Frobisher (Doctor Who)

Frobisher is a fictional character who appeared in the Doctor Who Magazine comic strip based on the long-running British science fiction television series Doctor Who in the 1980s. He was a companion of the Sixth and Seventh Doctors.

Doctor Who character
Frobisher the Penguin from Doctor Who.jpg
First appearanceThe Shape Shifter
Last appearanceWhere Nobody Knows Your Name (in story) Prisoners of Time (chronologically)
Portrayed byRobert Jezek (voice)
AffiliationSixth Doctor
Seventh Doctor
Home era82nd century


Frobisher is a Whifferdill, one of a shape-changing extraterrestrial race. What is assumed to be his natural form, as seen in his first comic strip appearance, is humanoid, pale yellow in colour, three to four feet in height, with a round, featureless head, and wearing spectacles. However, he preferred to spend his free time in the form of a penguin.


When he first appeared in The Shape Shifter (DWM #88-#89), written by Steve Parkhouse with art by John Ridgway, Frobisher was a private investigator calling himself "Avan Tarklu" (a play on the phrase "Haven't a clue"). He came across the Doctor when an enemy of the Time Lord, Josiah Dogbolter, had placed a bounty on the Doctor in an effort to acquire his secrets and his TARDIS. After infiltrating the TARDIS, instead of turning the Doctor in for the money, Tarklu decided that he liked the Time Lord and helped him against Dogbolter; both split the advance bounty Tarklu had been given from Dogbolter. He then joined the Doctor on his journeys. He assumed the name of Frobisher because he felt that it sounded British and thought that the Doctor would like that.

Frobisher was once married to Francine, another Whifferdill, who left him because she was a better detective than he was. Apparently, he was very fond of her in penguin form, and so adopted it to remind himself of her. It is not a static form, however, as Frobisher has been seen emulating different types of penguins.

Frobisher travelled with the Doctor for quite a long time, occasionally parting company only for their paths to cross once again. When he first came on board the TARDIS, the Sixth Doctor was travelling alone, but in Kane's Story (DWM #104), the Sixth Doctor's television companion Peri Brown returned, apparently placing Frobisher's stories between the unmade Season 23 and The Trial of a Time Lord (indicated by Peri's changing hairstyles in the comic strip compared to her television appearances). Frobisher appears, travelling with the Doctor and Peri, in IDW's 50th Anniversary comic book miniseries Doctor Who: Prisoners of Time #6. This appearance was illustrated by John Ridgway. At the conclusion of this issue, it was revealed that Frobisher had been contacted by the Tenth Doctor while he was in the TARDIS on his own earlier, the Tenth Doctor asking Frobisher to pose as Peri so that he could be captured by the mysterious foe abducting past companions, the assumption that he was Peri causing their foes not to take greater care when securing Frobisher. When their adversaries - revealed to be the Ninth Doctor's ex-companion Adam Mitchell and the Master - attempted to kill the captured companions, Frobisher revealed that he had replaced the detonator Mitchell would have used, subsequently releasing his fellow companions from their imprisonment to help the Doctors fight off Adam and the Master's Auton army until they could convince Adam to help them against the Master.

Frobisher was obviously not with the Doctor and Peri in Season 23's The Trial of a Time Lord, but no explanation was provided in the comic strip for his absence. Frobisher's last appearance prior to Trial was The World Shapers (DWM #127-#129).

At the end of Trial, it was revealed that Peri had married King Yrcanos and settled on the planet Krontep. The graphic novel The Age of Chaos, written by Colin Baker (who played the Sixth Doctor) revealed that Frobisher and the Sixth Doctor visited Peri's descendants several times, so Frobisher must have rejoined the Doctor after Trial in an unseen story. After this story, Frobisher apparently departs again, since he is never again seen travelling with the Sixth Doctor.

Frobisher was ultimately reunited with the Seventh Doctor, once again "off-screen", and eventually departed permanently in A Cold Day in Hell (DWM #130-#133). Subsequently, he was seen to have set up a bar called "Bish's" and remarried to a bird-like humanoid named Caralla. There, he encountered and gave much needed emotional support to the Eighth Doctor, but did not recognize who he was. Though "He almost seemed familiar". (Where Nobody Knows Your Name, DWM #329). Frobisher therefore had at least three distinct tenures with the Doctor, only one of which has a depicted ending.


Frobisher has occasionally appeared alongside the Sixth Doctor in spin-off media. These include a novel, Mission: Impractical[1] by David A. McIntee and two Big Finish Productions audio plays, The Holy Terror[2] and The Maltese Penguin,[3] both written by Rob Shearman and featuring Robert Jezek as Frobisher. Maltese Penguin also featured Dogbolter (Toby Longworth) and Francine (Jane Goddard). These audio adventures take place between the stories The World Shapers and The Age of Chaos.[4]

In the novel The Scarlet Empress, Iris Wildthyme claimed that a shape-changer who assumed the shape of a penguin was once her companion.[5] This could refer to Frobisher, Francine, or someone else entirely. However, like much of everything associated with Wildthyme, this claim may or may not have anything to do with actual events.

Not to be confused with the human character of John Frobisher, played by Peter Capaldi in spin-off TV series Torchwood's third series.


  1. ^ McIntee, David A. (1998). Mission: Impractical. BBC Books. p. 280. ISBN 0-563-40592-9.
  2. ^ Shearman, Robert (2000). Doctor Who: The Holy Terror. Big Finish Productions. ISBN 1-903654-10-6.
  3. ^ Shearman, Robert (2002). Doctor Who: The Maltese Penguin. Big Finish Productions. ISBN 1-903654-90-4.
  4. ^ "The Holy Terror". Big Finish Productions website. Big Finish Productions. Retrieved 25 April 2012.
  5. ^ Magrs, Paul (1998). The Scarlet Empress. BBC Books. ISBN 0-563-40595-3.