Medical student Martha Jones can tell that this isn’t going to be an ordinary day, whether it’s the black-suited figures at the hospital where she’s studying, or the rainstorm that surrounds the hospital and nothing else in London, or the odd patient with two heartbeats, or the fact that her hospital appears to be transported shortly afterward to the surface of the moon. As towering, skyscraper-like spacecraft land near the hospital and platoons of armed aliens enter, at least two other aliens are making their presence known within the hospital: one is a refugee on the run, and the other is a Time Lord known as the Doctor. When the Doctor all but assumes command of the situation, Martha has any number of questions about who – or what – he is. But if any of the other life forms get hold of the Doctor, Martha may never get her questions answered.
Season 3 Regular Cast: David Tennant (The Doctor), Freema Agyeman (Martha Jones)
written by Russell T. Davies
directed by Charles Palmer
music by Murray Gold
Guest Cast: Anne Reid (Florence Finnegan), Roy Mardsen (Mr. Stoker), Adjoa Andoh (Francine Jones), Gugu Mbatha-Raw (Tish Jones), Reggie Yates (Leo Jones), Trevor Laird (Clive Jones), Kimmi Richards (Annalise), Ben Righton (Morganstern), Vineeta Rishi (Julia Swales), Paul Kasey (Judoon Captain), Nicholas Briggs (Judoon voices)
Notes: Guest star Trevor Laird, making his first appearance as Martha’s dad, has crossed paths with the Doctor before, in the role of Frax in parts 5-8 of The Trial Of A Time Lord in 1986.
LogBook entry & review by Earl Green
Review: Similar in pacing and emphasis to Rose, Smith And Jones feels a bit different, not only for the introduction of a new companion, but the fact that it has to focus on her out of necessity. So much emphasis has been placed previously on the Doctor being choosy about his traveling companions that the new series, by its very nature, almost has to come to a full stop to show us this person, and show us why the Doctor would consider welcoming them aboard.
Martha is a very different character from Rose; she has goals and a career path, and yet she’s also very likeable. Freema Agyeman handles the part with ease, and I’m looking forward to her travels in the TARDIS. If there’s one thing about the character of Martha that I found left a bad taste in my mouth, it’s her family. The new series’ first two seasons spent quite a bit of time going back to Rose’s family, almost establishing a “home base” for the Doctor, but if we see as much of Martha’s folks, with the exception of her siblings, hopefully they’ll be given some development that explains why they came across the way they did here. As it is, given the impact they made here with just a very small amount of screen time, I wouldn’t mind if the third season spent less time revisiting Martha’s family. Maybe future episodes will prove this to be a somewhat hasty judgement, but I remember at least finding some likeable qualities about Jackie Tyler when we first met her.
Once again, the Doctor-already-in-the-process-of-investigating-something-strange chestnut is rolled out – further proof that the Sylvester McCoy era is more influential on the revived Doctor Who than I think anyone’s really giving it credit for – though the Doctor seems a little more eccentric than usual, even for his tenth incarnation, having spent an unspecified amount of time without a sidekick in the TARDIS. (That unspecified gap will no doubt be a boon to BBC Books novelists and Big Finish audio authors somewhere down the road.) One chestnut that doesn’t show up here is the mad, bad and dangerous to know Doctor – even though Tennant is more than capable of pulling it off – because the story almost demands it. Maybe it’s a course correction from lessons learned from Rose, but remember, we also need to see why Martha would want to travel with the Doctor, let alone the other way around. The snog right in the middle of the proceedings struck me as a plot convenience that also happened to generate quite a bit of chatter in the weeks leading up to the season premiere; in that regard it worked, though by now we’ve seen the Doctor kiss someone in the 1996 TV movie, in Parting Of The Ways, in The Girl In The Fireplace…I think the shock value is about up on that gag.
The Judoon are an inspired design, both makeup and costume-wise, with movie-quality prosthetics on a level that, subconsciously, I still almost can’t mentally associate with Doctor Who. With their bulbous helmets, the “bloody space rhinos” almost reminded me – just a little bit – of the Sontarans. The scare factor in this episode was impressive – there were action and plenty of shocking moments, and I couldn’t think of anything that really hurt the show or took me out of the story.
There were more than a few neat little background details, including Martha’s story of her cousin’s death (Freema Agyeman also played the part of an ill-fated Torchwood employee in last season’s Army Of Ghosts), and the fact that the Doctor is now on at least his fourth sonic screwdriver (and seems to have no problem getting replacements these days). Continuity-wise, we get one more reference to Rose’s fate, and hopefully it can be the last one for a while – a much as everyone might miss Billie Piper, mentioning Rose again and again threatens to suggest to the audience that her exit is the insurmountable, show-killing loss that it really shouldn’t be.
It’s a slightly atypical adventure with plenty to enjoy.