The daughter of Consul Tremas, Nyssa was a child of privilege on Traken. She was gifted with a brilliant intellect and specialised in bioelectronics. When Traken was destroyed, Nyssa became virtually the last of her kind and in the wake of the death of her father, the Fifth Doctor once said that he was "pledged to look after her."
She had at least two distinct periods of travelling with the Doctor. She initially travelled with him when she was barely more than a girl and left his company to help find a cure for Lazar's disease on the space station Terminus in the 35th century. She then rejoined the Doctor, Tegan and Turlough in her middle age, after becoming a wife and mother. She lost her life on the planet Apollyon in E-Space, after she sacrificed herself to allow the Doctor, Tegan and Turlough to return to N-Space after becoming trapped there.
As Traken nobility, Nyssa learnt manners and behaviours expected of her, while the servants' children were able to share rooms and play in the grounds. Both of her grandfathers died before she was born. (AUDIO: The Toy)
Encounter with the Fourth Doctor Edit
Nyssa first met the Doctor in his fourth incarnation when he was travelling with Adric. She had recently attended the wedding of her long-widowed father Tremas to Kassia. Unbeknownst to her, the Master had also come to Traken and was planning to exploit the tremendous power of the Keepership (to which her father was the only rightful heir) to live beyond his last natural regeneration. The Doctor and Adric stopped the Master from taking over the Keepership, but could not prevent him killing Nyssa's new stepmother. Unbeknownst to them at the time, the Master also killed Tremas by transferring his essence into Tremas' body, which left Nyssa orphaned in her young adulthood. (TV: The Keeper of Traken)
Soon after, the Watcher took Nyssa to the planet Logopolis. She discovered the Master had, in effect, killed her father. He enslaved her mind, involving her in his complex plan to conquer the universe. The Doctor soon broke her free of the Master's spell, then entered into an uneasy alliance with the Master. The two Time Lords and Tegan Jovanka rushed to Earth in the Master's TARDIS to halt the waves of rampant entropy the Master had unleashed upon the universe. Adric and Nyssa were left with the Doctor's TARDIS on Logopolis. The Watcher helped Adric transport the duo back to Earth. En route, Nyssa witnessed the entire Traken Union being swept away by the growing entropy field which threatened the existence of every part of N-Space. She knew she was the last of her entire species by the time the TARDIS materialised on Earth. When she next met the Doctor, he was mortally wounded in his successful battle to stop the Master. With assistance from the Watcher, he regenerated while Nyssa, Adric, and Tegan looked on. (TV: Logopolis)
Travels with the Fifth Doctor Edit
Because of the Doctor's debilitated state after his fourth regeneration, Nyssa helped him get to the TARDIS before the Pharos Project's security guards could arrest them for trespassing. In the TARDIS, she became even more worried; the Doctor and Adric were lost in the corridors. When she caught up to them, she found he had changed his outfit and was desperately looking for the Zero Room to recover. Moreover, once the Doctor was in the Zero Room, she found the TARDIS had travelled back in time. They were about to be destroyed by Event One, the formation of the galaxy by a massive hydrogen in-rush. Managing to get the Doctor stable long enough to figure out how to escape, Nyssa accidentally jettisoned the Zero Room to give the TARDIS enough thrust to move forward in time. Arriving at Castrovalva, Nyssa found it was a secondary trap by the Master to get rid of the Doctor by using Adric to make block transfer computations. However, they escaped Castrovalva with Adric and the Doctor stabilised. They began travelling; she now no longer had a home to go to except for the TARDIS. (TV: Castrovalva)
After departing Castrovalva, the TARDIS materialised in the Psychodrome, which created four competing 'kingdoms' based on each traveller's individual perceptions of their companions and their own backgrounds. Nyssa's perception proved to be the most dangerous, as the trauma she had experienced since the Doctor came to Traken had caused her to subconsciously associate the Doctor with the Master, with the result that 'King Magus' - her interpretation of the Doctor - tried to kill and conquer the other kingdoms, until the TARDIS crew were able to acknowledge their flaws and shortcomings and affirm that they accepted the Doctor and each other despite these. (AUDIO: Psychodrome)
She was inquiring after why the Doctor was moping about the TARDIS when there was some turbulence. She couldn't tell the differences between Tegan's accent and Chris Cwej's fake Australian accent. She was embarrassed when she walked into Chris' room when he was naked. She escaped from being captured with Chris and went to his apartment. She learnt from him that there were survivors of Traken on Serenity. With Chris, she went to the space station and discovered fusion devices. (PROSE: Cold Fusion)
Arriving on an Urbankan ship, Nyssa was taken by the android inhabitants to become one of their own but was rescued by the Doctor and Bigon. Later in the TARDIS, Nyssa fainted from stress. (TV: Four to Doomsday)
She could not concentrate; she could not even match Adric at chess. The Doctor made a device called a delta wave augmenter, of which his sonic screwdriver formed an essential part, to let her sleep and recover. Nyssa awoke four days later to discover the Doctor had had an adventure without her. (TV: Kinda)
Thereafter, she discovered she had a look-alike by the name of Ann Talbot in England in 1925. The two attended a costume party wearing identical butterfly costumes, making it nearly impossible to tell them apart. George Cranleigh kidnapped Nyssa by mistake but released her to the Doctor when he discovered his mistake. (TV: Black Orchid)
She encountered the Dar Traders who told her that she should be dead, though later revised that to saying that she had a strange connection with Death. After identifying her as a Trakenite, the Traders then understood this connection. On the Traders' ship, they showed her a mysterious box that contained an assassin. This assassin later stabbed her when they went to a planet to find the Doctor. (AUDIO: The Darkening Eye)
Nyssa had recurring nightmares on board the TARDIS involving a stone archway and a figure resembling Tremas on Traken, due to a communication node disguised as a toy which had been given to the Doctor's granddaughter Susan Foreman trying to telepathically call Nyssa to a similar looking room inside the TARDIS. The Master, in his younger days on Gallifrey, had tried to use the node to call Nyssa across time and space so she could tell him where the Doctor was. Finding the room, she found herself being contacted across time and space on a place resembling the city of Arcadia on Gallifrey with the younger First Doctor and the Master when she was actually lying in the TARDIS room. She broke out of it, the world around her vanishing, and found the Doctor, Adric and Tegan worried for her safety. The Doctor explained that the node was hidden among other volatile bits and pieces in that TARDIS room so that the Master and the Time Lords couldn't follow Susan and his original incarnation. (AUDIO: The Toy)
Working with Adric, Nyssa attempted to fly the TARDIS, which resulted in the ship materializing on Fleming's Island, the TARDIS falling off a cliff after the four had left. Travelling to a large house in the hope of finding a map of the island, Nyssa found herself briefly overwhelmed by the psychic presence of the creature that had been summoned to the Island. After the Doctor identified the threat they faced as the I Predator, a sentient number that hunted its own kind and now hunted humans, Adric was able to devise a way to communicate with the I and trap the Predator while the rest escaped to the TARDIS (AUDIO: Iterations of I).
Nyssa encountered Cybermen trying to attack Earth but watched as they were foiled by Adric. She was horrified to see Adric give his life to stop the freighter that killed the dinosaurs. (TV: Earthshock) Adric's death was a severe blow to Nyssa and Tegan. While working through their grief, the TARDIS crew was embroiled in an adventure which sent a Concorde back through time. After they had returned the airliner to 1980s Heathrow Airport, the Doctor accidentally left Tegan behind. (TV: Time-Flight)
Nyssa and the Doctor travelled alone together. They visited Alaska, where they stopped revived creatures from Earth's prehistory spreading over the planet and wiping out humanity. (AUDIO: The Land of the Dead)
Nyssa began to develop her nascent telepathic powers. (AUDIO: Winter for the Adept) However, these were eventually revealed to be the results of the ancient evil Kwundaar manipulating her into a position so that the Doctor would have to come back to ancient Traken and make a deal with Kwundaar. The Doctor was able to thwart Kwundaar's plan to take control of the source, but although he suggested that Nyssa should remain on Traken as Kwundaar had summoned various higher-dimensional beings to punish the Doctor for defeating him. (AUDIO: Primeval)
For a short while, Nyssa undertook a solo expedition to 13th century Rhodes, while the Doctor visited 20th century Stockbridge. During that time, she communicated with the Doctor across time and space through a pocket interocitor. Due to the Daleks' manipulation of time and space, she and a knight called Mulberry were transported to the middle of the American Civil War, where she was rescued by the Doctor. (AUDIO: Renaissance of the Daleks)
This threesome had a few adventures — perhaps most notably one in which Nyssa discovered Adric had not died in Earth's prehistoric past but become trapped in an alternate dimension — (AUDIO: The Boy That Time Forgot) before Thomas left the TARDIS to pursue a romance in 2008. (AUDIO: A Perfect World)
The Doctor wanted to spend Christmas in Stockbridge with Nyssa, but she didn't want to see to the 21st century, so they ended up in 1899. From there, they travelled to 1199 and Nyssa helped the Doctor to defeat the Rutans. (AUDIO: Castle of Fear)
Arriving in the estate of Nathaniel Whitlock, the Doctor and Nyssa discovered the presence of Vaatus on the planet. Nyssa briefly volunteered to act as a host to Vaatus while the Doctor took him to safety, but once Vaatus' true nature was exposed, Nyssa stood guard while the Doctor and Silver Crow entered the Ghost Dance to trap Vaatus once again. (AUDIO: Moonflesh)
Forced to investigate an ancient tomb-ship in the company of Virna and her expedition, the Doctor and Nyssa learned that Hannah Bartholemew had stowed away on the TARDIS, and accepted her as a new companion. (AUDIO: Tomb Ship)
Nyssa was briefly trapped in a virtual reality where the Doctor was her guardian and Hannah her tutor in an eighteenth-century lifestyle. This was part of a complex anti-human program that had been unintentionally triggered by the arrival of the TARDIS. The Doctor was only just able to prevent this process killing all humans linked to the system, but this led to those humans, including Hannah, losing all emotional capacity, prompting Hannah to remain to help the survivors. (AUDIO: Masquerade)
Nyssa continued travelling alone with the Doctor until they chanced upon Tegan in Amsterdam in January 1983. During the same adventure, she forcefully stood up to the Gallifreyan High Council on the Doctor's behalf. She encountered Omega, who wished to bond with the Doctor to escape the anti-matter universe but was successful in helping the Doctor prevent this. (TV: Arc of Infinity)
Once Tegan had rejoined the crew, the Doctor attempted to take them to Florana for a holiday, but a temporal disruption resulted in them arriving in Florana's distant past, where they discovered a Dalek posing as the High Priest of a major city on the planet, manipulating the social situation so that the planet's Elite were attempting to spread a Dalek philosophy. Nyssa was briefly brainwashed by the local Elite academy to follow their philosophy, but the Doctor was able to reverse her conditioning and use the same technology that had altered her mind to knock out the locals to stop the resulting civil war after the death of the High Priest. (AUDIO: The Elite)
Soon after, Nyssa discovered that Tegan was still afflicted by the remnants of the Mara from the Kinda world and helped the Doctor take her to Manussa to permanently destroy the Mara with a "snakedance". (TV: Snakedance)
She mistook Mawdryn for the Doctor going through a gruesome regeneration and was infected by his disease. The Doctor nearly gave up his eight remaining lives to cure her and Tegan, but thanks to the unlikely meeting of two Brigadiers, a substitute was found to cure her. At this time, an undercover agent of the Black Guardian, Turlough, began travelling with them to escape exile on earth. (TV: Mawdryn Undead)
Nyssa left the TARDIS under circumstances as tragic and noble as those that had forced her into the Doctor's company. The TARDIS attached itself to a space liner when Turlough, under the Black Guardian's influence, damaged its controls. The liner docked with what seemed to be a hulk floating in space, the Terminus space station. The Doctor and Nyssa discovered it was, in effect, a leper colony. She was the only TARDIS crew member who contracted the disease the station existed to treat. Just as she had always done with the tragedies in her life, she used her misfortune as a path to a better future. She chose to remain on the space station to help the Garm and her fellow sufferers find a permanent cure for Lazar's disease. (TV: Terminus)
After her travels Edit
Although she believed she would die — though in her words, "not easily" — on Terminus, (TV: Terminus) Nyssa eventually left and settled down as an academic in a university on another planet. During this period, she encountered the Doctor's fourth incarnation again — long before he had first met her on Traken. (PROSE: Asylum) Eventually, she married and had children, the eldest a daughter, Neeka, with a man named Lasarti, who studied dreams. During this period of her life, she reunited with the Doctor's fifth incarnation and again assisted with his regeneration into his next incarnation. (AUDIO: Winter)
During the Time War, Nyssa operated a hospital ship, known as the Traken, assisting planets that became caught up in the war. During her travels, she took on a man who introduced himself as 'Doctor Foster', from the rainy asteroid of Gloucester, as her assistant, until they arrived on a planet close to Gallifrey. For a time, Nyssa was convinced that Foster was a Time Lord agent attempting acts of sabotage on the planet to convince the natives to side with the Time Lords in the War, but soon realised that an apparent native of the planet was the true agent. As Foster departed after giving her a brief kiss on the cheek, Nyssa realised that he was actually another incarnation of the Doctor. (AUDIO: A Heart on Both Sides)
Reunited with the Doctor Edit
Half a century after leaving the Doctor, Nyssa was reunited with him, Tegan and Turlough on the planet Helheim in 3530 while trying to find the cure for Richter's Syndrome, which had claimed over six billion lives. With her own ship destroyed, she asked for a lift home, but resigned herself to more adventures when the Doctor opted to take her by "the scenic route." (AUDIO: Cobwebs) They travelled to Cherdor in the 28th century where they encountered the Takers (AUDIO: The Whispering Forest) and Manussa during the rule of the Manussan Empire where they once again fought against the Mara. (AUDIO: The Cradle of the Snake)
During these later journeys in the TARDIS, she told Tegan that she was married and had two children, a daughter much like Tegan, and a teenage son named Adric. (AUDIO: Heroes of Sontar) She also admitted that in her personal timeline she had already experienced the Doctor's problematic regeneration into his sixth incarnation. (AUDIO: Winter) Thus, during this second period of travel with the Doctor, she had to keep her knowledge of the Fifth Doctor's end hidden from him. (AUDIO: Heroes of Sontar, et al.) She was tempted to help intelligent rats create a non-lethal plague in exchange for some tips in fixing the destabilising Helheim cure. (AUDIO: Rat Trap)
After the TARDIS was pulled off course and landed on Valderon, Nyssa learned that 25 years had passed since her mission to Helheim and that she was presumed dead. She reunited with her son, Adric, who was researching a way to cure Richter's Disease, and learned that her husband had died and her daughter was in suspended animation on another planet, having herself been infected while treating the ill. Adric and Nyssa were able to combine their knowledge to develop a cure. They were to meet in one month's time and revive and cure Neeka, but Adric never saw her again. (AUDIO: Prisoners of Fate)
Final adventures Edit
Shortly after leaving Valderon, the TARDIS was diverted into E-Space when it passed too close to a CVE. While searching for a way out, the TARDIS visited Adric's home planet of Alzarius (AUDIO: Mistfall) and the ice world of Isenfel, where she became interested in why the society there wanted to be in equilibrium. (AUDIO: Equilibrium) Nyssa's travels with the Doctor finally ended when the TARDIS crashed on the planet Apollyon, where Nyssa chose to stay behind to power a portal back to N-Space as she was dying from Entropy. Although reverted to her original physical age, Nyssa then lived for at least another decade, spending a few years treating the sick and teaching others to do the same before she retired to tend a garden. She was last recorded witnessing a new star emerging in the sky, hinting that there was new life in E-Space despite the Doctor's concerns that the entropy meant that E-Space only had a few centuries of life left in it. (AUDIO: The Entropy Plague)
Undated events Edit
At some point, while she was travelling alone with the Fifth Doctor, they visited Bob Dovie at 59A Barnsfield Crescent in Totton, Hampshire on 23 November 1963. There, she and the Fifth Doctor discovered Bob's odd behaviour, including him talking on a phone that was disconnected from the wall. After finding Bob's family killed by the Master using a Tissue Compression Eliminator, Nyssa and the Doctor took Bob into the TARDIS causing the Master's conceptual bomb to explode. This timeline was eventually erased when the Doctors' other selves were able to render the conceptual bomb useless. (AUDIO: The Light at the End)
Nyssa seemed at once more mature and more naive than her fellow travellers. She did not boast of her scientific knowledge nor believe it made her superior. She faced her challenges with the determination and serenity of her Trakenite heritage. She turned her sorrow as the last of her people into a desire to help others. Rarely did she mention any grief she suffered because of her great misfortunes. Perhaps most extraordinarily, she never sought to avenge herself on the Master despite her many good reasons to do so.
Tegan noted that Nyssa preferred to "care and share." (PROSE: Goth Opera) Her trusting nature sometimes made her less alert to deception than Tegan (TV: Mawdryn Undead) but it also made her more adept at negotiating an effective balance between strong personalities. (TV: Earthshock, AUDIO: The Game) She had probably the closest relationship with the Fifth Doctor of any of his companions, though she did occasionally argue with him and was incredibly upset when he broke her trust on Valderon, in spite of his good intentions. (AUDIO: Prisoners of Fate) Nyssa's near-royal upbringing and natural curiosity sometimes made it hard for her to relax and enjoy herself. Though her outlook usually tended to be serious, she displayed a dry wit on occasion, particularly when dealing with the Doctor's boyish idiosyncrasies.
Like all Trakenites, she tended towards pacifism, though on separate occasions she destroyed a Terileptil android in September 1666 (TV: The Visitation), killed a Cyberman in the TARDIS (TV: Earthshock) and used the threat of violence to save the Doctor's life, shooting a pair of guards on Gallifrey. (TV: Arc of Infinity)
She considered Tegan to be her best friend (AUDIO: The Emerald Tiger) and Tegan held her in the same esteem. (AUDIO: The Waters of Amsterdam) However, she also "never quite understood" why so many of the Doctor's friends were human. (AUDIO: The Boy That Time Forgot)
Nyssa generally didn't use a surname, referring to herself only by the mononym "Nyssa" or, in formal circumstances, "Nyssa of Traken" or "Nyssa, daughter of Tremas." When posing as a human actor, however, she assumed the name "Nyssa Traken." (AUDIO: Special Features)
Behind the scenes Edit
- Nyssa was originally meant to have appeared only in The Keeper of Traken as a supporting character. She was, therefore, the sole creation of writer Johnny Byrne, to whom royalties had to be paid when the character was used. Like the Brigadier and K9, she is a rare example of a series regular to whom the BBC does not enjoy sole copyright.
- Peter Davison was known to have preferred Nyssa over any of his other companions. He intervened on several occasions when John Nathan-Turner attempted to write the character out of the series.
- Perhaps in deference to Davison's affection for Nyssa, and in part because of Janet Fielding's long reluctance to appear in audio dramas, Big Finish Productions greatly expanded Nyssa's role. They built a network of stories in the televised gap between Tegan's departure in Time-Flight and her return in Arc of Infinity which was very much greater than it had appeared on television. Starting with The Land of the Dead, the Fifth Doctor began a long series of audio adventures with Nyssa as his sole companion. Consequently, Nyssa is one of the most frequently appearing companions in the history of performed Doctor Who stories.
- Like the Fifth Doctor, Adric and Tegan, Nyssa was given a "costume" rather than a basic "look" by producer John Nathan-Turner. Nyssa's original costume narratively originated on Traken. It suggested her highborn status. It consisted of a maroon velvet jacket, a diaphanous, iridescent skirt, and multi-pastel, high-heeled shoes. It was accessorised with an ornamental hair comb and a woolly purse. This look persisted through the end of part two of Castrovalva. However, long before this episode was filmed, it was determined the actor needed more practical clothing for the physical demands of her now-co-starring role. She exchanged her skirt for a pair of maroon trousers, lost the purse, and began wearing lower-heeled shoes. According to production notes on the DVD release of the preceding story, Logopolis, the second iteration of Nyssa's "royal Traken" look was inspired by a rehearsal in which actress Sarah Sutton wore Nyssa's top, but her own corduroy trousers. She also lost her hair comb. She completely abandoned the "royal Traken" look in Snakedance and changed her look every story thereafter until her departure in Terminus. Famously, her costume for her final story was mostly just the slip she had been wearing under her Mawdryn Undead dress.
- Images of the older version of Nyssa on cover images for the audio arc in which she rejoined the TARDIS crew were based on contemporary photos of Sarah Sutton.
- Discounting the ambiguous status of various UNIT personnel, Nyssa is the first companion to be introduced in one story and established as a companion in another.