Bonnie Langford as Mel Bush in Doctor Who special "The Giggle"

This ‘Doctor Who’ 60th-Anniversary Guest Star Has a Unique History With the Show

Bonnie Langford’s Melanie “Mel” Bush is back in the Doctor Who 60th anniversary special “The Giggle.” However, given that she’s a companion from the show’s classic days, modern viewers might not be familiar with her story.

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Langford was one of several stars from the show’s history who returned for the 3-part anniversary special. Catherine Tate and David Tennant also reprised their roles as Donna Noble and the Doctor, respectively. Meanwhile, Donna’s return also marked the return of her iconic family, including her husband Sean Temple (Karli Collins), mother Sylvia Noble (Jacqueline King), and grandfather Wilfred Mott (Bernard Cribbins). The Nobles have been one of the staples of the modern Doctor Who era, as Donna has long been considered one of the greatest companions of the Doctor.

Donna wasn’t the only companion to return, though. Mel returned in the final special, “The Giggle,” where it was revealed she had been working for UNIT. One might have expected Donna to outshine Mel due to Donna’s familiarity and her outspoken and humorous manners. However, Mel held her own surprisingly well. As equal parts fierce, tender, and optimistic, she stood out among the new and returning faces in Doctor Who. So, who is this intriguing companion of the Doctor?

Mel Bush’s Doctor Who history explained

Bonnie Langford as Mel Bush in classic Doctor Who

Mel first arrived in Doctor Who as a companion of the Sixth Doctor (Colin Baker) in 1986. She had a rather unusual entrance into the franchise, as her meeting with the Doctor was never even shown onscreen. This is because she first appeared in “The Trial of a Time Lord” storyline. As the title suggests, the story sees the Doctor on trial by the High Council of Time Lords after breaking some Time Lord laws. During the trial, future events in his life are played out as evidence for the court. It is in his future that he first sees Mel and the adventures they’ll share. A future version of Mel also testifies in court, with the Doctor presumably later returning her to her own timeline.

The Doctor and Mel’s actual meeting was supposed to be covered in the next season. However, Doctor Who underwent a hiatus after “The Trial of a Time Lord,” and Baker would ultimately not return to the role. Since he didn’t even return for a final regeneration episode, it wasn’t possible to cover his meeting with Mel. Fortunately, she stayed on as the companion of the Seventh Doctor (Sylvester McCoy) after an abrupt regeneration scene. She then carried on as his companion, but only for a short while. Eventually, she decided to leave the Doctor to adventure with Sabalom Glitz (Tony Selby), a career criminal and unlikely ally of the Doctor who acquired his own spacecraft, Nosferatu II.

Although Mel’s Doctor Who story was relatively brief and a bit overshadowed by the show’s hiatus and Baker’s departure, viewers still got a good idea of the character through her adventures with the Doctor. She was a very perky and optimistic companion. As a fitness enthusiast and vegetarian, she even tried to get the Doctor to live a healthier lifestyle by overseeing his diet and exercise. Meanwhile, when she departed with Glitz, it was with the desire to help him turn from his criminal ways. Some might label her bossy, but her intentions are always good, as she truly believes she can change anyone for the better. Mel is also a brilliant woman; she has a photographic memory and works as a computer programmer.

What happened to Mel in Doctor Who?

Mel’s departure from Doctor Who felt a little rushed. Langford chose to leave the show, and McCoy fought for her to have a satisfactory albeit speedy departure. Still, nothing was stopping her from seeing the Doctor again someday, and her adventures in space raised the possibility of the pair crossing paths. However, for the longest time, Mel didn’t return. While Langford has contributed to several Big Finish Doctor Who audio dramas, she didn’t reprise her role onscreen until last year’s Doctor Who special, “The Power of the Doctor.” It was revealed in the special that she was part of a support group for the Doctor’s companions.

Viewers didn’t have answers about what she was doing back on earth until “The Giggle,” though. The Doctor is shocked and delighted to be reunited with Mel, who, as mentioned above, is working with the military organization UNIT. Unfortunately, Mel reveals that her story hasn’t been as sunshiny as her personality. It turns out that Glitz died at age 101 after tripping on a whiskey bottle. This prompted Mel to return to earth, where she sadly learned she was all alone in the world. Her family and friends had passed or moved on during the years she spent in space. Fortunately, she found a new purpose by working with UNIT.

Additionally, her friendship with the Doctor can carry on due to the show’s regeneration twist. By the end of the episode, she seems to have been welcomed into the Noble family, too. Considering that she and Donna may also be work buddies at UNIT, it’s lovely to see them getting along. With both of them staying on in the Doctor Who universe within a major organization, their returns are possible. Maybe they could even get their own UNIT spinoff series. Mel had an usual run with the Doctor, but “The Giggle” gives her previously ambiguous story more context and a happy ending.

(featured image: BBC)

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Rachel Ulatowski
Rachel Ulatowski is a Staff Writer for The Mary Sue, who frequently covers DC, Marvel, Star Wars, literature, and celebrity news. She has over three years of experience in the digital media and entertainment industry, and her works can also be found on Screen Rant, JustWatch, and Tell-Tale TV. She enjoys running, reading, snarking on YouTube personalities, and working on her future novel when she's not writing professionally. You can find more of her writing on Twitter at @RachelUlatowski.