It was the subject of rumours and theories for a year… Ones that only got stronger once The Power of the Doctor wonderfully brought her back to TV Doctor Who. It is great that Bonnie Langford returns as Melanie Bush for Series 14. This time, with a story that will have the space to dive even further into her and – bring her back into contact with the Doctor!
On top of that, rumours persist that she will also be in at least one of the 60th Anniversary Specials this November. Rumours are unlikely to disappear, as her announcement photo let slip an interesting but key detail. Melanie Bush on a helipad set. A helipad set that TARDIS Central reported about back in June of 2022 when filming was ongoing for those. Spotted in the Google Maps imagery as an outdoor set-build on the premises of Wolf Studios Wales – it raised plenty of questions then and even more now. But the biggest question remains: what does Mel’s return mean?
Melanie Bush’s Significance To Russell T Davies
Let’s get into the obvious elephant in the room – this isn’t the first time that Russell T Davies has written for Melanie Bush. His first run at that was actually writing a Sixth Doctor story in the late 1980s whilst she was the current companion. Back in those long-gone days, hopeful writer-fans could send in their scripts to the Doctor Who production team. And Davies was one of them.
In his script – Mind of the Hodiac – the story centred around the Sixth Doctor and Melanie Bush. Notably, it gave Mel a lot more focus as a companion figure… But alas, unlike Andrew Smith’s Full Circle some years prior, the story would not be picked up for production. Not until Davies dug it out in 2020 and Big Finish came a-knocking to adapt it into an audio story in 2022. With Scott Handcock (now the script editor for the current run of Doctor Who) directing and co-writing the audio version of the story.
As such, it will be interesting to see them both handle Melanie Bush. The pair have a rare situation where they have already worked with the actress and the companion in a slightly different context. At any rate, it’s a given thing that Davies is happy to give her character more of a spotlight than the TV Doctor Who stories of the 1980s gave her.
Mel’s Computer Skills
One of the most obvious things about Melanie Bush is her infamous character biography. Sadly underutilised at the time, partly due to the unusual nature of Terror of the Vervoids as a debut story & Colin Baker’s departure before Season 24… Mel comes from a place in England called Pease Pottage and is a computer programmer. The show never got to show off the programmer side of Mel, though the expanded media through the years certainly made good use of it in adding new stories for Mel with the Sixth and Seventh Doctors.
In bringing Mel back for a larger role on TV, it would therefore be fair to expect that we will see this side of her. Sure, one Collection Blu-Ray trailer showed her being a space-station businesswoman. Yet, it doesn’t quite feel like it would be right to leave that unexplored. There’s room for a programmer to get caught up in alien antics. (The Big Finish audio We Are The Daleks is a good example of Mel’s enthusiasm catching her up in a surprising Dalek plot.)
There’s speculation now starting up among fans about the mysterious Triad Technology. And a techie companion? That’d fit well! So far, we’ve seen their logo on a bus advertisement in exterior filming for the 2023 Christmas Special (2023.X) and as a lighting decoration on location for filming of the last Series 14 block. The block (directed by Jamie Donoughue) consists of Episode 14.7 and Episode 14.8. Bonnie Langford has been seen at the latter location for filming. So, it’s likely Melanie Bush’s taken some interest in them…
Melanie Bush: A Strong Fit For UNIT
Her technical skills also make Melanie Bush well-placed for working with UNIT. Like Kate said in The Power of the Doctor – she might have some work for some of those former companions. Mel’s specialised skills could come in handy. And she’s always rather willing to take matters into her own hands.
In her debut story Terror of the Vervoids (which isn’t actually her first adventure with the Doctor – again it’s complicated), she showed that well enough. Whilst the Sixth Doctor deals with other affairs, she gets rather curious about the rest of the Hyperion III spaceship. In the process, her inquisitiveness brings her towards a plot of murder. (She’s much luckier than a certain crew member who gets electrocuted whilst showing her around. Though, she does have rather a close moment at one point. It’s what happens when there are murderers onboard a ship, evidently.)
And she’s often keeping her eye on things that the Doctor hasn’t necessarily got the time for. Some of the lesser-appreciated inhabitants of Paradise Towers (friendly or deadly…), and even Delta in Delta and the Bannermen. It often leads her to trouble (and surely will do in Series 14), but it’s clear that all she ever wants to do is help. She’s got determination and independence. Lots and lots of it. A fine mix for a returning past companion!
Good To Put With Other Companions & Characters
Admittedly, more of a thing that’s covered in expanded media… But Mel always makes for a great pair-up with others. Throughout Delta and the Bannermen, for instance, she gets to do everything from gaining the trust of Delta as she flees her pursuer… To meeting a slightly mystical beekeeper called Goronwy, and becoming chummy with him. Whether it’s someone gleefully accepting the existence of aliens or someone utterly dismayed by how their day is being disrupted – they all get on with Melanie Bush.
For the newcomer companion Ruby Sunday (played by Millie Gibson), she’d make for a great mentor-like figure. Someone to help her keep learning about what travelling with the Doctor is like. (Sure, Ruby already has Kate Stewart to help in Series 14 – but another mentor wouldn’t hurt!)
And I do have to wonder how she will interact with Lenny Rush‘s Morris. Though it’s as yet unclear if he is another UNIT operative… Russell T Davies has let slip on Instagram the character: “What’s secreted in the Segway?! And will his terrifying probabilities be proved true..?” Might these be probabilities calculated with the help of something like a quantum computer? If so, might Mel be helping with that? Could it all have something to do with the mysterious Triad Technologies? (Oh dear, I’m starting to layer up questions in a text block just as much as Russell does!)
Answering Departure Questions
A lesser concern, but one that would be interesting… Just how did Melanie Bush get home, and why? Last she was seen on TV, she ran off. Adventuring with bounty hunter Glitz! Whilst expanded media has – as we said – somewhat touched upon what happens after this… For a TV-only audience, it would be interesting to see some rationale. Perhaps Mel has had a near-fatal incident out in space and decided to pack it in? Maybe at some point, Glitz and Mel were separated? It could even be that she felt she was more needed on Earth than out there. (Jo Grant certainly felt that way.)
Seeing the Doctor, like with The Power of the Doctor, have to unpack what has happened with Mel in the past few decades would make sense. Will she be harsher, or is she the same personable funny Melanie Bush as she always was? (I’d suspect the latter!) And given that she was a companion who traveled with two incarnations of the Doctor – it certainly is exciting to imagine what she will think of yet another new Doctor.
Though, we hope this time that said new Doctor doesn’t have to deal with the Rani or anyone pretending to be her. Once was enough. Then again, it would be a neat thing if the Doctor and Mel could once again fight against the Rani, in a new incarnation. Rather fun thought! But whatever the future actually holds for Melanie Bush… One thing is certain. She’s gonna be amazing.
Doctor Who will air in November 2023 with three special episodes as the show’s 60th Anniversary headliner event. David Tennant returns as the 14th Doctor alongside Catherine Tate as Donna Noble. Ncuti Gatwa’s first episode as the Fifteenth Doctor will air over the festive period, while his series 14 will debut in 2024 with Millie Gibson. Disney+ will be the exclusive home for new seasons of Doctor Who outside of the UK and Ireland.