Listening to my playlist I come across the bevy of songs from ‘Human Nature/Family of Blood;’ I go back to my review of the original novel the story came from; and I have some thoughts about Martha Jones.
First of all, why oh why did the show have to make the one and only companion of color into a maid? Isn’t that what Whoopi Goldberg said was so important about Uhura: finally a black woman on television “ain’t no maid?” Why did Cornell choose to return to one of television’s uglier tropes for his 21st-century script?
In the novel, Benny plays the part of the Doctor’s niece. Does Martha’s color make that role unattainable for her? Even if there were openly mixed-race families, would she have been able to set herself up as an ordinary person in the town? Or would she have stood out too much, been a target even? Could the show have ignored her color while also respecting racial realities?
These are interesting questions. I believe some of them have been posed to Cornell, and he has answered; I can’t be bothered to search right now, but maybe at some point I will.
(Part of the reason for my reluctance has to do with the person I know of who asked the questions, a Martha fan and community activist in Seattle. Along with her Martha love she cultivates some pretty serious Rose hate; I have trouble respecting haters, regardless of their reasoning.)
The other question that occurs to me is whether any of the Doctor’s other modern companions could have managed as well as Martha did in this situation.
Rose has very little patience with her dinner-lady role in ‘School Reunion;’ it seems unlikely she would tolerate scrubbing floors for three months. She may have passed more easily than Martha for the Doctor’s niece, but would she be content to spend the time waiting for him? I don’t see Rose being willing to sit still all that time, to make her way in a strange world without her best friend by her side. In all of her run, Rose is almost never alone; though she does manage when she has to (‘Fear Her’), it’s not her strong suit.
Donna has if anything less patience than Rose. It seems unlikely she would even consider working as his maid, and she would have trouble passing for a niece. A sister, maybe. Like Rose, I think she would have trouble sitting still for three months, or keeping the Doctor’s secret for him. Subtle is not Donna’s way.
Amy, like Donna, would not likely have the patience for the Doctor’s games, and would probably have trouble blending in to 1913. If she had Rory with her, she might manage with his help. She would certainly not accept the role of maid.
Clara could actually probably manage it. She might be willing to play housemaid for three months, or happily keep busy in town as his niece. She might enjoy the waiting game. She is likely the only one who would handle herself as well as Martha in that situation.
And Martha truly did handle herself well. She is the most adult of the modern companions; having played the role of parent in her own family, she has little trouble adapting herself to look after the Doctor. She is patient and resourceful. Of course she got tired of playing maid, but still she made the most of it. She kept her head up, and if everything had gone to plan would have laughed over the experience with the Doctor later.
Of course things don’t go to plan, but that’s what makes the story. Martha makes it a good one.