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The only time I can recall the term "companion" being used in canon is in Asylum of the Daleks:

WHITE: It is known the Doctor required companions.

But I'm pretty sure the term predates this episode, so where did it originally come from? Did the pre-reboot Doctors use it a lot? Or did the staff/fans start using it one day and it just stuck?

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    Possibly because they accompany him. – Petersaber Jul 20 '15 at 10:08
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    @Petersaber I think the point of the question is that it seems to be a pretty standard term for them. There are plenty of synonyms that could be used (and I would say many are more obvious than companion), but everyone uses "companion" despite it not being used in canon. I think it's a good question. +1 – Moogle Jul 20 '15 at 10:46
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    I honestly can't think of a synonym off the top of my head... in my opinion it's just the most accurate and appropriate word, and there's little more to it. I think a few people thought of it, used it, and it spread and stuck. I might be wrong, of course – Petersaber Jul 20 '15 at 11:02
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    @Petersaber - Companion could equate to: friend; buddy; mate; chum; cohort; acquaintance; confidant; colleague; escort; attendant; fellow traveler. There are a lot of words which could be used to describe the person who travels with the Doctor ... Why use companion? When did that person start being called companion? – Pᴀᴜʟsᴛᴇʀ2 Jul 20 '15 at 12:14
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    @Paulster2 You've never heard the term "travelling companion"? – Anthony Grist Jul 20 '15 at 14:01
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tl;dr: The term was used sparingly starting around the Fifth Doctor's run, became pretty commonplace by the end of the original series, and became "official" sometime after the 2005 reboot.


The term "companion" is mostly an out-of-universe term used by the production staff to refer to the regular non-Doctor stars of the show. It was popularized mostly by the fan base, though the show's production staff also used it internally. It's now become "official", appearing in BBC media related to the show.

In the older series, the term was not used very regularly. Instead, the early Doctors tended to refer to their cohorts as "assistants". If you ever get to see interviews with the actors and actresses from that era, this is the term they tend to use for themselves.

Around the time of the Fifth doctor, a new production team came on, and the term "companion" started to be used, shortened from the phrase "travelling companion". The general idea was that "assistant" might be considered a bit condescending. They wanted a term that did not impose and kind of value judgement on the relationship between the Doctor and their companions, but merely described it: they traveled in the TARDIS together.

By that time, the Doctor's companions had started to take on a more equal role in the show: they weren't just there to do what The Doctor told them. There's even a scene in "School Reunion" where Sarah Jane calls Rose an "assistant" and she gets pretty offended. This is meant mostly as an in-joke, since Sarah Jane would have been referred to almost exclusively as an "assistant" during her initial run.

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    +1 Awesome, exactly what I was looking for. Accepting for now since it's hard to imagine anyone outdoing this answer. – Ixrec Jul 20 '15 at 13:17
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Companion

Companion predates assistant. In The Forest of Fear (Episode 3, original air date December 12 1963) Fear makes companions of all of us. That's right.

Ian and Barbara were kidnapped; they didn't set out to travel with the Doctor and Susan.

Assistant

While the Doctor was exiled on Earth (and couldn't travel by TARDIS) he started being assigned assistants by Lethbridge-Stewart (hence his initial reaction to Jo Grant in Terror of the Autons Another one?).

Full-circle with Listen

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    Good catch in noticing this early use of the word, but I don't think this line was meant to establish the "standard" term for the people who travel with the Doctor back then, for example in the next story "The Daleks", Ian uses a different term, saying "We're fellow travellers whether we like it or not." Though I did find another early example of "companion" being used--in "The Space Museum", an alien named Tor says to Vicki (one of the Doctor's companions at the time) "First of all, we must find your companions." – Hypnosifl Jul 30 '15 at 3:36

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