John and his sister Gillian were originally natives of 20th century Earth. However, after visiting their grandfather in his TARDIS, they were whisked away into adventure. The Doctor attempted to get them home for some time after this, but faced trouble because of the damaged controls of the TARDIS. The two spent much time in his care, and grew from children into teenagers. They eventually gave up on their ambitions of returning to 1964, and enjoyed their adventures across the universe.
At some point, the pair stopped traveling with the grey-haired Dr. Who and began traveling with his next incarnation instead. The trio fought Kleptons, Daleks, Cybermen, Witches, and Trods, but when faced with the threat of the Quarks, the Doctor chose to enroll them at Zebadee University so they could be safe without him.
A few accounts claimed that John and Gillian never really existed, and that they were fictional beings or dreams. However, the vast majority of sources treated them as totally real. Additionally, the accounts which claimed they were fictitious seemed to disregard the pair aging and leaving for university.
Nature and origins
Although most accounts held that John was a real, corporeal being, (COMIC: The Klepton Parasites, Guests of King Neptune, PROSE: The Man Who (Nearly) Killed Christmas, et al.) some accounts suggested that he and Gillian never actually travelled with the real Dr. Who. One suggested that the "Dr. Who" who travelled with his grandchildren existed in the Land of Fiction. While visiting, the Seventh Doctor encountered a "John" and "Gillian" who claimed he was their grandfather in whose company they had fought the Kleptons and the Trods. They tried to make him remember that his name was Dr. Who, to which he flatly replied with denial. When they pressed further and asked if he remembered them, he said that he didn't. (PROSE: Conundrum)
Another, unrelated account stated that the Eighth Doctor had dreams in which he had adventures with a version of John and Gillian. These dreams helped the Time Lord unwind by suggesting a less complicated reality where "villains are naughty, not evil", "people never die" and "promises are never broken". (COMIC: The Land of Happy Endings)
In yet another account, John and Gillian did indeed physically exist and travel with the Doctor, but they were mathematically-computed simulacra given reality by the TARDIS based on the Doctor's wishes. They were only two of "thousands" of companions whom the Doctor had created out of thin air, perfect and unchanging, to travel at his side without fear of death, in an effort to avoid responsibilities and anxiety. These evading techniques led to the creation of a psychic entity known as the Five O'Clock Shadow, whom the Doctor would later escape by using the same TARDIS functionality to give life to perfectly angst-free versions of himself and Susan. (PROSE: The Five O'Clock Shadow)
Entering the TARDIS
According to most sources, John and Gillian once lived in England in the 20th century, (COMIC: The Klepton Parasites, The Therovian Quest, et al.) specifically in 1964. (COMIC: Nostalgia Corner) On one occasion, they were sent to meet their grandfather at a specific address, which they found to be an empty yard with a Police Box inside. Inside the box, they met their grandfather, who explained to them that they were inside a time machine. John, fascinated by the controls, pressed a button and sent the ship into the 30th century.
The time ship landed on a planet, where the alien Kleptons had recently invaded and enslaved the native, peaceful Thains. John, Gillian, and the Doctor helped defeat the Kleptons and free the Thain's world. Afterwards, they took off in the time-ship again, with the Doctor promising to take them back to the 20th century but neither child minding what century the next adventure took them to. (COMIC: The Klepton Parasites)
Travels with the older Dr. Who
John travelled subsequently with Dr Who and Gillian on many adventures, fighting Ixa, (COMIC: The Therovian Quest) Anastas Thrax, (COMIC: The Hijackers of Thrax) Zarka, (COMIC: On the Web Planet) the Gyros, (COMIC: The Gyros Injustice) Gritog, (COMIC: Prisoners of Gritog) the Pied Piper, (COMIC: Challenge of the Piper) more Kleptons, (COMIC: Prisoners of the Kleptons) the Caterpillar Men, (COMIC: The Caterpillar Men) several giant lizards, (COMIC: Lizardworld) the robots of Bellus , (COMIC: The Ordeals of Demeter) a giant shark, (COMIC: Shark Bait) the Demon Magician, (COMIC: A Christmas Story) a group of Space Rebels, (COMIC: Space Station Z-7) the black scorpi, (COMIC: Plague of the Black Scorpi) the Trods, (COMIC: The Trodos Tyranny, Return of the Trods, PROSE: Beware the Trods!) and their leaders MacTaggart (COMIC: The Trodos Tyranny) and the Master of the Trods, (COMIC: Return of the Trods) the automated defences of Gemino City, (COMIC: The Secret of Gemino) the Gorgon, (COMIC: The Gaze of the Gorgon) Zentor, (COMIC: The Haunted Planet) the emperor of Zerox, (COMIC: The Hunters of Zerox) the Professor, (COMIC: The Underwater Robot) the Ulks of Int, (COMIC: Deadly Vessel) a group of giant birds, (COMIC: Kingdom of the Animals) a Klondite (COMIC: The Galaxy Games) and the Master Race, (COMIC: The Experimenters) as well as meeting Colonel Roberts and Major Simms, (COMIC: Moon Landing) the Go-Rays, (COMIC: Enter: The Go-Ray) a dodo (COMIC: The Didus Expedition), Neptune, (COMIC: Guests of King Neptune) and William Tell.
All in all, Dr. Who spent at least 25 years trying to get John, as well as Gillian, back home, during which time the two youngsters barely aged — though by the 25th year of his travels with the Doctor, John was starting to shave. (PROSE: Nostalgia Corner)
Travels with the rejuvenated Dr. Who
At one point, the Doctor parted company from the two, but reunited with them in his younger incarnation. From their perspective, little time had passed. They resumed their adventures and fought The Extortioner, (COMIC: The Extortioner) the Daleks, (COMIC: The Trodos Ambush, The Doctor Strikes Back, The Exterminator, Jungle Adventure, Attack of the Daleks) the Zagbors, (COMIC: The Zombies) the Master of Spiders, (COMIC: Master of Spiders) a renegade gun crew, (COMIC: Barnabus) the witches (COMIC: Return of the Witches, The Witches) and their leader the Grand Witch. (COMIC: The Witches)
The then faced the Cybermen, (COMIC: Masquerade, The Time Museum, The Coming of the Cybermen, Flower Power, Cyber-Mole, The Cyber Empire) more Trods, (COMIC: Pursued by the Trods, PROSE: Beware the Trods!) the band manager of the Electrodes, (COMIC: The Electrodes) a mad scientist, (COMIC: The Monsters from the Past) an unnamed tribe, (COMIC: The TARDIS Worshippers) Arborge Quince, (COMIC: Space War Two) the Mahadi, (COMIC: Egyptian Escapade) the enemy power, (COMIC: The Faithful Rocket Pack) the sabre-toothed gorillas, (COMIC: The Sabre-Toothed Gorillas) the Dyrons, (COMIC: The Dyrons) a group of space pirates, (COMIC: Dr. Who and the Space Pirates) the Criminal (COMIC: Car of the Century) and the Comedian until they reached their teen years, when the Doctor enrolled them in university on Zebadee to keep them safe from the Quarks. (COMIC: Invasion of the Quarks)
John eventually became a professor and wrote a memo on the dangers of the Trods to Colonel Marc Forest of Special Space Security. At this time, John styled himself "Professor John Who". (COMIC: Beware the Trods!)
When the Second Doctor met Santa Claus yet again, he reminded him that he had once visited Santa's workshop with John and Gillian. (PROSE: The Man Who (Nearly) Killed Christmas) The Second Doctor at one point told Jamie and Victoria Waterfield that he had "family" in 20th Century London. (PROSE: Heart of TARDIS)
John and Gillian both consistently identified Dr. Who as their grandfather. (COMIC: The Klepton Parasites-The Experimenters) However, after meeting and traveling with the younger Dr. Who, they called him just "the Doctor" on most occasions. (COMIC: The Extortioner-Invasion of the Quarks)
Behind the scenes
- It does not appear that John and Gillian had met the Doctor before the comic story The Klepton Parasites, although they were aware of his existence and the Doctor's comment upon their arrival implies that he was expecting them. Nothing was ever revealed about their lives before meeting him, aside from The Five O'Clock Shadow's retcon that they had had no prior life, instead being brought into existence via some sort of Block Transfer Computation by the Doctor to stave off his anxiety and loneliness.
- The characters of John and Gillian were created for the Doctor Who comic strip in lieu of using (and paying license fees for) any of the companions from the television series. From the start, Polystyle Publications' rights to use Doctor Who in comic strip form allowed them to use only the title of the television series, the TARDIS and a likeness of William Hartnell.
- In the novella Time and Relative by Kim Newman, Susan Foreman has friends at Coal Hill School named John Brent and Gillian Roberts, named after John and Gillian from TV Comic.
- John and Gillian, in their first appearance, lived in then-present-day England, and knew of their grandfather as an inventor. This suggests that the story was placing itself in the framework where the Doctor was a human being, and thus John and Gillian were implicitly humans as well. Notably, unlike Susan on television, they never displayed any alien knowledge or characteristics. This is somewhat understandable for the time, as the 1960's stories had only made it clear that the pair were from another world, not that they weren't human beings at all. In light of it later becoming established continuity that the Doctor was nonhuman, John and Gillian are thus recasts as, at the very least, part-Gallifreyan hybrids; their reappearance in 1988's Nostalgia Corner depicted them as ageing at a slowed rate, much like the Doctor and Susan, but stopped shy of calling them Time Tots outright.
- Due to the many changing artists through the run of early TV Comic, John was illustrated in several different ways, slowly appearing older with each new iteration. Mysteriously, he at one point changes from a red-headed child with freckles into a tall teenager with blonde hair. Logically speaking, if the pair are taken to be Time Lords (or at the very least to have Time Lord ancestry through the Doctor), then John and Gillian changing appearances is hardly a plot hole.
- However, this would be a retroactive explanation that ignores the fact that John and Gillian were almost certainly intended to be human.
- During production of the Doctor Who Magazine story Death to the Doctor! (which featured numerous villains discussing defeats caused by different incarnations of the Doctor) one idea suggested by Tom Spilsbury was that they only use comic-exclusive companions in the flashbacks. This would have included Sharon Davies with the Fourth Doctor and John and Gillian with the First. However, this was ultimately decided against and the First Doctor was shown with Steven Taylor and Dodo. (The Widow's Curse)