|Home era:||20th century|
|Travelled with:||David Segal Doctor, Jeffrey Coburn Doctor|
|First appearance:||Countdown to Armageddon|
|Last appearance:||Morningstar Manor|
|Portrayed by:||Sheri Devine|
A spunky nineteen year old college student who is best described as someone who rushes in where angels fear to tread. Attended the Canterbury School for Girls until she was enslaved by the Master and then befriended by the Doctor. Vegetarian. Always in search of “adventure”. Talks a good game, but when the chips are down, doesn't quite have it in her. Not a coward, but rather not as brave as she thinks she is. But then never seems to learn her lesson, either. She is willing to speak her mind. Has more “smarts” than she realises. Not a flirt, but seems to have had a different boyfriend every week, much to the consternation of her parents. Plays the flute. Favourite author is Hans Christian Anderson. Looks up to the Doctor as someone she respects, though she may not always heed his sage advice. Tends to make rash decisions.
The character of Dara Hamilton was actually conceived even before Comdr. Mark Triyad was considered being brought back as a regular. But it was always the intention of Doug Phillips to wait until David Segal’s final story, Countdown to Armageddon, before introducing her. It didn’t take long for Dara to begin to shine as a companion. Even after being thrust in the middle of the ongoing duel between the Doctor and the Master, she still had enough wits about to challenge the Doctor and his fantastic, and understandably unbelievable, claims of menacing aliens and galactic doom.
Almost immediately, though, both Dara and Comdr. Mark Triyad had to fade into the background somewhat as a new Doctor came onto the scene. But this didn’t last for long, and in the new Doctor’s second story, it was him and Dara alone who had to challenge the evil Processor and his Registers, Mark Triyad having only a small roll in the beginning and end of the story.
In this story, The Price of Paradise, we really got a chance to see who Dara was. While she does serve her function as the typical companion — becoming caught up in the machinery of the system, adding tension as she is threatened with erasure — it wasn’t long before she struck out on her own, bringing together the retros and leading them to victory against the Processor and the Program which controlled everyone’s lives for so long. During an interesting sequence, we see Dara matching almost word for word the Doctor in their simultaneous arguments against the inhumanity of the Program, speaking volumes on her passion and intelligence. “I saw in Dara the chance to give the companion something more to do than just allow the Doctor to show off his wisdom,” recalls Robin-Mary Manseth, writer of Paradise. “It was actually my suggestion that Mark Triyad be left out of the story so we could concentrate more on Dara.
“Too often the companion gets very little to do. They ask questions so the audience can know what is happening, they move the plot along and sometimes provide a second story line, but hardly do they do anything of substance. I was glad to finally see someone like Dara who was able to hold her own, who could think and act independently of the Doctor without being irritating or pushy.”
Empire of the Daleks was the first time Dara had made any mention of her family in detail or her reasons for attending the Canterbury School for Girls. We are treated to an intimate portrait of a loving mother and father who, like typical parents, only wanted the best for their daughter even if Dara didn’t quite see it that way. Dara also expresses great sorrow and sympathy for Mark when Serena is killed, and is genuinely sad when he elects to stay behind in present-day Earth.
In The Doomsday Signal, we are treated to the side of Dara which was cause for much consternation by her parents...and some from the Doctor himself: Dara’s teenage heart. Making quick friends with Hawk, she virtually abandons the Doctor in favour of her new friend, leaving the Doctor to enjoy Mardi Gras alone. But we also see some of that fire we saw in The Price of Paradise. She first demands that Hawk follow her instead of the other way around when the aliens start attacking, and she also takes the petty thief Lucky and teaches him that helping his fellow man takes much more courage than stealing from him.
Dara continues to show her strong spirit in The Augury of Death and Devinaura IV, all the way through to her final story, Morningstar Manor, where she must muster all her strength to fight off the creature that tries to feed off her fears. And even after everything she has gone through, she still wants to continue travelling with the Doctor despite the dangers. But it is the Doctor who finally asks her to leave, not being able to bear the thought of some tragedy befalling her.
Despite the character development for Dara, what was probably the most interesting thing about her was the Doctor’s attitude toward her. Not since the Jon Pertwee-Katy Manning era was the Doctor ever seen to become so close to a companion. Throughout Dara’s time with the Doctor, he showed far more protectiveness toward Dara than for anyone else who travelled with him. When Dara realised that her parents and friends were probably killed by the Dalek invasion in Empire of the Daleks, the Doctor was beside her offering her comfort, explaining that he feels all his companions are part of his family.
Like the Pertwee Doctor, Jeffrey Coburn’s character seemed almost jealous whenever Dara would show an interest in someone. Hawk from The Doomsday Signal or Christoph from Morningstar Manor being especially good examples.
Tellingly, the Doctor displayed a part of his loneliness and fondness for his young companion in Devinaura IV when, upon beginning to regain consciousness, Dara mistakes the Doctor for her father. The Doctor responds with what appears to be genuine regret in his voice when he confesses, “No. It’s just me”.
The Doctor’s true feelings are finally summed up in a single word in Morningstar Manor when he asks Dara to leave the TARDIS for her own safety. Dare argues with him, not wanting to leave. The Doctor tries to convince her that it is for her own good, but when she will not listen, the Doctor becomes frustrated and scolds her, saying, “That is enough Susan”! Susan, of course, being the Doctor’s granddaughter. The Doctor realises his mistake and apologies, but Dara understands...possibly only just beginning to understand for the first time just how much her friend cares for her, and she finally relents and says goodbye.What would become of Dara after her time with the Doctor we can only guess. Of course she is older and wiser. But, as we see when she meets up with her friend Michelle Talbot, she hasn’t only gained some of the Doctor’s wisdom of the universe, but also some of his irreverence as well. Both will probably make her more well balanced in the long run.