvester McCoy's Seventh Doctor.

Funnily enough, Mel's first meeting with the Doctor has never actually been depicted on-screen. She made her debut alongside the Sixth Doctor in "The Trial of the Time Lord" as a companion the Time Lord had yet to meet, snatched out of his future to testify at his trial

Mel 6th Doctor Trial of a Time Lord
Doctor Who

Mel first appeared on Doctor Who as a computer programmer, but she was rarely given anything in particular to do and usually found herself screaming at the show's monster of the week. As such, Langford exited the series in 1987 as she believed she had nothing more to give to the companion character.

In terms of how Mel left the seventh Doctor behind, she departed the show in "Dragonfire" as she chose to travel with and help reform the intergalactic scoundrel Sabalom Glitz aboard the Nosferatu II.

Mel Leaves Doctor Who 7th Doctor
Doctor Who

Langford reprised her Doctor Who role briefly last year in "The Power of the Doctor" as she joined a meet-up of the Doctor's past companions. 

It was during this meeting that U.N.I.T. leader Kate Stewart posed the idea of recruiting members of the group. Mel took her up on this offer as she was already working for the alien-hunting organization at the start of "The Giggle."

Mel in Power of the Doctor
Doctor Who

Going into "The Giggle," Mel appears to be something of an adviser to Kate Stewart given her plentiful experience with aliens during her many travels with the Doctor in her younger years. 

Mel is expected to continue her Doctor Who journey in more future episodes alongside Ncuti Gatwa's 15th Doctor in 2024's Season 14, likely tagging along in more U.N.I.T. adventures with Kate and the gang.

Mel in Doctor Who 60th The Giggle
Doctor Who

During Special 3, Mel addressed the events in her life since, noting how she "traveled the stars" with Glitz until he died, at which point she returned home:

"I traveled the stars. Good old Sabalom Glitz, he lived till he was 101. Died falling over a whisky bottle - it was the perfect way to go. He had this great big Viking funeral and I thought, 'Time to go home'. So I got a lift off a zingo and came back to Earth."

At this point, Mel was met with the tragic reality of her life as she realized her "family are all gone," which eventually led to her recruitment to UNIT:

"And then I had to face up to the one thing I'd been running away from – I've got nothing. My family are all gone. Remember? But then Kate offered me a job and here I am!"

Mel in Doctor Who 60th The Giggle
Doctor Who

Langford broke her silence on her Doctor Who comeback in an interview with The Telegraph, noting how, years after her last appearance, Mel "now really knows her tech," in contrast to her time on the show in the '80s:

"She’s supposed to be a computer programmer, but in the 1980s, she never went anywhere near a computer. I didn’t even touch the TARDIS console. She now really knows her tech – which is a major acting job for me, because I can find it hard to text!"

She added how her character has gone through a "tough time" since her last time on the show, which may well be explored further in future appearances:

"What I can say is that Mel has gone through a tough time. Something dreadful happened to her and her family, and there’s a darkness she has had to deal with. But she valued her time with the Doctor, and still has that immense connection with him in all his forms."

Doctor Who's 60th anniversary specials are streaming now on Disney+ in most territories and exclusively on BBC iPlayer in the UK & Ireland.

- About The Author: Sam Hargrave
Sam Hargrave is the Associate Editor at The Direct. He joined the team as a gaming writer in 2020 before later expanding into writing for all areas of The Direct and taking on further responsibilities such as editorial tasks and image creation.