He travelled principally alongside Tegan Jovanka, but also had a few adventures with Nyssa and Kamelion. He briefly met and saved the life of Peri Brown in Lanzarote on 8 May 1984 before leaving the Doctor's company. He also had significant interaction with Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart, the First Doctor and Susan Foreman. He encountered but did not speak with the Second and Third Doctors and Sarah Jane Smith. After leaving the TARDIS, he also met the Tenth Doctor and Emily Winter.
Turlough was a complex individual. His motivations were often unclear to those around him. He was for a time willingly under the influence of the Black Guardian. During this period, he tried to kill the Doctor. After overcoming the Black Guardian, he was a mostly-trusted member of the TARDIS crew, but there were still moments where his actions were questioned. It was only at the end of his time on the TARDIS that the Doctor finally discovered the truth about how Turlough ended up on Earth and why he was susceptible to the Black Guardian in the first place.
The Doctor once indicated that what made Turlough such an interesting travelling companion was that he never knew what Turlough was thinking.
Turlough rarely talked about his life on Trion before and during the civil war, although his desperation to destroy a distress beacon he recognised as being from Trion and his reluctance to contact his people to save the inhabitants of Sarn indicated there were severe penalties for defiance of his exile. Before the war, Turlough's family was wealthy, and owned a planet. In the military, he held the rank and serial number of "Junior Ensign Commander Vislor Turlough, VTEC9/12/44". (TV: Planet of Fire)
Turlough's mother was killed during the civil war and his younger brother Malkon and his father were exiled to the abandoned colony planet of Sarn. Turlough himself was exiled to Earth. (TV: Planet of Fire)
Meeting the Doctor
On Earth, he hid his alien origins and lived as a human schoolboy, attending Brendon Public School, where Alistair Gordon Lethbridge-Stewart taught. Turlough was supervised by a custodian masquerading as a solicitor in Chancery Lane. During his time at Brendon Public School, he enjoyed studying history. (AUDIO: Phantasmagoria) However, he always hated the works of William Shakespeare. (AUDIO: The Emerald Tiger) Turlough also studied Christmas and Easter at school. (PROSE: Last Minute Shopping)
Turlough and Charlie Gibbs once climbed the wall of the girls' school. When the girls saw them, their screams were so loud that Gibbs fell back over the wall and fractured his collarbone. (AUDIO: The Memory Bank) Turlough did not learn until 2013 that Gibbs was also from Trion and that his family supported the opposing faction in the civil war. (AUDIO: Eldrad Must Die!)
He was eventually contacted by the Black Guardian, who offered him his freedom in exchange for the death of the Fifth Doctor. Turlough ingratiated himself with the Doctor and his companions Nyssa and Tegan Jovanka. He helped resolve a time paradox, after which he asked to join the Doctor in his travels. (TV: Mawdryn Undead)
With the Doctor
In subsequent adventures, Turlough received several messages from the Black Guardian, reminding him of his obligation to kill the Doctor — an act he became loath to carry out as he grew fonder of the Time Lord. Finally, he destroyed a prize that would have guaranteed his freedom and his pact with the Black Guardian rather than kill the Doctor, ending his association with the Black Guardian and becoming a loyal member of the Doctor's team. (TV: Enlightenment)
His first adventures free of the Black Guardian's control involved visiting England in 1215 to stop the Master from altering history, where the robot Kamelion joined the TARDIS (TV: The King's Demons). He then visited the Eye of Orion with the Doctor and Tegan and was sent to the Death Zone shortly after and helped stop Borusa's plan of immortality along with four incarnations of the Doctor (TV: The Five Doctors)
He explored Arizona when the TARDIS landed there, making his way to Buzzard Creek where he told the locals he had been attacked by bandits. Whilst there he encountered Thaddeus P. Winklemeyer's freakshow, which he became part of after being kidnapped. From one of his fellow inmates he discovered that Thaddeus sold the locals a liquid which contained an organism that would digest all who drunk it. (AUDIO: Freakshow)
Adventures with the Doctor, Tegan and an older Nyssa
The Doctor, Turlough, Tegan and Nyssa then arrived on Cherdor in the 28th century, where they found a society which was obsessed with cleanliness, and lived under the menace of the Takers, for which Turlough was mistaken. After discovering the truth behind the origins of the corrupt society, the TARDIS crew returned to the TARDIS, but discovered that Tegan was still possessed by the Mara. (AUDIO: The Whispering Forest)
While travelling with the Doctor, Nyssa, and Tegan, Turlough reunited with his old love Deela. They had a special place that they'd spent time together and Turlough recalled that they'd last been there together "three years, nine months, and seventeen days" ago. (AUDIO: The Kiss of Death)
Turlough with the Doctor & Tegan
At one point Huxley, a novelisor from Verbatim Six, had latched on to Turlough and started to novelise his life, and had been doing this for the last three weeks before he came to the Ringpull. When he heard that there was a race sealed off in a pocket universe in the Ringpull he decided to free them which was a mistake as they were a warlike race. Whilst stuck in a prison cell he asked Huxley to tell him the future in order to find a way out. (AUDIO: Ringpullworld)
After receiving damage from Sentinel Six, the Doctor landed the TARDIS inside Sea Base 4 in the year 2084, at a time where two power blocs were on the brink of nuclear war. When the Doctor and Tegan were trapped in an airlock with the Myrka, Turlough forced Nilson to open the bulkhead door and ensure their safety. He also defended the base from attacking Sea Devils, which three Silurians awoke from hibernation. When the Doctor released hexachromite gas into the base to stop the Silurians and Sea Devils from attacking, he asked Tegan and Turlough to give the Silurians oxygen. When one Silurian reached for its gun, Turlough was forced to shoot it. The Doctor stopped the Silurians from starting a nuclear war between the two human power blocs, but was unable to save any of the humans or reptilian life forms inside the base. (TV: Warriors of the Deep). The trio's next adventure took them to Little Hodcombe, where Turlough was locked up in a barn along with Andrew Verney as part of George Hutchinson's Civil War recreations done to power the Malus. Turlough later escaped along with everyone else when the Malus was defeated (TV: The Awakening)
Turlough faced the demons of his own people when he confronted the Tractators, the experience triggering dormant racial memories of a past encounter between the Tractators and his people. However, this experience helped Turlough provide the Doctor with the key to defeating the Tractators, his memories helping Turlough determine that the Tractators could be defeated if they were cut off from the Gravis (TV: Frontios). He subsequently spent some time forced to wander a Dalek ship to escape capture after he was trapped on the wrong side of the Dalek Time corridor, until the Doctor managed to defeat the Daleks' latest plan by infecting them with a Movellan virus (TV: Resurrection of the Daleks).
Travelling with just the Doctor
A trip to 2144 Reykjavik resulted in Turlough and the Doctor almost being arrested for the crimes of the Bratanian Shroud. Turlough managed to escape the crime scene only to be possessed by the Shroud. The Shroud forced Turlough to return to the Doctor and try to kill him, but the Doctor purged the Shroud from Turlough's mind with a wave disruptor. (AUDIO: Repeat Offender)
Attempting to examine himself during a trip to the Moon and a meeting with the British Imperial Spacefleet, Turlough found himself uncomfortable with the view of his personality presented by his reading of Richard Haliwell's diary, feeling uncomfortably selfish after contrasting his actions with Haliwell's Victorian nobility. He briefly fell in love with Lytalia, apparently a Phiadoran prisoner on the Moon, but she was soon revealed to actually be possessed by a Vrall (PROSE: Imperial Moon).
His other solo adventures with the Doctor involved taking down Nikolas Valentine in 1702 (AUDIO: Phantasmagoria), meeting werewolves in Brazil (AUDIO: Loups-Garoux) and defeating the Somnus Foundation in Russia (AUDIO: Singularity). He and the Doctor also visited the Memory Bank, Vadhoc, and the Pandana system (AUDIO: The Memory Bank and Other Stories).
Now fearing a return home, Turlough destroyed a distress beacon from a Trion ship, attempted to disable Kamelion who he believed was reacting to the beacon and was reluctant to contact his people. Despite his initial fear, he eventually accepted personal responsibility, potentially trading his freedom for the lives of the population of Sarn as he called Trion for help. (TV: Planet of Fire)
After discovering that his younger brother was still alive and the persecution of political prisoners had long been abandoned on Trion, Turlough finally left the TARDIS to return home, after effectively putting the Doctor ("who gets into the most terrible trouble") in the hands of new companion Peri Brown. (TV: Planet of Fire) Later, as he regenerated, the Doctor had visions of several of his past companions, including Turlough. (TV: The Caves of Androzani)
Life after the Doctor
At one point an enemy of the Doctor's tenth incarnation produced a diary purporting to be Turlough's, though the Doctor had no recollection of Turlough keeping one. (COMIC: Tesseract, Don't Step on the Grass) The Doctor and Emily Winter then travelled to Trion, where they met with Turlough to confirm that the diary was not his. (COMIC: Final Sacrifice)
At some point, Turlough was taken to the Black Archive by UNIT to have his record as a companion of the Doctor taken. His memories of the visit were subsequently erased and he was sent on his way. (TV: The Day of the Doctor)
Turlough was selfish, always shielding himself from blame. (TV: Mawdryn Undead) He could lie convincingly to most; some, such as Tegan Jovanka and Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart, were not fooled. (TV: Mawdryn Undead, Terminus)
Although usually quick to retreat, Turlough was not so much a coward as a survivalist, preferring to avoid danger and situations he felt he couldn't change. (TV: Warriors of the Deep, Resurrection of the Daleks)
Tegan did not like Turlough at first, finding him untrustworthy. She did not approve of the Doctor letting Turlough consider the Black Guardian's offer, believing Turlough would choose the crystal. However, the Doctor was confident in Turlough's morals. Nevertheless, Tegan often tried to persuade him to banish Turlough from the TARDIS. (TV: Terminus, Enlightenment; AUDIO: Cobwebs)
He saved a Phiadoran female to whom he was attracted from a large drop. He appeared to fall in love with Lytalia, but this was later revealed to be a complex deception on the part of the Phiadorans, as the species were currently serving as 'hosts' to the ruthless Vrall and had manipulated men to do their bidding even on their own. Despite this, his experience during this encounter encouraged him to take a closer look at himself and determine who he wanted to be compared to his past actions (PROSE: Imperial Moon).
Despite the Black Guardian's attempts to vilify the Doctor, he recognised the Doctor's good intentions. On numerous occasions, he tried to make the Black Guardian reconsider his order to kill the Time Lord. (TV: Terminus, Enlightenment) Although he initially expressed a desire to return to his homeworld and at one point asked the Doctor to take him home, (TV: Enlightenment) after he had spent more time travelling with the Doctor he grew reluctant to return. Turlough used the tranquillity felt at the Eye of Orion to draw. (TV: The Five Doctors) On another occasion, the Doctor took him to medieval Europe as he believed that the scenery would inspire him to draw. (AUDIO: The Last Fairy Tale) He also liked to paint. (AUDIO: The Memory Bank) He understood the TARDIS systems well enough to run a diagnostic (TV: The Five Doctors) and programmed the TARDIS to rescue the Doctor and Peri. (TV: Planet of Fire)
Behind the scenes
- Turlough was the last male companion to travel with the Doctor on-screen until Adam Mitchell, who joined in the episode Dalek in 2005.
- Turlough was the last in a seven-year run of non-human televised companions who inhabited the TARDIS, beginning in 1977 with K9 Mark I. Others included K9 Mark II, Romana I, Romana II, Adric, Nyssa and, nominally, Kamelion.
- When he was introduced in 1983, Turlough became the first televised companion since Jo Grant not to have travelled with the Fourth Doctor.
- Mark Strickson himself did not have red hair. He dyed his hair for the role, as his natural fair hair was seen by John Nathan-Turner as too similar to Peter Davison's Fifth Doctor hairstyle.
- Turlough's serial number, VTEC9/12/44, was derived from the date of birth of Eric Saward.
- Turlough was dubbed in German by Jan Koester.