Archive for the ‘Season 3’ Category

‘Smith and Jones’ and the problem with Martha   Leave a comment

I found a website of DW transcripts. You have been warned.

I previously discussed the problem with Martha here. Now we have the actual lines I referred to, with commentary:

DOCTOR: Just one trip to say thanks. You get one trip, then back home. I’d rather be on my own.
MARTHA: You’re the one that kissed me.
DOCTOR: That was a genetic transfer. (1)
MARTHA: And if you will wear a tight suit. (Clothes do not equal consent.)
DOCTOR: Now, don’t! (2)
MARTHA: And then travel all the way across the universe just to ask me on a date. (Ego much?)
DOCTOR: Stop it. (3)
MARTHA: For the record? I’m not remotely interested. I only go for humans.

The Doctor says no THREE TIMES. And if she’s not openly lying in that last line, she’s at least deceiving herself. In many ways Martha is a great companion: intelligent, adventurous, good-humored, and just a little bit bad-ass. Unfortunately, instead of building a real friendship with this strange new traveling companion, she spends her time in pining and denial.

There is no foundation for a romantic relationship between them. There IS no romantic relationship between them. Martha’s obsession with this non-existent romantic potential – and her groundless jealousy of Rose – prevents her from becoming a real friend.*

That’s her tragedy, and an injustice to her fans.

* I know the Doctor calls her his friend, and she acts like his friend here and there. In my opinion it’s a failure of the writing, to tell us these two are friends while showing us nothing. Rose spoiled us with her character development; we’ve had nothing like it since.


Martha Jones and ‘Human Nature’   Leave a comment

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.

Human Nature   Leave a comment

Is a person responsible for things they don’t remember doing? For keeping promises they don’t remember making?

As far as John Smith knows, he is whole and complete as he is. There is no ‘better’ version. There is no other life. This one is enough. Joan Redfern agrees; John Smith is a good man, a remarkable man, a courageous man. Why should he give his life for a stranger neither of them has ever met? What if he did go to the Family and hand over the watch?

The person no one ever thinks of is Martha.

Yes, she knew the risks when she boarded the TARDIS. There was always a chance of never getting home. She has faced death before. She has even faced life lost forever under an alien sun. The Doctor constantly promises things he can’t possibly hope to deliver. Why should this be any different?

Here, the Doctor’s choices trap Martha in a difficult and restrictive life. Between her class and her color, she is shut out of any opportunity she might have had at home. She is entirely dependent on the Doctor – John Smith – for her livelihood. Yes, she is a smart woman, and given time might very well figure something out, but what must she face in the meantime? For no other reason than her friend has forgotten her? Even after less than three months she chafes at the social mores of 1913. How would she manage a year? the rest of her life?*

She faced loss and separation on New Earth in ‘Gridlock,’ but there she was a free woman and her friend was looking for her. In ‘The Last of the Time Lords,’ she walked the world alone, facing unimaginable horrors – for the purpose of saving it. In neither case was she abandoned, without hope or friends. In each case there was a goal to strive for, a chance that not all was lost. In ‘Human Nature’ there is none. If the Doctor remains John Smith, she is stranded.

So, is that John Smith’s problem?

The Doctor asked Martha to trust him. The Doctor asked her to look out for him. The Doctor chose to hide, endangering his friend and an entire community, to avoid bloodying his own hands. Maybe he believed the chances of discovery were small. Maybe he never imagined how completely human he would become. Maybe he thought it was really the better choice. But John Smith doesn’t know this. He never promised to take Martha home. He never wanted to be anyone other than himself. Is he responsible for the Doctor’s words, the Doctor’s actions?

Fortunately for Martha, John Smith is a courageous man. In the end he gives his life, uncertain as he is, persuaded by Martha, Tim, even Joan, that it’s the only way. That he, John Smith, never had a future at all. He sacrifices himself, where the Doctor was unwilling to. He is, as Joan says, the better man.

It wasn’t his fault; it wasn’t his job. It was his choice.


*Truthfully Martha could have done very well. War is imminent, and her skills would be highly valued in the next several years. Perhaps she would find satisfaction in a nursing career after the war; not the doctorate she had aimed for, but a place where she could help as she always wanted to do. The women’s suffrage movement is also imminent; her awareness of the impacts of feminism could make her a powerful leader. What did great women aspire to in 20s and 30s England? What might she have accomplished? And when she reached the end of her life, in the decades in which her parents were growing up, would she be sorry? Would she regret the Doctor’s choice in the end? Would she regret her family’s ultimate grief? Would she regret the twenty-first century life she never got to live?

Or would she look at what she had done for her country, and consider it enough?

Posted October 31, 2014 by Elisabeth in Companions, Season 3

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Smith and Jones   2 comments

I’ve addressed this other places, but it needs to be here too. I re-watched this episode quite a while ago, and more than once, and it still sticks:

The Doctor said no.

This is a problem. It’s addressed on some level, in some media, in certain contexts: no means no, consent, etc etc. Doctor Who has mostly* not depicted a man forcing his attention on a woman, as that would be clearly and unassailably wrong, in spite of what the Twilight/Outlander romance crowd might think. However, New Who in particular has no problem with women forcing themselves on men.

I mentioned it with regard to Amy in ‘Flesh and Stone,’ but Martha has the same problem, at two major points in her initial episode:

  • The kiss. He tells her it means nothing; it’s a quick and effective means of transferring DNA (I’m not sure about the factuality of this, whether there’s enough DNA in saliva to make a difference, also an issue in ‘The Lazarus Experiment’ later in the season) and it successfully distracts the Judoon just long enough. Martha actively refuses to believe in ‘nothing.’ How is the Doctor so great a kisser that he can deliver such a blow to someone’s emotional intelligence? Have Martha’s family problems left her so stunted?
  • At the end of the episode, the lonely Doctor shows off his TARDIS and invites this intelligent, interesting woman for a ride. True, in the modern world it’s hard not to construe such a thing as a date. However, he explicitly says no, TWICE, and she refuses to believe it. Not only that, but she lies to him in return, telling him she’s not interested. Maybe she’s in denial, or maybe she wants to not be interested, but the fact is that she lies and assumes he lies as well. (At some point I will find and add the dialogue from the scene, just to make it crystal clear.)

This is RTD’s biggest problem. He said prior to S1 that he wanted to make the show sexier, and he clearly retained interest in romantic storylines across his run. He even tried it in Torchwood. I suppose he thought an unrequited love story would make a nice contrast to Rose’s tale, or help illustrate the Doctor’s grief, or express his own – and presumably his fans’ – dogged love for the Doctor. (Newsflash, Russell: a good contrast would have been NO romance.) But he sets it up to fail with Martha’s stubborn, inappropriate – and uncharacteristic, as it turns out – blindness.

I’m actually okay with Martha falling for the Doctor. Everyone falls for the Doctor, this Doctor in particular. But Davies’ treatment of the idea is terrible. Don’t make a smart woman go stupid over a kiss. Don’t make her ignore someone’s expressed feelings and fool herself into believing the opposite. The story can be told without that, and it shows weakness as a writer that he chose to do what he did. He also uses mouth-to-mouth resuscitation as a romantic trope: not the first line of treatment for a person drained of blood, but a common cheat to give characters some intimate face-to-face. Very icky, especially given Martha’s supposed medical training.

It’s one of my long-term plans to rewrite bits of S3 with a proper romantic storyline. Martha is a great character, and Davies does wrong by her to make her a Twilight child. How would a normal person react to being abruptly and emphatically kissed by a not-unattractive near-stranger? She might be upset, she’d certainly be embarrassed, she might want to forget it as quickly as possible; it’s unlikely (unless I’m really really ignorant here) that she would leap directly to ‘this must MEAN something!’ let alone ‘he loves me!’ How would she react to his TARDIS, his invitation? Maybe it’s just me, but I’d be much more interested in the ship, the possibilities, the opportunity for adventure, than the man. Is she so hard up that even surrounded by wonder she’s primarily focused on a quick lay? That’s all it could be at this point; they’re barely friends, let alone anything resembling potential lovers. I think a proper Martha would be up for the adventure, and discover a growing infatuation more gradually over time. Of course an inquisitive and overburdened person like Martha would jump at the chance to ride in the TARDIS, and anyone could be excused for developing personal feelings. Martha’s instant and unfounded passion is insulting to the viewer and the character, and puts an unattractive spin on an otherwise very good season.


*Some fans have a problem with the Doctor kissing Jenny in ‘The Crimson Horror.’ I can see both sides of this, as within the context of the poorly-defined relationship, it might be just fine. Or it might be an appalling misbehavior, devoid of appropriate consequence.

Posted October 27, 2014 by Elisabeth in Companions, Season 3, Writers and Writing

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