Time of Origin:
“The Perpetual Bond”, “The Cold Equations” and “The First Wave”
While his time in the TARDIS was brief, Oliver Harper was nevertheless an appreciated member of the crew, demonstrating the inquiring mind and strong sense of justice that have always been the key qualities The Doctor looks for in his companions.
At the time he joined the TARDIS crew, Oliver was a stock trader in London, enjoying the job as it gave him a set of rules and a place while rewarding initiative and success, but he was facing arrest by the Metropolitan Police Service for engaging in homosexual practices, then still a crime under British law. As he panicked about his future fate in a meeting with his manager, he witnessed the man’s alien nature, attempting to flee the office before he overheard the First Doctor and Steven Taylor asking about a being that matched the description of what Oliver had just witnessed. Having spoken with them about the situation in a café, Oliver helped Steven infiltrate the stock exchange while The Doctor spoke with Oliver’s manager, the three learning that the aliens were trading in people, although this was all part of a legitimate arrangement with the government due to Earth’s fragile economic state after the Second World War.
Although The Doctor appeared to go along with the trade as it was all legal under galactic law, and the local minister, Robert Christie, had agreed to the arrangement to ensure Britain’s economic stability, in reality he made various subtle suggestions to Steven about how they might deal with the problem. When the aliens were planning to take those who objected to the trade into custody as the next batch of slaves, The Doctor reconfigured the transmat beam to take those who had given their consent to the slave trade, leaving less than a quarter of those in the stock exchange at the time of the confrontation, The Doctor hopeful that this twist would prevent future trade. With the crisis over, when The Doctor invited Oliver to accompany them, he quickly agreed to the offer, appreciating the chance to get away from the consequences of his ‘crime’.
Oliver initially kept the information of his criminal record secret from The Doctor and Steven as he believed that they would disapprove and force him to leave the TARDIS if they were to find out. During a visit to a future Earth where humanity was virtually decimated after their empire collapsed under unknown circumstances (“The Cold Equations”), the TARDIS crew became caught up in a conflict between the surviving humans and the alien race that were intending to mine Earth. After the humans were able to send a bomb up to the alien space station, the station was badly damaged in the explosion, with the TARDIS drifting through the debris scattered around Earth’s orbit while Oliver and Steven were trapped in a leaking component of the shattered station and The Doctor and the aliens in another.
While Steven used the fragment’s remaining air reserves as an improvised ‘engine’ to direct the fragment into a pattern that would return it to the main station, he confronted Oliver about whatever secret had driven him to leave Earth, prompting Oliver to confess his homosexuality. Despite the treatment Oliver had expected, Steven assured Oliver that The Doctor would never abandon him just because of that, also adding that such relationships had no stigma in his time, The Doctor in turn noting that society was the criminal in this case rather than Oliver. Once he and Steven had been rescued, Oliver worked with The Doctor to draw up a contract that would help humanity and the alien surveyors, The Doctor offering some advice on areas of galactic law but otherwise leaving Oliver to draw up the key paperwork while he arranged for the recovery of the TARDIS. Although Oliver recognised that he could make a good life for himself in that time, he also felt that it was too early for him to move on from the TARDIS on just his first trip, even without the historical records showing that the three of them would visit the planetoid Grace Alone at some point in their future and Earth’s past.
Arriving on Grace Alone, Oliver enjoyed the chance to go out on an alien planet even if the world in question had a limited atmosphere, continuing his enthusiasm for his time with The Doctor, even though The Doctor only intended to be on the colony long enough to plant the fake prison records discovered in the future (“The First Wave”). However, this appreciation was interrupted when they discovered that the colony was under attack by the Vardans, forcing him and Steven to flee to the planet’s surface when The Doctor was apparently killed by them. Forced to return to the base once they confirmed they had nowhere else to go, the Vardans attempted to bribe Steven and Oliver with the chance to become like them if they would give the Vardans access to the TARDIS, but Oliver rejected the offer, dismissing the Vardans as foolish crackles only able to smash stuff. As a Vardan attacked him in an outrage, it was revealed that The Doctor had simply pretended to be dead so that his companions could ‘trick’ the Vardans while he used the base’s equipment to absorb some of the Vardans’ energy, disrupting their waveforms and forcing them to retreat before they were dispersed to a point where they couldn’t survive.
Although The Doctor sent a message to Earth on how to prepare their defences against future Vardan invasions, he later admitted that he had actually changed the circumstances of this visit as it had ‘originally’ resulted in their deaths based on the records, but Steven and Oliver were unable to continue this argument before one last Vardan attacked them, Oliver choosing to sacrifice himself in an attack on this Vardan rather than allow her to destroy all three of them. This attack destroyed the Vardan, but the resulting energy backlash turned Oliver into an incorporeal spirit, somehow allowing a part of Oliver’s essence to remain as a ‘ghost’ in the TARDIS, where he could witness some of The Doctor and Steven’s future travels, including when Steven left the TARDIS to reshape a society (“The Savages”). When The Doctor was dying at the South Pole (“The Tenth Planet”), Oliver was able to manifest directly to The Doctor in some form, allowing The Doctor to see Oliver even if his old companion couldn’t speak to him directly before he passed on, Oliver speculating that this last glance helped The Doctor accept that change was good and he had to continue fighting evil.
While his time in the TARDIS was brief, Oliver died content that his actions had ensured that The Doctor and Steven would go on to continue saving others, approving of their later fates after Steven moved on from the TARDIS and The Doctor died. In return for his friendship, The Doctor and Steven each gave Oliver the simple acceptance he could never have experienced in his time, each of them aware but unconcerned about his attraction to other men, Oliver always enthusiastic about his time in the TARDIS despite the dire circumstances facing him in his travels.