Ah, the panel where I get to be the fan. I saw a lot of the Fourth and Fifth, and a bit of the Sixth when growing up and then I went to fill some gaps with the new and the old series, but not completely. We all introduced ourselves by what we saw and when.
Favorite companions. Others liked Sarah Jane. My own is Turlough, because -- not that he's evil, as other panelists claimed, because the Black Guardian needs to lie to him to get him to agree -- he has his own purposes. I also rather liked Ben and Polly but I've only seen one episode with them, so I don't know if they continued as cool characters.
Unfavorite. My own is Ace whom I haven't seen much of, because I disliked her so much in the one appearance I saw. Another disliked Mel -- and commented on Sylvester McCoy's companions not be so good. (Digression on their trying to kill the program.) Another disliked Peri for the atrocious accent. Later, we brought up Adric -- someone observed that we hadn't brought him up because we didn't like to dump on the dead guy, and I observed that he was actually interesting early, they lost their grip on him. (Warrior's Gate was good.)
The lack of variety in the new companions. Someone involved with the show said that the companion was always a young woman from the 21-century (Earth implied), and I pointed out that in the old series, all those words would be inaccurate, sometimes more than once. You could be male, you could not human (albeit very human in form, owing to constraints), you could be an adoloscent girl/boy, you could be middle-aged, you could be from other era. Some of them wanted a Victorian Clara rather than a modern one; another pointed out that they had other Victorains, which would have overwhelmed the show; I haven't see that and can't comment. 0:) And, of course, in the old series, a number of them left him to marry, which would be unthinkable nowadays. They left for other purposes too. Because they were needed, a la Nyssa who knew she could make Terminus work and cure this horrible plague, or because they could go home, or because, like Tegan, they couldn't take it any more. Or of course, like Sarah Jane, they were thrown off into the wrong city. Discussing the attractions in the old and the new. There was something between Jo Grant and the Doctor, but nothing like Rose and the Doctor.
How the Second Doctor probably had the hardest role, because he had to convince us that regeneration worked, which is key to its immortality. We went off topic several times. Like discussing his reoccurring villains, mostly the Master. The scene where the Doctor shouts at the Master to regenerate; the time when he's offered new regenerations if he will help the Doctor and thinks a universe without him is not worth having.
Whether the Brigadier and Benton qualify as companions. Most go for yes.
The purpose of a companion: to give us a connection, both for the info-dumping purposes and the emotional connection to bring him down to Earth. I told how they started out the Doctor as extremely unpleasant, toned it down, thought about keeping it in character, and finally modeled the first Doctor after Sherlock Holmes, testy about bring brought down.
Bringing up the timey-wimey ball brought up discussions about the Doctor's ability or lack thereof to change time. A fanfic where Batman and Superman are online when Batman asks Superman why the Doctor can't save Krypton, and the Doctor intrudes to say, sorry, fixed point in time. Most of the panelists thought it was crucial to him. I thought he was conflicted about it; there was one episode where he saved humanity, stranded on a planet where the captain's son has succeeded to his father's place, and at the end he's saying really don't mention it, because the Time Lords would be angry. But he has two impulses to help people and keep the timeline from destructing which would be bad. (Hmm. We didn't discuss his attempt to remove the Daleks from history.)
What we wanted to see in future companions. I'd like to see an actual child -- the boy in Family of Blood would have been ideal, except they tied off his story -- or old, even old enough to die while a companion, though the other panelists thought this would necessarily entail physical problems enough to hinder adventure. One wanted more aliens, though not necessarily ones that didn't look human. I though it might be fun to bring back to a Than -- the Daleks' old, native-planet foes -- or a Tharil, the leonine aliens that Romana left to help.
We also talked about bring back characters, like Susan or Romana, who could have regenerated. More Time Lords, I urged, because it was one thing when the Doctor had sacrificed his race to end the Daleks. The lone survivor was tragic and pitiful and a wonderful tale. But when they came back -- we need the Time Lords so that the Doctor didn't sacrifice them for nothing.